Monday, December 22, 2008

#35 Craig's list is your Holiday friend

Yes, I've already posted about shopping yard sales and thrift stores. This is similar, but I am giving this it's own post because of the relation to Christmas shopping! There is something about gift giving that makes us all want to run out and buy all new, nice things in all those nice new boxes and plastic packaging. Perhaps that's because there is a stigma associated with giving a used gift that says "cheap" (in a bad way.) I admit, a lot of the gifts I sent off to family were new, but for my own kids-- Ammon is getting an art desk (bought on Craig's list), Talia is getting a home-made wooden chest for dress up clothes (purchased at thrift stores), and Jarom is getting a wooden rocking horse (Craig's list).

Next year I am going to strongly suggest that we make it a rule in my own family's sibling exchange that we buy something used. It really is fun to see what you can come up with for a great price!

Pros:  Cheaper, and a great way to reuse things.  Less waste and less new packaging.

Cons:  Sometimes harder to find what you want.  Sometimes I have to travel farther to get the item I want.

Friday, December 12, 2008

#34 Alternative to paper wrapping

How much paper do you waste to make packages look pretty for Christmas?

This year I am beginning a gradual change over to cloth bags to wrap things in. And it will be quite a gradual change because I have scads of leftover wrapping paper from the last few years. But no new paper for me. I bought some cheap Christmas fabric (and plan to get more after Christmas when it's on clearance) and am sewing some simple bags to wrap in. I made one with a drawstring (shown above) but decided it's easier just to make the bag and tie it with ribbon or string. These should last indefinitely. I even made some for some of the gifts I mailed out to family members, hoping they will keep them and use them next year.... and the next year.... and the next year...

Other alternatives to traditional wrapping paper: comics from the newpaper, brown grocery bags, Christmas pillowcases (double use-- I like that.)

Pros: Less paper produced and wasted. I'm not a good wrapper, and it is SO much easier just to stick the gift in the bag without having to package it so it can be wrapped in paper. The bags are going to be useful in wrapping up my fragile decorations when it's time to put them away. They can be made in any size you want, and it takes me the same amount of time to make one as it does to wrap a present nicely.

Cons: Initial cost is higher than paper. It can be easier to tell what the gift is by feeling the bag. My kids might notice that Santa doesn't bring gifts wrapped differently (I had this problem with paper anyway-- I just told them that I helped Santa to wrap his gifts.) It also doesn't quite have the same effect as ripping off the paper when you are opening the gift.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A new name!

It was a tough decision, and I was hoping to get a little more feedback, but I've chosen
Green at Home Mom (obviously). I've notified the winner. The suggestion was actually "I'm a GAHM," but I just chose to write it out. Thanks for all the clever suggestions!
Life has been crazy with trying to get ready for Christmas and trying to finish our kitchen-- I will get back to posting soon, hopefully.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

#33 Green your Holiday packages

My next few posts will be about how to make your Christmas a little more green and a little less in the red.

I was just thinking of this as I packed up the prizes for the contest (one is addressed, one is not-- I'm still thinking on the name contest.) At Christmas time I end up sending out about 10 packages, with my family and my husbands 2 families being spread across the country, and each having their own means of gift exchanging. So during the year I save padded envelopes, and in the fall I start saving boxes and packing materials, for shipping. If the end of the envelope is torn, you can cut that part off and tape the end shut. Boxes can be expensive (and wasteful) if you have to buy them. My husband is pretty good at taking the boxes we have and cutting them down to exactly the right sizes. If you don't have any boxes to save, get them from a local retailer. If you don't have packaging material for the inside of the box, use newspaper.

Pros: You don't have to buy packaging. Less paper and plastic waste. The materials can be recycled just as easily after they've been used several times.
Cons: The USPS is picky about labels and writing on packages, so make sure it's all scribbled out or covered up

Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Winner, and Help, please!

Well, the winner of the random drawing did not contact me, so I have picked a new winner! The winner is circustimes! I will contact this person via email.

Okay, so I've managed to narrow down the list of suggestions to a few of them:

More green for less green
Living Green. Loving Green. Saving Green.
Mean Green Mommy Machine
Green Frugality
Adventures in Growing Green
Efficient Earthlover
Green at Home Mom

It's much harder than I thought to decide on one. Please, if you have any input, help me out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

We have a winner...

To the random contest, at least. The randomly drawn winner of the Burt's Bee's mini set is...
Lala who said "i May be green but i always save."
However, this person did not leave a way for me to contact them! I will give you 48 hours to contact me before I pick another winner.

