Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Sweet Cha-Ching of the Holidays

Well, my friends. It's that time of year again. Time to snap those wallets shut and think about the true meaning of the holidays (even if you are not religious). I really love tradition, and celebrating with my family and friends. And usually, making the green choice involves having forethought and carefully planning how to tackle an event. So here are a few successful strategies I've found for limiting the giving-and-getting beast over the upcoming holiday season. Consider this a to-do-list for myself for the fall.


  • Make our costumes; the more I can upcycle the better (signed up for a basic sewing class!)
  • Buy pre-packaged treats to offer kids at the door (I just ordered fair trade chocolates from Global Exchange) including non-food options like stickers and pencils, but make (more alluring) homemade stuff for the kids we know -- like caramel apples or silly looking cookies
  • Get my kids to collect for Unicef
  • Order kit to educate adults about fair-trade chocolate issues (from Global Exchange - deadline is Oct. 1 for groups and Oct. 13 for individuals)
  • Make our decorations (ghosts out of tissues or handkerchiefs, paper-and-paint old-school decor)
  • Head out to the country for apple picking, hay rides, and selecting the perfect jack o'lantern from the pumpkin patch
  • Have a blast carving pumpkins and eating roasted pumpkin seeds

  • Bask in the brief, merciful respite from sugar-laden and gift-glorching holidays
  • Eat favorite family goodies like oyster stuffing, stuffed peppers, and make-ahead potatoes; take walk through woods if weather allows
  • Cook and then wolf down some of these pumpkin goodies (note to self: cook actual pumpkins to make puree rather than using BPA-lined cans)
  • Read books on giving thanks and make a Tree of Thanks like my sister-in-law did last Thanksgiving (cut out kid-sized hands out of construction paper; everyone take a moment to write notes before dinner; have everyone read aloud, then attach to branch centerpiece)

  • Try to get family members to get sustainable/used goods that we really want/need
  • If we can stop ourselves and others from celebrating with things (depends on the relationship), ask for donations to charities we love
  • Give others homemade items (shop Crafty Bastards today! shop Etsy online)
  • Give the gift of time (babysit, shovel snow, rake leaves, make dinner, walk dogs, corral kids into playdates, generally allow people you love to breathe)
  • Make sure that the holidays are about special traditions (like seeing lights/holiday displays, making gingerbread houses, singing carols, reading special stories, seeing loved ones)
  • When wrapping gifts, use reusable cloth bags instead of wrapping paper; if using giftwrap, buy recycled and reuse both it and the ribbons

Don't Forget the Solstice!
One of the most wonderful things about this time of year is the ancient tradition of honoring the seasonal changes as the light dwindles and the evergreens promise ongoing life. Honoring nature adds to the wonder of the winter holidays.

Take A Breath
And a final note to self? Relax! Remember that even if your darling children have never eaten anything but hemp granola for breakfast, they won't grow a third arm if Lucky Charms come in that Christmas stocking (hey, my children's Easter Bunny brings fresh spring vegetables... couldn't Santa just bring pickled carrots? I'm just sayin!) 'Cause although I wrestle every year with the emotional connections we sometimes build through giving vs. the materialism that undermines the genuine sharing and love of the holidays, I do think that we all need ways to kindle warmth with each other. Hope you have a great fall building traditions with your families and strengthening your ties to your community.

This is my contribution to this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted on Monday, Sept. 29 by GreenBeanDreams. Go check out the other entries on the commercialization of the holidays!

Read more!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Asbestos Safety: Protecting Your Family and Environment

I recently got a request from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center to help spread the word about health and safety concerns, not just for laypeople in residential and commercial buildings, but also for workers in aging coal and oil industrial buildings. I'd heard, of course, about health risks associated with asbestos, but I'd never connected it with the energy industry. I asked for info about that area of concern as well as the family-focused take on asbestos.

