Archive for 2010


What’s the very best, most efficient way to wash cloth diapers? The answer lies in our groundbreaking book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Get thee a copy at once!

It turns out, we have a lot more to say about laundering cloth diapers. Perhaps it started with the question, Can you wash diapers in cold water? It turns out that yes, you can save energy by washing cloth diapers in cold water. To take that conservation further, you can wash cloth diapers in a front-loading washing machine.

If you’re wondering if the water and energy used to wash cloth diapers is just as bad as using disposable diapers, you might want to check out this post: Washable vs. disposable: environmental debates to ponder. Also, remember that you can offset the water used to wash cloth diapers.

Can we recommend an eco-friendly, diaper friendly detergent? And what’s the cheapest eco-friendly laundry detergent? If your diapers are smelly or stained, what should you do? Here’s a simple, eco-friendly solution for stinky diapers: Use hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach.

While both Joy and I are lucky enough to have washers and dryers at home, we know others live in apartments or rely on community laundry machines. So we asked our readers: Did you use a Laundromat or coin-op machines for washing diapers? Washing cloth diapers in an apartment: eco-friendly or totally nuts?

Finally, what about drying your cloth diapers? Don’t click on that last link unless you’re prepared to be shocked by Joy’s confession!

There are only a few days left to squeeze in your charitable gifts for 2010–and options abound.  If I was as organized and systematic as I dream of being, I would have scheduled monthly deductions that spread out over the year–but in the throes of early parenthood it’s often tough to think beyond sleep, cloth diaper laundry, and dinner.

A few weeks ago we started our charity efforts with a toy purge. It took us hours, but we sent off five large boxes packed with high quality toys for other children to enjoy.  This prevented us from being overwhelmed with the new holiday loot and gave us the good feeling of passing along valuable items–many of which were purchased at thrift stores to begin with!

Then we decided on our big monetary gift of the year.   Because of our years of travel in the developing world and the extreme hospitality we always experienced, that’s where we direct our funds.  The money  we send to women and children in impoverished countries can stretch quite far–especially with sustainable charities. For example, Finca, provides microloans to women so that they can start their own businesses and support themselves.  Over 90% of the loans are paid back, so the money will be cycling through several women’s lives for years to come.

I also love Heifer International since it purchases animals that then breed more livestock to be shared with other families.  The goats, cows, and chickens produce food for families while their offspring continue to help the program grow.

Habitat for Humanity is another sustainable charity that offers families affordable housing while requiring recipients to make very low house payments and put in volunteer time building homes for others in their community.  In my brief experience building homes in Mexico and the U.S. with Habitat, the families receiving the home worked alongside volunteers and other homeowners on a daily basis.  They weren’t shy or embarrassed about getting their home because they built it themselves and had agreed to pay for it.   I experienced a ground roots sense of community empowerment that was powerful.  While Habitat International is a religiously affiliated group, they don’t limit their efforts to religious families.

Unicef won our donation this year, since they’re specifically targeted toward children and are very efficient with their funds.  They use low-cost methods to save children’s lives and every donation made between now and the end of December will be doubled.

If my baby was already completely potty trained, I’d also donate some gently used cloth diapers to Teeny Greenies. It’s a non-profit that lends cloth diapers to anyone interested in trying cloth, all for free.  There are currently local branches in Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Carolina.  What a great way to support new families as they get a no-risk chance to experiment with cloth diapering!

If you want to check how much of your donation actually reaches it’s targeted cause, check out Charity Navigator. It provides star ratings so you know that you’re choosing well.  (The only four star charities listed above were Habitat for Humanity and Unicef, with Heifer coming in at three stars.  Sadly, Finca had just two stars).

What are your favorite charities?  Do you prefer environmental organizations, local networks, or international charities?  Do you do your giving all at once or spread it out over the year?

Happy birthday to us! We’re celebrating three years of blogging (as of last Friday) by reviewing our top ten posts of all time here on the Green Baby Guide. Now, according to our stats, A Fan of Fans has the most views of any post, but we chalk that up to a Googling fluke. So how to do we measure the success of a post? By the reception it gets from you, our dedicated readers! Here are the top ten most-commented-upon posts of all time!*

Four of our most popular posts were about . . . you guessed it: diapers

#10, tied with 23 comments each:

Did you have a natural childbirth?

Do you have “issues” buying used clothing and gear for your baby?

Cheapest, most concentrated eco-friendly dishwashing liquid

#9, with 25 comments:

Cheapest eco-friendly laundry detergent

#8, with 26 comments:

Eco-confession: I bought regular diapers!

#7, with 31 comments:

Green breakthrough: save energy by washing diapers in cold water

#6, with 32 comments:

Nighttime diaper dilemma: part three

#5, tied with 33 comments each:

Was breastfeeding worth it?