Thanks for all the great ideas for blog names. I am in the process now of figuring out which one to use-- so be patient with me-- there are so many!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

#32 What to do with your "icky" water

The other night my son came down the stairs after having been tucked in bed. He announced to my husband and I that he had drunk the rest of the water in his cup before he was going to refill it, even though it was "icky" because he didn't want to waste it. Well, I can't get the child to turn off the faucet when it's running needlessly, or to not take a forever-long shower, but at least I know he is paying a little attention. Anyway, we explained that it wasn't really necessary for him to drink icky water just for the sake of not wasting it. A much better use for the water would be to put it on one of the houseplants.

Now I admit I do this much more during the summer, but even during the winter, some of that "gray water" can be of use. Water the garden, grass, or houseplants. I also dump mine in the compost bucket if I have nowhere else to use it, because the compost needs moisture, too. You can use your vegetable wash water, water you have cooked pasta or something in, water left in glasses at dinnertime. You can also "catch" water that is running while you wait for the water to get hot or cold. Any time that you would normally dump water down the drain, just stop to consider if there is a use for it. Be sure not to use water that has a lot of soap or any chemicals in it.
**Update: I stumbled across a post today at The Greenest Dollar (a great website, by the way) all about how to recycle gray water. Check it out!

Pros: Use less water, have greener plants

Cons: I sometimes end up with noodles in my houseplants :) It also throws off any watering schedule if you like to keep one. I find my plants do better without one-- they are green and healthy and I water them when they look dry or droopy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

#31 Eat those green tomatoes (or whatever else you have around!)

At the end of October, the community gardens closed. We had to have all our stuff out of there. Well, due to the late Washington season, we had loads of green tomatoes. And we were headed out of town for a week. What to do with all those tomatoes? Well, ours were turned into green ketchup, fried green tomatoes, and a green tomato chocolate cake (plus baggies in the freezer to make more in the future-- it was that good!) and the ones that looked like they would keep were set out to ripen and then sliced and dried. I consider not wasting things to be a very green practice. My husband is particularly good at this-- it was him who came up with doing the chocolate cake, and also made a pumpkin topping for it out of some leftover pumpkin that we needed to use.
Pros: If you use what you have, it won't go to waste, and you save yourself from having to buy new food. Less for the landfill, and easier on your budget.
Cons: It can be a challenge sometimes to come up with ways to use things. Sometimes my kids don't appreciate my cooking when I'm trying to use things up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mama needs a new name!

I'm back! And I've decided that before I delve back into some more wonderful ways to save the earth and money, I am going to hold a contest. I've found that there are quite a few blogs out there with the same or similar name. I want something original, but I'm just not coming up with anything.
So here's what you need to do. Leave me a comment with a suggestion for a new blog name. You will either need to leave me your email address so I can contact you, or be willing to come back on the contest closing date to check if you are the winner and then can contact me. There will be 2 winners!
The winner whose new blog name I like and choose will receive a BeautiControl hand softening kit (includes paraffin hand treatment, age spot treatment, overnight hand treatment, cuticle oil pen, and overnight gloves.-- retails at $68.50!)
Another winner will be selected randomly out of all comments and will win a Burt's Bees Baby Bee Getting Started Kit (includes mini apricot baby oil, mini shampoo bar, mini buttermilk bar, mini diaper ointment, mini buttermilk lotion, and a comb.)

The contest will end on November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. I reserve the right to lengthen the contest if I don't get enough response.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 27, 2008

#30 Green your Decor

No, I'm not talking about getting organic bamboo sofas or 100% recycled wall art (although those things would be nice.) I'm talking about real green ways to decorate your home, with plants. In my opinion, there is no better way to add life to a room. Real live plants. The nice thing about indoor plants is that you can grow so many varieties that can't be grown outdoors (unless you live in a tropical climate.) There are also very cheap ways to get some plants. Yard sales, for one. Another is to get clippings off of plants from people you know. Many plants can be started from a clipping, and the ones that can do this generally are easy-keepers and require little care. You can grow plants from seeds if you wish, or shop the clearance racks at gardening centers. Most houseplants are fairly resilient-- trust me I know because I do not really have a green thumb. Generally I wait until they are looking a little droopy before I give them water. I've heard that more plants are killed by over-watering than underwatering, and maybe that's why mine do so well. My husband and I even have an avocado tree in our house that we grew from the pit of an avocado that we had eaten. This tree has survived about 7 years, a week-long trip in the back of a moving van, getting all the leaves stripped off by my son, several weeks without water, and all sorts of other abuse. As a bonus, you can use whatever old container that you want to recycle as your pots. Just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.

