Archive for the ‘The Green Household’ Category

Here’s my confession: we’re not buying an organic crib mattress for my second child.  It might not seem all that shocking unless you read my long-ago post on organic crib mattresses.  I lamented not buying organic with my first child and declared that I would do differently with my second.

Why then haven’t I bought a new organic crib mattress for my daughter who will be arriving in just a few months?  Honestly, I have been wrestling it for months and finally ended up with a compromise. 

The thought of spending nearly three hundred dollars on an item that my child would use for a little over a year was tough to swallow.  Our first son slept in our bed with us until he was nearly six months old and then was in his toddler bed before the age of two.  Since we now have two children, I can imagine that our little one will co-sleep with us longer just for convenience and because we haven’t yet figured out where to put her in our small house.

We also considered the that non-toxic choices aren’t always earth friendly.  It might be less toxic to rip the carpeting out of our baby’s room, install bamboo flooring and repaint the walls with soy based paints, but it wouldn’t be as good for the planet as living with what we have. The thought of throwing out our perfectly functional crib mattress made my chest ache. We could give it to a thrift store, but we’ll do that anyway once our daughter is finished using it. 

So, I’m planning on buying a wool soaker pad, or making one from a full sized wool blanket we rarely use.  It will provide a natural barrier from the mattress surface and also soak up liquids that sometimes flow onto those crib sheets.

Does this mean I now recommend used crib mattresses?  Hardly!  I still wish I would have purchased a new organic mattress for my first child.  Then I would have had the chance to use it for several years with both children and it would have easily paid for itself.   What have you done to accommodate your desire for non-toxic products on a budget?  

Cutting back on meat even one day a week can have tremendous economic and environmental benefits.  For more details, check out Rebecca’s post on this very topic. Many American dishes are meat-free, but we’d love to hear your family’s favorites.  Do they love bean burritos, spaghetti and marinara or something as sophisticated as eggplant parmesan?   Help inspire us with your meat-free favorites—and feel free to list recipes as well! 

Mildew is my nemesis, but I much prefer it to the fumes of chlorinated bleach. Even though chlorine is very hard on the environment and our health, it’s found in a wide variety of household cleaners—all of which I’ve now replaced with homemade versions.  The one hurdle we hadn’t quite overcome was bleach. So the last time we desperately needed to clean out the shower I asked my husband to purchase chlorine-free bleach to save the environment and my nose.

When we read the label on the container we were a bit shocked.  The ingredients were simply hydrogen peroxide and water.  Why then did we pay too much when we could have made it ourselves? 

If you’d like to skip our expensive mistake, just follow the simple directions below. 

  • For the wash: Add a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide to each washload or a bit more for very full or dirty loads.  
  • For stains: douse them with peroxide and then spot wash with detergent. It’s best not to let the peroxide sit on the fabric for a long period of time.
  • For household use:  Just add 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water and use on kitchen sink, tile, bathroom, shower, toilet and bathtub.  

This mixture isn’t officially considered a disinfectant, but it will clean wonderfully.  Enjoy!

If you have a simple budget-friendly, eco-friendly tip we hope you’ll join us this week.  Read here to learn how to jump right in and add a link to your themed blog post.  Also, please read each other’s blogs and comment.  It makes it more fun for everyone!

For those with newborns and young toddlers, we apologize.  It’s tough to involve tiny ones without having them consume handfuls of dirt or pull new plants out of the ground.  But they can be plunked into a sling or onto a blanket and admire your handiwork as you cultivate a table garden.  And your older children will benefit from all the ideas in today’s post.

Caitlin Blethlen, works with the Youth Gardening division of Growing Gardens, an innovative non-profit that supports urban gardening for low income families.  She has all sorts of tricks and tips for involving children in your backyard farming efforts.  

GBG: Do you have any tips on how to get children involved in the gardening process?

