Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy 30th Birthday...

...to me! Yes, sadly, today is my 30th birthday. I have been in denial for several months now and well really, I still am. I don't want to leave my twenties, I liked it there. Oh well, I guess I better make the most of it. A least there were no surprise birthday parties; I would have hurt someone if they did that to me. :)

I do want to share some of the fabulous eco-friendly gifts I received. If you have seen my "Getting Dirty" gardening posts, you may remember that my mom bought me all of my organic gardening supplies as an early birthday present. Yesterday, I received a kick ass basket of goodies from my brother and sister-in-law. They went to the natural food store in town and got me a bunch of eco-friendly products. Let's take a look!

Well alright, for starters you'll see me new Wii Fit game in there. This should help me get off my butt and start taking care of myself with some exercise. What else? Some vanilla lip balm, Dessert Essence Italian Red Grape Lip Gloss, Avalon Organics lavender hand lotion and shower gel, foaming handwash from Kiss My Face and some gluten-free brownie mix. Yay, I can eat brownies while working out on my Wii! LOL.
Tell me, how did you deal with hitting milestone birthdays?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The ABC's of BPA, Your Questions Answered

I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, of us have heard various things about BPA. Over the past year or so, it has been all over the media, especially the Internet. But what do you really know about BPA? Sure, you know it is bad and you should avoid plastics with it, but do you know why it is bad? What exactly is BPA anyway? Is it only in plastic bottles and containers? Where else can it be found? There are so many questions! To get all the answers and read my full article, hop on over to The Ohana Mama!

MOC Eco-Friendly Gift Tags

One of my pet peeves lately is greeting cards. I just cannot seem to eliminate them from my life. My husband and I have agreed to no longer exchange cards with each other and this means no cards for the kids birthdays either. To me, it is just a waste of money and paper. However, I still feel obligated to give others cards. Particularly nieces and nephews. What to do?

Last week I was introduced to a company that has a way to help. I love finding new eco-friendly products so I am really happy to share this one with you. Finally a way to cut out those bulky, pricey greeting cards.

Goodbye Cards, Hello MOC!Say goodbye to traditional greeting cards and hello to Move Over Cards (MOC). Move Over Cards are super cute and earth friendly. The cards are printed on recycled paper including a minimum of 10% post-consumer and 50% pre-consumer fiber. I love things made from recycled materials! A little bit more about MOC from their website:

MOC was born when owner Nicki; a mom of triplet girls often felt traditional greeting cards were not always necessary. Nicki began designing gift tags that were elegant yet fun for all ages. Nicki's philosophy of Be Good to the Earth meant reducing paper waste, therefore uses no envelopes or plastic packaging materials. All MOC products are made from recycled materials. The products save time and money without having to compromise on style and elegance.
MOC offers gift tags for a variety occasions including Baby, Birthday, Holiday, Thank You, etc. Sized at a nice 3 inches by 3 inches, after they have been used they are the perfect size for scrapbooking! These gift tags are sold in an assortment pack of 12 and each tag comes with a matching ribbon. Here is just a little sampling of some of the MOC tags.

In addition to their gift tags, MOC also carries attractive Gift Bag Packs. Each pack includes a MOC gift tag, coordinating bag and tissue paper. The bags are made with a minimum of 15% to 20% post-consumer material and they are recyclable. What I like about gift bags over gift wrap is that you can reuse them again and again. What makes MOC gift bags great is that once they reach the end of their life, you can recycle them.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Easter

When you think of Easter gifts, what comes to mind? Plastic baskets, filled with plastic grass and plastic toys and candies made with high fructose corn syrup and lots of other artificial yucky stuff. I don't know about you, but I'm done with those things. With less than 2 weeks till Easter, let’s look into some ways that you can make your Easter celebration more green and eco-friendly.

Coloring Easter Eggs. It's hard to resist the traditional egg dying kits adorned with cute litle bunnies that make egg coloring so darn easy. But I have to onder, what the heck is in those fizzing little tablets? So I am skipping them from now on along with other artificial food colorings, even ones from the grocery store. Personally I am trying to limit Why? Well for one, Red Dye #40 is thought to cause behavioral issues in children. Not that anyone is eating egg shells, but you don’t know what can leak into the egg and in general, I just like to avoid it. Visit your natural food store of choice and see if they carry some all natural food coloring. In my online searches, unfortunately they do tend to be a bit pricey. Though I did find a plant based egg dye kit at Nova Naturals.