Pros: Beautiful, cheap, and natural air filters.

Cons: They do take some care, occasional fertilizing, pruning, and sometimes they just die.

By the way, I am going out of town this week and won't be blogging while I'm gone. Just so you know I haven't dropped off the face of the planet and I will be back!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

#29 Inch toward sustainable living

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all live on what we alone produce? Think of all the problems that would solve! But how realistic is it? Not. Not realistic at all. However, there are ways that we can get just a little closer to it. One of the ways that my husband and I do this is to incorporate producing plants into our landscape. A section of our front flower bed is miniature blueberry bushes and a strawberry patch. We also pulled out a bunch of invasive ground cover that is taking over our yard and put in some fruit trees. (I know, it takes a long time for fruit trees to become established, but we are thinking about the future for whoever lives in this house.) We made room for a patch of raspberries as well (although our neighbor accidentally killed them when he sprayed his blackberries.) This is not the same thing as gardening. These are plants that will be part of the landscape year-round and are all native plants as well. Almost anyone can do this if you really put your mind to it. Even if it's just to plant herbs as your houseplants. Grow something of your own! You'll be surprised how much better it tastes when you had to work to get it.
Pros: Fresh, yummy things right from your yard or in your house. All organic, if desired. More plants promotes cleaner air! Planting native plants feels like giving something back to the earth that has been taken away by buildings and pavement. Also, native plants require less care.
Cons: It still takes some sort of space. They might not be AS attractive as flowers or something else (although we eat a lot of our flowers too!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

#28 Another way to use those kitchen scraps...

Do you use chicken broth or stock from a box or a can? Do you realize what you are paying for? The packaging, that you must throw away when that golden, tasty and very inexpensively-made liquid is used up. Here is the solution. Home-made stock. Keep scraps from veggies or fruit that are clean in a bag in the freezer. Add in bones and scraps from a chicken or ham, or whatever meat you had that week (optional.) You can keep adding to it until you have enough to throw it all in a big pot of water and simmer it for a few hours. Add a little salt and seasonings if you want. Drain out the scraps (and put them in your compost, except for the bones,) bottle up the stock (mayo jars are perfect for this,) and put them in the freezer.
We use our pasta pot because it is much easier to get the scraps out that way. You can also use a crock pot.
It has so many uses, that we go through the stuff very quickly. Use it for soup stock and you can make a quick soup that tastes like it has simmered for hours, thicken it up and you have gravy, use it instead of water to make very flavorful rice, use it in any recipe that calls for broth or stock.
Pros: Yummy and easy. No packaging. I feel like I'm getting more use and vitamins out of my vegetables.
Cons: It takes some electricity to cook it. It's a pain to drain out the slimy scraps if you don't have a pasta pot. I get a little layer of fat on top from the meat scraps--You can scrape it off if you want.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

#27 The miracle of Rot. (Composting)

Did you know that up to 40% of American's waste that goes to the landfills is compostable? I am posting this after my canning and gardening posts because those are some things that I do that create a whole bunch of organic waste (no, not "Organic" in the product sense, I'm just talking about living stuff- or stuff that was once living.) Composting is one of the most environmentally friendly practices out there. That "waste" can be turned into something extremely useful while at the same time preventing so much stuff from going to the dump. There was a recent post at 5 Minutes for going green that has some great information on composting.

It really isn't difficult to compost. The minimum requirement is a place to put a decent sized pile. You can get one of these fancy compost tumblers, but they are not necessary. What we had is a round flexible bottomless bin that was provided by the city. This summer we outgrew that, and now have one gigantic pile that is rotting away beautifully and will make our garden and lawn next year very healthy. In the past we've put quite a bit of money into bags of compost purchased from gardening centers. Again, I'm not here to tell you exactly how to compost, because there are so many sources of information on that. I just want to encourage you to try it.

One more thing: Why not flush all that kitchen waste down the garbage disposal? It takes a lot of water and electricity to do that. Puting it in a bucket and walking out to the compost pile only takes a little walking, and who can't use more of that?

Pros: Prevents a huge amount of waste from going to the landfills and creating methane gas. Saves a lot of trash bags. Less stinky trash in your kitchen. It's creating something that is great to put back into the earth and make things grow. You can get paper products that are compostable.