"Firstly, many people believe asbestos is a hazard of the past, when the fact is that asbestos still exists within nearly 80% of structures built prior to 1978. Asbestos products were banned in the late 1970's but still exist in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, drywall, insulation, and other home construction materials. These are common, but only hazardous if they're damaged or aged.
If you have asbestos products in your home, you should be aware of where they are and what their condition is. Additionally, children should not be allowed within the vicinity of asbestos products because something as innocent as a child's curiosity can render a product hazardous for the entire family. Asbestos exposure has been conclusively linked to the rare cancer mesothelioma, a malignancy for which there is no known cure."

Thanks so much for sending this info! So, my basic question is this: how would a mother know if there were asbestos in her home? Or in any other building (school, daycare, etc.) where it might jeopardize her kids' health? Are there general guidelines of trouble areas you could give the moms reading my blog?

"The important thing to remember for homeowners and particularly those with children, is that because asbestos was so widely used, it must be assumed it is within your home in at least some capacity if the structure is more than 30 years old. For reference let me give some of the most common areas where asbestos would be found in a home.

Pipe coverings: Asbestos was used extensively as a pipe insulation in cold weather climates. For instance a basement or garage will likely have older HVAC/plumbing piping and ventilation, much of which was insulated with asbestos insulation sleeves. Any damage or fraying of these sleeves presents a hazard.

Flooring: Asbestos was often used in linoleum and, floor tile, and even tile glue because it was extremely fire-retardant. Older, damaged flooring should be examined by an asbestos consultant if there is a fear it may contain asbestos.

Ceiling tiles: Foam-based drop ceiling tiles are common in basements and other rooms. These were often made with asbestos to reduce fire hazards around lighting fixtures. When you handle these tiles, you can feel how brittle they are. Any damaged to these (such as water damage) can make older tiles extremely hazardous. If you have these in your home, they should be
monitored carefully for damage.

As far as outside the home, it seems each day a new school is being closed for a few days because of an asbestos scare. This is not to say that all schools contain asbestos, but many are large municipal buildings with extensive HVAC and plumbing fixtures, that like I said above were insulated with asbestos. Districts are typically very open with parents and faculty with regards to asbestos history in school buildings.

Damaged asbestos products should be examined by a state licensed asbestos consultant and removed by a licensed abatement company. These companies are in compliance with the proper removal and environmentally friendly disposal methods for asbestos products.

Asbestos however, is not only a hazard in the home, but also in industrial settings, particularly in the processing of fossil fuels. Asbestos was heavily utilized in coal plants and oil refineries for more than a century before it was finally banned. But like residential structures, it still remains in the older fixtures of these environmentally unfriendly industries.

Workers in these industries have among the highest rates of mesothelioma of any occupation. Exposure typically occurs around boilers, piping, and older insulation fixtures. These men and women are being needlessly exposed as our backwards environmental policies continue to prop up these industries which damage the future of our plane. A decreased reliance upon fossil fuels in general would make these industries look toward more safe and environmentally friendly energy options. We see now that we can save the planet for not only for our children through alternative energy options, but also the health of our industrial workers.

For more information concerning mesothelioma or mesothelioma treatment please
visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center."

Thanks for the info!
Read more!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Too Late For Cloth Diapers? LemonCadet Guest Posts!

Well, I could not be more excited. I threw a random challenge at one of my favorite Etsy crafters a little while ago (What? You don't fall in love with the people who make your kids' clothes? And then pepper them with questions? Maybe you should be shopping on etsy!).

LemonCadet? I asked, should I bother to switch my almost-two-year-old-boy to cloth diapers? I figure lots of folks out there already do the comparisons (like I did) back when they are pregnant, but who's out there doing the math for us late bloomers (heh, heh)? I won't bore you with our tale of switching from a diaper service to the 7th Generation whole wheat diapers and now on to the theoretically compostable Nature BabyCare diapers (for the moment). If there's anyone out there on the fence like me on the cloth scene, check out the LemonCadet wisdom on the washable nappies. And if you live in DC, you've got to check out her a-dorable stuff at the CraftyBastards fair in Adams Morgan on Sunday, Sept. 28th. See you there!

