Packing Zero Waste Lunches

Just a few days ago I posted about my conflicted relationship with pre-packaged food. Convenience is expensive, wasteful, and sometimes really, really….convenient. Especially when it comes to packing school lunches, a chore my husband and I utterly dread.

So imagine my surprise when my son’s preschool sent home a notice asking us to exclude all single serving packaged items. What a glorious idea! Having a trash-free policy for packed lunches has a huge impact when sixty students follow it every single day. And since the kids compost and are limited to refillable drink bottles, the daily trash produced will be extremely minimal. But that means no more raisin boxes, or cheese sticks, or fruit leathers. From now on, it’s reusable containers all the way.

I’m actually glad to have the eco-pressure to take that step. It’ll require extra time, but in the long run it will save money and environmental impact. Instead of buying single serving items, we’ll buy large quantities and individually pack them up in the beginning of the week. At this point my inner lunch packing loather is horrified by the change, but like all lifestyle adjustments, I think we’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Cheese sticks will become cheese cubes.
Fruit leather will switch to frozen blueberries.
Raisin boxes will be replaced with homemade trail mix.

In terms of reusable lunch ware, we already love the small compartments in Lock & Lock containers with removable trays. They’re BPA-free, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, freezable and they nest for easy storage.

But we’re also thinking of buying something like Lunchskins so that we can squeeze more in lunchboxes. People also seem to really like the Itsy Ritzy Reusable Snack Bag. Do you have a snack bag solution that helps you pack a zero waste lunch?

I guess the easiest solution would be to wash out zip-lock bags on a daily basis. Are any of you managing on that system?

Green Toys Tea Set Review

My son, who helped to inspire our book The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, just turned five. Did he request reclaimed wood toys or organic cotton garments for his birthday? Nope. He’s in the midst of a feverish obsession with monster trucks, which are just about as ungreen as you can possibly be.

On the other end of the gender spectrum is my two-year-old daughter Jovi who must wear the finest dresses available (purchased at thrift stores), jewels, and purses on a daily basis. For her brother’s fifth birthday party (which included “pin the wheels on the monster truck”), Jovi received one special gift: A Green Toys Tea Set.

My thrift shopping habit has wildly skewed my price perception, so spending over twenty bucks on a plastic tea set was slightly painful, but I was happily surprised with the quality of the product. And when I did some research on the company, I was glad that I shelled out a bit more. All Green Toys are made in the U.S. from recycled milk containers. The whole process happens in California which saves the carbon cost of having raw materials shipped into the factory from overseas. They’re BPA free and meet the strict toy safety and environmental laws for the state of California.

I love the practical heft of the plastic, the colors, the simple design, and the fact that all lids are completely interchangeable. Since she got the set two weeks ago, we have had dozens of tea parties, and I think there are hundreds more to come. With a quality product like Green Toys, you get an heirloom toy that is made of recycled materials and costs just a bit more cheap plastic sets made in China. I’d definitely recommend it!

Do you own any Green Toys? Have you been satisfied with their quality?

Trading Babysitting or Creating Babysitting Co-Ops

Babysitting trades have been one of the biggest discovery of my mothering career. My kids are thrilled to play with their friends, my husband and I dash off to the theater with a bag of homemade popcorn, and everyone enjoys a change in the routine! When we’re hosting the swap, we enjoy seeing the budding friendships between our children and their peers.

Before the days of babysitting trades, there were no parenting breaks for me except when my husband arrived home. By then, I was so desperate for company (or privacy) that I’d either talk his ear off or lock myself in the bedroom just to experience a tiny slice of silence. (I don’t own a Snuggie, but the glowing smile in the picture captures how I felt when I crept into my bedroom. “Tee-Hee…no one is currently climbing, spitting up on, or peeing on me! Glorious!” )

Eventually I started to schedule our weeks at home around play dates, which were a welcome diversion for an extravert like myself. But when things evolved into babysitting trade status, life truly eased up–and not just for me! The families I swap babysitting with are just as grateful for the chance to host a play date or to get a sliver of freedom every so often.

