The Cheapest Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent

Right around when Joy wrote her post about diaper-friendly detergent I was in the process of phasing out my conventional laundry soap. I hadn’t switched over to an eco-friendly brand because I kept getting hung up on the price. Imagine my shock when I discovered that eco-friendly detergent can be cheaper than conventional detergent! I no longer have any reason to use a mainstream brand.

Laundry Detergent–from cheapest to most expensive

T.J.’s powder  / $5.49 / 40 loads / $.137 per load

Biokleen laundry powder / $13.99 / 100 loads / $.139 per load  BEST DEAL

T.J.’s liquid HE  / $8.99 / 64 loads / $.14 per load

All (not eco-friendly)  / $14.00 / 96 loads / $.145 per load
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Don’t Throw Out the Baby OR the Bath Water: Recycling Gray Water

Every time I pull the plug on Roscoe’s bath, it pains me to watch several gallons of relatively clean water vanish down the drain.  Perhaps this angst is inherited from my resourceful mother, who always transferred our bathwater to the washing machine for a load of laundry after we were tucked into bed.  She currently keeps a bucket in her shower at all times to capture water for use in her garden but she wishes that there was a better solution for all that gray water waste. 

Thanks to Brac Systems, an innovative Canadian company, there is!  They have designed a grey water recovery system that filters bathwater and redirects it for use in toilets.  The entire system costs just a few thousand dollars (plus installation) but Brac claims that the system could save people up to 40% of their water bill costs.  It’s possible to redirect the water for landscaping use as well and to use the system to harvest rainwater. 

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Green Breakthrough: Save Energy by Washing Diapers in Cold Water

I’d always heard that diapers needed to be washed in the hottest water possible.  After two years of washing diapers in hot water, a post on Treehugging Family made me think about whether I could wash diapers in cold.  Peggy writes about saving 72 pounds of carbon dioxide in one month just by washing four out of five loads in cold water.  Keep that up for an entire year and you’ll save $60-100 on your energy bill. 

front-loading washing machine for cloth diapersBut doesn’t washing in hot water kill germs and bacteria?  Everything I read said no–unless your washer has a built-in heater, the hot water in your machine does not get hot enough to kill anything.  Most water heaters are set to 120 degrees.  You’d need a temperature of 160 to kill anything and 212 to actually sanitize your laundry.  Jennifer (Peggy’s co-blogger on Treehugging Family) pointed out that the dryer does get hot enough to kill bacteria.
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Community Supported Agriculture: A Reasonably-Priced Green Solution for Organic Produce

You may recall from my Earth Day Resolution blog that I’m a struggling grocery shopper. Deciding what’s for dinner is hard enough, but figuring out how to get healthful eco-friendly food for reasonable prices has felt nearly impossible.  I want my child to munch on organic fruits and veggies, but when I see the prices my inner tightwad has a nervous breakdown. 

I’ve only been a Community Supported Agriculture member for one week, but already I feel vastly better about our family’s grocery habits.  Wondering what a CSA is? It’s a farm that provides seasonal organic produce directly to community members for a regular monthly price.  In our case we pay $135 each month for weekly bags chock full of organic goodies.  Click here for more info on CSA’s in general and here to find out if there’s one in your area.

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Baby Gear I Lived Without

Because I have a small house and harbor illusions of leading a “minimalist lifestyle,” I wanted to limit the amount of baby gear I bought. When I was pregnant, I kept wondering if I really needed all this stuff: a wipes warmer, a bouncy seat, a swing, a white noise machine, a mobile, an arsenal of how-to-raise-your-baby books, a travel crib, a baby monitor? (The list goes on, but you get the point.) How was I supposed to know? Every time I’d consider not getting something, the consumerist girl scout in me would decide that I just wouldn’t be prepared without it.
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Works For Me Wednesday: Finding the Safest Glass and Plastic Bottles for a BPA-Free Baby

When my belly was bulging with baby, I imagined my newborn gulping breast milk from the clearest, most rigid plastic bottles that I chose, thinking that the ones that appeared closest to glass would certainly be the safest.  Months later as I read through the latest research, I was surprised to find out that my instincts were wrong. 

In fact, the rigid plastics used to make some baby bottles and almost all Nalgene bottles have the highest risks of leaching toxins.  (Nalgene will be pulling their BPA-laden bottles soon.)  On Friday, Canada’s health and environmental ministries announced that it will ban the use of bisphenol-a (BPA) in plastic products because of health concerns.  Read here for further details on Canada’s landmark decision. 