LemonCadet: "Since I have recently become absolutely obsessed with cloth diapers, MamaBird here asked me if it was too late to start using cloth on her 21-month old son. Always up for a challenge, I got started on the research --and the math.

There are many reasons to use cloth. Many mamas use cloth because of the environmental impact (I've read that one baby's disposables take up as much space in a landfill as a car!). Others choose cloth because their children are allergic to the chemicals in the "sposies." One of the most common reasons to use cloth is that it's just plain cheaper (well, it can be). MamaBird will spend almost $500 on disposable diapers for the few months left until potty training using only 3 - 4 diapers per day (the average age of potty training for boys is 31 months, longer for kids not in day care). It will be devastating for her if we add up just how much she has spent on sposies so far so we'll leave it up to the imagination while remembering that newborns go through at least 12 diapers a day for the first few weeks. My 5-month old is still using about 8 - 9 dipes a day. And how many times have you put on a clean diaper only to have the kid pee on it before you get the tabs closed?

I personally use cloth because I hate throwing stuff away. We recycle, we compost, we use dishtowels to dry our hands and hankies to blow our noses. It only made sense to use cloth diapers. We have a washer/dryer in our basement and a clothesline in the yard. Hanging up the wet diapers on a sunny day has become a routine that I look forward to. I enjoy stuffing my clean pocket dipes in the evening after the baby's in bed. It's one of the few mindless things I get to do.

At the bare minimum, I would suggest that MamaBird buy about 15 pocket diapers and at least 20 inserts. This is an easy combination allowing for fewer trips to the washing machine and little to no dryer use. Pocket diapers (the most popular brands are bumGenius for their one-size diaper and FuzziBunz for their sized diapers) have an inner layer of a polyester fabric that wicks wetness away from the baby. The outer shell is PUL, a waterproof material that keeps the clothes from getting wet. Inside the pocket there's room to stuff an insert.

I prefer FuzziBunz because they have snaps that are harder for babies to remove than velcro. They also dry really fast --and that's the key in this experiment. Inserts take longer to dry; that's why I recommend having more of those on hand. Most people get by with one microfiber insert, heavy wetters may need two. Plain microfiber doesn't take too long to dry but hemp and bamboo do take a while. Many mamas opt for an insert that combines layers of microfiber and hemp for maximum absorbency without a lot of bulk.

Sadly, I recommend that she stick with sposies at night because I have yet to find a good nighttime option that I feel comfortable sharing. This may soon change.

The goods: I found seconds at the FuzziBunz site for only $12 each! Several websites sell packs of inserts at a discount so 20 microfiber inserts would run about $50 (you would need more of these because of drying times). That's a total of $230; a whole lot less than will be spent on sposies. And just think about the value if you plan to use them on more than one kid. If not, you can always give them away, donate them, or resell them. Another option is to buy used. I have bought FuzziBunz with inserts in excellent condition for only $15 each.

Of course there are hidden costs. I read on my favorite cloth diapering forum, The Diaper Pin, that it costs about $5 a week to wash and dry cloth. That's even less if you line dry. You can put a drying rack in your tub or hang the diapers with hangers from your shower curtain bar if you don't have easy access to a clothesline. If you want to go out for the day, you need a wetbag to haul your diapers home with you ($15) although you could reuse plastic shopping bags. We use a washable pail liner and a laundry hamper to store our dirty diapers at home. These cost $15 - $20 but you could always repurpose a plastic bucket with a lid. You could buy some cloth wipes or cut up your own from old t-shirts and towels. You could buy wipe solution or make your own.

So let's add about $45 to this to be generous for a revised total of $275 --still almost 50% less than what would be spent on disposables. And this is just what I recommend. Everyone has their own favorite brands. This is just a suggestion that I think will work for someone who doesn't have the best access to her washing machine.

On the other hand, you could spend hundreds and hundreds on fancy organic diapers and matching covers but cloth can be done easily and cheaply. Either way, you will get addicted."

