Why Kids Should Watch More T.V.: It’s Good for the Environment!

30 Rock during Green Week on NBCThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no television at all until after they turn two and urges parents to limit television after that.  We had no trouble sticking with these recommendations during the last few months.  With the writers on strike, there wasn’t much to watch, anyway.  I wonder if the AAP will rethink their position now that the writers are back and networks are showing so much concern for the environment.  Before the strike, youngsters could watch Leonardo di Caprio on Oprah praising adjustable thermostats and Ty on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tearing down a perfectly good house and building an eco-friendly house in its place.  Surely all this media coverage will influence young minds everywhere, changing the world one Nielsen point at a time.
(more…)

Downsizing Domestic Dreams: How Much House Does Baby Need?

When winter hit this year, the walls of our small house seemed to close in with the darkness and cold.  Listening to updates about lowering interest rates and the drop in housing prices, I was suddenly hit by a wave of cramped angst.  Should we consider searching for a larger house before our family grows beyond our square footage?  The thought of going to open houses with a precocious toddler in tow was enough to make me nauseous. (And no, I’m not pregnant.) Below, Roscoe contemplates a new home and the concept of snow.

baby-and-snow.jpgSo I started to evaluate why we were thinking about purchasing another home.  My first reaction was that our son needed more room.  Together my husband and I wrote a list of all the things we would love in a future house.  We imagined a living room and a family room for Roscoe to play in with an ultra-efficient gas fireplace.  I envisioned a kitchen full of windows and long countertops to undertake summer canning events and large homemade meals. A huge row of solar panels and a solar hot water heater would be the icing on our dream-house cake. 

Then it dawned on us–-only one of the items on our list really involved our son-and to be honest, he has no idea that we’re missing a family room.  All the other details on the list were our housing fantasies.  Was it possible that we were inadvertently giving into social pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” by moving up into another house?  After all, Roscoe seems to be perfectly content with our home.  He especially enjoys the bathtub. 

bath-baby.jpgCoral Serene Anderson’s article “Towards the Ecology of the Home,” posted here on our site, helped put things into perspective. Her family of three happily contemplated moving into a home with just 400-some square feet. Hmm… All of a sudden our living space of around 1,000 square feet became rather luxurious. Then I looked into how house sizes have changed over the last fifty years, and was astonished (and validated) by the data.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 1950 the average new single-family home was just 953 square feet.  AND family sizes were larger than they are today!  By 1970 it had jumped to 1500 square feet and by 1990 it had made it just over 2,000 square feet. The NPR article on the exploding increase in home sizes has some excellent information.   Although we didn’t intentionally think about our carbon footprint when purchasing our small and affordable home, the limited square footage has also shrunken our annual emissions and kept our utility bills low.  We need less than half the energy to heat and light our home than the average 2349 square foot American house.  In the summer we’re shaded by a giant maple tree that provides all our air conditioning.   A small, enclosed entryway provides solar heat in the spring and fall and keeps the warm air inside during the winter. 

Because we opted for a small house, we can afford to live in an area that is within walking distance to shopping and parks–and my husband can bike to work for more than half of the year.  The cost savings in taxes, commuting, energy consumption, and house payments has provided us with the freedom to cut back on our work hours to spend valuable time with our baby. 

dad-and-baby-read1.jpgOur cozy home has kept our family quite comfortable-even with all the gear that a new baby brings to the picture.  In fact, our limited space is a great consideration when it comes to accumulating baby paraphernalia.  We don’t buy it unless we’re willing to trip over it. There’s no need for gates simply because Roscoe isn’t ever far enough away to get into too much trouble. (Well, most of the time!)

 So, have I become proud of my tiny house?  A little.  Also, I’ve learned that with some bundling we can easily get beyond these walls and spend time outside, with friends, or touring the supermarket on toddling legs. And while we’re here, I appreciate the fact that I’m never more than a few feet away from my favorite people. 