Cons: Yard waste needs to be chipped small enough that it will decompose at a reasonable rate. Without a big enough pile, you may not create enough heat to kill off seeds in the compost and can end up with things growing in your compost (not that this is really that big a deal). Our compost bin in our kitchen has to be emptied frequently and attracts a lot of fruit flies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

#26 You Can Home Can

I don't really know if I have any faithful blog readers out there, but if so, sorry that I've been slacking lately. I'm going go get back to blogging with a vengeance!
Home canning, believe it or not, is coming back into style. It's not just for granny anymore! I'm not sure what the reasons are, but I really am glad. Not only is it a great way to stock up food for the winter, it's a great money saver and very friendly on the environment. We routinely can peaches, tomatoes, applesauce, and a wide variety of jams. This year we branched out to include beans and tomatillos. Below are just some of my shelves packed full of jars and boxes of full jars:

Don't know how? Don't be intimidated by the process. It really is simple. But I'm not going to go into that here. There are many websites, books, and people who can help you with that if you so desire. I suggest that you ask around and look at yard sales for your jars and canning supplies. Then once you have them they are yours forever (okay, we occasionally have a jar break.) You only have to buy new lids each year, which can cost you around .08 to .15 per lid.

Pros: Cheap, you can reuse your jars indefinitely (no aluminum cans to be made or recycled!), and you have complete control over what goes into your jars. Organic if you wish, sugar-free, and you can grow your own food or support local farmers. It's also a great way to involve the kids in the food-saving process.

Cons: It takes time and energy. And makes a mess. It also requires room to store the jars.

Monday, September 22, 2008

#25 The next best thing

Okay, so I mentioned this in my last post, but it's worthy of it's own post. The Farmer's Market! Just about everywhere has one. So next to growing your own produce, this is the best way to get fresh local stuff. This summer I have depended on it for things like garlic, eggplant (mine didn' t do well,) berries (the ones we didn't pick ourselves), and other odds and ends. Yes, sometimes they can be more expensive than the grocery store, but the freshness and having the food grown locally is worth it. But you also need to shop the whole thing to find the best price on the produce you want. Another trick is to go right when the booths are ready to be packed up. This is especially useful if you are looking for a large amount of something. Most of the vendors really don't want to take the produce back home to sit for a few days until the next market (here they are Tues. and Sat.) Offer them what price you want to pay, and the worse that will happen is that they will say "no." If you go often, you can build relationships with the vendors and let them know what kind of things you are looking for at what price, and you'll be amazed at what they can come up with for you.
Pros: Fresh produce, with the middle-man eliminated. It doesn't have to be shipped across the country.
Cons: They are only available in the summer time (for obvious reasons.) And only at limited times. Prices can be high.

Monday, September 15, 2008

#24 Gardening

So I was going to continue on about some ways to save on fuel and such, but I'll come back to that later.  This summer a good portion of my time has been spent with my garden in one way or another.  It's the first year that we elected to get a plot at the community gardens and it has been great!   Well, great besides the bad soil and weed problems.  But we are dealing with those and next year we will be better prepared.  And despite that, we have had a great yeild of produce, especially beans and peas.  Tomatoes and tomatillos are coming.  I admit, it's a lot of work.  Soil prep, planting, thinning, weeding, watering, harvesting.  But with each bite of fresh, organic produce that I take (or my children and husband), it becomes more and more worth it. We have had countless meals that were almost entirely made with produce from our garden. My husband has even worked hard to save us from having to drive to the garden too often by leaving to work early on his bike stopping by on the way.   We also have a small garden plot at our house with some lettuces, summer squash, beets, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.  
You don't need to have a green thumb to have a garden.  Really all you need is a little space and a desire to do it.  There is a wealth of information out there on gardening-- my advice would be to find someone who is a gardener and have them help you get started.  If you don't have the space, you can just do some container gardening, or check to see if your community has garden plots.  

Pros:  You can be as organic as you like, get wonderful fresh produce and not have to buy storebought, shipped-in produce.  You can also get the whole family involved!

Cons: It's a lot of work, requires patience, and a lot of water.  And sometimes things don't grow the way you hope and work for (like my three-foot tall corn stalks and 3-inch long ears of corn)  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#23 Idle no more.

School is back in session.  The weather is beautiful, so when school lets out I pack up the baby and the 3 year old into the stroller, don my running shoes, and get ready to push 70 pounds+ of children and stroller up a very steep hill.  It's great exercise, I feel good about it, and I even get cheered on occasionally by strangers who witness my battle with the full stroller on the steepest parts of the hill.  I finally reach the top, and inhale a nice deep breath of... car fumes?  My path takes me past the "pick-up line" where parents await the final bell and the rush of children from their classrooms.  I have noticed that about 75% of the cars, trucks, SUV's, and minivans keep their motors running while they wait, emitting a steady stream of exhaust right into the path of walking kids and parents.  I want to knock on their windows and say, "Could you please turn off your engine?"  There really is no excuse to keep it running (around here it's rarely even warm enough to need the AC.)  Starting your car again is NOT hard on the engine, does not use more fuel, and your car engine does not need to warm up to drive in cold weather (see here).   That information comes from old cars and old myths.  Idling wastes fuel and creates emmissions.  I'm not sure I could go for turning off the car every time it's idling (i.e. stoplights,) but there are definitely times that my car is running idle and I am working toward making turning the car off a habit.   I am grateful that the school buses do not idle their engines while waiting for the kids.