Thank you, LemonCadet! What more could I need, personal researcher?! You rock and I can't wait to see your new yetis on Sunday! My little guy already sleeps with two "monnies" (that's monster to you and me) so I have a feeling a little more furry love may be in our future.

P.S. The gorgeous pictures are all from LemonCadet: of the beautiful cloth diapers and wipes she sewed, as well as her darling baby girl, Zadie! Check out Zadie's beautiful nursery (the Flickr set is amazing) if you dig LemonCadet's artistic vision as much as

I do. The room is lovely without being sappy. Kind of like LC. Read more!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dragon Cake: Mountain Mama Guest Posts!

A dear friend in Colorado sent these pics and directions for making dragon cake (her little guy just had a birthday) and a description of her kiddo's green birthday party. They were so cool that I just had to share. I am always on the lookout for eco-friendly and flat-out fabulous party ideas.

Mountain Mama: "Mountain Daddy and I stayed up pretty late the night before decorating his cake. I had them baked and cut the cakes earlier in the day but we started decorating pretty late at night and it takes time. But we were both so proud of the cake.

Everyone said the party was great. We held the party at a really neat playground. We reserved a shelter in case of rain. The rain was a close call--it rained all day Friday and all Saturday night. We had a husband-wife team put on a 40 minute interactive show--kind of like Jim Carey doing comedy and theatrics for 6 year olds. It was very interactive--Mountain Boy was sweating from all the jumping around. That went over very well!

The toy exchange went fine. The kids brought wrapped things (mostly used toys). I put all the toys in a duffle bag and just handed each kid a toy as they left. We asked politely but firmly for the kids to open the presents in the car, not at the park (that was key!). At one point, I was surrounded by 8 kids wanting gifts. Yikes. I told them they would each get one when they left the party. So I think some kids went and found their parents so they could leave! Which was fine. After 2 hours...I was used up! One kid didn't want the wrapped gift I gave him--he wanted to pick. I said this was the way we were doing it today.

I also bought compostable plates for pizza and cups for lemonade. We used "Preserve" washable plates for cake and used up old plastic forks. I took all the waste home and sorted it--compost, dishwasher. It was interesting--all that I threw away was leftover pizza and cake. I did take a marker and write their names on their lemonade cups.

This cake was mostly organic, except the fruit-roll-up wings, and some natural candies. We used natural orange dye made from turmeric (smile).

For the dragon cake, we made THREE batches of Fannie Farmer icing. A DOUBLE batch that we tinted with a lot of natural orange dye. We made a THIRD batch that we didn't tint (ran out of dye)--we used this white frosting as the "glue" to hold the legs, tail, head and belly together.

Decorations - we used natural raspberry licorice for claws, chocolate covered almonds for nostrils, natural fruit chews for eyebrows, Paul Newman's organic chocolate cookies that we cut into triangles for back scales, marshmallows w/chocolate chips for eyes, fruit roll-ups for wings (you have to wash scooby-doo printing off with wet paper towel). Put wings in cake at party.

1st Tip - Cut cake into dragon pieces. Then put on wax paper and freeze. Ice after frozen. Crumbs weren't a problem during icing.

2nd Tip - Cut scraps of wax paper to slid under all cake parts. Then ice cake. Remove wax paper. Voila! Clean cake board.

3rd Tip - We don't have a big fridge. So we put the dragon's body on our big cutting board (dragon's butt right up to edge of board). Then we put the tail on a smaller cutting board (tail base right up to edge of board). When we presented the cake, we put the two cutting boards together--tail base to dragon butt. Voila! Full dragon.

Cake Mix: Whole Foods organic yellow cake mix

Frosting: Confectioners' Frosting II (The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham)

* makes about 1 cup
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (we used butter)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar, approximately (I sifted--better results, no lumps)
2 tablespoons cream or milk, approximately

Cream the shortening and the salt together, then add the sugar and stir briskly. Stir in the cream or milk and beat well, adding more sugar or more milk if necessary to get an easily spreadable consistency. This is enough to frost an 8-inch two-layer.

