Thanks to my green resolutions from last year, I was able to make some big changes one step at a time. Although I haven’t accomplished all of them perfectly, they did help to get me jumpstart 2008 in a much greener fashion.
As I begin 2009 things seem even more hectic than they did a year ago. Here’s the big news: I’m pregnant! Our baby is due on June 15th, which is wonderful news. It also means that I’ll be juggling a nearly full time job, growing a human being, parenting a toddler, enjoying marriage, writing this blog and starting a monthly column in Metro Parent. It’s all great news, but already I find myself a little short of breath as I consider balancing it all. So, this year my goals are humble, but they will still be a great fun to accomplish.
Our water and electric board provides interest free loans for people wanting to get a solar hot water heater. It will pay for itself in just four years and with our Southern exposure, we should be able to heat several thousand gallons a year. We might wait to have it installed in the spring when the wet season isn’t so intense. Since I live in one of the nation’s greenest cities, you can spot several hundred solar hot water heating panels perched on rooftops throughout local neighborhoods.
Install a dishwasher.
Dishwashers are far more energy efficient than washing dishes in the sink, but our kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. Still, with a baby on the way, it would be a thrill to have a dishwasher in our small home. It would save us water and energy, but would also save time that I could use for my other green pursuits.
Find a dish soap solution.
If the dishwasher dream doesn’t happen, this goal will become even more important. Rebecca has been spending days, weeks, and months on researching the best eco-friendly solution for dish soap. Since my husband likes to generously soap every item, it will be nice to have a cost-friendly solution as well!
Plant a bigger vegetable garden.
Even as I write this I realize that it’s insanely optimistic. In the third trimester of this pregnancy I’ll be pooped, working almost full time, and preparing for the infant’s arrival. Planting a huge garden might not happen. But maybe I could ask for a garden work party in lieu of a baby shower….Hmm….
I’ve been aching to can produce and eyeing my friends jars of home-canned green beans with envy, but I haven’t found time in the last few years. I know that this next year will be especially hectic with baby, but it would thrill me to line my garage pantry with home-canned goodies. If I could do just one batch of peaches I would be satisfied for the summer.
What are your green resolutions this year? Keep them practical and simple and they’ll be much more likely to actually happen. We hope that 2009 is your greenest and best year yet!
Looking back, I’m amazed at the many small changes I managed to take on over the last year. I’ve included links–some to the Green Baby Guide articles discussing the topic, some to other sites that inspired me.
1. Stopped using disposable wrapping paper and switched to reusable gift wrap.
2. Switched to eco-friendly toilet paper.
3. Switched to eco-friendly laundry detergent, which I discovered was actually cheaper than conventional detergent!
4. Stopped using shampoo and started using baking soda, saving money and many plastic bottles.
5. Began recycling plastic lids.
6. Started turning off water to cook pasta.
7. Signed on to support renewable energy.
8. Started washing diapers in cold water.
9. Potty trained my daughter and tried cloth training pants.
11. Cut down on the amount of dishwashing liquid I use by refining my technique.
I figure if I can keep plugging along, making small changes as I go, I will single-handedly stop global warming! Okay, maybe not . . . but as they say, every little bit helps. What lifestyle modifications did you make in ‘O8? Which changes were failed experiments in green living . . . and which ones are worth making?
I wanted a BPA-free sippy cup for my son, but I heard so many complaints about leaks and design flaws from other mothers, that I was hesitant to shell out the cash. I was under the (misguided) impression that most BPA-free cups cost $15-20 dollars apiece, plus shipping, which was tough to swallow considering that I hadn’t heard great reviews.
The Tightwad Gazette offered the simple, thrifty solution of having a child drink out of a cup after turning one. After all, what did people do before plastic was invented?
We tried instructing our child to gently sip with a straw, but a few dozen cups of spilled milk later, I felt we needed a better solution. Just then, I read a post on Green and Clean Mom announcing the happy news: Target now carries Munchkin BPA-free sippy cups for between one and three dollars! Eureka! In her post, Green and Clean mom apologizes for her wild enthusiasm about finding these cups, but I instantly shared her thrill.
If there were rooftops to shout from, I would’ve. We purchased four of the sippy cups and were initially impressed with their performance. There was some occasional leakiness, but it was minor if we assemble them correctly. They were easy to clean, Roscoe loved them, and the total for four cups was less than it would be for one BPA-free sippy cup anywhere else.
Sadly though, our sense of victory was quickly quelled when Roscoe learned that he could bite through the silicone nipple. It made the milk flow much more quickly, but also totally eliminated the “spill-proof” aspect of the cups. They were quickly retired after one too many milk leakages on the sofa cushions.