Last-minute Eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Creations

My daughter is attending her very first Valentine’s Day party today.  Ah–what is more romantic than a room full of toddlers exchanging cards and eating heart-shaped cookies?  The party hostess, Audrey’s daycare provider, gave us a list a couple weeks ago with the names of the children in attendance on Valentine’s Day.  Of course I immediately went to work making chocolate-covered cherries, composing personal poems for each child, and cutting out doilies and foil hearts.

All right, I didn’t really make candy or pen sonnets–how could I, when I left everything to the last possible moment?  I did manage to create my own last-minute Valentines rather than buying a box at the store.  A few days ago I saw a woman on television demonstrating how to make some easy eleventh-hour Valentines.  She threaded a tissue through a hole in a cut-out heart and wrote “Ah-cho-choose you” on the top.  I don’t know . . . unless I used 100% post-consumer recycled tissue, I just wouldn’t feel right about giving Audrey’s daycare friends this Valentine.  (Although, on second thought, who needs a tissue more than a little tyke in the dead of winter?)
(more…)

Thrifty Solutions for Greener Cleaning

 

Before having a baby, cleaning was easier than I ever realized.  I didn’t have to deal with the daily challenge of fingerprint smudges on windows or toys scattered across the carpet.  I don’t remember ever getting occasional dollops of mashed yams stuck to my socks when I traversed the kitchen floor.  Then again, life wasn’t nearly as interesting.

 

Nowadays, I spend much more time cleaning, but luckily I don’t spend much more money.  According to US Department of Labor Statistics, the average family shells out over $600 per year on household cleaning products.  Beyond the economic costs, many mainstream cleaners contain toxins that can harm the environment and negatively impact your family’s health. Our family spends less than fifty dollars a year by using our own cleaning solutions along with a few natural products.  It saves money, saves the planet, and keeps our house spick and span. 

(more…)

Green Mom Guilt

Motherhood has moved my capacity for guilt to a whole new level—and I was pretty advanced to begin with. The guilt-rants that occur in my brain are often totally illogical (due to sleep deprivation) but it’s amazing how powerful they can become.  Here is a sample of a sudden guilt gush: “Why didn’t I bring mittens to the park? Now he’ll probably get frostbite and never be able to pursue his dream of professional fiddling!”

 

O.K. It doesn’t always get that bad, but it is hard to feel as though the entire well-being of another tiny soul rests on my shoulders.   So when I throw the health of the planet into the mix, I can occasionally become overwhelmed.  As I’m wheeling my son through the grocery store (and sensing an impending fit) it’s tough to make quick decisions about green packaging, organic products, and price—all while singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and planning a diaper change in a public restroom.

(more…)

Baby Rules I Violate in order to Save the Planet

There are some mothers who are up-to-date on all the latest recommendations in pregnancy and child development. These women avoid caffeine and soft cheeses during pregnancy and compliment their child in five different languages when he reaches a new milestone (five months ahead of his peers, no doubt). On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the parents who, through lack of education and resources, remain ignorant of all the expert opinions in child-minding.

And then there are the parents like me. Parents who know all about the baby rules and regulations touted by medical and safety authorities and blatantly disregard them! Why do I do it? I guess I’m just a renegade, a rebel, a rule-breaker in general. Or . . . maybe I am just lazy. Or . . . I am doing it to save the world! Here are just some of the rules I break out of eco-consciousness:
(more…)

Greener Gifts

 

Ever since I was brainwashed by Woodsy Owl and the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” campaign of the ‘70s, I’ve always been a bit of an environmentalist.  Most of the time my green values have dovetailed rather nicely with my tightwad spirit. But for some reason gift shopping has remained beyond my environmental considerations.

 

Although I get a weird adrenaline rush mining for thrift store treasures, we don’t always have the time to shop secondhand. Plus, I sometimes worry that the gift recipient won’t share my zeal for used goods. In the past, I’ve waited for sales, bought off-season, and just generally bided my time until the right deal came up.

(more…)

The Gift Wrap that Keeps on Wrapping

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.
(more…)