*Here's the recipe for the dragon cake--read comments if you make it (we bought a yellow cake mix from Whole Foods--tasted great! We made 3 batches of buttercream frosting from Fannie Farmer's cookbook--awesome too: butter, powdered sugar, milk, cream of tartar).

* Slightly bigger photo of the same cake."

Thanks, Mountain Mama! You and Mountain Daddy rock and I bet your little guy was so thrilled with his cake. Give him a birthday hug from us.

Read more!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can EcoLiving Be A Feminist Act? BlogHer Post

I'm a little behind in my cross-posting -- I put this post up on BlogHer on Friday, in response to the feature story in this month's Brain, Child. It's a great set of reflections from the author of Grassfed Gourmet (and a much more off-the-grid eco mama than me - think literal milking of the cows). I so agree with her; living sustainably doesn't have to be a throwback, antifeminist stance. Read more!

Just Say No to Faux Pockets: DC Metro Moms Post

Believe it or not, I am ranting about the ridiculosity of faux pockets today over at DC Metro Moms. Someone had to do it. Read more!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Honey Whole Wheat Spiced Apple Cake

I'm on snack duty for my kid's classroom this week and decided on the spur of the moment this morning to whip up a tasty treat using our CSA apples. Could I just use the muffin mix in the freezer? Nooooooo. I had to get all complicated and try a new recipe, one which I would modify on the fly. Luckily, it all worked out fine and it's actually quite delicious. I'm just sayin', if you only get up at 6:30am and the cakes need to bake for 60-70 minutes? Well, you'd better start peeling the apples. Oh, and TGIF!

This cake is very moist and dense. You can definitely tell it's got cream cheese in it. And it's not too sweet, which is a plus for moi, but if you want a little extra treat, you might want to whip up the Vanilla Glaze that I skipped (recipe at the end). I was shooting for something along the lines of a whole wheat apple bread that I could pass off as a cake for the five year old crowd. Not to get all Jessica Seinfeld on you. I'm not hiding anything besides whole wheat pastry flour in there. Although dramatically altered, this recipe is based on the Spiced Apple Coffee Cake recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Muffins book that my darling SIL gave me some years back.

Honey Whole Wheat Spiced Apple Cake

(recipe adapted to make enough to serve a full kindergarten class, with enough for 2 teachers and the principal, plus a tiny cake pan to reserve for younger sibling)

5 1/4 Cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
9 tart cooking apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, 3 lbs. (I used 3 1/4 lbs., to be precise) total weight before peeling, coring, and coarsely chopping said apples
6 TBSP strained fresh orange, lemon, or apple juice (or, in my case, the remnants of a tube of frozen OJ I have had in the freezer for approximately 7 months)
1 Cup honey
2 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temp
16 oz cream cheese at room temp
8 oz plain yogurt (notice that I ran out of cream cheese but if I had enough I would probably just use 24 oz cream cheese and omit this yogurt)
Another 1 cup honey
4 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs (I used a dozen of the Polyface medium eggs but they are really small)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. I used the kind with the little scraper built in that you can run around the bottom to get the pans out but I didn't really need that feature, as it turns out. Original recipe says you can use square baking pans or dishes. You kind of have to keep an eye on the cake to make sure it doesn't burn/the inside is done anyways, so use what you've got.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, toss the apples with the juice. Add 1 cup honey, the nutmeg, and the cinnamon.

In another bowl (a big one), using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, cream cheese, yogurt if you're using it, other 1 cup honey, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 increments and beat well until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the apples gently until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown, 60-70 minutes. I used a convection oven and it was ready in less than an hour. I was a little worried the edges would burn and I was horribly late for drop-off, dogwalk, and work, so I yanked those puppies out of there at about 52 minutes if my memory serves me correctly. General common sense like a toothpick coming out clean if you insert it into the center of the cake applies. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Like I said, I was worried about my edges, so I actually flipped the cakes out of their pans and cooled them upside down on the racks, giving them a fairly interesting latticework on the top. I'm not sure I'd recommend that strategy. Regardless, I'd get the cakes out after 5 minutes cause like I said, it's a dense little snack.