Pros:  Less fuel wasted, less exhaust emitted.

Cons:  You can't run the AC with the car off, and it takes a second or two to start the engine to get moving again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

#22 Garage sale fun!

Did you know that garage sale shopping is environmentally friendly? I definitely consider it so. Just think of all the things that you can put to reuse instead of having to be purchased new! The same can go for thrift stores and better yet, hand-me-downs from friends and family. But here is my loot from the last time I went to garage sales:

It includes 2 Children's Place sweaters, 1 pair of L.L bean shoes, one pair of firetruck jammies, one Thomas shirt, one Gap hoodie, 1 pair Levi jeans, 3 pairs of nice shorts, 3 pairs of tights, 4 pairs of socks, 1 Mr. Potato head computer game, 1 popsicle mold set, 1 bear backpack, and one turtle sandbox. My total for all of the above? About $15.00.

Pros: Fun, cheap, and puts a lot of things to good use.

Cons: It takes time and fuel to drive around to the sales. If you like currently trendy clothes, they are harder to find. It's also harder to find stuff as the kids get older-- that's where thrift stores come in handy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

#17 to 21. More ways to save trees

Since I'm on the subject, here are some more ideas on ways to cut down on paper use:

  • Recieve and pay bills online! This was difficult for me at first because I can't flip open the filing cabinet to pull out an old bill. I have to count on cyberspace to keep track of things. But it's quicker and doesn't require postage. This can also apply to documents/applications.

  • Put the paper right back into the printer. Do you ever print mistake pages? Or how about that page that has just the footer printed on the last page? Most stuff I print is just for my own use, so who cares what's on the back? I put it back in the printer so that the back side will be printed on with my next print.

  • Hand write things. A simple recipe, an address, or some other thing that you look up on your computer can be jotted down on a scrap paper (see previous post) instead of being printed out.
  • Use your debit card. No checks to write or pay for, and my bank actually pays me .03 for each transaction.
  • Buy recycled paper. Okay, so this may or may not save money, but it is worth it. I can usually get recycled printer paper on sale at office max- just keep your eyes open and buy when it's a good price and not when you need it because you run out of paper.

To read some statistics on what is required to make paper, go here. Scary, isn't it? So be a tree-hugger, and save yourself some money in the process. And when you do use paper, make sure it goes into the recycle bin instead of the trash

Sunday, August 24, 2008

#16 Paper paper everywhere, but not a scrap to write on?

Are you a list maker? I never thought I was, but lately I can't seem to accomplish anything unless I have a list. Or remember what to buy if it's not written down. The problem is that lists take paper. Not to worry! I get enough junk mail to keep me well supplied. The backs of the envelopes are perfect. I might as well get some use out of the complete waste of paper. I also use other pieces of scrap paper, like stuff I printed (like directions) and am no longer using. Then when I am done, it can go in the recycle bin where it would have gone anyway.

Pros: Makes some use of waste paper, and you don't have to use up a piece of new paper

Cons: My lists are more easily misplaced because they look like trash.

Friday, August 22, 2008

#15 Reusable shopping bags

I know it's not a new idea. Stores everywhere are selling reusable bags, there has been a lot of hype about it in the media, and we all know it is one of the easiest and best ways to replace disposable plastic. So why when I go to the grocery stores do I never see anyone else with their bags in tow? I confess, I don't remember every time. I hate having to answer the question, "paper or plastic?" when I know that at home or even in my car there are a stack of bags I could have brought. But I am making an effort, and getting better. It's about doing it until it becomes a habit. I try to return my bags to the car after I have emptied groceries, that way I know they are there for next time and for unplanned trips to the store. Some big cities, like Seattle, have started actually charging for the use of plastic bags. I wouldn't mind that, because it would push more people into bringing their own bags, but I am also grateful that here the stores offer a 5 or 6 cent refund per bag brought in for reuse. My favorite reusable bag I have is from Target, because it's big and it folds up nicely. There are also some great bags out there made of recycled material , but I'd like to have some like this:

Pros: The bags tend to be sturdier and can hold more groceries. They will prevent the waste of thousands of plastic bags over a lifetime. They will save you money (by either paying you or preventing you from getting charged.)

