As soon as my daughter turned one, I wanted to introduce her to whole milk. Like many other parents, I wanted her to have hormone-free milk, so that meant paying more and buying organic. Right? I like to save money, but organic milk costs a lot more than conventional milk–sometimes up to twice as much. There was also something else I wondered about: all the organic milk I found on the shelves came from other states–some as far as Ohio! Part of the reason I tried to buy organic foods was that I wanted to help the environment, but buying something that needed to be ultra-pasteurized and taken on a thousand-mile road trip wouldn’t be any better for planet Earth than buying conventional milk from a local dairy. In fact, it would probably be worse.
Ideally, I’d be able to find milk that was both organic and local. At the time, this was not an option. I had to choose, and I ended up deciding that supporting a local, non-organic dairy was a better choice than buying organic milk that came from far away, considering my local dairy did not use hormones. Plus, at under $3 a gallon, it was more affordable than many of the other brands on the supermarket shelves. Now, just one year later, Alpenrose dairy has gone organic, so it’s possible to have local organic milk here in Portland.
Of course, not everyone plans to introduce cow’s milk to baby’s diet. Joy’s son, Roscoe, has some food allergies and intolerances. She continued to breast feed him after a year and offered him soymilk as an additional beverage. Now that he’s older, he can tolerate cow’s milk, which Joy buys from an organic dairy. Because Audrey is so small, I was glad she took to whole milk, which comes packed with vitamins, fat, and calories. (Read my “Fattening Baby, Naturally” post for more baby-fattening ideas.) Although cow’s milk is not an environmentally or nutritionally perfect food, I opted to introduce it to my baby’s diet over alternatives such as soy or almond milk.
Some questions for our readers: Do you plan to introduce cow’s milk when your baby turns one? What alternatives to cow’s milk, if any, have you tried? What are your thoughts on conventional, organic, and local milk products?
Having a blog with thousands of loyal readers is a great way to feel accountable for those Earth Day Resolutions that sometimes fall by the wayside in the midst of raising a family. I’m happy to report that we’ve made some progress toward accomplishing our green goals for the coming year in just a few months.
Green groceries: B+
We struggled with finding reasonably priced organic produce without driving all over town. Thank goodness for our CSA! I have to admit that some pieces of random produce have perished in our fridge but it has provided a wonderful variety of veggies and fruits that usually make it into our menus.
Eco-friendly transport: A
We just purchased a 2001 Honda Civic to replace the 4 Runner we had been borrowing for the last eight years. The Civic’s average gas mileage is a whopping ten miles per gallon more than the 4 Runner and I can almost feel the lighter carbon load while I drive. As if the fuel efficiency wasn’t enough, this particular Civic happens to be forest green. It was meant to be!
Energy efficient lighting: C
I have replaced about half of the lights in our home with compact fluorescents, but we now have two halogen light fixtures in our home. I’m pretty sure they aren’t the most efficient bulbs but I do love the bright light they provide in our tiny kitchen and dark hallway.
Potty training: I
That’s an I for incomplete. Roscoe now tells me right before he performs a bodily function, but doesn’t want to do it anywhere near a toilet. We may need to break down and buy a more exciting potty to inspire him to help us out on this one. Still, he’s quite young so we may just hold out and hope that his tiny bladder makes enough progress to get him in training pants someday soon.
If I manage to overcome my last hurdles on these resolutions I may just have to set a few new goals for the months to come. Change is a slow and overwhelming process, but it’s nice to look back and see that we are indeed making green progress. It’s clumsy and imperfect, but we are stumbling in a forward direction.
Store-bought Play-doh, which consists of a mystery list of ingredients and comes in individual little plastic containers, is more expensive than homemade. It’s easy to make a non-toxic version with a few common pantry items. I like to leave it white instead of coloring it, but below you’ll find how to use natural ingredients to color your play dough. If you roll it out, cut it into shapes, and bake them like cookies, you can even paint your creations. Try a batch today and see what your youngster thinks.
Two Play-dough recipes
I found these recipes here.
2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
Mix with a fork until smooth. Boil over medium heat until thick. Spoon onto a plate or wax paper.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoon cream of tartar
beet, spinach, and carrot juice
Mix flour, salt and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands until of proper consistency. You can use the un-dyed version or divide it into balls and add a few drops of the vegetable juices to make green, pink, and orange.
