Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

The Green Year makes the perfect gift for either the seasoned treehugger or the emerging eco-phile. How is it possible for this book to appeal to readers on both ends of the green spectrum? Well, the tips manage to be simple for the newbies and novel enough for the treehugger’s bag of tricks.
green-year by jodi helmer

Sure, you’ll find the usual suggestions for switching out light bulbs and turning down the thermostat in the winter. But did you know that filling your gas tank at night is greener than filling it during the day? Or where to donate an old bridesmaid’s dress? Or how to give your shoes an eco-friendly shine? The Green Year not only answers these questions but directs you to helpful websites and lets you know exactly how much energy you can save by following its advice.

The book offers 365 tips: one for each day of the year. Most of them are season-appropriate; for example, around October you’ll find several ways to make Halloween a little greener, and in the summer you’ll hear about air conditioners and sunscreen. This format sets The Green Year apart from other handbooks—but it also makes it difficult to navigate. There’s no table of contents or index, so if you read a great idea about replacing liquid body wash with bars of soap and want to reference it later, you either have to remember what day of the year it’s on (October 28th) or flip through the entire book hunting it down.

Some of the tips might fall on the wrong day of the calendar depending where you live. March 27th has us closing curtains to save energy during the winter—but it’s already spring! Author Jodi Helmer has us planning our vegetable gardens on April 28th, which is when I planted mine this year. So while the tips are excellent, it could prove difficult to use the book as it’s intended.

Overall, The Green Year is a worthwhile read. Every single idea takes very little time or effort, and many of them will save you money in the long run. I’ve already dog-eared my copy in anticipation of all the small changes I plan to make in 2010.

Green Holiday Gifts for Him

Man with GiftLooking to find an eco-friendly treasure for your husband, father or brother? No worries!

If the dear men in your life are still using shaving cream out of an aerosol can, you can spoil them with Taylor of Old Bond Avocado Shaving Cream in a Bowl and and a Tweezerman Men’s Shaving Brush. Taylor of Old Bond comes in a few other varieties and apparently lasts a very long time for even a small container.

For the caffeinated fellows in your life, check out the 5 Lb Organic Fair Trade Green Coffee Sampler by Seven Bridges Cooperative. (Keep in mind that the coffee must be roasted at home before it can be brewed.) Newman’s Own Organic has some great choices that are roasted, ground and ready to brew.

If your husband has been meaning to get around to greening your household but doesn’t have the tools, he may be interested in the Green Starter Toolkit, packed with a surge protector, compact fluorescent light bulbs, reusable tote bags, sink aerators, a shower timer, and tire pressure gauge. (Or, if you have the time you could buy the products individually and put them together in a gift basket for a lot less!)

What are you planning on getting for the men in your life? Maybe you’ll opt for experience gifts over products or donations to green charities. Or maybe you’ll agree just to appreciate one another and opt out of gift giving altogether (which is certainly both eco-friendly and budget-friendly!)

Holiday Gifts from Baby

The smiles, the coos, the spit up… Let’s face it––babies give gifts year round.  Still, you might like to find a keepsake that baby could give grandparents or other family members this year.

So what does baby have to give?  At this point photos, handprints, or foot casts are the best they have to offer.31RGSN0VVDL._SL500_AA280_

If you’re a crafty soul, you can simply use an ink pad to make a print of baby’s foot or hand and frame it artfully next to a photo.  It’s simple, tasteful, and will be treasured by any member of baby’s vast fan club.

For the rest of us, there are kits available that will make up for what we lack in creative skill.  The Babyprints Keepsake Kit comes with a frame and a spot for baby’s footprint.  The kit claims to require no mixing, baking, painting, or mess.  It dries overnight and is ready to go in the morning.  And it’s currently 30% off!

If you’d like something a bit smaller, you can go for the Baby Handprint Hanging Keepsake Kit, which creates a small ornament for the Christmas tree out of baby’s handprint.

Has anyone experimented with using plaster of paris straight from a craft store for baby’s prints?  It would be vastly cheaper than buying a premade kit but I’m not sure how easy it would be.  Any other ideas for simple gifts from baby?