Feeling a little daring? You can also try using foods to color your eggs. You will need several stainless steel pots, one for every color, water, white vinegar and of course eggs. For colors, you can use the following:
Red onion skins (for red)
Yellow onion skins (for orange)
Red cabbage (for blue)
Spinach (for green)
Carrot tops, orange peels or lemon peels (for yellow)
Purple grape juice (for lavender)
Beets or cranberries (for pink)

Put enough water in the pot to cover your eggs and add one teaspoon and the item you are using for the dye. Bring your eggs to a boil and then let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Not only is this natural, it is also fun and educational for your kiddos. If you have compost, you can throw the scraps of onion skins, spinach, etc. right in. I haven’t decided if I want to color eggs this year, but if I do, I’ll be sure to take pictures to share.

Baskets. Head into most stores right about now and you’ll find loads of plastic baskets. Now instead you could make your own, but personally I am not gifted enough to do that. I bought some wood Easter baskets a few years back and I just reuse them every year. They are not a very green choice, but I already have them so I’m gonna use them. Another idea I had was buying a reusable shopping bag and then putting all the goodies inside. Envirosax has a cute line of kids themed bags that I think would be perfect, and then they can be reused over and over. I actually really like his idea.

Easter Grass. Please, please skip the plastic grass. After you toss it in your garbage it is going to sit in a land fill for thousands of years. I’ve read some things about growing some real grass to put in your baskets. Pretty neat idea. But I found another one that I like even better – shredded paper! We have a stack of old documents waiting for me to run them through the shredder so how cool to be able to actually put those into use. I can fill the baskets with the shredded paper and then toss them in the recycling bin when we’re done with them. Love it! Even better would be to add it to your compost (I really need one of these). Now shredded documents might not look very much like grass, so I see nothing wrong with shredding up some green paper, as long as it is recyclable paper.

Candy. Now I am not one of those crazy people that doesn’t let my kids have treats every now and then. Heck I am a chocoholic so it would be quite hypocritical of me to forbid it. I just don’t like to give them sweets filled with artificial colors and flavors. Instead, go for organic candies like Surf Sweets who has some yummy jelly beans. If you are looking for some lollipops, check out Yummy Earth. Best lollipops I have ever had. And Easter is not complete without chocolate right? This time opt for some that is fair-trade and organic. I just came across Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate online who has some really cute Easter chocolates. Once again your local natural food store should have something yummy or head to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Oh what I wouldn’t give to have either of these near me. {sigh}

Toys. Now this is the point where I ask myself “do the kids really need more toys?” The answer is no. And they certainly don’t need cheapie plastic toys. How about a good book instead? Or maybe some art supplies? Stubby Pencil Studio has tons of eco-friendly art supplies and other eco-friendly toys. They even has a section dedicated to Easter where you can pick a basket and the goodies to go in it. If you want to go the book route, I have had great success at the Target Dollar Spot. They almost always have some small books in there. I recently got the boys some animal/science books that I tucked away just for Easter.

So there you have it, just a few tips to have an eco-friendly Easter. Do you have any tips of your own? If so, I would LOVE to hear them. So please share them with us and have a happy, hoppin, green Easter!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour 2009: Vote Earth

Tonight at 8:30pm is Earth Hour - are you participating? What exactly is Earth Hour you ask? Well it is a worldwide movement to get as many people as possible to turn off their lights for just one hour tonight. But why? Here is a little tidbit from the website:
This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming. For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

So which will you vote for?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Green Glossary: Post Consumer & Pre-Consumer Fibers

Is it just me or are there a lot of green terms out there that when you see or hear them you say "huh?" I found myself doing that today when doing some research and I thought there must be others out there like me. So I thought it would be helpful to start a "Green Glossary" series to help out. Here are my first two entries!

Post-Consumer Fiber
Waste paper that has served its intended purpose and has been separated from solid waste to be recycled into new paper. This is the paper that we place in our paper-recycling bins every week. It has reached the end user, and thus is qualified as post-consumer waste.