Or maybe you’d like to try a scrumptious edible play-dough recipe. I’ve included a picture for inspiration. (Remember that eating it yourself is not required.)
For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, check out Rocks in My Dryer.
It’s almost summer and with gas prices skyrocketing, global warming in full swing, and a toddler who loves to be outside, I’m longing to climb on my bike and pedal off into the sunset. But NOT WITH TOE CLIPS!! You may think my fervor is a bit intense for the rather benign little stirrup that holds a cyclist’s shoe to the pedal, but you won’t after you read this post on my toe-clip trauma.
Here is the synopsis:
On a family bike ride, my husband stopped short right in front of me.
As I careened toward the pavement, the toe clip trapped my foot.
I dislocated my arm and broke off a few bits as well.
I had to work several doctor’s appointments into my busy life.
I learned how to tote my toddler with one arm.
He’s learned how to cling onto me like a monkey (with sound effects) and climb into his car seat.
Then, I had surgery to fix the nerve so that I could again bend my arm.
A week later, with an arm that is still black and blue and won’t move, the surgeon has told me tat I’ll have to undergo another more invasive surgery to ensure that I can get my range of motion back.
That means more monkey clinging, more purple arm, and more frustration with the fact that I need two arms to juggle this very full life of mine.
Have you removed your toe clips yet? Please go do so before summer bike rides, pavement collisions and future surgeries. And every time you bend and straighten your arms do so with gratitude—it’s harder than it seems!
Sheryl Crow had one. Parents magazine raved about them in last March’s issue. An eco-conscious expecting mother in your life may be hinting for one. But what is a green baby shower? It may seem like a ploy to get you to “buy” your way into the green movement. Are we just trading piles of Pampers and mounds of plastic toys for $50 organic onesies and free-trade rattles? Maybe. But it’s also possible to throw an old-fashioned, down-to-earth baby shower that’s simple and eco-friendly. Here are just a few ideas to celebrate the arrival of a new baby.
Throw a book baby shower. Don’t forget the Green Baby Guide’s article touting the merits of giving the gift of imagination. Attendants bring a book or two the child can treasure well after she’s outgrown her bouncy seat.
Try a secondhand fete. If most of the attendants have had babies in the last few years, a secondhand shower can be an entertaining way to pass treasured belongings from one family to another. Of course, this idea might not fly with many expecting parents or hosts-but it may be right up a green family’s alley.
Give the gift of food. Attendants can bring casseroles, desserts, or snacks that can be frozen until the bundle of joy arrives. Exhausted new parents don’t have to spend time cooking during the first couple weeks or months with a newborn.
Leave the shower out of baby shower. It’s possible to have a party with friends, family, and games without involving gifts. Participants can even write out wishes or blessings for the new addition that the host can make into a keepsake book. Or circumvent the baby shower ritual altogether and involve friends and family in a picnic, hike, or other decidedly non-showery celebration.
It’s possible to throw a baby shower for expecting parents without busting your budget on so-called eco-friendly food, decorations, and presents. A simple gathering of friends and family can accomplish the most important part of a shower’s purpose: welcoming a new baby into the world.
Any green baby shower ideas we forgot? Post a comment!
If you’ve read my Earth Day resolution post, you know that I’m trying to lose two hundred and fifty pounds. The Toyota Four Runner that we’ve been graciously allowed to borrow for the last seven years needs to be sold and we want to replace it with a more earth-friendly vehicle.
Our challenge is to find a safe, reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle for between six and eight thousand dollars. We’d like to have something that we can pile miles on for trips around town so that we keep our other car, a newer Toyota Camry, stowed away in the garage for most of the year. Unfortunately we don’t all fit in the very NmG electric car pictured to the right.
Originally we were thinking of buying a van or a crossover vehicle for the cargo space. My mom helped us solve this dilemma by inspiring us to add a trailer hitch to one of our cars for around one hundred dollars. We can rent a trailer for cheap whenever we need the space, but save loads of money on gas by driving a more compact vehicle.
Here are some tips I’ve discovered so far in my search:
Narrow down your make and model: We began our search by thinking about the type of car we wanted to purchase. Since Hondas and Toyotas offer the most reliable and fuel efficient options, we have narrowed our options down to either a Corolla or a Civic. We’d love a Matrix or a Vibe but they’re a bit out of our price range.