Caitlin: Get your child(ren) involved in dreaming and planning the garden too. One fun activity is to look through a seed catalog together and cut out pictures of what you would like to grow. Consider growing both what you and your child like to eat, and what you haven’t tried yet. Sometimes it is fun to plan a themed garden such as a pizza, salsa or salad garden by growing the main ingredients. Draw an outline of your garden space and glue the photos or draw pictures of where your plants will grow. Remember children are more likely to eat vegetables they participate in growing!

For a quick and exciting project, have your child(ren) plant radish seeds in the garden beginning in early March through June. Radishes grow quickly and are very satisfying. Also, if you have very young children larger seeds such as peas, cucumbers, beans, sunflowers and nasturtiums will be easier for them to handle than the smaller seeds like lettuce or carrots.

Another exciting project is to use a plastic bottle (such as a soda bottle) to grow a micro-garden. Cut off the neck of the bottle and fill it with planting compost. Then have your child plant several different types of seeds in the soil, making sure to plant some near the outside of the bottle. Next water the soil and set in a sunny window sill.  Watch the roots begin to form and seeds to unfurl.

Bean teepees and sunflower arches are a fun way to make inviting living forts for your children. These structures can be constructed out of bamboo poles, sticks or PVC pipe. Have your child plant climbing pole beans like scarlet runners and/or tall sunflowers at the base of the trellis.

Most children LOVE worms, consider creating a worm bin to turn your kitchen scraps into wonderful compost for your garden.  If you live in the Portland, Oregon, area, attend a Growing Garden’s Parent/Child workshop for more ideas.

Is organic gardening really all that difficult, or costly?  We turned to our experts, Caitlin Blethlen of Growing Gardens and Mara Reynolds of Portland Community Gardens to see just how easy and inexpensive it can be to grow your own food organically.

GBG: In your opinion, are organic gardens more expensive to plant and maintain than those using pesticides and herbicides? 

Caitlin: No.  The basis of organic gardening is establishing healthy soil which can take time through using cover crops, and adding compost and creating a balanced eco system in your yard.

Mara:  As far as I know, with the exception of the initial cost of seeds, organic gardening is cheaper all across the board.  With proper planting techniques, composting, and soil amendments, you should be able to successfully garden organically with very little inputs.  (To be honest I’ve never gardened with pesticides or herbicides)

GBG:  Can you provide a few tools that people might use to control pests when gardening organically?

Caitlin: Starting off with good soil is one way to keep your plants healthy, if they receive enough nutrients and support from the soil, they are less likely to get disease or be attacked by pests. Also, remember that bio-diversity is very important in a garden! Encourage bugs and insects to visit your garden, rather than try to keep them away. A healthy garden will have a balance of both good and bad bugs. Consider doing a bug/insect inventory with your child to see who is living in your garden!

We’re glad you stopped by this Thrifty Green Thursday!  Please join our blog carnival this week by adding your link to the list below and then linking back to us in your post.  If you’re lost, click here for complete information on where to get started. 


The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and the soil is ready to produce.  Why not plant a garden this year and score some organic fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the cost?  Plus, a garden will force you to get your hands in the dirt and your baby outdoors. 

Today we’ll start with the most important part: planning your dream garden. Our tips come from Caitlin Blethlen, Youth Growth Manager for a non-profit organization called Growing Gardens It focuses on helping low-income families grow their own food and is based in Portland, Oregon.   For last week’s post on the cost-benefits of home gardening and ways to involve your children, click here. 

GBG: What should people keep in mind when planning a garden?

Caitlin: To grow great vegetables you need a site that gets full sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, healthy soil and have access to a water source. Investing in healthy soil is the best investment you can make for your garden. Soil should be full of organic matter which will attract worms, bacteria and other microbes that help plants grow.  One way to ensure your soil is healthy is by adding compost. Compost adds important organic matter, and bacteria and helps soil retain water.

Other things to consider when planning a garden are location and pets. Will you be inspired or remember to care for your garden if it is tucked away behind your garage? Locating it in a sunny spot is important, but it is also important to put it in an easy to access location so it won’t go neglected. If you have dogs or cats, how you will keep them from digging in the garden?

