Way in the dark ages of the Green Baby Guide, we had a little post containing our “toxic confessions.” I confessed to using Stain Stick on my laundry . While I’m happy washing my windows with vinegar and newspapers, scrubbing my floors with the pure power of steam, and polishing the silver with the elbow grease of eco-friendly elves, I never did find a replacement for Stain Stick. My one experience with a natural alternative ruined one of my shirts. So I continued using the Stain Stick. But I’m feeling that eco-guilt weigh down on me. Here are the options:
Ecover Stain Remover. No! Unfortunately, this is the natural stain remover that lightened some fabric on one of my favorite t-shirts.
Bac-out with Foaming Action Sprayer. I have heard many good things about Bac-out. Worth the $13.45?
Seventh Generation Stain Remover seems reasonable—only $7.19 for 50 ounces! But does it work?
I also found this Babyganics Stain Remover. But at almost $20, I feel like it would have to practically wash, dry, and fold my laundry in addition to removing a stain here and there.
What natural stain removers have you tried? Any recommendations?
When we first began writing our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, organic crib mattresses were available only to families who were able to shell out several hundred bucks. How thrilling then to see that by the time the book was published, the market demand really had driven down the price of organic crib mattresses! Check out some of the organic options available to families now!
The Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton is just $95! It’s not completely organic, but for families on a budget at least it’s a more organic option than a standard mattress.
The LA Baby Organic 2 in One Orthopedic Crib Mattress is currently about sixty dollars off, coming in at just $107 on amazon. That’s more than 30% off!
The Willow Natural Coconut Palm Crib Mattress by DaVinci is not organic, but it’s made of latex-free foam derived from natural coconut palm fiber. You have to consider the eco-footprint of shipping products to create a coconut based foam–and the fact that it isn’t organic, but at least manufacturers are considering different options than petroleum based foam. The crib comes with a 10 year limited manufacturer warranty and is a bit more expensive at about $165.
The Colgate Eco Classica I Crib Mattress is the highest priced option we’re featuring, coming in at nearly $190. You have to wonder if it’s worth the extra expense considering that it isn’t certified organic. It does pass the Greenguard standard for indoor air quality and has foam made of plant oils, but it runs quite a bit more than other comparable crib mattresses.
For those of you who can’t bear to toss the crib mattress you already have, or can’t afford even the least expensive organic crib mattresses, American Baby’s Organic Waterproof Quilted Mattress Pad comes in at just over 30 dollars. Not a bad option!
Have you splurged on an organic crib mattress or found another solution? An all cotton futon crib mattress maybe? Or a drawer lined with an organic blanket?
As an impressionable college student, I tore through the Tightwad Gazette Journal the way a lonely thirteen-year-old devours a Harlequin Romance: voraciously, with bated breath. It’s been more than fifteen years since I first read it, and some of the wacky money-saving tips have stuck with me all this time. Here are some highlights from the recesses of my memory:
Make muffins out of leftovers. A few bites of oatmeal left in your bowl? Some cereal dust at the bottom of the box? A little baked potato left over from last night’s dinner? Transform it all into muffins using a universal muffin mix.
This cookbook has nothing to do with the universal muffin mix. I was just trying to find a muffin picture to illustrate this point.
Rearrange furniture instead of buying new pieces. When you run off to Ikea or Target to buy new stuff, you may temporarily fulfill your desire to redecorate your house—but six months later, your cheap new bookshelves and framed posters will fall apart and you’ll wish you’d saved your cash for nicer things. Next time, see if you can satisfy your desire for change by regrouping the pictures on the wall, rearranging the furniture, and getting creative with the décor you already own.
Don’t go out to eat. The Dacyczyns didn’t go out to eat for the first decade of their marriage. Instead, they made every meal from scratch. Ten years and six kids later, they splurged on a night out . . . at McDonald’s.
They ate a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese. (True story. They did the math and determined that this is one of the few convenience foods that is cheaper than homemade.)
Use a bread bag for a diaper cover. Say your baby has a nice fresh cloth diaper pinned on him. All he needs is a diaper cover. But you don’t have a diaper cover. (Why or how this would happen is not important. Go with it.) Simply find an old bread bag, rip it open, and diaper the baby with it. (Again . . . why? I am not really sure.)
UPDATE: I was telling my friend Heather this story and she told me a story about a friend with a diapering emergency that only a bread bag diaper cover could solve!
Go ahead. Splurge!
Develop advanced garage sale skills. From the Tightwad Gazette Journal, I learned a lot about making the most of garage sales. Have a plan. Pack a lunch. Get there early. Bargain them down—especially if it’s later in the afternoon, when people are desperate to unload their belongings. With this advice in mind, I acquired a popcorn maker for $1.50 instead of $2. That was almost ten years ago, and we still use our Whirly Pop about five times a week. SCORE!
