Life with a Baby . . . and No Paper Towels

Many months ago, I wrote about the baby rules I break for the planet.  One of those “rules” included mopping up baby with wads of paper towels.  I don’t think I’ve ever bought a roll of paper towels in my life.  We do have two rolls of paper towels in my house.  One roll was generously left here by the previous owners.  We moved the other roll over from our last house, where it sat in the back of a closet for at least four years.  My husband bought that roll long ago, without my consent or knowledge.  I cannot be blamed!

Simple Steps to Fight Summer Heat and Limit Air Conditioning

If you live in a steamy region where the humidity matches the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, please stop reading this post immediately and start making your baby an ice bath.  My humble advice only works for areas where the air is light enough to move. 

In Eugene, Oregon, where I live, the temperature occasionally gets above ninety degrees and the humidity is almost always manageable.  Still, I am a self-professed heat wimp so I do all I can to keep our home cool.  We don’t have air conditioning, but with a little extra effort we mostly stay very comfortable through the warm summer months. Even if we did have air, I think I’d keep up the steps below to lower our power bill and our emissions with just a few minutes of effort.


Save Some Trees–Never Buy Children’s Books

Here’s a tip that works for me: Never buy books!  Why?  Because reading is overrated and television is the wave of the future!  Instead of wasting valuable time and money on books for my young, impressionable daughter, we just plop her in front of the television, which is FREE (we don’t have cable).

I found this adorable picture on Multnomah County Library’s website

All right, calm down.  I do believe in books and reading.  I was an English major, after all.  I wasn’t kidding, though, about never buying books.  I just wanted a snazzier intro to the oldest tightwad trick in the book: Use the library.  Yes, it’s been said before, but despite the existence of this wonderful public institution, many people still spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on books, CDs, and DVDs each year–even though all these things can be acquired for free.  Not only does patronizing the library save money, it saves trees and other resources.

What’s Your Walk Score?

Right after I wrote my post about walking everywhere with a baby, we moved to a different neighborhood in Portland.  One of my big concerns with my new neighborhood is that it would not be as pedestrian-friendly as my old one.  It would be hard to live the carefree green lifestyle of my dreams if I had to drive a car everywhere.  Although my job is miles away (necessitating a bus ride), I was able to run most household errands by foot in my old neighborhood.

According to, the walk score of my old and new neighborhoods is exactly the same: 88 out of 100, or “very walkable.”  Just plug your address into this website and you’ll get a walk score of your very own.  The site will show you the grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, and other places that are within walking distance of your address.  The algorithm is not perfect–it does not take into account some things like your proximity to public transport or the “pedestrian-friendly design” of your neighborhood.

Red, White and Blue-Green: An Eco-Friendly Fourth of July

This Independence Day, in spite of the fact that I teach American History, I’m looking forward rather than back.  Maybe it’s motherhood, or rising gas prices, or melting glaciers, but it seems as though boundless independence might not be working for our country at this point.

We’re free to use as much fuel, energy, food, and water as we’d like.  We’re free to toss recyclables into the trash and drive Hummer limousines. The pursuit of happiness has pushed us into a level of consumerism that would have baffled our nation’s founders.  (I can’t help but mention here that they were imperfect as well—some of them using slavery to support their own luxurious lifestyles.)


Organic Homemade Popsicles

The sun’s out, your baby’s teething and it’s time for a soothing summer treat.  So, how exactly do you concoct the perfect popsicle?

Popsicle molds:  There are several plastic molds on the market (I have to confess that I own a set), but there are other options available around your home.  You can make mini-pops with icicle trays or individual used yogurt cups. Crate and Barrel made BPA-free popsicle molds earlier this year but they appear to have been discontinued. I’ve written to our friends at The Soft Landing about their safest choice for popsicle molds and will keep you posted on their response.  If you prefer to avoid plastic altogether, you can use paper cups, carefully washing them out and reusing them each time.  You can also try small juice glasses, ensuring that you gradually cool the glass so that it doesn’t crack with extreme temperature change. 


Natural Solutions for Ant Control

Our house is perched on a giant anthill.  I have no scientific proof of this except for the constant stream of tiny black specks that march around like they own the place. These little sugar ants are happier than ever since Roscoe has joined our family.  Now they can load up with the remnants of my son’s cracker snacks, spaghetti dinners, and cookie treats to their collective heart’s content.

So how do we mercilessly rid them of their newfound territory without endangering our son or the planet?   We don’t want to use any pesticides in our home, not just because our son likes to put almost everything in his mouth, but also because it isn’t safe for the environment. 


The Top Five Ways to Save Money and The Planet

Since fuel expenses, high food prices, and child-rearing costs are eating into our thrifty budgets, here are some simple, eco-friendly tips that can save some money. They all come directly from, which has another five money saving tips available for your perusal.  While you’re there, use their handy-dandy online calculator to estimate your carbon and cost savings.

Run your dishwasher only when it’s loaded to full capacity.  It’ll save you $40 per year and reduce your carbon emissions by a whopping 200 pounds.

Move your thermostat down two degrees when it’s cold and up two degrees when it’s hot.  This minor switch will save your family $98 annually and bring your carbon emissions down by two thousand pounds!


Riding on Public Transportation with a Baby in Tow

I will risk my green cred by admitting that I never got the hang of riding the bus with my daughter.  Before I had a baby of my own, I’d see parents wearing their babies in slings or pouches, hopping on and off the bus with ease.  During the ride, the babies would sleep or calmly stare out at the view.  Maybe it wasn’t as easy for these parents as it looked–I know it wasn’t that easy for me!  I tend to choose walking over bus-riding most days, so I hardly qualify as a baby-bus-riding expert, but here are some pros and cons involved in the different ways of traveling with your tot.

The Upside of High Gas Prices

Don’t get me wrong. I cringe every time we fill up and I know that the extra expenses brought on by high fuel prices are uncomfortable and even crippling for some tight budgets. 

So is there an upside?  Actually I think there are several. 

We are being forced to consider fuel efficient vehicles:  I like making the choice to drive less and walk more, but now I’m finding all sorts of creative ways to get even more out of our gas dollars.  Many families are taking on slightly higher car payments as they dump their SUV’s for more fuel efficient vehicles, knowing the gas savings will make a huge difference in the long run.  We finally sold the SUV we were using and I feel that a huge (carbon) weight has been lifted off our shoulders!