Carefully check gas mileage for each year: In the beginning I wanted an older car with very low miles so that we can drive it forever, but I’ve found that each model year has different gas mileage. For example, a 1992 Toyota Corolla gets just 23 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway, while a 2001 model gets 27 mpg in town and 36 on the freeway. That’s a tremendous difference! The best site for checking gas mileage of every vehicle around is here.
Consider Safety: The other option to consider is that older models often don’t have the safety features of the more recent years. We’re looking for a compact car from the late nineties or newer that’s safe enough to carry our precious toddler cargo. This is a great site for checking crash test ratings.
Buy from a private party: We’d never find what we’re looking for at a car dealership for the amount of money we’d like to spend, but we will find it when buying directly from another car owner. Private party price on Kelley Blue Book is often several thousand less than retail. Plus we have the added benefit of being able to personally speak with the owner and find out more about the history of the car.
Look in a variety of places: Honestly, this tends to make me a bit obsessive-compulsive, but it’s good to check Craigslist regularly just to compare and see what’s out there. I’ve also looked the newspaper and some small, free publications here in town.
Use Carfax: For a nominal twenty-something dollars we can check the full accident and ownership history of a car and find out if there have been any odometer rollbacks.
Get it checked out by a mechanic: One owner assured us that the car had been thoroughly cared for its whole life. Our mechanic disagreed when he discovered the original spark plugs hadn’t been replaced after 72,000 miles of use. Whew! We’re glad we were able to dodge a potential lemon.
Go with your gut: If I feel desperate to get the car, I know I’m not making a wise decision. We have found that with our first car purchase as a couple we both had a great instinct about the vehicle that we ended up buying. That’s the feeling that we’re looking for this second time.
I’ll keep you posted on our car buying escapades but mainly I’m interested in your tips. If you’ve discovered a safe, inexpensive and fuel-efficient vehicle that I haven’t thought of yet, I’d love to hear about it!
My daughter has loved black beans since we started her on solid foods. First we blended them up and added them to her oatmeal porridge (Mm-m, doesn’t that sound scrumptious?). Later, she was able to pick individual beans up with her hands and gum them. Once she was about eighteen months or so, she enjoyed eating black beans in salsa or chili. We make three pounds of dried beans at a time, use most of them in Andy’s frozen burritos (we make twenty burritos at a time), and enjoy the rest in other recipes.
Using dried beans instead of canned has a few advantages. First of all, it’s cheaper. I estimate that we save a whopping $2.80 every time we cook our own beans. We also avoid the toxins lurking in cans. (Holly on the Ecobaby Blog wrote about her concerns with canned beans here.) Last but not least, we’re keeping more than seven fifteen-ounce cans out of the recycling bin every time we cook a vat of tasty legumes.
Here’s how we make three pounds of dried beans:
Three pounds of dry beans will yield over six pounds of cooked beans.
Note: You can add spices to the beans while cooking, but don’t add salt until they’re done or they may never soften.
Freeze your cooked beans in six or seven glass jars (old peanut butter jars are perfect), and you will have them on hand to use in place of the canned variety. I like to cook huge batches at a time to make the effort worthwhile. Although it takes about ten hours from start to finish, the hands-on work involved in cooking three pounds of beans is minimal. Now I just have to decide what to do with that $2.80 I saved!
For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.
A few years ago when I was pregnant with Roscoe, I had a sudden Saturday urge to grow zucchini and hustled off to the hardware store to buy the wares for a small raised bed. I sat in our driveway with the drill and awkwardly put together a rather pathetic little garden box that has nonetheless yielded some beautiful basil and tomatoes over the last few summers. In this photo Roscoe is trying to prevent the weed-filled bed from being captured on film.
This year with the help of my neighbors, I plan on putting together a more respectable raised bed. Although I could just plop the plants in the dirt, raised beds provide excellent drainage for plants and also allow you to heap in all your own rich new soil.
If you’d like directions on how to build one yourself, go to this website and check it out. Then get some dirt, dump in those plants and see what happens. (One tip: some websites recommend using pressure treated wood or painting the wood with stain, but you might not want those chemicals leaching into your plants. We just chose to skip that step.)