Lately it seems like every other mom totes her tot around town in an Ergo Baby Carrier. Seeing all these other mamas with their Ergos made me wonder, what’s the big deal? My curiosity was also piqued by several comments on our baby carrier post. Ergo owners enthusiastically declared their loyalty to this comfy contraption.

But we loved our Kangaroo Korner pouch sling and even came to enjoy our preowned Baby Bjorn carrier after some technical difficulties. Why on earth would we buy another carrier?

ergo carrier is a great baby gift ideaWe didn’t, but we probably would have if we would have known with our first.  A friend urged us to borrow hers, but we were still hesitant.  It seemed difficult to strap on and like just another carrier to pack into our tiny house.  But when we used it, we were surprised by how much better it worked for our bodies.  When Jovi has been snoozing in it for over an hour, we aren’t struggling with aching shoulders or necks.  Plus, she can ride in the front or the back when she gets older.  Since her weight is centralized and the device has padded straps, we found it to be much more “ergonomically correct” –which may just be how this carrier got its name.

It’s amazingly easy to breastfeed your little one when she’s strapped into the Ergo. (I did it while waiting in line to get swine flu vaccine and none of the hundreds of other people around had any idea.) Other features we enjoyed are the little fabric flap that you can flip over babies head when she’s sleeping and the front pocket that you can use to store keys or pacifiers.

The strapping on is still a bit trickier than dropping baby into the pouch sling, but it’s worth it to me to have a happier body hours later.  If I would have known what I know now, we definitely would have purchased an Ergo for our first baby. They are expensive, but it’s a good investment in a piece of quality gear. And, you can always search Ebay if you have the time to hunt down a used one.

What is your favorite baby carrier?  Would you recommend the Ergo as a gift for an expectant mother?

It’s a bit strange to recommend a baby blanket as a holiday gift idea since we found ourselves submerged in mountains of fleecy, cottony, polka-dotted blankets for both our baby showers. Really, how many blankets does a baby need?

bambu blanket is ideal for eco-friendly babyJust one.  The Baby Bambu Bamboo Crib Blanket has turned out to be our absolute favorite after trying dozens upon dozens of others.  But we were skeptical in the beginning. With a price tag over $40.00 (although it’s currently on sale for $30) and a “dry clean only” recommendation we were sure it would quickly be stashed in the closet along with the others.

Its incredibly soft bamboo fabric was the first thing to impress us followed by its perfect thickness—not too bulky, not too thin.  Still, we tossed it in the wash along with all our other laundry in rebellion of the dry cleaning recommendation—sure it would disintegrate when exposed to water and detergent.  It has emerged stain free and just as soft after dozens of washings. (The company has since changed the recommendations to “machine wash, tumble dry.”)

We also love its ample size (40”x55”) which is ideal for swaddling or draping over the car seat when baby falls asleep—unlike those smallish square blankets that become completely worthless after just a few months. Although the picture shows several colors of border stitching The Bambu Baby Blanket is only available from in white or blue border stiching, which makes it an heirloom that can be used for several babes, regardless of gender.  If you really love the other colors, you can check Baby Bambu’s website.

While bamboo is certainly more environmentally friendly than polyester, it does have a lot of impact as it is processed to be made into fabric.  Still, it’s nice to support an eco-friendly company that makes such a high quality product. In short, it’s a wonderful gift for a newborn that will last well into toddlerhood.

What are your favorite holiday recommendations for baby?  Do you have a favorite brand of blanket that has stood our amongst the rest?  Or did your child choose his or her favorite?

I’ve extolled the virtues of home remedies for diaper rash, but when we were gifted with a tub of Angel Baby Bottom Balm I thought I’d give it a whirl and report back.

natural diaper rash creamsBefore I ever cracked it open, I was impressed that the first two ingredients are olive oil (which we’ve recommended before as a homemade solution for diaper rash) and calendula oil.  It’s also loaded with essential oils, shea butter and jojoba.

The cream has a heavenly lavender smell, a smooth consistency and good coverage, which makes the diaper changing experience just a bit more pleasant. Located right here in my home state of Oregon, Earth Mama, Angel Baby Organics is a small company that specializes in natural products for mothers and infants.

