Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

On Monday, Joy wanted to know if we, too, struggled with spending our hard-earned cash on eco-kitchen gadgetry. She’s been wringing her hands and wracking her brain, trying to reach a decision. Should she get a cast iron pan or a set of stainless steel storage ware? I don’t know.

What I do know is what she should do about her napkin dilemma. “Are there such things as wrinkle-free cloth napkins that aren’t horrible polyester?” Joy asked. The answer is yes.

I am the proud owner of one 100% cotton napkin from Cost Plus World Market. I think it must be one of these buffet napkins (a set of 6 is $9.99). Here I am with my beloved napkin, straight from the wash. As you can see, it is smooth and wrinkle-free. I have no idea why I have ONE of these napkins, but it is definitely my favorite. I may just have to stock up on a whole set. I can’t let Joy have all the fun!

I am available for napkin modeling gigs

Teflon-Free Frying Pan Options

Pregnancy and breastfeeding motivated me to find safer, and often greener methods for cooking and storing food. But the recycler in me had a very hard time tossing the high quality Circulon skillet we’d received for our wedding. We’re still using it, but I’m finally ready to invest some money in a healthier option. And I’d love to hear your input!

Stainless Steel Skillets seem entirely safe, but I’m so used to having a non-stick surface that the transition may be tricky. I also worry that I’d be using lots more oil in my cooking just to avoid burning food while sautéing.

I’m intrigued by Bialetti Aeternum Skillets that use a nano-ceramic nonstick coating. They are made of aluminum with a silicone exterior and are free of PFOA, PTFE and cadmium. Still, one one pan costs about $40.00 and they can’t be used in the oven.

At this point, my top choice is a cast iron skillet. The one above made by Lodge Logic is pre-seasoned and I know my mom’s trusty cast iron skillet still works like a non stick surface after a decade of use. Plus I’d love to get small doses of extra iron in my food while I cook. Cast iron works in the stovetop and the oven at all heats and costs just $22.95 for a 12 inch skillet. Am I missing something, or is cast iron the obvious choice?

While I’m greening my kitchen, I may also toss all my old tupperware that could have BPA in it to find a safer and more uniform system. Stay tuned for my review of food storage options!

It can be tricky to transport large amounts of clean and soiled diapers back and forth to daycare as conveniently as possible–or to lug dirty diapers on a summer road trip without the smell invading the rest of the car.

The Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag is the perfect solution. It has two pockets to separate dirty and fresh cloth diapers and can store 8-9 total in the smaller size or 20-24 diapers in the larger version.

If your childcare provider is hesitant to dry cloth diapering, it’s almost worth bringing some cloth diapers in along with the Planet Wise Dry Bag to show how easy it can to hygienically store dirty diapers. The bag is quick drying and so can be rinsed and tossed in the dryer each night. Or, if that’s too challenging, pick up a couple of these and rotate them out during the week.

The Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bagis also the perfect solution for traveling with cloth diapers. As you’re toting these snazzy bags through airports and train stations, no one would ever guess, (or smell…..) what they’re transporting.

If you want a far cheaper solution, you can pick up a dry bag (used on rafting trips to keep gear dry) from a resale outdoor store for a bit less. Rebecca used this system without a hitch! Have you found a dry bag you love? Is your daycare provider willing to work with cloth diapers?

My children were happily rash free while using cloth during the day, but we struggled with regular nocturnal yeast infections. I felt copious amounts of guilt, poured boiling water into a bathtub of clean prefolds, experimented with different detergents, and felt more guilt when we couldn’t seem to resolve the issue. But now I finally know what I could have done to prevent the infections altogether! (At the time I switched to disposables at night and felt much sadness about it.)

To attack this hearty fungi in the laundry, wash diapers in 122+ degree water or with a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract to eliminate yeast spores. Just what is GSE extract? It’s a natural product that that combats fungus, viruses and bacteria. A four ounce bottle will run you nearly fifteen dollars, but you only need to include a few drops with each load so it may be worth it in the long run.

Although some people recommend using chlorine bleach, others insist that it will not actually kill yeast spores. (And other additives such as borax, peroxide, or baking soda probably won’t do the trick.) Sunlight, while a wonderful natural bleaching and antibacterial agent, will not wipe out yeast spores either.

