Protected: Garden Beginnings

April 7th, 2008 by Rachel

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Ins and Outs of Our Cloth Diapering System

March 5th, 2008 by Rachel

I’ve answered questions about cloth diapering and what we do via email/real life conversations to so many friends and blog friends in the past; I figured it will be easiest just to put it all in one place. And since Lynsey asked for more information, here is more than you probably ever wanted to know.

We went around and around about the whole idea of cloth diapering when I was pregnant with Bud. It would save on trash, but what about water? What kind do you get? How do I know if they are good ones? We ended up putting off our decision until we met some people in real life who actually used them, let me watch them in action, and even let me borrow a few to try out. We bought our first set of diapers when Bud was seven months old and haven’t looked back.

The cost has probably been the same as we would have spent diapering him in the cheapest disposables full time, but New Baby and Subsequent Baby(s?) will be diapered for almost free. It isn’t nearly as much work as you probably imagine it to be, and Bud has a nice, healthy little bum. Our water use has stayed almost the same, in the summer we use one more unit of water than we did before we had a kid, so I know it isn’t just wasting tons of water and we don’t live in a place prone to drought. Read more »

Protected: More Green Cleaning Recipes

January 3rd, 2008 by Rachel

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Joel Makower: Two Steps Forward: WITTs, YOYOs, and Why Americans Don’t Go Green

November 3rd, 2007 by Thomas

I found this many months ago and intended to write some commentary, but alas, time has not permitted. The post gives some great insight into the issues facing those who value stewarding the earth well.

Joel Makower: Two Steps Forward: WITTs, YOYOs, and Why Americans Don’t Go Green

Thoughts on ‘effort’

November 2nd, 2007 by Thomas

It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it and bring it home is considered to be less effort than to just wash the spoon when you are done with it.

from Bring Your Own.

Let’s tap the potential

October 27th, 2007 by Thomas

Getting Greener, Part 4: Greener Eating

August 24th, 2007 by Rachel

Food consumption is something that greatly effects our health and the environment. Farming practices can destroy soil fertility, cause harmful chemicals to drain into waterways, affecting the health of people drinking the water and wildlife dependent on it. How far did your food travel before reaching your plate? From South America? China? California? All that travel results in pollution, especially if it is going that far for every meal.

Changing our eating habits has come gradually for us, and the more I learn, the more I want to change. Food and diet is something that is so vast and complicated that it is beyond me to address it completely in a short blog post. Therefore, I recommend several books that have greatly helped me, if you are really interested in learning more:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (you can read a quick synopsis here)
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Naomi Plank (Note: this book is a little long and very detailed, but I gleaned a lot of great information.)
Eating in the Dark: America’s Experiment with Genetically Modified Foods by Kathleen Hart
-Next up on my food reading list is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

You might be thinking that all of this doesn’t matter, but if you start researching and reading, you will be shocked at the things you learn. For your health and the health of your family, start reading! Be careful though, it is a slippery slope and you probably won’t be able to eat the same as you did before reading.

If you are interested in changing your eating habits in the meantime, you can start by eating less processed foods. Generally, the longer the ingredient list, the more processing involved, and the greater likelihood of it containing unnatural chemicals. My general rules are:
-If it has high fructose corn syrup in it, don’t get it or look for one without it;
-If there is an ingredient in it I can’t pronounce or I don’t know what it is, I look for something similar that doesn’t have it (generally, the organic brand might be better);
-Try to buy produce in season as it is less likely to have traveled from South America to get here;
-Buy local produce (farmer’s market when in season);
-Grow your own!
-Avoid artificial preservatives (BHT especially, in many cereals and prepackaged foods);
-Avoid artificial colors and flavors (though natural flavors aren’t much better, but difficult to avoid);
-Basically, if it isn’t real or from something that people have eaten for a long time, I try to avoid it. This isn’t always possible, but I use sugar instead of Splenda, butter, not margarine, and so on.

Things we are trying to improve, pending the purchase of a freezer for the garage:
-Buy grass-fed, local beef;
-Purchase local, organically grown chickens;
-Buy local milk.