Pre-Consumer Fiber
This fiber has never seen a consumer. It usually contains leftovers and cutoffs from a paper mill’s production process or the same from paper converting plants such as envelope manufacturers and printers. This paper waste is collected and shipped back to a paper mill for recycling prior to hitting the consumer waste stream.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting Dirty: My Veggie Seeds Have Sprouted

Last Thursday I planted my seeds and it has been an exciting week for me since then. My husband thinks I'm nuts for getting all giddy over these, but it is so cool to watch your little plants grow right in front of your eye. And since this is my first time planting vegetables, it makes it that much more exciting. I honestly cannot believe how much they have sprouted already. Particularly the cucumber and zucchini seedlings, they are huge already. Let me share a few pictures.

Here they are on Tuesday (3/24), you can see there are little sprouts in the cucumber and zucchini containers. Nothing yet for the tomatoes and peppers.

Then here they are one day later (3/25). Look how much they have grown in just one day! William was so excited when he saw them yesterday. "Look mommy, your plants are growing!!"

Finally, here they are this morning. I swear they have doubled in size. Now I also have tomato plants sprouting up. It amazes me how much has happened in the last 3 days.

As you can see the zucchini and cucumber plants are growing fast. I fear they are going to be huge soon and I will need to transplant them outside sooner than I expected. I suppose now I should figure out just where exactly I will put them outside. Nothing like waiting till the last minute to plan!

Ideally, I have a big empty flower bed up against the side of the house that gets lots of sun. I'd love to put them there, but is it OK to put a vegetable garden next to the house? The hose is right there too, perfect. There is also a sunny spot over on the other side of the house by the shed, but the hose is no where near that, I'm not sure it would even reach. What about planters on the deck? I know I can keep the tomatoes in planters, but what about zucchini and cucumber?

Where are my gardening experts? I'd love your insight on vegetable garden placement.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: J

For more Wordless Wednesday posts, please visit MomDot and 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greenraising: Earth Friendly Fundraising

I think most of us are familiar with school fundraising. Even for those without kids, you've probably been asked by a niece, nephew or neighborhood kid to purchase something for a fundraiser. The problem with most of these school fundraisers? A lot of it is junk. While we are concerned with childhood obesity (as we should be) we then ask our children to go out and sell candy bars, frozen cookie dough and other unhealthy treats that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and lots of artificial ingredients.

Finally, there is an eco-friendly alternative to the typical fundraisers: Greenraising! A little bit about the company from their site:
Greenraising was started by the parents of elementary school children who watched how their school's parents associations struggled each year to raise the funds necessary to provide an excellent education, and who bought their share of cookie dough and magazines to help that happen. At the same time, they noticed that their children were coming home with concerns about the environment, pollution, global warming and living conditions in the world, and were feeling helpless to change things. A little research yielded a host of small things each family could do to help the situation, and a light bulb went off (well, technically a compact fluorescent bulb). Greenraising was created to help solve both problems: raise money for schools and give children an opportunity to learn that their actions can change the world.
What a wonderful idea! If you visit their site, you can see they have a wide variety of products to choose from. They have items like recycled gift wrap, reusable water bottles (like SIGG) and reusable bags. Looking for something sweet? Well choose one of their fair trade, organic chocolates. They even have fair trade, organic coffees and teas. They also have two ways to sell: online sales and traditional catalogs. The online feature is great. Customers simply shop and then just name your organization as the beneficiary (it must be registered first). It is easy and greener since there are no catalogs.

I'm passing this on to you all so you can then pass it onto your schools. Make your schools choose green fundraising and help them raise money while teaching our children about caring for the environment. My boys are not school aged yet, William won't start kindergarten till 2010. But when they are, I fully plan on presenting Greenraising to our schools. I would love to be able to cut out the junky fundraisers and replace them with one like this. I see many PTO meetings in my future!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Going Green: Buy Locally Grown Produce

Spring is finally here and do you know what that means? It means that farmers' markets and farm stands will soon be reopening. Our local farmers' market opens in May and I can’t wait. Some of you in warmer regions may have access to them sooner (lucky). To be honest, in the 5.5 years that we have lived here I’ve only visited our farmers' market a handful of times. There’s no excuse, its less than 3 miles away. So one of my Green Goals for 2009 was to go regularly.

I know it is easier to do one stop shopping at your grocery store, but there are so many advantages to buying locally grown produce. Here are just a few:

  • Fresher produce. On average, US grown produce is picked 4 to 7 days before it gets to the supermarket and shipped an average of 1500 miles. Where as at a farmers’ market, most of the produce is picked within 24 hours.