There are host of other things our readers have recommended including Neem Cream, or Neem Oil, hemp diaper inserts, and using a probiotic such as Florajen 3. For more info check out our post on Solutions for Nighttime Yeast Infections with Cloth Diapers.

If you start with laundering, remember that all diapers (even the clean ones) have to be treated along with washable wipes, diapering pads, and any other piece of cloth that touches baby’s skin.

Have you struggled with your baby’s yeast infections when using cloth? What long term solutions have you found? Do you find that yeast infections have something to do with the hardness or softness of the water? (Rebecca, who lives two hours north of me, never had a single problem with yeast infections during night diapering even though we did our cloth diapering laundry exactly the same. How is this possible?)

Reusable Swim Diapers

Disposable swim diapers usually run about a dollar each, or more—and the cost doesn’t correlate with performance. They can end up in a soggy, leaky mess by the end of an afternoon in the pool.

Thank goodness for the greener, cheaper, and far more adorable alternative: reusable swim diapers! Even for those families who don’t want to make a full-time commitment to cloth diapering, reusable swim diapers are incredibly easy.

During our swim diapering years, we owned two reusable cloth swim diapers for each of our kids. If one diaper became soiled while swimming, we popped it into a dry bag, cleaned our baby, and put her into the other one. The total cost was around $12 for both diapers, which we found on clearance at target. They lasted for about five years and saved us heaps of cash and piles of soggy disposables.

At some of our local pools, they ONLY allow reusable swim diapers because apparently their elastic holds in messes better than their disposable counterparts. I love that eco-friendly, budget-friendly cloth swim diapers are also more effective. Does your pool allow reusable swim diapers? Are they a hit in your community or considered a bit odd?

Cloth diapering saves a heap of cash (and garbage) over the years, but the up-front cost of using cloth is a barrier for some families. If you are willing to buy preowned diapers for your tot, you’ll save packaging, shipping, and about half the cost of a new cloth diaper layette.

How much did I spend on used diapers? Rebecca took me to her favorite consignment shop with her baby in tow when I was six months pregnant. I bought about eight diaper covers for a dollar each. Then I paid 30 dollars for 45 used prefolds at a local diaper service. Total cost: $38. Not bad! I did spend money later on as my son grew into a different size, but my overall diapering cost was well under 300 dollars. With my second baby I had virtually no cloth diapering costs as we just reused what we already had.

What types of diapers are best to buy used? Cloth prefolds are extremely sturdy and inexpensive. I bought a set of 45 used from a diapering service that then lasted through several more children as we loaned them out to other people. Eventually those prefolds became our household rags and are still going strong five years later.

Beyond prefolds, consider diapers with snaps instead of Velcro. Depending on how much use they’ve gotten, Velcro can wear considerably over the years. My Fuzzibunz pocket diapers with snaps have held up beautifully over the years.

Where can you find gently used cloth diapers? Check out Jillian’s Drawers, a company that offers families the chance to try cloth diapers at no risk for a short time. They then sell gently used diapers at a great discount. The Used Diaper Company also sells and trades secondhand diapers as well as Diaper Junction.

You can also find gently used diapers on Ebay or buy yourself a whole set by checking out what is available on Craigslist. Also, be sure to check whether your local consignment shops sell cloth diapers or covers. You’ll get a chance to handle them to see their condition firsthand and judge whether they’d be a good fit for your child.

Have you bought used diapers? Some parents are a bit freaked out by the hygiene aspect, but diapers only require a wash or two to be totally sanitized. Have you had the gift of cloth diaper hand-me-downs? Those are even better than buying used!

What if you could try cloth diapers for 21 days, with lots of support, and a money back guarantee if it didn’t work out? Jillian’s Drawers Changing Diapers, Changing Minds program allows you to order $145 worth of diapers and use them for three weeks, risk free. At the end, even if the diapers are stained, you can return hem for their full value, minus the cost of shipping.

Many of our readers have recommended the Jillian’s Drawers cloth diaper trial program and and have kept the diapers at the end of the three weeks and continued with their cloth diapering efforts. Did you try a few cloth diapers at first or did you just take the leap and invest in a cloth diaper collection right from the start?

Do You Need Co-Sleeping Gear?