#4, with 34 comments

How do you hand wash dishes to conserve water and dish soap?

#3, tied with 37 comments each

It’s easy eating green on Meatless Mondays

How do you get rid of your children’s outgrown clothing?

#2, with 46 action-packed comments, is this recent post:

Too Much Pressure to Breastfeed?

#1, the most popular post of all time, with 54 comments, is. . .

 

What do you make of these most commented-upon posts? Any trends you see? Four of the thirteen posts mentioned here are about diapers. Four are about washing dishes or doing laundry. Other than that, the topics that elicit the most comments are all over the map.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading our posts and commenting on them!  We’ll aspire to more comment-inspiring posts for 2011!

*Not including giveaway posts, which can receive up to 300 comments.

Beans are a nutritional superstar.  It’s tough to find other hearty, protein packed food that are as rich in nutrients and fiber and low in cost.  They can be added to Yumm Bowls and soups as the main protein or can help you cut back a bit on the meat in your standard carnivorous favorites.  But making homemade beans has alluded me for years.

So why even attempt to cook dried beans?  The sodium content is far lower and the flavor can’t be beat.  Plus I won’t have to recycle several aluminum cans and I’ll pay three to five times less per serving.

To reduce my overall cooktime, I tried my friend Lorene’s tip: Simply soak huge batches of beans overnight to soften them up and then pop them into zip lock bags to freeze.  The frozen, pre-softened beans can then go from the freezer to the table with only about forty minutes of stovetop cook time.

If you’d like to cut that time down even more, you can fully cook the beans in one batch and then freeze.  They’ll just need to be defrosted before being tossed in taco filling or savory soups.

This time of year I love setting up my crock pot with soup ingredients and then enjoying a rich, slow cooked meal at dinner time.  A large batch of bean soup can cost pennies per serving while nourishing your whole family and driving away the winter cold.  I love this Navy Bean Soup with Ham Recipe, but note that it does require you to start preparing the soup the night before.   Spicy Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup uses the heat from jalapeno peppers to dissolve the December chill. If you use a vegetable-based bouillon it will be a tasty vegetarian meal.

What are your favorite tricks for preparing homemade beans and bean soups?  Are you still laden in leftovers from the holiday festivities?

It’s Christmas Eve! And also, tonight marks the third anniversary of the Green Baby Guide. Why we decided to launch our website on a major holiday remains a mystery to this day. . . .

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  • Blast from the past! This was our very first post on the Green Baby Guide. It ran almost three years ago today!

    What would Christmas morning be without festive wrapping paper and fancy bows? (“It’s about peace and love and the birth of our Savior!” you answer.) Okay, but stick with me here. I’m talking about every kid’s much-awaited vision of Christmas morning. Will my daughter grow up deprived if I deny her the tearing-up-the-gift-wrap experience that is every American child’s birthright? Oh, she’ll have Christmas gifts aplenty—but this year, I’ve devised some eco-friendly alternatives to disposable gift wrap. If I start this practice before she’s speaking in full sentences, it should be easy, and she’ll never know what she’s missing.

    Joy’s mom was way ahead of the gift wrap revolution when she sewed a set of fabric gift bags in the early 1980s. Family names are ironed onto bags, some are just decorated with quilted fabric, and all of them have a fabric ribbon sewn into the seam for quick “wrapping.” They use them for all holidays and especially enjoy seeing the familiar ones year after year. Those bags have saved reams of wrapping paper, hundreds of dollars, and hours of time in their nearly thirty-year lifespan. Last year Joy’s favorite gift was a set of her own gift bags to be used for her family’s holidays for many seasons to come. If you would like to invest in bags that will last you for years, check out http://luckycrow.com. They have several beautiful fabrics and sell some of their designs in organic fabrics.

    As for me, I didn’t have any special gift bags to use this year. Piles of used ribbon, fancy gift boxes, gift bags, fabric, and Christmas tins multiply down in the depths of my basement. I try not to hoard things. I even like to think of myself as somewhat of a minimalist. But somehow, it happens. “Maybe I’ll reuse them one day,” I think to myself. Well, that day has come! Just look at what I accomplished with my handy reusing skills:

    Some of those presents are for my mom, stepfather, and sister. On Christmas day they will have the very enticing option of keeping their decorative tin, bag, or box or leaving it behind to be relegated to another year in my basement. If they choose the latter option, they may very well find another Christmas present inside it next year. Despite the beautiful presentation, I’m sure my daughter will still tear into her presents. Most likely she’ll be happier placing the boxes on her head than she will be with what is inside.

    DIY Last Minute Holiday Gifts

    If you’re in a last minute panic and can’t imagine lugging your children through crowded shops, our vintage posts can save the day!