If you have lawn you’d like to cover with raised beds, you don’t have to worry about digging out the sod. Our neighbors gave us the great tip of going to a bike shop and getting large cardboard boxes. Simply place the boxes along the bottom of your raised beds to stop the grass from growing up through your garden. Then pile the dirt on top and you’re ready to go!
Squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, and sweet peas are just a few of the plants that you can easily turn into organic baby food as they are harvested. Remember that home-prepared spinach, beets, turnips, carrots or collard greens shouldn’t be fed to babies younger than six months because of the high level of nitrates they contain.
If you need further inspiration to grow your own organic vegetables, check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It documents her family’s year of living off the land and is full of her rich and often funny descriptive writing. You’ll also find yourself motivated to hit the farmer’s market and maybe even plant your own asparagus. Enjoy the sunshine!
One thing I wondered when I was pregnant was what everyone was carrying around in those huge diaper bags. I observed moms and dads dragging around overstuffed bags bigger than the carry-on luggage I’d use for a weekend trip. What the heck did they have in there–fully cooked meals, extra outfits, an entire package of diapers? I didn’t get it. And I must admit, I still don’t. I’ve been a mother for over two years now and have never carried around a diaper bag.
During my daughter’s first six months or so, I didn’t bring anything with me on outings I knew would last just an hour or two. I mean, I seriously didn’t bring anything for the baby: not a diaper, a book, a toy. If I was planning on being gone for longer, I would tuck a Zip-loc bag into my purse. The Zip-loc would contain one extra diaper, another Zip-loc for the wet diaper, and a little baggie with two or three wipes.
Now that my daughter is older, I have to be a little more prepared on outings. I still use the same Zip-loc/diaper system, but I’ll also bring a small book, a little snack, and a cup. This all fits in the bag I’d normally carry around–a regular bag, not a diaper bag.
I know diaper bags don’t have to be gigantic pink bags appliquéd with teddy bears and ducks. Hey, there are even some stylish, eco-friendly bags out there, like this messenger bag (pictured) I found on Zoe B Organics. I wanted to avoid an extra purchase, and I never minded being diaper-bag free.
But I still want to know: what do YOU keep in that jumbo diaper bag?!
If both parents have demanding careers and multiple children, how do they manage things like washing cloth diapers, composting, making healthy dinners and spending time with baby? There are also some single parents out there who are handling full-time schedules and parenting while keeping the planet in mind. How do they do it? I am utterly in awe of people who can juggle so much without feeling overwhelmed.
My husband and I both work thirty-some hours per week and yet we find the balance of a two career family rather precarious at times. Over the last few weeks illness and injury has made the daily challenge of laundry and homemade dinners seem ever greater. I often long for take-out, or look lustfully at the frozen entrees in the grocery store, knowing that those convenience items are designed for the hectic, dual income family. Even though I’m often overwhelmed, I don’t want to give into the urge to buy disposable, convenience items, saving time while potentially harming the planet. At this point it seems we should be able to handle some extra time for green choices since we have just one child, we both work equally hard on domestic tasks, and neither of us are working full time.
I’ve been wondering lately if it would actually be greener for one of us to quit working outside the home. It’s hard to say, but I do have visions of myself cooking up batches of homemade yogurt, biking everywhere with our son, and canning veggies that I’ve grown in our organic garden. On the other hand, I know from having summers off, that the reality of staying home is much more challenging and less productive than I imagine. It’s WONDERFUL having lots of fun with my son, but I haven’t yet managed to weave organic clothing from the cotton that’s sprouted in my backyard.
Since my teaching job provides our health insurance, I don’t foresee taking a leave of absence anytime soon. We just might find in the years to come that my husband is the one to be home with the children, which would still provide us with lots of family time to share during school breaks and holidays.
Really it isn’t fair to pick a winner in the working vs. stay-at-home debate since there are so many creative solutions available to families today. Many parents have found ways to work at home, work part time, or take a leave of absence for a few years before heading back to their jobs. There is no absolutely right or wrong option, but it definitely seems like having more time at home allows parents to enjoy a more earth-friendly lifestyle. Since summer is just a few weeks away, I’m counting the days until I get to enjoy a few months of stay-at-home motherhood—even if it’s just as a temp.