It's Easy Being a Green Mama


It’s not easy being green-during a hurricane
September 18, 2017, 12:25 am
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So, the past two weeks, since I wrote my last blog post, have been nuts.  We had a hurricane.  We survived, I’ve come out the other side intact, my house mostly the same (with a little more water and a few more holes than before), and most importantly, my friends and family safe.

Image result for hurricane irma satellite beach

I made my pledge to not buy groceries with the hurricane on the radar.  At the time, we didn’t have a good idea which way it was headed, and I was optimistic that it was not coming towards our home.  I fully intended not to get any food even if we did get a hurricane.  Living in hurricane alley, I’ve been through my share of natural disasters.  The first few days of that week pledge, it was helpful to not be buying any groceries anyway, because I wanted, if the storm was coming, to use up all of my perishable food so that it wouldn’t get wasted when the storm came.

As Irma got closer, I broke down.  I caved.  It started with bottled water.  You know how I feel about bottled water.  I got some partly to send to Texas for Harvey relief, and also a case for our family.  A few days later, it looked like we were in the cone of uncertainty.  We’d started boarding up our house, and talking about if we would leave.  I started looking at our pantry, figuring out what we could eat if we lost power.  In 2004, when the eyes of two hurricanes passed through our county two weeks apart, we were without power for about a month.  I ended up at the grocery store like everyone else, stocking up on canned goods; shelf stable milk, the most processed bread you can imagine, nut butter, squeezable jelly, and all kinds of granola bars.  I did not comparison shop or clip coupons.  I also stocked up on disposable diapers.  And I forgot my reusable grocery bags.

We ended up driving north to a relative’s house, and staying there for the duration of the hurricane, and returned home in awful traffic not long after the worst had passed.  We were very blessed when we got home, we had power and running water.  There hasn’t even been a boil water notice.  However, we are conserving water until our city water is back up to normal, so our youngest is still not back in cloth diapers.  And we’ve been drinking lots of bottled water.

I feel awful about my lack of green-ness.  There are certain things I did do, like not eat meat, but I did eat a lot of processed food.  A LOT.  And I have no excuse about forgetting my reusable bags.  If I had prepared earlier, thought ahead, I know I could have had gotten or made healthier choices for the food I packed.

Every year in our state of Florida, we have hurricane days just before hurricane season begins when they drop sales tax on items that you might need during a hurricane, like generators.  I decided that next year, in an effort to be more green, I will stock up on GREEN hurricane supplies.  For example, I can get or make less processed food that will still keep.  Some of the food items that I bought that was as upset about were lara bars, dried mango,  and Rx bars.  I could have made all of these items.   Next hurricane season, I’m definitely just going to spend a weekend making a bunch of these kinds of things, and then if we don’t get a hurricane, I’ll have lots of snacks.

The night before we evacuated, we had a hurricane feast, where I prepared just about everything left in our refrigerator and freezer, and the family tried to eat as much as we could.  Even so, we still ended up throwing away a bunch of things the first trash day we’ve had.  I hate wasting food.  I went to the grocery store and got all kinds of fruit and vegetables, and it was so exciting to cook a meal and have fresh food.

One thing that is still going on here is a lack of gasoline.  It’s getting better, but can be a bit tricky to find.  Today was my first day going more than a mile from our house in any direction.  I have had a full tank for several days, but between traffic lights being out and me not wanting to have to find gas if I use up a full tank, I have been staying close by.  So my challenge for this week is not to use more than half a tank of gas.  School starts again on Monday, so I’ll be doing school pick-up and drop-off, but I plan to stay local.  Walk and ride bikes whenever possible.  I certainly spent enough time in the car the last week.

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Cooking for your Baby; Part 1. Learning the Hard Way

There’s a lot of pressure on parents and caretakers to properly feed infants.  Besides the fact that their brains and bodies are growing rapidly, they are forming lifelong tastes for food.  Like most parents, I wanted my daughter to enjoy eating, and learn to love healthy food.  I also want her to be open to trying new things.  I have learned that the hard way that the  experience of eating is not just about food, but also about textures.

Offering solids to an infant is fraught with peril.  When to offer, what to offer, how much, how frequently-there’s so much to take in.  And the answers to these questions is different for each child.