Babysitting cooperatives take swaps to a whole new level. In a co-op, parents take on a few more children, but also get more opportunities for free babysitting. The Smart Mom’s Baby-Sitting Co-op Handbook:How We Solved the Baby-Sitter Puzzle can help you create one yourself. It’s gotten rave reviews on Amazon and thoughtfully lays out plans in careful detail for how to put together a community that works for you. It’s so popular that even though it was published over a decade ago, it’s currently sold out! (But should be available again very soon.)

I know with infants cooperatives or exchanges may be more of a challenge, but if you have at least two parents on duty it’s pretty amazing what you can handle. Does anyone else enjoy babysitting swaps? Do any of you have family who volunteer to watch your tot on a regular basis? I plan on doing that once my children get a bit older!

Twist 100% Biodegradable Sponges

This is a quick drive-by post to recommend Twist biodegradable sponges. I picked up the Twist loofah scrubby on a whim at Whole Foods and used it until it fell apart after about eight months. (I realize this may sound extremely gross to some people . . . but it dried out completely between dish-washings and never seemed to smell or look bad.) When I was done, I put it into my compost bin. I recommend it!

I see Twist makes other biodegradable sponges and rags, too. Check them out!

Twist European Sponge Cloths


Twist Naked Sponge


Twist dish dumpling scrub pad


Twist natural kit


Twist naked kit

Make Shopping Easier With The Good Guide’s Transparency Toolbar

Have you ever longed for a personalized shopping assistant? Someone who can brief you on which products are best so that you can make quick decisions before the baby wakes up/your children start flinging legos at each other/the casserole burns in the oven? What if that assistant (let’s call her Betty) could also help you select goods that dovetail with your values, leaving you with a green afterglow following 15 minutes of online shopping?

She’s here! She’s free! She’s not actually human, but she’s more thorough than any person could ever be.


The Good Guide’s Transparency Toolbar
(you may still call it Betty if you like) provides you with detailed product information for online shopping. You’ll be able to quickly bypass green claims, using the Transparency Toolbar’s data to choose items that are non-toxic, eco-friendly, and socially responsible.

So how do you use the Transparency Toolbar anyway? Simply install it as a web browser extension and it will pop up only while you are shopping online. You customize what date is important to you out of fourteen different categories including climate change, controversial ingredients, energy efficiency, organic, and nutritious. The Transparency Toolbar will then rate the product you’re viewing according to the criteria you’ve selected, as well as listing similar products that might meet your needs more completely. Isn’t Betty incredibly resourceful for being free?

To quickly get a sense of how the Transparency Toolbar works, simply invest four minutes of your life viewing Good Guide’s Transparency Toolbar Video . It walks you through how to download the application and use it while shopping—showing you just how empowering it is for consumers.

For those of you who are currently gearing up for a new baby, the Transparency Toolbar can help you quickly decide which baby products you’d like to purchase or register for without having to spend hours researching companies or possible toxins.

Now honestly, I don’t do a lot of shopping online, but I’m thrilled to know that Good Guide’s Transparency Toolbar will soon be available as a mobile app! Imagine rolling through the grocery store and being able to challenge a label’s green claims on the spot with Betty’s capable assistance!

We love The Good Guide, not just because it’s so consumer-friendly, but because one of its authors, Josh Dorfman, is a green hero of ours. He wrote The Lazy Environmentalist and also penned the forward to our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. In his television series on the Sundance Channel and his SiriusXM Radio show, he embraces the “progress not perfection” spirit that we promote in all our green endeavors. In addition to all those accolades, he’s currently in the trenches of early green parenthood.

So thanks to Josh Dorfman and his colleagues for The Good Guide’s Transparency Toolbar! It isn’t just about keeping our families safe and helping the environment. It’s about holding companies to a higher standard. Because The Good Guide makes information so easily accessible, companies are bound to start watching their ratings and realize that consumers are choosing products with superior records. If each of our dollars is a vote, then the Transparency Toolbar is the key to electing better businesses!

Check out Baby Eco Trends for the Latest in Green Cribs, Toys, Mattresses, and More

You may have noticed the little Baby Eco Trends ad in our sidebar. If you visit Babyecotrends.com, you’ll find hundreds of eco-friendly products for your baby. If I had an unlimited budget (and a baby), I’d get the Oops crib made from reclaimed wood.

