Getting arts-and-craftsy the eco-way!

The Green Mommy tries her best to be as “green” as she can be (which, believe me, does fall short sometimes – hey, no one’s perfect). But she also likes to save a penny here and there too. Her Girl Wonder is almost 2 1/2 now and she’s really into art supplies, like crayons and water colors. This made the Green Mommy think – “What else is out there to help fuel some creative, artsy juices?” She looked all over the internet and found “greener”, “safer” options over the tradtional, but many of them were costly and adding on shipping costs made them even pricier. What’s a “Frugal Green Girl” to do? Make them herself, that’s what!

Here’s some interesting links for making your own art supplies. I haven’t tried them all but they look promising. If you give any of these a try, leave a comment and let us know what you think! Some of the recipes call for food coloring. Since none of these finished products are meant to be eaten, you can use traditional ones. However, if you’d like to go a more natural route, check out this link for one and see here and here for where you can buy it.

Photo from Flickr by loves dc

Food, Inc – Do you really know what you’re eating?

Okay everyone, mark your calendars. This month, PBS is airing the documentary, Food, Inc. I’m told by friends who’ve seen it that you’ll want to start eating only food you’ve grown yourself in your backyard with heirloom seeds. Afterwards, a short documentary, Notes on Milk, will be shown.

“Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually.”

You can check your local listings for when it will be shown here. If you’re unable to catch it that day, you can watch it online from April 22 – 29, or read the book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is just as interesting and scary.

Celebrating 2 years of Eco Women: BPA-free baby products

The Eco Women are celebrating their second blog anniversary this week!  Check out our daily giveaways and leave comments to win prizes.

Just a few months before Girl Wonder was born (hard to believe that was 2 years ago!), I learned about the dangers of BPA and how it could be found in many baby bottles at the time.  I dove in, head first, and searched the internet for lists of safer baby bottle choices.

With more research, I learned that BPA can be found in other items as well, such as:

Resources are out there to help you with lists of safer baby and children’s products such as those found on The Soft LandingSafemama, and ZRecommends. In honor of our two year anniversary here at Eco Women, we’re giving away a $20.00 gift certificate to The Soft Landing to make it even a  little easier! The products offered in their store are also PVC-free and phthalate-free too.

Just leave a comment here to enter!

Tune in every day this week, as the Eco Women give away prizes to celebrate their two year blogiversary.  All giveaways are open until  8 p.m. EST on Friday, March 12.  Winners will be randomly chosen and contacted over the weekend.

The Eco Women are not employed by the companies mentioned, nor were they compensated in any way.

Going Green in the Big City

Living in Gotham City isn’t exactly what many think of as “living green”. Most of us have to travel a bit to just sit under a shady tree, 8 million of us live together in a small geographical area, and  there’s the traffic noise and car alarms to deal with. There’s plenty of ways we can try to do our part, though, and it’s not just by living live in small quarters where we make the most out of the space we’ve got.

Photo from Flickr by Barbara L. Hanson

The first thing that comes to mind is buying local, seasonal food at the green markets — they’re everywhere! Dairy, eggs, fruits and veggies, honey, bread, wine, meats, and flowers! It’s all there. You can even bring your food scraps for composting to many sites around the city. If your window sill isn’t large enough to satisfy your green thumb, you can join a community garden. Don’t feel like cooking tonight? You can always have a meal where local ingredients are on the menu. City Harvest is right there at the end of the day at many restaurants collecting food for the hungry that would normally go to waste. No need to buy bottled water here either — just look for Tap It stickers on cafes and restaurants where you can refill your own water bottle for free.

Interested in beekeeping or raising chickens? You can do that too!

Yes, there’s many vehicles on the streets but most of us do all our shopping by foot and if it’s too far to walk, there’s our amazing mass transit system that will take you all over the five boroughs by bus (some of which are hybrid) or subway. You can even get around like our messengers do by cycling through the city on our many bike lanes or routes.

We can choose “green power” and recycling is made easy in our buildings with bins. There’s even trash cans for recycling around the city for while you’re out on foot!

Photo by The Green Mommy

Let’s not forget the Public Libraries here too. With so many around the city, the book you’re looking for is bound to be at one of them so there’s no need to buy it, which really helps to save a bit of space that you really don’t have anyway!

Homemade lip balm and moisturizer

Ever since the Green Mommy became pregnant with Girl Wonder, she has started educating herself on safer personal care products. She searched through Skin Deep, trying to find better alternatives to the cosmetics, lotions and deodorants she used.

When it comes to the products she uses directly on Girl Wonder, though, she works even harder to find the safest options. The Green Mommy knows she can’t put her in a bubble and protect her from every toxin out there, but for things she has direct control over, she’ll do her best to go the healthiest route.

This winter has been especially windy and cold here in Metropolis, which is doing a real number on their skin. Moisturizer and lip balm are a must these days. Many moisturizers on the “safer” side still often contain chemicals that the Green Mommy just doesn’t feel comfortable putting on her baby’s skin. She had heard about others making their own lip balm but she thought it would be time consuming and difficult. Well, it’s neither! It’s so easy, in fact, that she’s now making moisturizer — and shampoo is next on the list!