Cons: You must remember to bring the bags with you! I have yet to find a suitable replacement for garbage can liners. Also, if you giving something (such as garden produce)
to someone, it's much easier to give it to them in a bag they don't have to give back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

#14 Wet Bags

This is must-have cloth-diapering accessory. It's called a wet bag, because you can put the wet, stinky diapers in it and zip it up, sealing it all in the water-proof material. Usually they are made out of PUL (polyurethane laminate) which can be purchased on ebay (I also saw some bags on sale there), or you can go here to purchase the bags online. In addition to going in the diaper bag, they can also be used as a diaper pail liner or in place of a diaper pail. And the best thing about these bags-- throw them right in the wash with the diapers!
Pros: Less stink and mess to deal with, it's durable and come in some cute patterns. A much better option than using plastic bags.
Cons: More expensive than plastic bags, but it is all part of the money-saving cloth diapering process.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

#13 Diaper wipes

I thought while I was on the subject of diapers, I would include some things that go along with cloth diapering. If you're using all cloth diapers, it really doesn't make sense to keep using those disposable wipes! You can use the same wipes containers that you have. They are available for purchase if you choose, or if you are like me, just use what you have available. My wipes are a mixture of baby washcloths that I never used, cut up burp rags that had holes, and a few other ratty washcloths. You can find a recipe for diaper wipe solution online. Or, if it doesn't bother you, just use water. I mostly just use water. Yuck? Well, to each his own-- you can choose how you want to handle it.

Pros: Very cheap, in fact free if you make your own out of what you have. No wipes to be thrown out, and you can just wash them with the diapers. Also, no plastic packaging that comes with store-bought wipes. Store-bought wipes have always seemed to irritate my baby's skin-- using home-made is very gentle to baby's bottom.

Cons: A little less convenient to have to make your own. I sometimes get too much or too little liquid in the container, and my baby likes to get into them and pull them all out (not that this is much different from disposable wipes.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

#12 Time to go cloth!

Cloth diapers have become a big issue lately. I decided to post about it today because I just read this at 5 minutes for going green. I have to tell you that even after making the switch from almost all other disposable paper/plastic products, I resisted the cloth diapers. After all, I was on my last child, he was several months old already, and cloth diapers are ICKY! Right? Well thanks to my friend Julie, I made the switch anyway. I had the advantage of trying out all of her different types of diapers that her oldest was out of and baby hadn't grown into yet. They really aren't that bad. A little extra stink, a little extra laundry, but over all a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And trust me, my child has not been the easiest child to diaper. He is an extremely heavy wetter and blow-out pooper. Because of this, most AIO's (all-in-ones) and pocket diapers don't work for him. So I use prefolds with a doubler (I use microfiber washcloths) and good quality velcro covers. No pins, no snappis, just stuff it all in there and close up the velcro. Oh, and the biodegradable flushable poop-catching liners are a HUGE help (no dunking or spraying). There is a lot that goes into choosing your diapers and getting started. The best way is to find someone who uses them to get information (and I have never known anyone who uses them and doesn't want to convert all moms to using them.) There are also a lot of websites out there that may be helpful. Try this one to get some good info. My favorite site for buying diapering supplies is . I have even tried to make my own AIO diapers. They turned out okay-- but unfortunately did not work for my child.
Even if you just want to use them part of the time, like when you are at home, it is definitely worth it and will save you money.
Here is my baby with his cloth diapers doubling as a swimsuit.

Pros: Cloth diapers are reusable, long-lasting (very high resale value too!), soft, cute, chemical-free, and may help your child potty train more easily. The estimated savings per child is $2000 to $3000. And then there are the thousands of diapers that won't be headed to the landfill

Cons: The stink is worse, but not from poop-- the wet diapers can smell very strongly of ammonia. A little more laundry-- but who with a baby isn't doing laundry all the time anyway? The initial cost can be high. I suggest you try Craig's list for some used ones. For my child, it requires extra diaper changes because he wets so heavily. I keep disposables on hand for emergencies and traveling.

Friday, August 8, 2008

#11 More freezing fun

'Tis the season for freezin'-- food that is. As much as my family loves berries, we can't afford to go buy the little packages of pre-ripe picked berries that they sell at the grocery stores. So when they are in season-- stock up! In my opinion, really good fresh frozen berries are just as good or better than storebought, shipped-across-the-country, packed-in-little-plastic-packages berries that are available year-round. Buy the berries when their season is in full swing, wash and dry them thouroughly, spread them on sheet pan and put in the freezer. When they are frozen, put them in ziploc bags or food saver bags. They can then be used for the rest of the year. Blueberries are probably the best freezing berries. They make a great healthy snack. So head to the farmer's market, or the berry patch to pick your own! Yum!