One great thing about ordering a crib–and other baby furniture–from the Baby Eco Trends site is that they explain the origins of the products, materials used, labor practices, packaging materials–everything you need to know to make your decision.

In addition to furniture, the site carries unique wooden toys, including toy kitchens and art supplies. Find an eco-friendly rocking chair or glider, organic mattresses and bedding, and even nursery art.

We’re pleased to have Baby Eco Trends as one of our sponsors on the Green Baby Guide. If you love their eco-friendly products as much as we do (and you actually have a baby to spoil, unlike me!), start a baby registry!

 

BPA-free Lunchboxes for Waste-free School Lunches

I can hardly believe that my little “green baby” will be entering kindergarten in a month! I thought I’d take a quick break from the cloth diapers and homemade baby food and talk about the latest in eco-friendly lunch boxes. While many of the options below are made from plastic, they are all BPA-free. I’m going to strive for waste-free school lunches, which means I’m looking for reusable containers to avoid buying juice boxes, individual tubs of applesauce, and other products with disposable packaging.

Now, Audrey is lucky enough to have a grandmother who bought her a Crocodile Creek Pocket Lunchbox ($13.66). These lunch boxes come in several adorable designs; my future kindergartner chose the princess.

Her lunchbox does not come with containers inside, but I’m thinking of getting the EasyLunchboxes 3-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers. A set of four costs $13.95. I like that there are fewer pieces than other bento sets. This should make things easier for Audrey and for us.

LunchSkins Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags Set ($25) look like a good choice if you want to avoid buying disposable sandwich bags.

The Kids Konserve Go Wild Waste-Free Lunch Kit costs $38.07, but it does come with everything your child could possibly need in a lunch set!

I know that Laptop Lunches Bento Kits are very popular here in Portland. The outer lunch box comes in different patterns, and the inner bento sets are available in a variety of colors. The components of the kit are often separately, or for $40.00 you could get a complete kit with a recipe book.

This Collapsible Lunchbox ($20.00) looks like a novel invention!

Finally, the Eco Lunch Box three-in-one set ($20.95) is your choice if you’re looking for a stainless steel lunch box. Once upon a time I looked all over the place for a stainless steel bento box, and I ended up getting something very similar to this. It’s a great option if you’re opposed to all plastics.

We’ve yet to try out our lunch box system, so I can’t give it a personal endorsement. If you have experience with any of these products–or if we’ve left out a great lunch box–let us know in the comments!

What’s Your Favorite Green Diaper Cream?

Eco-friendly diaper creams abound these days, but which ones really work?

We were big fans of Boudreaux’s All Natural Butt Paste. It was widely available and seemed to clear up any issues we had quickly and without a sticky mess.


Method’s Squeaky Green Diaper Cream comes in wonderful scents, but I never had a chance to use it with my babies.

Friends of mine have raved about Weleda Calendula Diaper Care and their whole line of products.


Nature’s baby Organics Organic Diaper Ointment Cream is part of a series of organic personal care products for mothers and babies.


Angel Baby Bottom Balm has a luscious lavender scent that we loved. It’s made here in Oregon and their whole line of products are fabulous!

Bio-Bio Baby’s Zinc Oxide Paste also looks pretty promising. Has anyone tried it?

Perhaps you’ve tried swabbing a bit of olive oil on baby’s bottom or even using some Lanosinoh Lanolin. (Most breastfeeding moms discover that the stuff is wonderful for those early days of cracked and sensitive skin, and unless your child has a wool allergy, it’s great for use as a diaper cream as well!)

Let us know what your favorite solutions are for diaper rash and don’t forget to enter our Eco-nomical Baby Guide and What to Expect When You’re Expecting giveaway!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Giveaway

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a thorough guide to pregnancy that has been tremendously popular for over twenty years–and this week their website, What to Expect, is sponsoring a giveaway! We’re throwing in a few copies of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, to sweeten the winnings for two lucky readers. There are multiple ways to enter so get in on the action!