Introducing new foods has definitely not gone according to my plan.  As hard as it is, I’m glad I learned early on.  I had this idea, that I would introduce foods on a schedule, and that it would be predictable.  We started off so well.   She loved everything she tried, and would eat things like crazy.  My husband and I would make big batches of baby food, so we always had enough.  Then we hit a snag, when at seven months, my precious girl would not touch any solids at all.  It was back to square one.

I got creative.  I learned to be flexible.  I have learned a lot of tricks, which I would love to share someday.  One of the most important lessons for new parents to remember is what works for my child might not work for yours.   They’re individuals; mine is independent, stubborn, and sensitive.  Wonder where she got those traits from?

Throughout this process, I’ve been cooking for her.  It takes a few extra minutes, compared to buying ready-made food, but it’s so worth it.  I have control over what she’s eating, and I can ensure that what she’s getting is exactly what I’ve intended.   It seems like the next logical step, after breastfeeding.  I want to continue to offer her the best nutrition possible, and nothing more.  Plus, there’s the cost.  Buying organic jars of baby food is much more expensive than doing it yourself.  And it’s incredibly easy to make most purees.  My biggest example of this is yogurt intended for very young children.  Most of it is fruit flavored.  I would love it if the ingredients were yogurt and fruit, but there’s always “natural flavoring”.  So I buy plain yogurt and add my own fruit.   It really ends up being a heck of a lot cheaper too, and so easy.

I don’t like to eat natural or artificial flavors, so I try not to feed them to my rapidly growing child.  This is such a crucial time in her development.  Even before I became a mother, I had become something of a food nut.  I didn’t start out this way.  When I was a child, I pictured myself eating ice cream and french fries for three meals a day, with candy for snacks.  When I was in college, I ate the worst junk food in the world.  I have nothing to say for myself, except that I am reformed.  As I got out on my own, I gradually shifted away from processed food.  Today,  I follow Michael Pollan’s food rules for the most part, which means I eat a mostly vegetarian diet.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am constantly eating, and that I love to eat.  I really enjoy fresh, whole foods, and I am able to do it on a budget.

The hard part of eating well is making the time to do it, but I make it a priority.  Often, when my daughter is napping, I’m prepping food.  I spend Sundays making large batches of things for later on.  I also take her with me to farmers’ markets and produce stands.   Children learn by example, and I want her to eat real food. Part of eating well is being connected to your food; knowing where it comes from.   I can spend years talking about eating real food.  I just want to emphasize how important real food is to our lives.  Everyone needs to eat, no matter what your occupation or passion in life is.   Why not fill those meals up with healthy food?   I find that making food yourself, from whole ingredients, pretty much takes care of the healthy part.  You won’t need to worry about calories, cholesterol, or fat, if you make it yourself.  It’s true, just because you made the chocolate eclairs from 100% fair trade organic cacao doesn’t make it good for you.  But it takes quite a long time to make that eclair, so it’s a big treat.  And this green mama believes firmly in the motto, everything in moderation.

Green mamas definitely want to feed their families well.  We need to get our babies started on the right path, and that means, if it all possible, cooking from scratch.  And if you make it yourself, it’s so much easier to do it cheaply.  It’s especially easy in the beginning, and so next time, I’ll talk about first foods.



A Day in the Life of a Cloth Diapering Mama, Part 2 of Everything Cloth Diapers

Once I convinced my husband on the advantages of cloth diapers, he researched everything about it.   Thanks to the internet, there’s a lot of information on cloth diapers, and it can be overwhelming.  My husband was a bit hesitant because of the logistics.  For example, he wanted to know how to deal with the poop.  It wasn’t like with disposables that you could just toss the soiled diaper in the trash.  When I was solo, I couldn’t just leave the baby on the changing table while I rinsed out this diaper.  This may seem to be a small thing, but I really had no good answer.   There were so many variables in this cloth diapering process that I had to work out while on the job.

I would like you to be able to hit the ground running, and not have to deal with our comedy of errors.  This post will be about a day in the life of cloth diapering.

Like any other baby who wears diapers, our daughter has her own special diaper pail.  Except that instead of throwing her diapers in the trash, they get tossed in the washer.  First thing every morning, I grab this pail and toss the diapers in the washer.  I  rinse them in hot water first, to kill any germs and get rid of any solid waste.    Everyone’s washer is different; on ours, I set it to 2nd rinse, ultraclean, hot water. For detergent, we use Planet.  It is fairly inexpensive and locally available at a health food store.  I estimate we normally buy it once every two months.  Before I put them in the dryer, I check for stains. All the microbes have been killed with the hot water, so the stains cannot harm the diapers.