Our latest blueberry pick. I wanted to get pics of the kids picking, but I forgot the camera when we went.

Pros: Yummy, healthy, and less expensive when purchased in large amounts. Picking berries is a great bonding activity for my family. It's more economical to run your freezer when it's full. There is less packaging to throw away.

Cons: It requires freezer space. If you don't have a food saver, the berries can get a bit freezer-burned in a few months.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#10 Freeze to please

Is there anything kids love more in the summertime than popsicles? How much money have you spent on sugar water because it's frozen on a stick? So my tip is-- make your own. A plastic popsicle mold is very inexpensive and can be used indefinitely. No wooden sticks, plastic wrappers, or bags/boxes. If you're worried about BPA, you can get BPA-free molds here. (Tupperware doesn't use polycarbonate to make children's products.) You could also create your own molds out of jars or whatever you want.
You can make any kind of popsicles you want, including yogurt, fruit juice, or go cheap and do kool-aid. One of my kids' favorites is lemonade pops.
Pros: Healthier (if you want them to be) and cheaper. Less plastic, less waste.
Cons: My daughter keeps losing the sticks outside. Most plastic molds probably do have BPA in them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

#9 So much packaging, so little product

It's a world of convenience foods. It seems that everything has to come in single-serve packaging. It's so convenient! And so expensive! And so wasteful! I admit to endulging my kids with string cheese once in a while, but individual cookies, chips, crackers, and even peanut butter? You've got to be kidding. So just don't buy it. The funny thing about such conveniences is that you'll never miss them if you never try them. Also, the more you buy these products, the more things companies will produce because of the demand.
Pros (of not buying them): Less waste, less money, and less junk food (typically healthy food does not come single-serve)
Cons: Less convenience.

Friday, August 1, 2008

#8 Sqeeze every last drop

You're down to the end of that tube of toothpaste and you just want to toss it. But it's likely that there is still some toothpaste in the "hub" of the tube. So bunch up that tube, push with all your might, and you'll be amazed at how much more toothpaste you can get out. I know, there are a million different tube squeezers out there that are supposed to help you with this, but don't waste your money. They can't do anything your fingers can't already do.


Pros: I'd estimate about a tube of toothpaste a year in savings. One less to buy, one less plastic tube to dispose of. Over a lifetime, that's a lot.
Cons: At the end, I have to set the toothbrush down and use both hands to get that last little bit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

#7 Shaving cream the old-fashion way

This is again one of my husband's ideas. He actually really wanted to go the whole way and shave with a straight razor as well as use the old fashioned type of shaving cream, but found he couldn't get the razor sharp enough. But the shaving cream is a big success. It's inexpensive, lasts a long long time, and he says it works just as well as the regular foam or gel. He even picked up his own "DAD" mug at a thrift store that fits the disk perfectly. It looks like round soap and yes, it can be purchased just about anywhere. Ours came from Fred Meyer, including the brush. Do you realize that when you are buying shaving cream, mostly what you are paying for is the container and the water?
Pros: Lasts a long time, inexpensive, no containers to dispose of, and works great!
Cons: Not as transportable as regular shaving cream for traveling purposes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

#6 Half and half moo juice

Here's one that I never ever thought that my family would go for. I think it's one of the oldest money-saving tricks on the books, though. Use powdered milk and mix and a half and half ratio with real milk. We use whole milk since powdered milk is fat-free. Really, I thought it would be gross, but I can't really tell the difference, as long as the milk is cold. We buy 25 lb. bags, but dry milk is available boxed in most stores, and in bulk bins at many.
Pros: Less plastic milk jugs, less trips to the grocery store, and save a lot of money especially with the rising cost of milk, and it's great to have extra dry milk around in case of emergency.
Cons: If you need it right away and don't have any mixed up, you then have to wait to mix it and it doesn't taste as good before it's chilled. Also, even though I wash the milk jugs before reusing them for mixed milk, sometimes they make the milk sour quickly. Recycle and replace the mixing jug often, or use a pitcher. I have to reserve some whole milk for the baby (under 2).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

cloth diaper contest

Cloth diapers will definitely be one of my future posts, but for now I just wanted to share a contest going on at 12 bumgenius diapers! Go and enter!