We had no intentions of sharing our small full size bed with a newborn, but fatigue quickly convinced us to co-sleep. My son’s nursery sat untouched for the first few months of his life, as he either slept in the sling or in bed with us. Any other attempts were encountered with hours of shrill tea kettle shrieks that drove us to comply with his terms.

With our daughter, we were thrilled to borrow a co-sleeper from friends. We blissfully imagined having the bed to ourselves while our newborn snoozed safely nearby. In the end, my daughter utterly refused to be anywhere except right up against me while she slept. We found this out after breaking the co-sleeper while setting it up and sending it back to the company for repairs that cost just as much as the item itself.

If I had known we were going to co-sleep I may have been tempted to buy gear that my babies would have refused to use. We transitioned them to a secondhand crib at around five months, so the nursery did get plenty of use.

Did you use your co-sleeper? Did you keep a bassinet or a moses basket in your bedroom, or did you put your infant to sleep in a traditional crib? (If so, how did you handle all those night feedings?) Were you blessed with a newborn who enjoyed sleeping for long stretches in a separate space from you?

While we haven’t yet discovered a ceramic crib, we are happy to report that there are some unexpectedly eco-friendly, beautiful and affordable pieces of green baby gear. Rebecca and I both focused on minimizing with our babies to avoid being swallowed in a sea of plastic doodads. But the Growing Up Green product line would have also been a great alternative considering that it carries sustainable, simply designed products at reasonable prices.

My favorite is the Growing Up Green Wood Step Stool. It’s currently half off at just over twenty bucks and is both sturdy and beautiful. Made from pesticide-free, sustainably raised bamboo, you can also feel good about its sources. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do have to share that it’s made in China. Sigh..) My kids are now five and nearly three, and the step stool is probably their most frequently used piece of furniture. I would love to replace the blue plastic garage sale number with one of these!

The Growing Up Green Potty Seat is simple, elegant and priced similarly to it’s plastic counterparts at just twelve bucks. If you try infant potty training, as we sort of accidentally did, you’ll be getting years of use out of this investment. (Plus, having a seat that fits on the toilet means that you won’t have to clean out a small potty on a daily basis…)

The Growing Up Green Bamboo Booster Seat is the most expensive of the three at nearly sixty dollars and the one I’m least sold on. Somehow all the right angles give me anxiety about applesauce and pureed yams becoming encrusted in the cracks. I cannot count the hours that I have spent cleaning my daughter’s high chair. It’s curved and has as few angles as possible, and yet…it can be horrifying what lodges in the corners. So if there’s a place for a secondhand plastic product, I think perhaps it’s highchairs and boosters.

Would you consider any of these bamboo products? Do you own any new or used wooden baby gear? Have you had success with the Bamboo Booster Seat?

I have experienced the joys of pregnancy (and the swollen ankles, back pain, and cravings.) And I remember the things I so longed for on a daily basis. On the whole they weren’t material items, but rather support. And the best news is that “gifts of service” are utterly eco-friendly, thoughtful and very low cost.

A bottle of The Naked Bee Green Tea Lotion and a free coupon for regular foot massages. The lotion is made from organic ingredients that will nourish her itchy, stretching skin. Husband alert: She will LOVE this! (I would love this, and I’m not even currently pregnant…) If a partner is attentive enough, foot massages could be delivered on a daily basis.

A Hamilton Beach Half Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker and a promise to whip up a batch of butter brickel at a moment’s notice. I’m convinced that in the late stages of pregnancy I needed ice cream as a nutritional supplement. An ice cream maker allows you to whip up mango sorbet or mint chocolate chip without climbing into the car. And the fact that this one only makes a half pint can help limit those late pregnancy scarfings.

A copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, along with a gift certificate to a consignment shop or green baby boutique. Our masterpiece will give her everything she needs to know about cloth diapering, buying secondhand gear, and saving money while going green. She can use that gift certificate to buy maternity clothes, baby gear, and heaps of onesies before baby arrives.

A Pyrex Storage 10 Piece Set filled with homemade spaghetti, vegetable curries, and brownies. After all, why wait until the baby arrives to support an exhausted woman in the third trimester of pregnancy? You can (and should) always bring her more food in a few months.

Are you currently pregnant? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season? What was the best gift you ever received during your pregnancy? (For me, it has always been, and will always be, food.) Sigh…

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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