What I do to remove stains is so simple, eco-friendly, and frugal, it gives me shivers.  It is the epitome of green parenting.   Guess what it is? Hint: The prefolds are white.  Enough suspense?  Here it is: I take the stained diapers, and stick them in the sunshine.  That’s it! Sun both removes the stains and sterilizes the diapers once and for all.  On a sunny day, it’s pretty quick.  On a cloudy day, it takes a little longer.  No scrubbing, no spot treatment, no tricks.

After a little while, I go out and check the line and if they’re white again, I throw them in the dryer.  You could just leave all your diapers on the line and let them dry.  The more the diapers are used, the more they’re quilted.  Laundering them only reinforces their usefulness.  So you never have to hesitate about washing them.  If in doubt, change a diaper.  Throw it in the wash.  What’s the worst that can happen?

After the diapers are dry, I fold them so that when I take the diapers out to put them on they’re ready to go. When my daughter was a newborn, I did the liquid poo fold, or newspaper fold.  Here’s a link to a video to see how to do it for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrOk_JRUDX8

When my daughter’s poop frequency slowed down, I began using the girl fold, which is even faster to do. See this link: http://www.allaboutbabyboutique.com/pages/FoldingAPrefold.php

By the time I’ve gotten a wash going, my daughter is usually up for the day.  Of course, the first thing I do is change her diaper.  The whole thing goes in her diaper pail.  Then of course, I put on a clean diaper.  We have a mixture of different kinds of diapers: we mostly use pre-folds and covers, but we also have pocket diapers.  Usually I  use the pre-folds and covers, I find that they are more absorbent and versatile.  To put on a diaper, I put the pre-fold in first; and hold it in place using a snappi.  This isn’t necessary because the cover will keep the prefold in place.  It’s mostly for my peace of mind.  Then I put the cover on.  That’s it, in under a minute, she’s got a fresh diaper on and is ready to go.

With pre-folds and covers, the pre-fold always goes in the wash after each use, but the cover can be aired out and reused several times.  My rule of thumb is that if she poops or her gets completely soaked that equals a cleaning.  Also, at the end of the day, all the covers that were used that day get washed.

So here’s the super awesome thing about breastfed babies: their poop is water soluble.  It’s really exciting for cloth diapering mamas because it’s so easy to clean their poopy diapers.   Before my daughter started eating solids, I would toss her poopy diapers directly into the wash and know that they would come clean.   Now that my daughter eats solids, her diapers get rinsed out before they get washed.  After I change her diaper, I use our sprayer to rinse off the diaper.

One of the great features of cloth diapers are the options.  Now that my daughter usually sleeps through the night, I try not to change her diaper.  So at bedtime, I put a soaker pad inside her prefold, and put a cover over it. We’ve never had leakage issues.

So that’s my typical routine, and it is super easy.  For me, one extra load of laundry equals less expense and waste for our family.    It means I’m not throwing disposable diapers into a landfill.   It means I’m not exposing my daughter to harsh chemicals.  I spend about five extra minutes a day to get this reward.  If you need extra convincing, my next post will really break down the expense.



The Beauty of Cloth Diapering, Part 1 of everything cloth diapers
April 11, 2012, 12:44 am
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When I first told my mother I wanted to use cloth diapers for my baby, she was skeptical.  She had used cloth for her first baby, and given up after her second baby (me) was born.  They were too much work, definitely not as convenient as disposable.   She tried to talk me out of it.   They leak.  They take so much time and energy to get clean and sterile.    Those pins!  The smells!  It wouldn’t last very long before I’d hate them too.   The upfront cost is intimidating, too.

That may have been true thirty years ago, but cloth diapers have come a long way since then.    In my experience with them, they are more convenient than disposables.  They are a prime example of how to be a green mama.  They are green, and they save green.

It’s true: there is an initial investment getting started, but most cloth diapers last for at least two children.  It’s been estimated that from birth to potty training cloth costs a tenth of disposables.  And you will never hesitate to change a diaper when you know that you will never have to run out in the middle of the night because you’ve run out of diapers. Whether it’s the breathable fabrics used or the lack of chemicals against delicate skin, most babies get diaper rash less frequently with cloth.