Vanilla Glaze, as promised, for those of you who'd like to add the refined sugar right on back into the recipe I diligently made all honey and whole wheat-y:

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted; 2 TBSP condensed skim milk, warmed; and 1/2 tsp vanilla until smooth and pourable. Drizzle over your still-warm cake.

Still good later in the day for an after-school snack!

Read more!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

5M4GG Post: All It Takes Is Some Green Talkin'...

Post up at Five Minutes for Going Green today, musing about word of mouth and how powerful it can be to give your ideas the green light (it's all about worms these days).... Read more!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Green Moms Carnival: Back To School Edition

Ladies and germs, children and adults, I welcome you to the September edition of the Green Moms Carnival: the Back To School Edition! Bloggers of all stripes have contributed thoughtful, funny, and inspiring ideas on greening your child's school experience. Read one, read them all...and then skip on down to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win some eco-friendly back-to-school gear.

Autumn Beck presents How To Start Cloth Diapering on a Budget posted at All About Cloth Diapers. Autumn posts about how to get started with cloth diapers for less than $125.

Tela Kayne presents School Lunches - What are Your Children Really Eating? posted at and reveals some of the scary-sounding ingredients in typical school lunches.

Karen Hanrahan presents Back To School at Best of Mother Earth with tips on everything from nurturing your own mom-self through healthy eating and exercise, to avoiding refined white sugar and consumerism, and organizing the influx of kid artwork. She's even got a tip for negating the evil of nitrate-laden hotdogs!

Diane MacEachern (author of Big Green Purse) presents Taming the Back-To-School Shopping Beast and Check Out Maggie's Organics for Back-to-School Shopping with plenty of tips like "Go shopping in your closet first!" and, well, a source for organic toddler socks which came in plenty useful in our household.

Crunchy Chicken presents Reducing School Bus Emissions with a sample letter to send to your school district to get them to consider switching from diesel to something with less harmful emissions.

EcoBurban Mom presents The Future of School Lunches (on the USDA reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act - head over there asap as you must comment by Oct. 15th) and 4 back-to-school tips for 'that mom' (including knowing your own kid - maybe he'll use up 75 #2 pencils, maybe only 1...depends on the child, right?).

Fake Plastic Fish presents E+Co Pencils Not So Eco, Actually with an insightful example of how important it is to read the label -- and then use your own judgment to decide if there's greenwashing in your hands.

'Burban Mom presents We Needs Us Good Edgewcashun at Going Green with an action item: telling your reps how much we need to fund environmental education (and PE, for cryin' out loud) via the "No Child Left Inside" legislation due up for a vote this week.

Going Green Mama presents Dishing Up Healthier Lunches and reminds us not to overpack the poor kiddo's lunchbox which means "you’re setting them up to overeat or to toss the rest, both of which have negative consequences." Hear, hear!

Gray Matters presents Going Green in Preschool with a lowdown about her kids' snack policies and how she's managed to honor her green roots while working around school regulations (something we all have to navigate).

Greeen Sheeep presents Back to Eww School with her wistful musings about saner school supply lists (can we just use up the old supplies?!) .

Sommer presents Triclosan and a Non-Toxic Classroom, Eco-Friendly School Lunch, and Healthy Breakfast Ideas posted at Green & Clean Mom. Thanks especially for the alternatives to triclosan - I haven't been able to stomach the smell of it since I was pregnant (a surefire way to tell if something's toxic, imho).

Green Bean presents Education is Eco-Logical at Green Bean Dreams with a comprehensive list of ways to push yourself beyond the basics.

Green Style Mom presents Green Education at her blog (where she's "trying to be myself, be a mom, have some style, have some fun...and do it all in an environmentally friendly way.') Love this post about ways to inculcate little greenies at home, where learning begins: "We aren't waiting until our kids are older or waiting for a good green school curriculum. In our house, we don't just act responsibly, we discuss it. We are building a base that will be expanded as they grow. A way of life that is inherent to them as recognizing letters and counting objects."