There’s no “icky” stuff like chemicals in these gems below. The most time-consuming part is purchasing all the ingredients. With your first batch, you may ask if it’s worth it with each of the  individual purchases, but when you then think about how many batches you’ll get from it all, you’ll change your mind. These make perfect gifts, by the way, and they’re a great project to work on with young girls who you want to steer in the direction of “safer” personal care products. Visit your local health food store — they should have everything you’ll need.

The following recipes have been taken from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organic Living by Eliza Sarasohan and Sonia Weiss. The book is fantastic and has recipes for your face, body,hair and more.

Use recycled small jelly jars for the lip balm or other glass or plastic containers (#5 is best since they can take the heat) from used personal care products. Just be sure to wash them well before using them. If you need to buy containers, check out this site.

The “Balm” (lip or cuticle cream)

1 Tablespoon beeswax
3 Tablespoons sweet almond oil
1 teaspoon honey
8 – 10 drops of essential oil

1) In a small saucepan, melt beeswax with sweet almond oil over low heat. When the wax is melted, remove from heat. Add honey and stir well. When the mixture begins to cool, but before it gets too thick, add essential oils a few drops at a time and stir to mix. Pour into small jars and let cool.

2) The glossiness of the lip balm is determined by how much oil you use. This recipe has a slight gloss. If less is desired, reduce the amount of sweet almond oil by 1 teaspoon.

Variations: If making lip balm, try combining a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil with orange, lemon or lime; if making cuticle cream, benzoin essential oil helps heal cracked cuticles and works well with one or more of the following: lavender, Roman chamomile, tea tree, neroli, palmarosa, sandalwood, jasmine.

Yields: 1/3 cup balm
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serving size: 1/4 teaspoon balm

Lube Ya (moisturizer for hands and body)

A very rich, very smooth lotion with a slight coconut scent (smells like chocolate!) that dry skin will eat right up. A good one for areas that take a beating and where skin can get especially dry, like knees and elbows.

1/2 cup grated coconut butter
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons avocado oil
2 Tablespoons grated beeswax

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and set in a pan filled with an inch or two of water (this is a bain-marie, or water bath). Melt over a medium heat, then pour into a glass jar. Stir and let cool.

Yields 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons lotion.
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serving size: 1 Tablespoon lotion

If you’re not able to whip up batches now, check out Recycla’s post from this past Tuesday on great winter skin care products you can buy in stores.

Going “green” with craft fair holiday shopping

Every year, around this time, a craft fair assembles not far from where the Green Mommy lives in Metropolis. Just seeing the white and red wooden stalls go up in the park gets her excited for the season to come! It’s full of crafters whose hand-made, unique items are usually locally made and are packaged with minimal materials. Shopping there often gives her the opportunity to give a gift that’s special to her region and there’s always something interesting for even the most hard to buy for on her list.

Photo from Flickr by Back_Garage's Photo Stream

Interested in supporting local artists this holiday season? Here’s a list of sites to help you find a craft fair near you:

Photo from Flickr by LarimdaME

Bring a friend, stop for a hot chocolate afterwards, and make an afternoon of it — Enjoy!

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Green MommyThanksgiving is The Green Mommy’s favorite holiday. It takes place during her favorite time of year and she loves that it’s a day when most Americans celebrate together. Even though it’s been 17 years since she’s dined on the main course of turkey, it hasn’t diminished her love for the holiday’s cuisine.

Do you plan on having a vegetarian guest this Thanksgiving? Interested in trying something new? You could always go with a Tofurky with vegetarian gravy, but here are some other worthy creations that would satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians!

veg1

Winter Greens Lasagne

veg4

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

veg3

Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

veg5

Butternut Squash-Chestnut Soup with Caramelized Pears

veg6

Savory Ricotta-Squash Tart

If you really want your vegetarian guest to be able to enjoy everything you offer this holiday, remember to watch for meat ingredients that sometimes are added to side dishes, such as meat or meat stock in stuffing or bacon on vegetables.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Baby’s first Thanksgiving – making it special

Green MommyWith Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us are planning our menus. What will it be this year – traditional fare or something new? Whatever it may be, effort and care will often go into the preparation. After all, it’s a special day that centers around a special meal.

So why not also make it just as special for your little one? Which would you prefer on Thanksgiving Day – a meal processed months ahead of time or one that was made from fresh vegetables and produce? If you’ve never made your own baby food, please take a look at an earlier post I did on how easy it really is, not to mention a lot less expensive than what you buy in stores.

Did you know that so many fruits and vegetables can be made easily by just steaming them in a steamer basket and then pureeing them? Why not consider giving your baby any of these listed below on Thanksgiving Day? (Remember to always give your baby a new food for 3-4 days in a row to test for allergies – this will mean planning ahead if your child has not had any of these foods yet.)

