Affordable Non-allergenic/Organic Crib Mattresses—They Do Exist!

The world of eco-friendly baby products is a quickly-changing one. Just months ago, Joy was expecting her second child. In her confessional post, she admitted that she couldn’t bear spending so much more for an organic crib mattress. Our readers assured her that she needn’t feel guilty. But now, just a few months later, there are several very affordable “greener” mattresses on the market! Look at the ones we found:

Sealy Baby Ultra Rest Mattress $70 (21% off!)

sealy baby ultra rest mattress

This mattress has three non-allergenic layers. The top layer provides a plush, soft sleeping surface for baby.

Kolcraft EM782-LEC1 Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton $88 (20% off)

Made from 150 interwoven steel coils and certified organic cotton certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A hypoallergenic sleeping layer and a protective wrap prevents allergens from clinging to the mattress.

Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton $90 (25% off)

The Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with organic cotton includes naturally harvested and handled organic cotton and a hypoallergenic sleeping layer plus protective wrap for support and comfort.

*Our top pick!* Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress $149.

sealy soybean foam-core crib mattress

Uses a renewable resource—soybeans!—instead of relying on crude oils. This soy-based high-density foam doesn’t sag. The cover prevents allergens from clinging to the mattress.

Colgate Eco Classica I Crib Mattress $189

Made from plant-based materials instead of petroleum products.

DaVinci Organic Willow Mattress $209

The Willow mattress is made from a natural coconut palm fiber and latex-free foam to create a completely organic inner foundation that supports your baby’s sleep. It can be used on both sides.

If any of our faithful readers have tried one of these mattresses, we welcome your reviews! Did you find an eco-friendly option we haven’t mentioned? Or did you manage to forgo the crib altogether, opting to co-sleep with your baby? What worked for you?

DIY Fabric Gift Bags for Next Year’s Holidays

Are you still suffering flashbacks from wrapping, taping, and then cleaning up mounds of paper this year?  Even if you tried to go green by using recycled paper, wrapping everything and then cleaning up the holiday mess is labor intensive.  You may never have had have time to sew up a batch of gift bags before the holiday crush, but why not do it now?  Holiday fabric and ribbon are on sale and it will only take you about two hours to make bags that can wrap up all your gifts for years to come—with no waste and no yearly cost.  (My mom is still wrapping our gifts in festive bags that we’ve used for over thirty years!)  While you’re at it, whip up a few out of simple patterned fabric and have bags that can be used for birthdays, Valentines, and random surprises.

I am NOT a talented seamstress, but I’ll walk you through the steps so that you can stitch up some holiday bags yourself.  This one is made from ribbon we got for seventy-five percent off and fabric I had left over from my daughter’s curtains.

You’ll need:

  • Fabric (as much as you’d like to make small and large bags)
  • A sewing machine (Try to borrow one for an afternoon!)
  • Fabric Ribbon
  • Pins (optional)

fabric layout for homemade gift bagsFirst fold the fabric so that the outside pattern is facing inward.

Fabric gift bag directionsThen cut two six-inch pieces of holiday ribbon.  Lay the pieces on top of each other and sandwich them between the seam toward the top of the bag with the ribbon strings extending inward.

Rolled hem for homemade gift bagsSew a seam around the three sides of the bag, including the ribbon in the seam.  Then turn the bag inside out.  Finish off the bag by doing a rolled seam on the top edges to prevent fraying.  You’re done!

Finished homemade fabric gift bagIf you have time and skills you can applique patterns onto the bag front or stitch on decorative ribbons.  You can also use iron-on letters to personalize bags for each of your children. (My mom finally gave me mine after I’d had it for my entire childhood.)DIY finished fabric gift bags

The finished bags look really cute, pack up easily, and won’t cost you a dime for decades to come!  I hope you get a bit of time to make things easier on yourself next year.  If you’re swamped you can ask a crafty family member to whip you up a homemade set or buy a Wrapsacks set of gift bags on Amazon.  Have you found a way to avoid wrapping paper?  Please share!