Green Talk presents Thrifty Is The New Green for Back To School Supplies with a paean to being thrifty and using up what you've got before heading out for (eco-friendly) supplies. She's also written up a great rundown of Eco Fundraising Made Easy and Profitable tips (like recycling phone books! yeah!) and a snapshot of Project Kool which is also a fundraiser (reusable lunch sacks) dreamed up by a 12 year old!

Jennae Petersen presents Green Rooms in a Box Series: A Modern, Eco-Friendly Nursery Under $2500 posted at Green Your Decor. Jennae notes, "This eco-friendly nursery costs less than $2500 overall, and every single item in the room has green qualities. Not a bad budget if you're starting from scratch, from the ground up."

Mary Hunt presents Time To Start A Class War... at In Women We Trust with a rundown of The Eco-Women Alliance's suggestions for greening a school (email her if you want a more complete version of this handy checklist) and her musings about her favorite lunchboxes.

La Marguerite presents Getting Biodiversity on the Cultural Radar Screen with a plea for all moms - and dads - to help spread the biodiversity message in schools!

Mindful Momma presents The Price We Pay for Back2School Cool at ...adventures in living a green & healthy life with a tongue-in-cheek gentle razz of the barrage of advertising she's resisting as she sends her boys to school.

Tiffany Washko presents Back to School - Green Style posted at Natural Family Living Blog.

Lynn Miller of OrganicMania, founder of this marvelous carnival, presents Green Mom Culture Shock: Back to School, musing about going "from the friendly confines of the Green Mom blogosphere to the public school system."

Ena Clewes presents Dealing With Garden Pests the Organic Way - Gardening Articles - Organic Gardening posted at Organic Gardening. As she notes, "for many gardeners, a good offense is better than a good defense when it comes to pests in the garden."

Yours truly presents Back to School: Greener Fundraising Ideas and Back to School: Waste-Free Lunches. Long-winded posts with resources for you to use on both topics. ;)

The Green Parent presents Add Some Green to School Lunches and suggests an "offer vs. serve" cafeteria policy and a "Giveaway Table."

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent presents Ten Ways To Make School Green All Year Long
at her blog (love her tagline - she's "Not quite crunchy, not quite, tips, and information for parents in the middle") with reminders of some basics we can use all year long, like heading to the library (oh, that new booklust, sigh).

Jennifer presents Back to School With Asbestos?? at The Smart Mama with simple steps to reduce asbestos exposure should your child's school be, well, crumbling and old like the rest of America's....

Jenn at Tiny Choices presents DIY: Reusable Sandwich Wraps with a whole host of linkety-goodness on how to make a wrap-n-mat knockoff (possibly one without a plastic liner!).

Thanks once again to Lynn Miller at OrganicMania, the founder of the Green Moms Carnival, for bringing everyone together, and to all of the fine writers who contributed such thoughtful posts about greening our children's lives at school.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a lunch pack sampler of 3 lunchbox napkins and a snack bag made from upcycled vintage fabric at The Guestroom Closet (woo hoo! a fellow DCUM and local business for me) and an assortment of bags from ecogear (organic cotton kid's green messenger bag and toddler natural-with-pink-trim backpack, and a PVC-free-nylon navy adult pack). To enter, leave a comment below about the best tip you got from reading a carnival post about greening schools...and share a new idea of your own. Post your entry comment (with a valid email with which to contact you!) by Friday, Sept. 12th and I will pick a random winner.

Read more!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Recycling Tyvek Envelopes

I bet that you also have a stash of those plastic envelopes stuffed in the top of your hall closet because one day, long, long ago, you read somewhere that you could mail them someplace to be recycled. But you're cutting your consumption, and your kids haven't been deluged with gifts lately, it not being the traditional Season of Giving, and it's been awhile since you got something in the mail. The weather is cooling, tho, and you may be reaching for your fleece jacket soon enough, and they are going to come tumbling down on your head. Why, just today, I got something small in the mail that I'm going to give away on Monday at the Green Moms Back-to-School Carnival, so I was reminded once again: Tyvek envelopes are recyclable.