Simple steamed vegetables:

  • sweet peas
  • sweet potato
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • corn
  • parsnips
  • pumpkin

Or, make some combinations:

  • carrots and squash
  • apples and squash
  • carrots and parsnips
  • corn and sweet potatoes
  • cranberries and apple juice

To make turkey:

  • Saute 1/2 cup of chopped carrots and onions in olive oil.  Brown 6 ounces of boneless, skinless turkey breast in the same pot along with a little bit of low-sodium chicken broth. Simmer until the turkey is cooked. Puree to the consistency you want.

If your baby is a vegetarian, for protein sources, you can serve any of these:

  • tofu
  • egg yolk
  • quinoa
  • cheese
  • beans
  • yogurt

For dessert, how about some:

  • steamed apples and cranberries
  • steamed apples
  • rhubarb and apples
  • pumpkin and apples

So consider a home-made meal for your baby’s first Thanksgiving – you just may end up sticking with it long after the holiday is over.

And now a new concern with Bisphenol-A…

Green MommyLast year, the realization of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in our toilet paper was all over the blogosphere. BPA is an endocrine disruptor that can cause disorders with chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. BPA is not put in toilet paper intentionally, but rather due to post-consumer sources of recycled thermal printing paper such as credit card receipts.

Just this week, I read an article from U.S. News & World Report (thanks Vital Juice Moms for bringing it to our attention!) in which one scientist’s concerns over BPA exposure from receipts is reported. John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry feels this BPA exposure is more harmful than that from cans and baby bottles. BPA from receipts can be transferred from your hands, onto your food, or is absorbed through the skin.

Mr. Warner explains that:

“When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out]. The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.”

U.S. News & World Report explains that by free, “it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.”

Mr. Warner  suggests that pregnant women should wash their hands after touching any receipts since the ones containing BPA are indistinguishable from those that do not. Mr. Warner’s observations have not been published yet or peer-reviewed.

Photo from Flickr by Dan4th

Photo from Flickr by Dan4th

Diapers, diapers, and more diapers: What’s a Green Girl to do?

Green MommyBefore Girl Wonder was born, I looked into different diaper options for her. I started at the top of the eco-friendly choices and considered cloth diapers. I live in an apartment, though, with a washer and dryer four flights down, so washing them would have really been time consuming. I also didn’t think my neighbors would appreciate using the machines after I did.

So what’s a Green Girl to do when cloth isn’t an option? Let’s take a look.

gdiapers

gdiapersGdiapers are probably your “greenest” option after cloth since they’re plastic free and biodegradable. They can be flushed down the toilet (after giving them a “swirl” with a stick that’s part of the gdiapers kit), composted, or tossed into the garbage if you don’t compost or trust your plumbing. I tried gdiapers but didn’t stick with them because I personally didn’t like how wet they got so quickly. It is recommended that you change gdiapers more often than other “disposable” diapers and this, along with the fact that they’re a bit more costly, led me to look for other options. Gdiapers can be found at Babies R Us, Diapers.com, and Amazon, to name a few.

Nature Babycare Diapers

natures babycareNature Babycare Diapers are what I would consider the next down on the “eco” scale. They have been awarded the Eco Label “Good Environmental Choice” of Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), have no oil-based plastics against baby’s skin, are chlorine-free with natural based material, their packaging is based on 100% natural renewable material which is 100 % compostable, and are latex, fragrance, or TBT (tributyl tin) free. Nature Babycare diapers are made from 60% renewable raw materials, however, they are not 100% bio-degradable at this time. Nature Babycare diapers can be found at Diapers.com and some Target stores.

Tushies Gel Free Diapers

Tushies_AllSizes_LargeTushies Gel Free Diapes are latex-free, perfume-free, dye-free, TBT-free, GMO-free, are made from Chlorine-Free woodpulp, and do not contain recycled materials. Because these Tushies diapers are gel-free, they will need to be changed more often. Tushies Gel Free diapers can be purchased at Diapers.com

Seventh Generation

seventh diapersSeventh Generation’s diapers are Chlorine free, fragrance free, latex free, and hypoallergenic. They are not biodegradable. My daughter uses these at night and I’ve been very happy with them. Seventh Generation diapers can be found at many locations including Babies R Us and Diapers.com. I get mine through Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” where it works out to about $8.00 a pack.

Earth’s Best Diapers

earths bestEarth’s Best Diapers are Chlorine free, latex-free, dye-free, perfume-free, and contain natural absorbent material such as corn and wheat. These diapers also are not biodegradable. I personally feel they have a really nice fit. Earth’s Best diapers can be found at Babies R Us, Amazon, and Diapers.com.

Huggies Pure and Natural Diapers

huggiesHuggies Pure and Natural Diapers are made from organic cotton. That’s where the “eco friendliness” ends. I  feel Huggies is pushing a whole lot of greenwashing with these. Because there’s no law stating how much organic material has to be used to call an item “organic”, these diapers could be made of 100% organic cotton, or very little. These diapers are also bleached with Dioxane.

So tell us, dear readers, have you tried any of these? Do you have any cloth diaper experience? Do you live outside the United States and use “eco” diapers I haven’t listed? We want to know.