I also love that the company makes Earth Mama Bottom Balm for recovering mothers. Since many of us had to deal with episiotomies, hemorrhoids and other delightful post partum injuries, it’s nice to know there’s a natural option.

But are either of these products worth the price? It depends on how much your little one is struggling with diaper rash or how much you need some soothing care after your labor.  It seems a bit pricey at ten bucks an ounce, but it may be worth it to you depending on your circumstances.

Have any of you tried natural diaper creams or creams for post partum moms?  What would you recommend?  Thanks for your thoughts!

Biokleen Laundry Detergent Update

Breaking news: one year and three months after writing this cost-comparison of eco-friendly laundry detergents, I’m still using my Biokleen laundry detergent. I think I got my money’s worth out of that old ten-pound box. In that post, I discovered that Biokleen was actually cheaper than even conventional cheap detergent, especially with a high-efficiency machine.


 My child’s diaper days are now behind me, but I used the Biokleen powder on both pocket diapers and prefold diapers and never had a problem with residues or detergent build-up. (Read Joy’s post about diaper-friendly detergents here.) I also like the detergent for all of our other clothes. My only complaint is that the powder didn’t dissolve completely if I put it in the detergent compartment of my front-loading machine. I took care of that problem by putting the powder straight in the machine over my laundry.

I just noticed that the Biokleen is on sale for just $11.00 (that’s less than $.07 a load!) at Fred Meyer’s right now, so I may just have to pick up two more boxes, which will last me more than two-and-a-half years. At that point I will have to report back with yet another exciting “laundry update.” Stay tuned!

Compostable Garbage Bag Review

On a whim, I picked up a pack of Eco-Safe compostable bags. I’ve been home composting my table scraps for years, and I love how it keeps my garbage light and smell-free. Thanks in part to composting, we have once-a-month garbage pick-up, which saves us $108.00 a year on our trash bill. I keep my compost in a little push-pedal garbage can and take it out to the big compost bin once it fills up. In the summer I can just hose it down and pour the water into the bin to keep it moist, but in the winter this isn’t necessary. Plus, it’s kind of a pain.

eco-safe compostable biodegradable garbage bags

Enter the compostable garbage bags. I thought I could line my little bin with the bags and toss all my scraps—bag and all—into the bin. I am not really sure what these bags are made out of (the box says “compostable plastic”), but they never did break down in my bin—and that’s with frequent aeration. I finally had to pick them out of the bin and throw them out because I could barely turn the compost with a pitchfork with all the bags sticking to the prongs.

So much for that experiment in green living. How do other people manage their compost? I know Joy’s husband runs their table scraps out to the compost bin every day, but I’m really not that energetic. Any method that allows me to compost without exerting too much energy will suit me just fine.

Here at the Green Baby Guide, we’re all about hand-me-downs and Craigslist steals. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to splurge on something for your new bundle of joy. For me, it was the stroller. I chose the Maclaren Triumph stroller for its light weight (just 11 pounds) and foldable design. I imagined I’d be using it a lot on public transportation, since I don’t have a car. I’ve found it more convenient to simply walk everywhere. My daughter is now three-and-a-half and still rides in the stroller almost every day–so it was definitely worth it for me to get exactly what I wanted.

Audrey's very first stroller ride


What was worth a little extra money to you? Let us know!

Who knew sunscreen could be so complicated? After slathering Audrey in sunscreen all summer long during her first year, I read that it’s dangerous to do so until she reaches her first birthday. Then I found out that only certain sunscreens were safe. Yes, that cancer-preventing lotion was–get this–carcinogenic! The good news is, you don’t need to keep your baby covered from head to foot in loose-fitting robes or hide under a gigantic umbrella all summer long.

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of safe sunscreens.  After  studying thousands of sunscreens, they found that “4 out of 5 contain chemicals that may pose health hazards or don’t adequately protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays.” Here are the top four safest ray-blockers on the market:

1. Soleo Organics Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen SPF 30+
2. Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock, SPF 30
3. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+
4. Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30

Fretting about all the potential toxins I’ve exposed myself and my daughter to over the years doesn’t do me any good–but switching sunscreens seems like an easy way to block the rays without going into summer lock-down.

This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday, a blog carnival at We are THAT Family.

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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