  • More nutrients. Fresh produce lose their nutrients rather quickly. Local food that is purchased soon after harvest will have more nutrients than the food that was shipped hundreds of miles and then sat on a shelf for 2 days.

  • Avoid GMOs. Local farmers do not have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could.

  • Know what you are eating. You can talk with the farmers about their practices to find out how they grow their food.

  • Support small farms. Local farmers who sell directly to consumers get retail price for their food which allows them to keep running their farm. In turn, this also preserves open space. If their farm is doing well then they will not be selling their land to developers.

  • Where can you find locally grown produce? If you have an independent grocery store near by check it out. Often times they will carry food from local farms. Visit you local farm stands and farmers' markets. Farmers' markets are great because you often have several "vendors" offering a variety of products. At ours they have the obvious fruits and vegetables but then their are also vendors with locally made honey and maple syrup. You can also join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA allows you to purchase a share in the farm where you usually receive a weekly basket of produce. I really want to join the organic CSA in our town, but there is about a 3 year wait. So we added our names to the list last year.
    To find a farmers' market, farm stand or CSA near you, visit www.localharvest.org and enter your zip code.

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Ultimate Blog Party 2009!

    Ultimate Blog Party 2009
    Hello to new readers stopping by from the 5 Minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party! I am glad you are visiting! Be sure to leave a comment and your blog URL so I can return the favor!
    A little bit about me: I am a mom to 3 boys living in New England and trying to make more eco-friendly choices for our family. I started this blog to share my green journey and help others make green changes to their lifestyle. What kind of things can you find here? On Mondays I always share a Going Green Tip and Fridays here are Green Giveaway Fridays where I compile a list of green giveaways going on around the blogosphere. In between you will find reviews of products I love, giveaways, my organic gardening journey and a little bit of my family mixed in. Plus so much more!

    Did you know that the Ultimate Blog Party is also giving away prizes?! There are so many cool prizes to be won, but my top three picks would have to be:

  • Two $25 gift certificate to eco Store USA from Rachael at Little Bites of Heaven
  • 5 bars of handmade goat milk soap from Goat Milk Stuff
  • $50 gift certificate to Target from Beginner Baby Blog
  • And if my top three picks are already chosen, I’d love anything related to green/natural parenting or living or any Target gift certficate.
    So get to blog hopping and enjoy the party!

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Getting Dirty: Starting My Organic Vegetable Seeds

    After having my supplies for weeks, I finally stopped procrastinating and planted my seeds! It was kind of a crazy morning. After i dropped William off at preschool I came home and got to it. Of course Luke and Josh were very curious and it was hard to keep them from spilling dirt and seeds all over the place. So I gathered my supplies: organic soil, organic seeds and peat pots.

    Initially I was only going to plant the pepper and tomato seeds as the instructions for both said to start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost. But then I reread the cucumber and zucchini instructions and they said they could be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. So since I have 50 peat pots here, I figured I might as well fill them up. So I filled the individual pots about 2/3 with soil, dropped 2 seeds in each and then covered with some more dirt.

    Here is a picture of the zucchini seeds. I had no idea they were so big! The cucumber ones were pretty big too but the tomato and pepper seeds were small. You know how annoying all those little pepper seeds are when you are trying to clean a pepper? Yeah well, they are just as annoying when trying to get them out of the seed packet. I did take pictures of each kind of seed, but I won't bore you with that.

    After I got all he seeds planted and covered with dirt, I gave them each a little bit of water. Then I made my little signs to identify what is what. Just used some toothpicks and an index card with a little glue. Then I covered with the plastic dome, I guess this makes it kind of like a greenhouse. Now the instructions for the peat pots say to place them in a warm location away from direct sunlight. I think I may keep this on our kitchen table for now since it i counter height ad little nosy fingers can't get in them.
    Have I mentioned that I have no clue what I am doing? So please, if you ever see me dong something wrong, feel re to tell me. And don't forget to stop by next Thursday to see my progress.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Seventh Generation Natural Dryer Sheets Review

    I’ve spent a good portion of the past 18 months in search of a good natural dryer sheet. I really hate when our clothes are filled with static and most of the natural dryer sheets I have tried have not done a good job at reducing. Did you know that static is caused by the synthetic materials that are drying in the dryer? So sure, I can get rid of it by only wearing clothes made from natural fibers like cotton. But let’s face it: it is New England, it is cold and my boys sleep in warm polar fleece (polyester) blanket sleepers. I’ve also tried home made solutions like adding a cup of vinegar to my wash or rinse cycle, but that did nothing.