GBG: When is the best time to start planting the family garden?

Caitlin: Planting seeds in the garden can happen between mid-February throughearly November depending on the crop. Portland’s climate allows us to grow many fruits and vegetables from peas and greens, to tomatoes and peppers.  Some seeds can be sown directly in the garden, like peas, radishes and beets, and others need to be started indoors before being planted out later in the season, like tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplants. 

Last year I made some Earth Day Resolutions, and now it’s time to see how I did.  Did my resolutions motivate me to go greener . . . or did I fail to meet even the simplest goals?  Let’s review.

I resolved to switch to eco-friendly cleaners.  Yes!  I did it.  I switched from conventional laundry detergent to Biokleen-and discovered that Biokleen was not only better for the environment, but better for my pocketbook than the cheapest conventional product on the store shelves.  Read about that here.  I also started using so-called “eco-friendly” dish soaps.  (And I wrote about why dish soap is bad for the environment, reviewed several eco-brands, suggested alternatives to liquid dish soap, and found a way to conserve dish soap while washing dishes.)

I resolved to sign up for renewable energy from my power company.  That was easy.  I’d been procrastinating about doing it for a long time, but after publicly resolving to do so, I logged on to my account online, clicked a button, and it was done.

I resolved to buy carbon offset coupons when I took airplane trips.  Did I do this?  No.  Ugh.  Well, now I have something for this year’s list.

Okay, so I made three goals, one was extremely easy, and another I forgot about entirely.  I will borrow Joy’s famous phrase to alleviate some of the guilt: “Progress, not perfection.”  Stay tuned for another list of resolutions I may or may not be able to keep!

Don’t we all hate that plastic Easter grass that ends up trailing through our living room and getting tangled into our holiday baskets?  This year you can actually grow your own grass in your baskets and get your young ones involved in the process.  I found this idea in Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. 

It’s best to start this project now since it will take a few weeks for the grass to sprout.  

You’ll need:

  • Easter baskets(check my next post for where to get great deals on these)
  • Plastic produce bags or bread bags(the ones that can’t be recycled)
  • A packet of rye grass seeds
  • Potting soil
  • A paper bag 

First line your baskets with plastic, layering it along the sides and bottom so that the wicker will be protected.   Place a few stones along the bottom of the basket for drainage and then layer in two inches of potting soil.  Sprinkle rye seeds over the top and finish off with another very thin layer of soil, just enough to cover the seeds.  Water liberally and cover with a brown paper sack for a few days until the seeds sprout.  When you start to see the grass through the soil, place indoors in a sunny spot and water.  In a few weeks you’ll have a lush little patch of grass, ready to nestle your home-dyed eggs.  This works great as a centerpiece as well!  Enjoy!  

In just a few months, I’ll be enjoying maternity leave.  It’ll be a treat to have a few months off since with my first child I went back part time when he was just six weeks old.  Since I never really had the time to be home, my husband and I have split laundry, cooking and cleaning pretty evenly from the beginning.  This time I wonder if it will be different since I’ll be home for a stretch and might feel obligated to pick up more domestic duties.  How have you managed to share the household workload with your spouse?  Did it change during maternity leave–and more importantly, if you did go back to work how did it shift again?  Any advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated!

At five to six bucks a gallon, it can be heart breaking to toss a gallon of sour milk down the drain.  After today’s post, you won’t ever need to do it again!  

When your milk begins to approach its due date, simply pour it into a microwavable container or a stovetop saucepan and heat it until it barely boils.  You’ll re-pasteurize the milk by killing the bacteria that would cause it to go bad.  It may strike a few of you as rather icky, but the truth is that when you finish it will last for another week or two.  

My mom used to practice this technique when we were little and I found it quite odd, but now I love being able to prevent a high priced organic product from going down the drain.

Do you have thrifty green tips to share?  Click here to learn how to join us this week and please visit our contributors and make a comment.  There’s always something new to learn!

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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