This costs $20 new. Now that is extravagant!
If you haven’t read the Tightwad Gazette Journal, you must! If you are already a fan, help me round out my list of tightwad tips.
Do you pass it onto friends? Do you sell it on craigslist? Do you host a garage sale?
It seems I spend the majority of my life buying, cleaning, storing, and eliminating stuff. Toys and gizmos flow into our home from birthday party goodie bags, garage sales, and grandparents. But how much of my life do I spend picking up tiny lego figures (or their tinier baseball caps) and plastic tea cups off of the living room floor?
Last night I reached a breaking point and snuck into my children’s bedrooms while they slept. I mercilessly tossed stuffed tigers and worn t-shirts into giant black garbage bags and felt the utter thrill of having less stuff to manage. Today I drove through our local Goodwill drop off site and happily said goodbye to heaps of belongings.
Because we get virtually all clothes and toys used, I don’t feel so motivated to get money back on gear and love sending it off to thrift stores. I love going to garage sales, but the thought of giving up a Saturday to host our own yard sale seems too much to bear. How do you get rid of used stuff?
We survived our daughter’s first year of school! Last year about this time we were trying to find a good system for Audrey’s packed lunches. We settled on the Crocodile Creek lunch box and Crocodile Creek canteen right away.
With the matching Crocodile Creek backpack, she was almost set. We still needed to find something to pack her lunches in. I preferred something BPA-free and never found a metal or glass dish that looked like it would work. I also didn’t want to pay more for something like that just in case it didn’t end up working out.
I ended up buying these BPA-free Ziploc divided containers. Each one is divided into three sections and has one lid that seals everything separately.
We’ll definitely repeat this system next year. I liked how easy it was to pack the divided containers, and it was nice having just one lid that fit over everything snugly. Other systems have several containers and lids that might be a hassle to deal with.
What’s your lunch box system—and what do you like about it? Let us know!
I don’t remember a whole lot from my first pregnancy, other than the strong feeling that if I read every parenting book and somehow finished every household project, it would be a smooth transition to motherhood. Ha! That was the beginning of the humbling process of parenting that continues to this day. Here are just a few tidbits of wisdom I wish I could send back to myself when I was pregnant with my first child.
1. Progress not perfection. There will be days when your greatest achievement will be a shower. In those first few weeks of parenthood you will give up all things you have been really good at like sleeping, cooking, napping, and doing whatever you please. It’s o.k. It will get easier. In the meantime, give up trying to excel. Let the laundry pile up, let the garden sprout a few weeds, and let yourself do the best you can. Survival will do just fine for now.
2. This stage will end. Fast. Believe it or not, you will sleep again. When you do, the colors will regain their vibrance and the world will seem a far better place. You will get beyond diapers, breastfeeding, and pureed peas. Someday you will leave the house without the diaper bag. In the meantime, try to savor this fleeting (but sometimes brutal) time. Before you know it, you won’t even remember the size of those tiny fingers or exactly how the top of your baby’s head smells. (People actually did tell me this and I didn’t quite believe them. I was utterly mistaken.)
3. Support sustains. In order to be able to be a good parent, let alone a green parent, you need help. Seek out friendships, family and networks of support to get you through this challenging time. It may provide you with a nap here and there, or a reality check with others who are surviving the same challenges, but the support you receive will ultimately benefit your baby. One of the highest compliments you can give a friend is to ask for help.
What sage advice would you give to yourself or other mothers on the brink of welcoming their babies? What have you learned from early parenting? Thanks for sharing!
In the last six years of our lives, our family has camped once with an infant. Sort of. We rented a yurt in a car campground. Does that even qualify as camping?
What do I remember about that outing? How desperately I had longed for the smell of woodsmoke during those previous years that we hadn’t camped. That my three-year-old son found a snail on the paved path the bathroom and reveled in the discovery for about twenty minutes, and that spaghetti cooked outside on a camp stove tastes infinitely better.
I also remember that the night was horrid. My daughter fussed and nursed all night and just when we settled to sleep at dawn, a flock of crows alighted on our yurt roof and loudly cawed us back into consciousness.
Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Two weeks ago we headed out again. We had just scored a six person tent for ten bucks at a garage sale and were ready to give it a whirl. This time we went to a forest service campground with another family who have children the same ages as ours, six and three. What a difference! The herd of kids played all day while the adults sat around the campfire and shared stories. We packed far too much and found that getting ready and cleaning up were horrible chores, but while we were there, what a delight! If I would have known what I know now, I would always camp with another family.
