Consider purchasing a home with an attached apartment. I know this may not seem green or cost effective, but it is both!
If you keep your square footage relatively low, the attached apartment will improve the urban density in your home. A huge portion of your carbon footprint is just the square footage you occupy in your living space. Here’s an example: Our home is about 1,000 square feet with an additional 300+ square feet in a studio apartment. Since we add another person to our living space with that apartment, each of the five people living on the property occupies less than three hundred square feet apiece. That’s not bad considering that the average family of four lives in a home over 2,000 square feet.
In addition, the apartment rental price generates more than half of our monthly mortgage payment. In fact, we have never in all of our lives, paid so little for housing, even during our years in a tiny five hundred square foot university apartment.
We also get tax benefits which help us write off the depreciation of the rental unit, making the rental income come with a very small tax burden.
Does this sound super fantastic, but a little scary when you think about becoming a landlord? The great news is that several communities have a rental owner association that can help get you started with forms and workshops. It’s really quite worth the trouble.
In our case, we remodeled a very strange three hundred square foot addition that wasn’t complete when we moved in. In the last six years the apartment has paid back all the remodeling costs and now generates income. Between tenants we sometimes keep the rental open in the summer to use as a guest house for visiting family members.
Another thing to think about is that as our fixed mortgage eventually gets paid off, rents can keep going up. Theoretically we could stay in our house until we pay off the mortgage, and then charge whatever the going rental rates are. In 20 years we would be making money instead of spending money on living expenses. So even though our house is very small and we all share one bathroom, I am grateful that it is so very eco-nomical!
It’s official. We’re done procreating around here. Sad, but also relieved to be moving into a more sleep-filled future, we rounded up the baby gear (which was all handed down to us or purchased used) and gave it to a pregnant friend.
And here’s the bonus—my friend had read our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, and heeded its wisdom completely! She and her husband have made it known that they’re open to all used gear and have been loaded up with hand me downs from family and friends.
Their nursery is almost complete and the only thing they have bought thus far is the paint. The crib, the dresser, cloth diapers, changing table, car seat, clothes and much more have all been given to them. When they shared what they read in the book about buying used instead of spending thousands on baby’s first year alone, they became heroes in their social circles. Baby rearing families all proclaimed that they wished they would have bought less paraphernalia and acquired more of it used.
Yahoo! I do wish all newly pregnant families could read The Eco-nomical Baby Guide just to consider it before the baby buying pressure reaches its full potential. We gave a book to a friend when she was five months pregnant. She thanked us profusely a week later, but also bemoaned the fact that she had bought so much already and now regrets it. No worries! I just hope she kept the receipts!
How are we spending all that baby money we saved now? I’m staying home this year with our kids, we’re sending our son to preschool, and we’re going on trips to build relationships with family. That’s so much more valuable to us than piles of new plastic stuff! (And far more earth friendly). How are you using the money you’ve saved on baby gear? How are you helping to get the world out to pregnant friends about buying less, buying used, and buying green?
This post is a part of the illuminating “Why don’t you” series. No judgment! We’re just curious.
Back in the early days of the Green Baby Guide, I wrote a whole post about living without paper towels—even if you have a baby to clean up after. Really, I just can’t see paying money when there is a free alternative: rags. This is why I don’t buy paper napkins, either. They really add almost nothing to a load of laundry, so I don’t count the water and energy used to wash them.
If you use them, try recycled paper towels!
However, I know many eco-conscious people do use paper towels. If they’re made from recycled materials and home composted, they don’t do much damage at all. But still . . . why don’t you give up paper towels?
Many of you are schlepping your babes around this summer in nearly unbearable heat and humidity. I am humbled and amazed by your braveness! During our trip to Maryland, we all sort of stumbled from one ice cream stand to the next, swimming through the thick air in between. I marveled at the women who were wearing babies and voluntarily walking outside during the day.
Most of the parks and sidewalks were totally empty as desperate herds of people flocked to the vast sanctuary of air conditioning called “the mall.” I imagine it would be tough just using your Maya Wrap or an Ergo Carrier indoors all summer, but I bet some of you brave families manage to wear baby despite the heat.
Do high temperatures get in the way of baby wearing for you in the summer? Are you lucky enough to live in Oregon or Alaska? (I shall never again complain about the weather here after visiting the East Coast in late July!) Have you found any cooler baby wearing devices? Or do you just settle baby into the stroller?
Of course, in many hot climates in Asia, Latin America and Africa, baby wearing has been the rage for hundreds of years, so perhaps we should just buck up and strap baby onto our backs!
Last month I shared my struggle to get our grocery bills down to reduce our overall monthly spending now that I’m a SAHM. Since then, I’ve been clumsily trying to learn the trade of couponing and I have to say that it has really helped!
Here are the three myths I’ve learned to overcome:
1. You have to buy newspapers.
There are some excellent online sources for coupons including Red Plum and Coupons.com. Only the coupons you mark will print. If you’d like to use newspaper coupons too, see if friends or neighbors get the Sunday paper without using the coupon inserts.
2. Coupons are only on processed foods.
It’s true that there are several mainstream coupons in there, but there are also great deals on products like Kashi, Peace Cereal, or Burt’s Bees. I’ve also found wonderful coupon deals on butter, milk, cheese and eggs that have allowed me to stock up and save.