Prize #1
What to Expect Before You’re Expecting (+ a copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet)

For women who are planning conception and pregnancy, What to Expect Before You’re Expecting is a great resource. It provides tips on everything from nutrition to medical care for women (and men) in the months before you get pregnant. And it will help you make the good choices that will lead to a healthier newborn. For couples hoping to conceive quickly, Murkoff educates readers about how to pinpoint ovulation cycles to raise your odds of getting pregnant.

As for our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we’ve spoken to many women who received it late in their pregnancies only to wish that they would have read it months earlier. Why not learn about cloth diapers and used baby gear before you’re dealing with morning sickness and exhaustion? We hope that having the book far in advance will allow you to gather up the new and used green gear you need while saving thousands of dollars.

Prize #2
What to Expect When You’re Expecting(+ a copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet)


What to Expect When You’re Expecting is read by over 90% of pregnant women who read pregnancy books and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for decades. So what can you expect from the book? The book is organized into monthly chapters which provide information about how you may feel, common questions, a week-by-week guide to baby’s fetal development, and information about what your midwife or doctor is likely to say during that phase of pregnancy. The book also addresses childbirth plus the emotional and physical issues that couples face in the postpartum period. The question and answer format helped me pick out sections that were relevant to my pregnancy. I was too overwhelmed and exhausted by growing a fetus to actually read any book cover to cover so I appreciated being able to easily reference what I was looking for.

We wish every newly pregnant woman could get a free copy of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, just to have access to humble, humorous, hands-on advice for gearing up green on a budget. Since we can’t just stand on the corner and hand these out to pregnant passers-by, we’ve decided to send one to accompany What to Expect When You’re Expecting in this giveaway. We hope you can win!

Whether you’re lucky enough to win one of the prizes or not, you should know that What to Expect online now offers heaps of free information for expectant women and new parents. You can pick up a copy of many What to Expect books on Amazon for less than nine bucks and The Eco-nomical Baby Guide is currently on sale for less than eight dollars. (And it will save you much, much more than what you pay for it!)

Enter the What to Expect When You’re Expecting (and the Eco-nomical Baby Guide) Giveaway!

Each comment counts as an entry. You can enter up to four times. Here’s how:

1. Simply post a comment

2. Like the Green Baby Guide on Facebook (then tell us you did it in a separate comment)

3. Visit the What to Expect website and comment on what you learned.

4. Spread the news about the giveaway! Email someone, post it on Facebook, tweet it, blog it, or send someone a message about it via carrier pigeon. (And again, don’t forget to tell us all about it in the comments!)

This contest ends on Thursday, August 11th, and is only open to U.S. Residents.

Great luck!

Great luck!

Summering with the Green Baby Guide

What were we blogging about three years ago, in the dark ages of July, 2008? I had a two-year-old, Joy had just one baby, and we were one month away from signing a publishing contract for the Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Dipping into Green Baby Guide’s archives, I found a delightful assortment of posts (if I do say so myself), including our most popular post of all time: Flushable Diapers (gDiapers)–What Do You Think?

Some posts helped our readers settle into summer: Finding Free Organic Produce, Simple Steps to Fight Summer Heat and Limit Air Conditioning, A Thrifty Green Favorite: Cloth Swim Diapers, Disguise Vegetables in Fruity Popsicles (another one of our all-time favorites!), and Green Olympic Trials. But then, for some reason, I wrote about making Easy Oats for Two: A Cheap and Nutritious Breakfast for Mother and Child. I’m not sure I’d totally latched on to the idea of making my posts seasonally relevant!

We had our regular smattering of product reviews: Borax: A Budget Friendly, Eco-Friendly Wonder Product (alternate title: a million and one things to do with Borax);

Book Review: The Tightwad Gazette; Save Water with BPA and Phthalate-free Baby Bathtubs; and the Isabooties Product Review.

The rest of our July 2008 posts fit under a category I will describe as “eco-friendly lifestyle” posts: Easy Organic Cloth Diaper Stain Removal Techniques, Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Avoid Eating Nuts?, Life with a Baby . . . and No Paper Towels, Sleep vs. The Planet, Save Some Trees–Never Buy Children’s Books, and What’s Your Walk Score?

I hope you enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane. Here’s to our fourth summer of blogging!