#5 Share a magazine

How many magazines do you subscribe to and read? What do you do with them when you are done? If you are like me, I browse through once and then it sits around, or gets tossed into the recycle bin. I recently discovered a great thing at my local library. A magazine exchange rack! Give a magazine, take a magazine! I now subscibe to a couple of magazines (home improvement/decor are my favorite). I am going to take them to the library from now on when I am done with them and pick up something new. Check your local library to see if they have this service. If not, why not suggest it to them?
Pros: Less paper waste, new and different magazines for free
Cons: Takes a trip to the library to get them, and there my not be any magazines you want to read there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

#4 Refill you ink cartridges!

How often do you have to replace your ink cartridges in your printer? Mine are quite frequently. I know they have a business reply envelope in most new ink cartridge boxes so that you can recycle the old one, but why not recycle your own? You can go to any office supply store and have the cartridge refilled for an approx. 25 to 50% savings. I take mine to Walgreen's. Actually I'm feeling a little guilty because as of yet I haven't paid for a refill there (I think I've had 3.) They keep telling me that it failed the print test, so there is no charge. But when I try it in my printer it works fine. So next time I run out I probably will buy new cartridges just in case there is something wrong with them, but then I will get the new ones refilled when they run out.
Pros: Costs less, and reuses plastic (better than recycling plastic,)
Cons: It takes a little more time than buying a cartridge (15 mins to 1 hour, usually) but I just leave it and pick it up next time I am in the store.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

#3 Getting Creative with Cork

Yes, cork is one of those wonderful environmentally friendly products (I'll save that for another time,) but that's not what this post is really about. It's about being creative so that things you have are not wasted. The lovely pieces of cork you see above are actually samples that I requested from a flooring company when we were shopping for a new kitchen floor. I didn't end up using any of them, and then I had these samples just sitting around. We were just going to throw them away. But then my hubby had the brilliant idea to make trivets out of them. All we had to do was cut off the lip that stuck out (because they were a piece of click-lock floor.) And Voila! Something really cool and different and useful. What do you have sitting around that you could make something simple and useful out of?
Pros: They go great with our kitchen decor, are great to put hot things on, and are made of a great renewable resource. And we didn't have to throw them in the trash.
Cons: They could possibly be ruined if water is gets spilled on them.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

#2- Cloth Napkins

Anyone who has eaten a meal with children knows that napkin use can get a little out of control.

My solution for this is to use cloth napkins! In fact, most of my napkins I made from a pair of my husband's linen pants that got a hole in the knee. The rest I had in a drawer I think since we got married. My kids think it's pretty funny to have pants for napkins, and never get tired of joking about wiping their faces on "pants" at the table. The non-pants napkins have even been dubbed "shirts" just for the fun of it, and probably because I am constantly telling the kids NOT to use their shirts as napkins.

Pros: Washable, reusable, durable, and less waste of paper products (especially important since used napkins are not recycleable.) They are also much more effective than paper at wiping grimy fingers and faces.

Cons: They have to be washed. But since laundry is pretty much always running at my house anyway, not a problem.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Goal and #1

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a while. If I get anyone to read it, great, but mostly it's for me to motivate myself and make a record. I know that saving the environment is a very trendy thing right now. Although I normally am an anti-trendy person, I think this is great because people are thinking about it. Just this year my husband and I have made a lot of changes in our lives as to how we think about the environment and money. We were enlightened starting with a book called, "Money, It's Not Just for Rich People." From there we went on to read the frugal zealot's books, "The Tightwad Gazettes." We have always cared about the environment, but never realized how easy it was to make a difference while saving money at the same time. This doesn't come from the need to be frugal so much (we didn't do these things while my husband was a student, but are doing them now as he has a full time good job.) But it certainly does help us to put more in savings, pay down school debt, and have money to put needed improvements into our home.

So, to start out my goal is to come up with 100 things that we are doing, have done, or will do to save the environment. Almost all of these will be money-saving as well. Some are big things and some are little simple things. I'm ready to start now!
So #1 is..... drum roll please.... only having one car! Having no cars would be great, however that's complicated with 3 children. So Russ rides his bike to work. All year round. Rain or snow, heat or ice. And yes, we live in the Northwest where it rains about half of the time. There is nothing better to motivate him to do it than not having another form of transportation. I would do the same if I were the one going off by myself every day. On the rare occasions that he is home with the kids and I have somewhere to go, I will bike. And occasionally we will go on bikes as a family, like to the concert at the lake last week. Our 6 year old can ride himself, the 3 year old in the bike trailer, and the baby in the bike baby seat.
The benefits: Only one car to register, insure, make payments on (although our car is paid off), less gas to buy, less pollution, excercise, and being outdoors