After sharing my depressing news with Rebecca, she tipped me off to a myriad of other inexpensive BPA free sippy cup options. Here are a few that I’ve discovered since then:
The First Years Take and Toss 10 oz. Spill Proof Cups. A four pack costs around four dollars and they are surprisingly sturdy despite their supposed disposability. The spout isn’t flexible, but Rebecca found that they held up nicely. They’re also easy to find in most stores. My son, a biting maniac, has also managed to bite through several of these rigid spouts so they didn’t really work for us.
Evenflo Fun Sip 10 oz. Sippy Cup. A two pack is $8.50 and it’s also widely available. They come with straws or spouted lids.
12 oz. Sipper by Nuby with Flip-It Straw. This cup costs just $4.50 and works well for toddlers who are transitioning from a spout to a straw.
And there are more! Go to Safe Mama.com to view a quick cheat sheet of all the BPA free bottle and sippy cup options. I’d love to hear from you on which sippy cups were easiest to clean, held up the best, and seemed the most drip-proof. Parent reviews are the most dependable!
For us, we ended up loving the new BPA-Free Nalgene Grip-n-Gulp sippy cups. The spout is hard and durable and looks like it will last throughout the rest of Roscoe’s toddler years. It’s easy to clean and Roscoe enjoys toting it around by the little finger loop. Occasionally the inner piece falls into the drink and it does leak a bit, but it’s easy to fix and far better than any of the other cups we’ve tried.
Is it really green to replace plastic sippy cups when we already had a few? This is where green and non-toxic become separate issues. It may not have been as planet-friendly to buy new cups, but I can’t justify feeding my child milk out of cups that may be leaching toxins, just to save the planet. I couldn’t pass the cups on either, since I wouldn’t feel good about anyone else using them, but we did recycle them.
Although I am thrilled to have safer sippy cups for Roscoe, I’m even more excited to realize that finally, merchandisers are listening to us. Canada’s ban on BPA most likely helped the movement quite a bit, but if all of us create demands for safer products, even mainstream brands are going to respond. Well done fellow green parents!
If you did, we want to hear from you! We are often amazed by the ingenuity and commitment of our readers and use your stories to share with other new parents. Many families are overwhelmed by the idea of cloth diapering one child, let alone two or three. If you’ve managed to use cloth with multiples, even part of the time, we’d love to hear your stories. We’d love to know how many diapers you bought, how much laundry you did, and how cloth may have been unexpectedly convenient. Please comment on this page or email us if you have some experience that might help other parents.
One year ago Rebecca and I were enjoying the holiday with our families, but after all the gifts were opened and the dinner plates were washed, we were scrambling to get our website up and running before the New Year.
Twelve months and a hundred-something posts later, we’re happy to be celebrating the long and exciting journey we’ve made over the last year. Maybe in a few dozen living rooms across the country, our fellow bloggers and loyal readers will be opening fabric gift bags to find eco-friendly surprises or amazing garage sale finds. We wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, and a Fabulous Kwanzaa. We look forward to working with you for another year of green living!
If you’re lucky, your child will make a seamless transition from full-time diapers to full-time underwear. That said, it’s pretty common for most kids to phase the diapers out gradually: at first they cut down during the day, then they’re “day trained,” and then–sometimes years later (according to my sources)–they stop needing diapers for naps and overnights.
We are in one of these transitional phases now. While my daughter does not need a diaper while she’s awake, she still wears one while she sleeps. I’ve been using cloth diapers since she was born and never want to buy another pack of disposables again, so I’m continuing with cloth diapers even now that I have much less diaper laundry to do. This leaves me with a diaper conundrum:
If I wash my diapers just as frequently as before–that is to say, every three or four days–I’ll be wasting a lot of water and energy on partial loads.
If I wait until I have a full load of diapers, I’ll be letting wet diapers fester in the diaper pail for almost three weeks.
So what is a water conservationist who does not want to smell a three-week-old diaper pail to do? My solution was simple, though it may gross some clean freaks out a bit: I wash a small load of diapers every week. I feel comfortable washing them this infrequently because they are always just wet diapers–no dirty diapers now that she’s day trained. Because I have so few diapers even after a week, I hang them to dry. I could never do this before Audrey became day trained because I couldn’t wait for several days for her diapers to dry on the rack during Oregon’s drizzly months. Now I have so many spare diapers that I can afford to wait.
One day I will no longer need to wash any diapers, but until then, I’ll stick with my once-a-week method. This compromise should please both my inner tree hugger and inner clean freak.
I have no time. Seriously. As a mother, a middle school teacher, a writer, and a wife, I often feel like each minute of my day has to be carefully attributed to a specific task. In the time it takes to get from work to daycare I’m planning dinner, thinking of tomorrow’s social studies lesson, wondering whether I can take my son out for a walk, and remembering that the diapers need to be dried and folded by tomorrow. Am I a wonder woman—a model mother who gracefully balances work, family and a green lifestyle? Hardly! I’m fumbling toward green parenthood and often failing along the way.