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Baby’s First Earth Day

Wow, it’s baby’s first Earth Day today!  What will your tot do to ring in the occasion?  What–you haven’t planned it yet?  Here are some last-minute Earth Day ideas to celebrate with your little one.

Plant a tree.  Stick a tree in the ground this Earth Day and watch it grow with your tyke.  My sister and I both had our “own” apricot trees to admire throughout our childhoods.  If every American family planted just one tree, the existing CO2 in the atmosphere would reduced by one billion pounds annually!

Give a tree.  The Ecobaby Blog had a great idea for a baby shower present: give a tree!  Now you know what to get that special someone today.  For Roscoe’s baby shower Joy received an apple seedling along with a copy of The Giving Tree, which turned out to be her favorite gift.
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The Freedom of Frugality

Growing up, frugality was more of a lifestyle than a choice. Even though my parents didn’t necessarily practice penny pinching with the environment in mind, many of their cost-saving practices were eco-friendly as well.  My sister and I thought that showering consisted of getting wet, turning off the water to “soap up” and then following with a quick rinse.  We flattened aluminum cans for the recycling bin and took the compost out without any realization that we were helping the environment.  However, through the practice of penny pinching we did learn that our resources are precious.

baby-beach-walk.jpgAlthough it may sound like I lived a horribly deprived childhood, the truth is that many of our thrifty practices were quite adventurous. Instead of going to Maui, my family spent our vacations camping in Oregon rainforests or visiting relatives, where we often set up sleeping bags on the living room floor.  On car trips we had picnics at rest areas rather than swinging through fast food restaurants.  No one in my family ever belonged to a gym, but we enjoyed nightly moonlit family beach walks near my home to stay healthy and enjoy the outdoors. 

Roscoe Goes Beachwalking 

Now that I’m in my mid thirties, I’ve learned to appreciate my quirky saving skills and all the benefits they’ve brought to me over the years. Having the ability to prioritize my values and then differentiate between wants and needs has been an extremely helpful skill.  I was able to pay off huge graduate school loans in four years on a starting teacher’s salary because of extreme (and sometimes neurotic) tightwaddery. Most of the time, all that penny pinching had huge advantages for the environment as well.  I biked for transportation whenever possible and bought most of my clothing at thrift shops.  To cut grocery costs, I ate very little meat and rarely purchased convenience foods.

As a parent, I find that all that self-restraint ends up providing personal freedom in more ways than one. Financially, it has allowed us the freedom to take more time with our son and relax about the costs of having a child.  We want to model thriftiness and living simply right from the start with Roscoe.

With that in mind, we outfitted most of Roscoe’s nursery with used furniture, dress him in quality hand-me-downs and use cloth diapers.  Roscoe doesn’t eye his crib with disdain and will never care that another soul has worn his clothes before him, but the cost savings are phenomenal.

baby-sliding.jpg

Even though as a teenager I swore I would live a more luxurious life someday, I now have a great appreciation for my frugal roots.  When Roscoe grows up a bit and resents the simple life, I’ll remind myself that in the long run, we’re giving him the gift of self-reliance, self-restraint, and an environment that’s just a little bit cleaner.

Roscoe Enjoys Cost-Free Fun on The Playground Slide 

Rebecca’s Earth Day Resolutions

Remember when you asked your parents why there was Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but no Kid’s Day?  I felt pretty ripped off when they told me that “Every day is kids’ day.”  But maybe they were right.  Maybe the Earth doesn’t need a special day, either.  After all, every day should be Earth Day, right?  Well, sure, but ever since Senator Gaylord Nelson kicked off our first Earth Day in 1970, April 22 has given us an opportunity to reflect upon our relationship to our fair planet.  I’ve decided to make a few resolutions for the next year so I don’t limit all my conservational efforts to one measly day.
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Works For Me Wednesday: Scoring Cheap Canvas Shopping Bags

Having fabric bags on hand makes life so much easier.  It prevents that bulging drawer of plastic or paper sacks from spilling out onto your kitchen floor, alleviates global warming guilt, and may even make you feel a bit proud as you whip them out at the check-out line.  So, how can you get bags for little to no money? 

Ask around:  I’m a teacher and as such, am loaded with canvas shopping bags.  Every educational conference I attend adds to my cache.  See if the people you know have extra fabric bags or don’t use the ones they have.

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Visit thrift stores:  If aesthetics aren’t important to you, you can certainly score some canvas bags with cheesy slogans or colors on them.  Hey, their garish colors might make them easier to remember next time you’re headed to the store! 

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