3. Couponing takes lots of time
It does take some time, but online sites such as Krazy Coupon Lady, Fistful of Coupons, Frugal Chic Living, and Frugal Living NW put together all the scenarios for you so you don’t have to figure much out yourself. Since Albertsons, Safeway, and Rite Aid are within biking distance for me, it only takes one trip to each once a week to get the deals.
So what are the benefits? This month our grocery bill will be less than half of what it was last month. Before you’re shocked, I should add that some of that savings is from our one week vacation. (Also, Rebecca’s bill is still less than mine even with the coupons and she does have a CSA—but she has one less child and I’m pretty sure my husband is a far hungrier fellow). Still, I can tell that the free or nearly free food we have gotten with coupons is making a dent in our grocery bill. If I can sustain these savings, I will once again join a CSA. For now, I’m hitting fruit stands and trying to stock up on local produce for the winter. Have you experimented at all with coupons? If you want to try, I recommend just reading a few frugal blogs for awhile before you jump in. It really can get quite fun!
I did! Thankfully Rebecca had a newborn when I was in the later stages of my pregnancy. She guided me through the very confusing world of cloth diapers and even took me to a consignment store to help me buy the gear.
Recently I met a mom in Maryland who lamented that she would have used cloth, but she just didn’t know a single soul who had ever tried. Were you in that boat? Did you try them anyway? Are you worried about trying them? We’d love to be your guide if you’re hesitant to jump in. Please feel free to comment or even email us if you have cloth diapering questions. Or read our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet for tips, diagrams and definitions!
I’m happy to report that our 13 month old is going strong with infant potty training! To be clear, she still wears cloth diapers and our only focus is getting her to poop on the potty. She started pooping on the potty at around seven months and her progress is continuing. It means fewer poopy diapers to wash and strong steps toward actual potty training when she’s ready. We even toted our little potty seat to Maryland with us on our family vacation and she used it many times while at her grandparents’ house.
During the trip, she started using the sign for “poop” which was even more exciting. While we were driving home after nearly twelve hours of travel, she did the sign in the back seat along with the sign for help. We were so exhausted and shocked that she would be able to tell us, that we didn’t stop. When we did arrive home, she had pooped in her diaper and we felt horrid that we didn’t listen to her.
That’s the down side of this infant potty training business. Yesterday we were on our way to blueberry picking when she needed to poop so we trooped back home, only to find she wasn’t ready. She then filled her pants at the blueberry patch. We have just the one potty seat so I don’t plan on toting it with us everywhere, especially when she isn’t always comfortable pooping in public restrooms. Still, every chance that we make it to the toilet is one less poopy diaper to deal with!
I only share these stories because even though I used cloth diapers with my first child, it didn’t even occur to me to begin potty training until right around 2 years old. He was trained by 27 months, but if I would have started sooner, I think it would have gone even faster. In many other parts of the world, people don’t even use diapers and potty train their children very, very early. If you have a potty seat and time on your hands, why not give it a try?
I’m bone tired. The kind of exhaustion where you sit and look at all you have to do and then just sit some more. After seven rough vacation nights full of nighttime nursing and a full day’s journey back from the East coast, I can’t seem to get anything done.
And green parenting requires us to get things done! There’s a garden to water, cloth diapers to wash, food to prepare and summer produce to pick and preserve. How do we keep up with all this while so very tired?
And when will my baby resume sleeping through the night? For now, I have just resigned myself to serving my family pantry food and scrambled eggs so that I can avoid grocery shopping or intensive cooking. I’ve watered enough to keep the garden alive, but the berries will have to wait.
Are any of the rest of you facing the battle between your green ideals and your need for rest? Did you get a nap today? Please feel free to give yourself regular breaks. This green parenting gig is a marathon, not a sprint!
It may sound difficult, but making homemade organic baby food has tremendous benefits for baby, the environment and your budget. Also, it is by no means difficult to plop cooked food into a blending device and swirl it up. Both Rebecca and I have conquered the art of baby purees despite the fact that both of us felt totally overwhelmed as new mothers for the first year. Have you given homemade baby food a whirl? If so, what are your standbys and how did you get started? What challenges have you faced? We find that like many other green lifestyle pursuits, most people gain the confidence to make the shift when they have friends or family who have tried it before. Hopefully our readers can provide that online community for each other. Thanks for sharing your baby food secrets! And for more recipes and tips, check out our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.
The truth is, when I hang them to dry, my cotton prefolds resemble white shingles. They are hardened, rough, and rigid and have to be bent instead of folded.
Now, I could still hang them and them cart them all into the house while slightly damp for a quick fluff in the dryer. Or I could just dry my prefolds and hang the polyester diapers and covers out to dry, but both of those seem too labor intensive.
So what do I do? I hang ninety percent of my laundry all week, but I still toss my diapers into the dryer. I can’t seem to replicate that fresh soft feel without a stint in the dryer. I don’t mind our rough towels and cloth napkins, but I do want her diapers to be soft.
Do you have an easy solution for softening up air-dryed diapers? Do you have other diaper truths you’d like to confess? (Also, many thanks to Suzannah at the Smitten Word for the photo!)