    The first natural dyer sheet that I tried was something I found accidentally at Walmart. The brand was Eco-Select and they did a good job. Then several months later, they disappeared off the face of the Earth. I scoured the internet trying to hunt some down, but all I found was other people wondering what happened to them. So my search was back on. I found another brand at Walmart called Simplicity. I want to say they were better than nothing, but I’m not so sure that they are. They really weren’t effective at all. I decided to start dividing my washes by fabric type to try to minimize static. All colored cotton in one wash, all synthetics in another and occasionally a load of cotton whites. Doing my laundry this way eliminated static from all our cotton clothes, but man that synthetic load was a like a big electricity ball!

    So earlier this year when I saw that Seventh Generation finally came out with Natural Fabric Softener Sheets I was thrilled. I have been using their Free & Clear Laundry Detergent for over a year and I am extremely happy with it. I finally ordered the dryer sheets two weeks ago and they have been working great so far. My cottons are nice and soft and static free. The polyester clothes still have some static, but it is so much better then before. It’s actually tolerable now. What I also love about these sheets is that they are plant based so no nasty chemicals and the paper is unbleached. Plus not only are they biodegradable but they are recyclable as well. So after I am done with them I can toss them in my recycling bin. I don’t know much about composting (ok nothing) but I suppose since they are biodegradable and plant based you could put them in your compost. Not 100% sure on that though, any composters want to chime in?

    If you are in the market for a natural dryer sheet, I would definitely recommend you give this one a try. It is, by far, the best one that I have used.

    Wordless Wednesday: Cannoli Faces

    And I don't want to leave out my big boy! No cannoli face, but too handsome to pass up.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Going Green: Switch to Natural Laundry Detergents

    There are many reasons why you should make the switch to natural. Traditional laundry detergents are petroleum based and petroleum is a nonrenewable resource. Most also have chemical fragrances and phosphates that build up in bodies of water (streams, lakes, etc.) and starve fish of oxygen. They may also contain chemicals that have been linked to reproductive issues and cancer. Oh and those chemical fragrances may cause allergies, asthma, eczema and may even contain phthalates. We’ve discussed that yucky chemical before (see my posts about air fresheners and shower curtains).

    You will also need to nix the chlorine bleach. They release chloroform into our air which is a carcinogen. And when chlorine bleach is washed down our drains it can create organochlorines. This is another suspected carcinogen and is also toxic to the reproductive, neurological and immune systems. All that damage just for whiter whites?

    So what are your alternatives? For starters, switch to a natural, plant-based detergent. I also happen to prefer “free and clear” versions. Now that I am so used to unscented cleaners, I find that even the natural fragrances in these detergents can give me headaches. I once tried a lavender scented natural detergent from Costco. I only did one wash in it and then I returned it because it was just too strong for us. My twins were still nursing at the time and Josh disliked the smell so much they he refused to nurse on the days when I was wearing a shirt washed in it. My favorite detergent is Seventh Generation Free & Clear. Others to try: ECOS Free & Clear and Ecover Laundry Wash.

    If you really need bleach, choose one that is chlorine free. Try an oxygen based one which is better for the environment and easier on your clothes. Some bleaches to try: Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach, Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach, OxiClean Free and OXO Brite.

    Be sure to choose a natural fabric softener as well. All the companies mentioned above also have fabric softeners. Or you can try some homemade solutions like putting a cup of vinegar in with your wash, preferably during the rinse cycle. I promise that your clothes won’t smell like vinegar!

    You know, while we are “greening” our laundry detergents, we might as well find some other way to make doing laundry more environmentally friendly. Here are just a few tips:

  • Try to only wash in cold water though you may want to stick with warm water for your sheets.
  • Only run your washing machine with a full load.
  • Wash loads back to back that way when you use the dryer it is already heated up.
  • Take advantage of warm weather buy hanging your clothes outside to dry.
  • If you are in the market for a new washer, choose a front loader. They use a fraction of the water and are more energy efficient.

  • Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...