Have you taken your infant or toddler camping yet? Are you worried about screams in the middle of the night in a packed campground?
Ever since Audrey turned five, I’ve been reading children’s novels out loud to her. In under a year and a half, we’ve completed thirty books together—almost all old favorites from my youth. Quite a few of them may have been responsible for turning me on to green living. Let’s review:
The Little House on the Prairie series. After reading Little House in the Big Woods, little Audrey exclaimed, “Ma, let’s give away all my toys! For Christmas, I’ll be content with a few pieces of candy and a homemade doll to replace my corncob!” All right, so she didn’t go that far, but she is obsessed with pioneer living. She has taken to wearing an apron over dresses and has asked her grandmother to make her a compete pioneer ensemble, including bloomers and a bonnet. (Wait, so it seems that the books have sparked her materialistic impulses rather than dampened them. Hm.)
My Side of the Mountain. This tale of a young boy surviving a winter in the Catskills teaches many important lessons such as how to trap deer and how to make your own rabbit hide underwear.
Caddie Woodlawn. An interesting reading companion to the Little House books. It takes place around the same time but features a wealthier (but not rich) family.
The Ramona books. We tore through almost everything written by Beverly Cleary during our first year of reading. The earlier books take place in the 1950s, but later ones jump into the 1970s and ‘80s. No matter what the decade, the Quimbys are a working class family who have to scrimp and save—a perspective I don’t see as much in other children’s books.
The Boxcar Children. I recently asked Audrey was her favorite book was, and she picked this one. There is something irresistible about children taking care of themselves without adults. They take reusing to an art form as they scavenge around junkyards for plates and pots for their boxcar home.
Now it’s your turn! What are your kids’ favorite books?
Besides saving a ton of waste from the landfill and about a thousand bucks in one year of use, cloth diapers beat out disposables simply because they have a resale value. It’s not so likely that anyone would ever purchase a used disposable…Eew…
But how much should you pay for a gently used cloth diaper? It utterly depends on where you purchase it and the shape it’s in. The most convenient and more expensive route will be consignment shops and online sites such as craigslist and Ebay. Garage sales are typically incredibly cheap, but require a lot of legwork and driving.
Why would you buy used cloth diapers? Diapers depreciate about 50-90% after being used even one time. If you buy them used, treat them well, and resell them, you’ll recoup more of your original cost since they don’t depreciate much between the second and third owner.
What is the ideal situation for buying secondhand cloth diapers? The best option is to find someone who intended on using cloth, but only tried for a short while and then wants to sell their whole batch of diapers. Or sometimes you’ll find a person who just bought too many diapers and didn’t end up using them very much. In general, if you’re buying a huge lot of diapers, you’ll save money.
What type or brand of cloth diaper should I look for? My biggest mistake with cloth diapers is that I thought I had to have all the same brand and type of diaper. As friends gave me their secondhand diapers I realized that I preferred some types (pocket diapers) for travel and others (prefolds and covers) for nap times. In general, I do think that snaps are a better choice for used diapers simply because velcro tends to give up far sooner than snaps. (And your children can’t pull off their diapers as easily!)
What advice would you give for finding good deals on secondhand diapers? Did you buy your baby’s diaper collection new or find most of it used?
Over the last few years we’ve made a few big changes in our water habits . . . but we haven’t seen these changes reflected in our water bill. What gives? Here are some of the things we’ve done:
We got a dishwasher. A dishwasher is supposed to use far less water than even the thriftiest hand washer. Or so they say.
We started using a drip irrigation system for our garden. It’s supposed to save water over a sprinkler or hose.
I love love love my automatic timer. It’s supposed to be better for the plants and save water, too.
We got an egg cooker. It counts for something, right?
An egg cooker uses just a few tablespoons of water to cook seven eggs, saving at least three quarts of water each time I use it.
We cut down on loads of laundry. Our daughter hasn’t worn diapers in years. So why is our water bill so high?
We also have a front-loading washing machine, which uses around 12 gallons per wash. Compare that to a top-loader, which uses around 40!
We never wash our child. And by “never” I mean, we don’t give her daily baths.
Washing your kid in a bucket saves at least fifteen gallons of water. (Conservative estimate.)
Last weekend we tightened up leaks and drips. Our washing machine had a slow leak that we finally fixed, and the bathtub faucet dripped a little, too. We also bought a dual-flush toilet conversion kit, though I suppose you have to install it before you start seeing any results.
Stay tuned–we may get around to installing this one of these days.
What else can we do to save water? Please don’t tell me to take two-minute showers. I don’t think I can handle it.