Reusable, too! In the instructions for mailing them back they tell you to turn it inside out and to write the address on the inside. Doh! Why didn't I think of that? Not to mention that you can just use a new label, for that matter. So reuse them to death, of course and then.....

Tiny Choices just talked about this, and while I will leave the interesting Cradle-to-Cradle conversation to their comments, suffice it to say that Fake Plastic Fish won't be having any wanton Tyvek-envelope consumption parties just because the end product is going to be a recycled park bench (ie not a new recycled plastic Tyvek envelope).

Perfect enemy of good? Who knows... but here's the info:

For Small Quantities (less than 25 envelopes/month)
Turn any Tyvek® envelope inside out, so the unprinted white surface shows on the outside. Stuff the inside-out Tyvek® envelope with other used Tyvek® envelopes for recycling.

Address and mail the envelope to:
Tyvek® Recycle
Attn. Shirley B. Wright
2400 Elliham Avenue #A
Richmond, VA 23237

I am going to assume that you don't have more envelopes filling up your mailbox than that. If so, you need to go read Suze Orman, not MamaBird. Or you can click through my link in the first paragraph for instructions. That'll work, too.

Happy decluttering!

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Thursday, September 4, 2008


I often think to myself that money is freedom. The less money you have, the more you have to focus on meeting basic needs. Once you have more than the basic amount that works for your family, you can work on meeting Maslow's hierarchy of needs (morality, self-actualization and so forth) or even (since I really am a Carol Gilligan lover myself) strengthening relationships as the end goal. My Achilles heel of consumption is definitely buying people rockin' presents (stuff I could easily deny myself, hmmm). But I digress...

For the upcoming APLS (Affluent People Living Simply) Carnival (which you can participate in if you send your entry to aplscarnival at gmail dot com by Sept. 10), we were tasked with thinking about what it means to be affluent. I guess a lot of folks commented about how uncomfortable they were calling themselves affluent. Myself? Not so much. C'mon, you know your parents used to invoke starving children all over the world when you wouldn't eat your dried-out meatloaf. Even if your station wagon *did* have a rusted-out floor that reminded y'all of the Flintstones. Even if your neighbor retired at 40 to sail around the world. In the relative sense, I would venture to say that lots of us with the time and resources to blog are probably affluent.

I am affluent because I can afford to spend my free time poking around the interwebs researching product safety. Because I can, as part of a family vacation, stop by BlogHer to meet fellow enviro-mama bloggers that I now pepper with daily questions and green business ideas (ok, that really means: make this! this safe product! for my kiiiiids!).

I have competing goals when I am considering purchases or actions. First and foremost, I consider health and safety for my kids. Is this plastic going to leach into my child's food and cause her harm? Does tuna have levels of mercury that will damage my child's developing brain? And so forth.

On the other hand, as a mother, I also consider it my duty to keep the earth's air and water clean, and resources undepleted, not only for my children but for their children and for all of the other kids around the world who aren't as, well, affluent as my kids. And I would venture to say that to one degree or another, lots of us who have pets consider most animals to be in need of protection as well. Not to mention the earth itself, which is a pretty magical ecosystem.

So: safety/health, protection, stewardship. I consider those my competing demands when thinking about, say, what to make for dinner. Or what type of clothing to get for my toddler (thanks, Big Green Purse! we love the Maggie's Organics athletic socks). Or even whether we choose to simply stop consuming. You know the list.

It is truly fortunate that our family has the resources (money, time, education) to consider making choices that reflect our values. I recognize that not everyone is affluent in this particular way, and not everyone has my same decision-making schema. That's why being greener-than-thou is so ridiculous. I so appreciate being able to be neurotic thoughtful about my life-worth-living, and love doing so in the company of others who are thinking about many of the same issues. Hats off to the green blogosphere! Thanks for giving me so much to think about -- and to act on.

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