    These fast and easy gingerbread cookies taste great and handle beautifully.  Although people always seem to be impressed by the mysterious qualities of gingerbread, you’ll have a batch whipped up in no time flat.  (There’s no refrigeration required.)

    You can involve your children with making DIY: salt dough ornaments.  You can also use the dough for their little handprints if you want a great gift idea for grandparents.

    Simple homemade play-dough is a great stocking stuffer or holiday craft to keep your kids busy while you tuck presents under the tree.

    If you have a big chunk of unexpected time, you can whip up some DIY fabric holiday gift bags.  Give a set away as a gift or make one for your own crew.  We’ve used the set my mother made for our family nearly four decades and I now have a set of my own.  It makes wrapping presents incredibly easy and eliminates those scrapes of wrapping paper that litter your floor after those gifts have been opened.

    What are you doing in the next week?  Are you taking any steps (even small ones) to make your holiday green this year?

    Not sold on pocket diapers? Check out how to choose an eco-friendly diaper system and figure it out once and for all! Joy and I had an old-fashioned diaper duel (which involved impassioned blogging rather than shooting each other at forty paces) in which she argued that pocket diapers are better than prefolds.

    The bumgenius one-size diaper adjusts to fit babies as they grow.

    Her love for pocket diapers was so strong that her argument came in the form of a five-point ode. Powerful stuff. After our fight had reached a stalemate, she came back with three more reasons she loves pocket diapers. She just won’t take “prefolds are better” for an answer!

    The cow print pocket diaper from Happy Heiny’s

    If you are experiencing some pocket diaper leakage problems, we have some ideas.  Pocket diapers might also be the key to using cloth diapers at night.

    The Fuzzibunz pocket diaper in blue daisy

    Still not sure that pocket diapers are worth the higher price than prefolds? Check out the cutest pocket diapers in the world and see if we can’t change your mind.

    Bummis pocket diaper

    (Don’t forget to check out our best prefold diaper posts!)

    What are your favorite pocket diapers?

    Today I’m turning to all of you in an online opinion poll to help my family make a major life decision: Should we move to a bigger house?

    I know you’re all up to your elbows in mistletoe and holiday cards, but we’re in the midst of a major transition and I love getting advice from wise readers.

    You may remember my proud posts on the budgetary and environmental benefits of small homes.  We have been quite happy in our thousand square foot house for several years and the income from the small studio apartment we rent out back makes it even better.  Here’s a summary of why we should keep living in our small home:

    1. Constant Togetherness.  It’s nice to be within sight of each other almost all the time.  No one can retreat into his or her own world because our domain is mutual.  There’s no need for a baby monitor here!  (Our house isn’t really as small as this photo, but it can feel that way at times.)
    2. Limit on Acquired Stuff. We don’t have to maintain piles of possessions simply because we don’t have the room.  If something new is going to come in, another object simply has to be removed.
    3. Lower Energy Consumption. We have less space to heat, thus giving us lower utility bills and a lighter carbon footprint.

    I could go on, but you get the gist!  We have a good gig here.  So why do we want to shift to a bigger home?  Again, the list:

    1. One Bathroom, Four People. This isn’t usually a problem, but a recent bout of communal stomach flu was pretty miserable with just one latrine.  I imagine this will get tougher when the kids get older too.
    2. No Space for Visitors. Kid gatherings are tricky in our home. Overnight guests have to camp out on the floor and be climbed upon by our children at 6am.  We won’t be living in the mansion pictured here, but it might just feel that way at first!
    3. Excellent Financial Timing. Interest rates are low, prices are low, we have savings set aside, and we’d be keeping this house as a rental. (Our goal will be a house close to shopping and work that is between 1600-1800 square feet.)

    If you’ve managed to live in a small space as a family (perhaps even tinier than our house) for years and enjoyed it, please comment!  If you live in a large house, did you enjoy having the extra space or was it tougher to maintain? You could just be the one who tips our decision one way or another!

    Update! Since I’ve written this post we’ve found an 1800 square foot home with a rainwater catchment system, organic garden beds, and a water saving toilet.  We may just be in love!  We’ll keep you posted on the progress, and in the meantime, we need your advice!

    Joy went over our top holiday crafts for kids a couple weeks ago. That post contains classics like how to make a proper paper snowflake and homemade baked Christmas ornaments. Yesterday Audrey and I spent a couple hours decorating construction paper trees and gingerbread men—a highly recommended activity for the preschool set. We also gathered branches and leaves and tied them onto a paper plate ring to make a simple wreath. Even really young children could enjoy gathering the supplies for that one, though I suppose if you live in a snow-encrusted area, that might prove difficult.

    What are your favorite holiday crafts?

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