Choosing an Eco-friendly Crib: Affordable Green Options

Note: This post has been edited since publication. Some of the cribs we mentioned in the original post are no longer available.

Both Joy and I chose secondhand cribs for our little ones—a very green but actually controversial decision. Many safety experts warn new parents to never, ever, ever use a previously-owned crib. You could lose the directions, assemble it wrong, or inadvertently buy a recalled product.  After weighing the options, we felt fine about our secondhand cribs, which we discuss in more detail in our upcoming book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.

However, we realize that some people do want to buy a new crib—and they want something “green.” A green crib should use earth-friendly materials that don’t contain noxious glues or paints that can damage baby’s little respiratory system. We found a few options that range from affordable to . . . well, not-so-affordable. But the best part is, you don’t necessarily need to pay more than you would for a conventional crib.

DaVinci Alpha Mini Rocking Crib $149

A mini-crib made from sustainable pine. Formaldehyde- and BPA-free.

Atlantic Furniture Eco-Friendly Richmond Convertible Crib $400

Transitions from a crib to a toddler bed to a daybed to a platform bed for your teenager! Made out of eco-friendly hardwood.
Hiya Crib $675-925

These cribs are stylish, and that comes at a price. They use low-VOC non-toxic paints and MDF made from recycled/reclaimed materials.

If any of you have purchased one of these cribs, please chime in with your reviews! And for those of you still on the hunt for the perfect crib, here’s the place to discuss the options with other green-minded parents. Stay tuned for affordable organic crib mattress options!

Gratitude Becomes a (Green) Birthday Tradition

green gratitude2Today, on my 37th birthday, I’m going to celebrate each year I’ve spent on this planet with one gratitude.

What does gratitude have to do with being green?  It counteracts constant desires and gives me the chance to look around and appreciate what I already have.  Our endless “needs”  fuel consumerism, debt, and lack of consideration for our natural resources.  Thankfulness stems my longings for stuff and refocuses my energy on all the more important gifts right in front of me. (Even though two of those gifts are really loud, create poopy diapers, and regularly rob me of sleep.)

My three year old should be able to manage being thankful for four things next year and I think we’ll write them down, illustrate them, and post them on our wall.  As for me, I have at least 37 things to list!

I won’t bore you every single one, but here are my top ten this year:

  1. My dear husband who washes cloth diapers, makes incredible chocolate chip pancakes, and is a wonderful father.
  2. Roscoe, our imaginative three-year-old with such a vibrant and silly spirit.
  3. Six-month old Jovi, who grins and giggles with every diaper change and is layered with all kinds of chub.
  4. Eighteen years of friendship with Rebecca, and after three years of work, the publication of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, in March of 2010!
  5. Our support system of family and friends who buoy us as we face the challenges of sleep deprivation and three year old tantrums.
  6. Having my husband home this year to care for our children and manage the household.
  7. Finding fulfillment and purpose as a middle school teacher, and having a two-week winter break with my family.
  8. Thrift, and how it has helped our family reprioritize and have more time together.
  9. Our cozy little home which offers lower utility bills, a natural limit to stuff, and family closeness.
  10. All of you!  I dearly appreciate having the chance to interact with thousands of like-minded parents who are raising kids on a budget while keeping the planet in mind.

Do you have any special birthday rituals at your house that help slow down the gift greed with your children?  Please share!

The Green Baby Guide Turns Two!

Christmas Eve may not seem like the best time to kick-start a website, but that’s exactly when we launched the Green Baby Guide two years ago. We were up and running with our very first post about wrapping gifts without creating waste. I’m sure our two readers really appreciated the tips.
second birthday cake with two candles

What has happened since Christmas Eve, 2007? We worked hard at finding new readers, we wrote almost 500 posts on living green with a new baby (among other things), and we finished our masterpiece, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Early in 2010, our book will finally hit the shelves!

So today we wish the Green Baby Guide a happy birthday, and we wish our readers a wonderful holiday season!