When you’re done with your diapers, you can usually sell them.  I had a friend tell me she was surprised by how much people were willing to pay for a used diaper.  You also might be able to find used diapers for sale on Craigslist or at consignment shops.

It can be intimidating trying to decide between all the options.  We have a few of each, and later on I’ll let you know which one I prefer.  There are several options for cloth diapers.    The three big categories are: pre-fold diapers with a cover, pocket diapers, and all-in-one diapers.    No matter the option, there are two layers involved:  an absorbent fabric layer (the diaper itself) that goes next to baby’s skin.  The outer layer is waterproof to keep fluids from leaking out.

The other big choice may be whether or not to use a diaper service.  A diaper service typically picks up soiled diapers and delivers clean ones.   While an added convenience, it also adds an expense and a carbon footprint to cloth diapering.   Cloth diapers can be easy to clean, and I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

All-in-one diapers are probably the most convenient of cloth diapers.  They come as one piece.  Like disposables, you put them on the baby without having to fold them or put them in place, and when soiled, take them off and throw them in the wash in one step.  The cons of this system can be that they’re more expensive, and that they are less absorbent.

Pocket diapers are similar to all-in-ones, except that the absorbent layer (essentially the diaper) can be removed.  They are less convenient for washing, but they can be more versatile for absorbency.  It is easy to add layers if you need to go some time without changing your child, such as overnight. However, the most economical choice is usually covers and prefolds.  The covers go over the diaper, and pads can be added for extra absorbency.

The choices may seem overwhelming.    It can be especially hard if you have no way of trying them out in person before buying.   I was lucky enough to get someone to demonstrate the different options before I committed to anything. Diaper Junction, along with other companies, will let you test drive their diapers.

The environmental reasons are also huge.   Most disposable diapers end up in landfills, where they linger for hundreds of years.  To make them uses much more materials and energy than making cloth.    And while the manufacturers recommend disposing of fecal matter in the toilet, most parents dispose of them in the trash.

The best reason to pick cloth diapers is because they are the best choice for your child.  My daughter had horrible diaper rash when we used disposables because we were traveling.  We’ve never had leakage issues, never had laundry pile up, never had an explosion that could not be contained.   In my next post I’ll go into the minutiae of cloth diapers, and how they fit into our lives.



Getting Started as a Green Mama
March 23, 2012, 1:21 am
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The instant I held my newborn baby, I fell head over heels in love.  I promised to take care her of her the best I could.   I wanted to give her a beautiful life, and to pass her a world that was at least as beautiful a place as I had.  Long before she was born, while I dreamed about being a mother, I knew there were values I wanted to pass on. I wanted to give my children a sense of responsibility, while creating for them a pure and happy environment to grow up in.  In short, I wanted to be a green mama: both earth-friendly and frugal.  Conservative in its truest sense.  I am doing my part to preserve the earth for her, and doing it on a budget.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been environmentally minded.   As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed more of my sense of thrift, mostly through my husband.  In a way, we’re both thinking long-term, planning for the future.  In the beginning, these two values seemed like a clash, but in truth it’s just the opposite.  It’s a great partnership, and works together very well.   We’ve long been in the habit of turning off all the lights and appliances, anything that uses power, when it’s not needed.  We carpooled to work, and biked everywhere we could.   We started our own garden and composted.  We bought in bulk, and made our own individual servings.  I even went meatless; my husband still eats meat on occasion, but only organic when he does eat it. We eat locally and sustainably whenever possible, buying fresh food at farmers’ markets and farm stands.  We try to use pure and simple products to clean our house and ourselves, and we make a lot of things ourselves.

        We did a lot of research into green parenting in preparation of the arrival of our daughter.  When she was born, she became a part of our commitment to live green.    It may be a little unusual, but she doesn’t know any other life.  She wears cloth diapers and eats home-made baby food.    She is proof that a life lived green can be awesome!

 In this blog, I plan to explore parenting that’s easy on both the wallet and the planet.  In my time as a mother, I have found out a lot of great things that have worked for our family.

Green mamas:

  • Reuse, reduce, and recycle!
  • Eat real food, and love it.
  • Try to think about what’s best for everyone, not what is the easiest right now.
  • Can do it themselves.
  • Create a great life for their families.