Sorry I don’t have more on this topic, it was really daunting to figure out where to even begin here! Some of you are real experts on this, so consider this an intro for food-change beginners.

Protected: Bumper Crop

August 20th, 2007 by Rachel

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Getting Greener, Part 3: Natural Body Care

August 10th, 2007 by Rachel

I don’t have a huge wealth of information on this topic as we have recently (in the past six months) started making changes here. But it so important, I can’t believe we waited so long! If you think about it, your skin is your body’s largest organ and it is porous, absorbing everything you put on it. You can make yourself cynical and crazy researching the dangers of chemicals in beauty products and the FDA’s lack of oversight. If you think your products are safe, natural and wonderful, you’ve probably been viewing a lot of advertisements lately. Did you know that the US has outlawed only 8 chemicals from beauty products while the European Union has banned over 1,000?

My rule of thumb is, if I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I probably don’t want to eat it or slather it all over myself, but this can be a hard rule to follow with body care products. Skin Deep is a great site where you can see how safe your products are. And here is a short list of ingredients to avoid. So, go check your products on the Skin Deep site, you will be surprised at what you find.

Our journey has been short, but we have learned a lot. We started by switching soaps to using Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps for our body wash. It lathers great, smells wonderful and is all natural–you could probably eat it. We love it. You can even use it to brush your teeth, but I just can’t get used to it yet, but I’m going to keep trying.

Our next logical switch was shampoo. I tried to go without it, using baking soda and apple cider vinegar (instructions here), but it was too time-consuming, I was lazy, and I missed my good-smelling shampoos. I made it a full month without shampoo (did anyone notice?), but I really missed it. However, I am a minority, there are many people out there who love it, and maybe I’ll get up the courage to try it again someday. I found a middle road and picked up some Avalon Organics shampoo at the store. It isn’t the most natural, but it is better than our previous choices and ranks pretty well on the Skin Deep charts. I don’t use any other hair products, so I don’t have much else to add there, but I’ve read that honey is a wonderful conditioner.

The main ingredient in antiperspirant is aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex. It is well-known that aluminum is a toxic metal and is found in high levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Knowing this, we decided to replace our traditional antiperspirants with something more natural. Thomas found the amazing Thai Crystal and never looked back. It wasn’t so amazing for this stinky, profuse sweater so I stopped using it after two weeks of B.O. Then I found the secret that changed my problems for good–baking soda! Can you believe it? I haven’t used anything but it (scented with essential oils for a little fragrance) for over a month now. It is s seriously amazing. Here’s my method:

In a small bowl or jar with a lid, mix baking soda with 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (I am using 5 lavender and 5 orange these days with about 1/2-1 cup of baking soda). Mix with a fork. After showering, dampen your finger tips and dip them in the baking soda. Gently rub into your arm pit area, and enjoy not stinking.

I’ve gone over 36 hours without reapplying and exercising in the end and I still don’t stink. I couldn’t believe it! The only downside is that baking soda is slightly abrasive, so if you apply too much immediately after shaving, it can be irritating and leave some redness. You probably don’t need quite as much as you think and don’t rub it in really hard. If you do sweat (which you will), it dries much faster than when you had antiperspirants, and it doesn’t stain your clothes. I have noticed that I sweat far less now than I did when I first stopped using antiperspirants, so stick with it for a few weeks to let all the junk clear out of your underarms.

Baby shampoo and soap are important natural choices, especially in light of the news earlier this year. We really like Avalon Organics baby shampoo and wash. It has orange oil in it and smells yummy. We also really liked the Burt’s Bees baby shampoo bar. If you are looking for good products, check the Skin Deep site.

I have yet to replace my makeup since it never seems to run out but will be doing more research and replacing it as needed, which I am anxiously awaiting.

As I said before, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of more natural body care. Be sure to read labels as not everything that appears natural really is. For instance, upon closer inspection, the “natural” face wash I have been using contains parabens. Also, read this and know a little about what the ingredient “fragrancemight mean. Remember, there is no regulation for using the word “natural” on your products, so take the time to read labels carefully and do a little research before you shop.

Next up, Greener Eating.

Protected: Getting Greener, Part 2: Natural Cleaning

August 3rd, 2007 by Rachel

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