When I get discouraged about my progress, I think about my son learning how to walk. It’s miraculous that babies accept falling down as part of the process without any embarrassment. My favorite Chinese proverb applies to motherhood, writing, green living and just about everything else: “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” Balancing eco-friendly living and everything else isn’t as difficult and noble as it’s cracked up to be, especially if we’re willing to take a tumble every now and then.
Every time I feel overwhelmed, I think about moms like Eileen Spillman, who is choosing an eco-friendly lifestyle while working full time and raising two children on her own. Check out her perspective on living with green guilt here. There are hundreds of parents who manage to consider the environment despite extremely hectic circumstances. How do you manage to balance all the aspects of your life while making eco-friendly choices? We’d love to hear your story.
While most families want to feed their baby organic baby food, cost can sometimes be a barrier. Did you splurge on organic meals for baby? Did you find a way to offset the cost by making your own organic purees or harvesting produce from a family garden? If you did buy prepared organic baby food, where did you find the best deals and the best quality? Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us this weekend!
I often hear people say that cloth diapers are no better for the planet than disposables because of all the water used to wash them. This argument has never made too much sense to me. Water is a renewable resource, but the trees cut down to make disposable diapers are often harvested unsustainably. The plastic used on each diaper is a petroleum product-definitely not a renewable resource. Then there’s the whole landfill issue. . . .
Not to say that I don’t care about wasting water. If you wash diapers every other day in a top loader, you’ll use a whopping 7,200 gallons water a year. Do you use a wet pail to soak your diapers? That’s 360 more gallons a year, for a grand total of 7,560. The good news is, it’s not necessary to blow through that much water. I estimate that I use under 1,200 gallons water a year washing diapers. I have a front loader that uses 12.4 gallons per wash, and I wash diapers every four days instead of every other day.
I came up with the brilliant idea of “offsetting” the amount of water I use to wash diapers. The concept is simple: you try to make up for an environmental sin by doing a good deed for the planet. (Disclaimer: I realize that this whole “offsetting” concept is suspect, and we should all be doing the most to conserve resources at all times.) The first step in my personal water offsetting mission is to use as little water as possible on laundry. It would be difficult to offset 7,560 gallons of water a year, but by practicing just a few extra water conservation techniques, I can easily offset the 1,200 gallons I use.
Of course there are dozens of ways to reduce water waste. I was surprised to find that my first two water-saving ideas conserved more than enough water to make up for my diaper-laundry water.
1. Double up your toilet flushes. The average person flushes eight times day. At 1.6 gallons per flush, that equals 12.8 gallons a day. Double up just one flush and you’ll save 584 gallons a year. That’s almost half the amount of water I’d use washing diapers already.
2. Reduce showering time. I am guilty of wasteful showering. The average shower uses 2.5 gallons of water a minute. A ten minute shower uses twenty-five gallons of water. If two adults each take ten-minute showers and reduce them to five-minute showers (or shower every other day), they could save twenty-five gallons a day, or 9,125 gallons a year! Now I’ve more than offset the amount of water used to wash diapers. It’s interesting to note that two adults taking daily 10-minute showers are using fifteen times the amount of water needed to wash a year’s worth of diaper laundry.
Does anyone else feel guilty for washing cloth diapers in water? How do you assuage your guilt? Any crazy water-saving ideas you care to share with us? Please tell!
Brace yourself for an eco-confession: For the past several years, my husband and I have made homemade ornaments for each other out of Fimo dough, a weird plastic-ish concoction that can’t be eco-friendly.
This year it dawned on me to use a few simple recipes for dough that can be baked into homemade Christmas ornaments. They make beautiful, sentimental gifts and cost just pennies apiece! Plus their easier for my two-year-old to work with, completely non-toxic and better for the planet.
My favorite spot for salt dough ornaments was DIY Alert.com, where I found this wonderful picture and step-by-step instructions for salt dough ornaments. I’m not sure I have the craft skills to produce such lovely finished products but the simple directions give me hope.
The other recipe I’m most anxious to try is the cinnamon-applesauce dough. It’s very simple and easily hardens into cut-outs that smell just as good as they look. By buying cinnamon in bulk, it seems very possible to keep the price low on this crafty idea.
This year we shall enjoy our ornaments even more knowing that we made them from scratch—and that they are budget-friendly and earth-friendly!
Also, congratulations to our Baby Blend Tees winner, Margaret Briggs! She’ll get to pick out the style and size of her choice for her little one. Thanks to all our participants as well.
Thrifty Green Thursday will be taking a holiday break after today, but we’ll return in two weeks on January 7th at 8pm so save up your ideas to join us then. If you’d like to post your simple ideas for saving green and going green today, just click here for instructions and jump right in. We’d love to have you!