Easy Homemade Holiday Napkin Rings

Homemade Napkin Rings for HolidayEven small tots can participate in the holiday preparations with this simple craft.  If you use cloth napkins instead of paper on a regular basis, you may want to dress them up a bit for the festivities.  This simple craft should be done within an hour and will help your little one contribute to the holiday table.  If you already have a few of your child’s paintings to use, you’ll be done in just minutes!

Materials needed:

  • Paper
  • Tempera or watercolor paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Tape
  • Ribbon

Technically, these aren’t napkin rings at all, but simply decorated wraps for your cloth napkins.  Pick out the colors that will accent your holiday table and then set your child lose on a blank canvas.  When the painting is dry, cut it into two inch strips.  Roll your cloth napkins up and use the painted strip as a ring.  Cut and tape it shut.  Then add a decorative ribbon on top.  Done!

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas; or, All-Natural Air Fresheners

Why waste money on plug-in devices that spray chemicals into the air when you can scent your house with natural ingredients? This time of year, I like to buy whole cloves in bulk from the grocery store to make a simple homemade air freshener. All I do is take a small saucepan, fill with a cup or two of water, then sprinkle in a small handful of cloves. Keep the pan on low heat and let the spicy smell waft into the room. Of course, this does expend a bit of energy. I’m working on a bicycle-powered version of this little trick. . . .
clove-studded orange in bowl

Do you have any homemade potpourris or air freshener ideas? Do let us know!

A Full Night’s Sleep for a New Parents: The Best No-Cost Gift!

After months of grogginess, we recently experienced a night with eight continuous hours of sleep.  It was life changing.  Suddenly we could complete our sentences and even remember where we left our keys.

giving gift of sleep to new parentsPeople who regularly doze for sizeable chunks have no idea what an uninterrupted snooze can do for a sleep-deprived family in those first few months.  It revitalizes body and soul, regenerates our sadly withered coping skills, and helps us see the world, and our baby, in a whole new light.  (Think precious bundle instead of ten-pound heartless, sleep-depriving dictator.)

If someone would have offered to take my child for a night so that I climb between the sheets at 8am and get long hour stretch of unconsciousness, I think I would have cried with sheer happiness.

If you can’t manage taking baby for the entire night, volunteering for just a few hours of babysitting is also a tremendous help.  Parents can slip out for a coffee date or even flee to the cinema to play hooky from child rearing for just a few hours.

So, if you haven’t found the perfect present for the frazzled new mom in your life, give the gift of your time.  I truly believe that most new parents would value the break over any material item you could possibly give them.

Do you have other ideas for no-cost gifts for new parents?  Please share!

The Friday Question: What are your Green Resolutions for 2010?

Do you have any plans to go greener in 2010? From the big things (install solar panels and go off the grid!) to the little ones (be better about switching off the lights!)—we want to hear what you have in store for the upcoming year. (We are also searching for resolutions to add to our own lists, so please help us out.)

If you need some ideas for greening 2010, we recommend The Green Year by Jodi Helmer. Read our review here!

The Best Gingerbread Cookie Recipe (and it’s even low-fat)

I do not usually seek out low-fat cookie recipes (what’s the point?), but my favorite gingerbread cookie just so happens to contain just 3 grams of fat. We bake these year-round, but they’re especially delicious around the holidays.
Gingerbread_man from Shrek
Aww, how could you eat this little guy from Shrek? Well, he is full of sugar and spice and everything nice. . . .

(Modified from the Joy of Cooking)

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Mix together:

3 cups of flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Beat until well-blended:

6 tablespoons softened butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

Add and beat in:

½ cup molasses

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth. Divide dough in half, wrap each in plastic, and let stand at room temperature for at least two hours. (I have skipped this step with no ill effects!)

Roll dough out on floured surface until ¼ inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Bake in a 375-degree oven 7 to 10 minutes. Cool on racks. Decorate with icing if desired. Then enjoy!

Note: If you’re searching for a gluten-free gingerbread cookie recipe that’s easy to roll out, go to the Gluten-free Gourmand!