Eco-friendly (and Budget-friendly) Alternatives to Takeout

Like many tightwads and environmentalists, I am full of contradictions.  Joy confessed to loving take-out, and I’ve got to admit we’re guilty, too.  Obviously both eating at restaurants and ordering food to go costs much more than making homemade meals from fresh ingredients.  Going to restaurants might not be that bad for the environment, but takeout involves paper or plastic bags, napkins, and containers.

I blame our takeout habit on the baby.  While we used to eat out even more than we do now, these days we have to stay home in the evening hours so our daughter can sleep.  What I want to avoid is what I will call “unmindful takeout.”  Sometimes we don’t even want it, but we end up getting it because we failed to plan ahead.  So how can parents who want to save money and keep several takeout containers from the landfill deal with hectic nights when no one wants to cook?
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Green on the Go: Living Car-Free with a Baby

Audrey\'s very first stroller rideI’ve managed to go my whole adult life without owning a car.  When I was pregnant, I wondered if I’d finally succumb to automobile ownership, but I’ve found I get along just fine.  In the first few weeks of parenthood, I plopped my daughter into a sling and stepped out the door. 

At three months, she took her very first stroller ride, and at almost two and a half years she still takes a spin in it almost every single day.  I have found the stroller indispensible for a car-free lifestyle–jaunts around town are entertaining for the baby, and the basket provides some storage space for books or groceries we pick up along the way.  We enjoy what I like to think of as a European way of life: Instead of driving to the store every week or every other week and filling up an entire cart full of groceries, I stop by every few days and pick up the items I need by foot.
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Green Resolution Grades

Having a blog with thousands of loyal readers is a great way to feel accountable for those Earth Day Resolutions that sometimes fall by the wayside in the midst of raising a family.  I’m happy to report that we’ve made some progress toward accomplishing our green goals for the coming year in just a few months.

Green groceries:  B+    

We struggled with finding reasonably priced organic produce without driving all over town.  Thank goodness for our CSA!  I have to admit that some pieces of random produce have perished in our fridge but it has provided a wonderful variety of veggies and fruits that usually make it into our menus.

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Throw a Simple Green Baby Shower

Sheryl Crow had one. Parents magazine raved about them in last March’s issue.  An eco-conscious expecting mother in your life may be hinting for one.  But what is a green baby shower?  It may seem like a ploy to get you to “buy” your way into the green movement.  Are we just trading piles of Pampers and mounds of plastic toys for $50 organic onesies and free-trade rattles?  Maybe.  But it’s also possible to throw an old-fashioned, down-to-earth baby shower that’s simple and eco-friendly.  Here are just a few ideas to celebrate the arrival of a new baby.

Throw a book baby shower.  Don’t forget the Green Baby Guide’s article touting the merits of giving the gift of imagination.  Attendants bring a book or two the child can treasure well after she’s outgrown her bouncy seat.

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Finding Economical, Earth-Friendly Family Vehicles

If you’ve read my Earth Day resolution post, you know that I’m trying to lose two hundred and fifty pounds.  The Toyota Four Runner that we’ve been graciously allowed to borrow for the last seven years needs to be sold and we want to replace it with a more earth-friendly vehicle. 

Our challenge is to find a safe, reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle for between six and eight thousand dollars.  We’d like to have something that we can pile miles on for trips around town so that we keep our other car, a newer Toyota Camry, stowed away in the garage for most of the year.  Unfortunately we don’t all fit in the very NmG electric car pictured to the right. 

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Building Raised Beds For an Organic Garden

A few years ago when I was pregnant with Roscoe, I had a sudden Saturday urge to grow zucchini and hustled off to the hardware store to buy the wares for a small raised bed.  I sat in our driveway with the drill and awkwardly put together a rather pathetic little garden box that has nonetheless yielded some beautiful basil and tomatoes over the last few summers.  In this photo Roscoe is trying to prevent the weed-filled bed from being captured on film. 

This year with the help of my neighbors, I plan on putting together a more respectable raised bed.  Although I could just plop the plants in the dirt, raised beds provide excellent drainage for plants and also allow you to heap in all your own rich new soil. 

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What’s in Your Diaper Bag?

One thing I wondered when I was pregnant was what everyone was carrying around in those huge diaper bags.  I observed moms and dads dragging around overstuffed bags bigger than the carry-on luggage I’d use for a weekend trip.  What the heck did they have in there–fully cooked meals, extra outfits, an entire package of diapers?  I didn’t get it.  And I must admit, I still don’t.  I’ve been a mother for over two years now and have never carried around a diaper bag. 

During my daughter’s first six months or so, I didn’t bring anything with me on outings I knew would last just an hour or two.  I mean, I seriously didn’t bring anything for the baby: not a diaper, a book, a toy.  If I was planning on being gone for longer, I would tuck a Zip-loc bag into my purse. The Zip-loc would contain one extra diaper, another Zip-loc for the wet diaper, and a little baggie with two or three wipes.
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Is Staying At Home Greener than Working?

If both parents have demanding careers and multiple children, how do they manage things like washing cloth diapers, composting, making healthy dinners and spending time with baby? There are also some single parents out there who are handling full-time schedules and parenting while keeping the planet in mind. How do they do it?  I am utterly in awe of people who can juggle so much without feeling overwhelmed. 

My husband and I both work thirty-some hours per week and yet we find the balance of a two career family rather precarious at times. Over the last few weeks illness and injury has made the daily challenge of laundry and homemade dinners seem ever greater.   I often long for take-out, or look lustfully at the frozen entrees in the grocery store,  knowing that those convenience items are designed for the hectic, dual income family.  Even though I’m often overwhelmed,  I don’t want to give into the urge to buy disposable, convenience items, saving time while potentially harming the planet.  At this point it seems we should be able to handle some extra time for green choices since we have just one child, we both work equally hard on domestic tasks, and neither of us are working full time.

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Getting Rid of Plastic One Step at a Time

Now we’ve written about avoiding plastics in baby care products, teethers, and toys.  Parents left and right are freaking out about all the possible health risks associated with some plastics.  You may be one of them.  I try not to freak out over everything I read, but I have become more aware of the preponderance of plastic in my life.  I even have a kind of hazy goal involving eliminating plastic from my house entirely.  But where do I even start? 

Okay, so purging the house of plastic may sound overwhelming, but there are little things you can do to start replacing it with other materials.  I try to limit my plastic consumption one step at a time.  When I needed new food storage containers, for example, I opted for glass.  (Stay tuned for yet another installment in my plastic saga: Eliminating Plastic Containers.)
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Don’t Throw Out the Baby OR the Bath Water: Recycling Gray Water

Every time I pull the plug on Roscoe’s bath, it pains me to watch several gallons of relatively clean water vanish down the drain.  Perhaps this angst is inherited from my resourceful mother, who always transferred our bathwater to the washing machine for a load of laundry after we were tucked into bed.  She currently keeps a bucket in her shower at all times to capture water for use in her garden but she wishes that there was a better solution for all that gray water waste. 

Thanks to Brac Systems, an innovative Canadian company, there is!  They have designed a grey water recovery system that filters bathwater and redirects it for use in toilets.  The entire system costs just a few thousand dollars (plus installation) but Brac claims that the system could save people up to 40% of their water bill costs.  It’s possible to redirect the water for landscaping use as well and to use the system to harvest rainwater. 

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