Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Respect and Preserve the Ocean this Summer July 25, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 9:10 am
Tags: , ,

It seems I have never posted about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Do you know about this?  It’s an area in the Pacific ocean of dense, floating plastic garbage that amounts to an area… oh,twice the size of Texas!!!  I didn’t need another reason to hate plastic, but here it is.  You can easily get a feel for the problem and how it effects our world through this brief YouTube video The Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch gives me the willies.  But there are other concerns.  Chemical sunscreens (which are also unhealthy for humans) kill coral reefs, runoff from our gutters pollutes the waters, and people tramping through sand dunes lead to erosion and loss of habitat.  

A trip to the ocean is a wonderful summer excursion, one that only gets better with kids.  Let’s enjoy the sea – responsibly.  Here’s a great article Save Our Shores! Go Green to Keep the Ocean Blue, by Elizabeth Barker, that has some helpful tips, including reminders to:

  • Respect the Reefs
  • Find a Safe Beach
  • Choose a Safe Sunscreen
  • Reduce Run-off

I especially appreciated the suggestion to make gathering trash at the shore a regular part of my family’s trip to the ocean.  What a simple way to teach our children about the importance of caring for the earth, even doing more than “our part” to be part of the solution!

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Washing Cloth Diapers in a Front Load Washing Machine July 23, 2009

bg basketEveryone knows that front loading washing machines are more efficient, using less water and less detergent to do the job.  So, if you plan to use cloth diapers (and wash them at home) you’ll want a front loader, right?

Maybe not.

While some mamas manage to make front loaders work, everyone seems to agree that they make washing diapers a bit more challenging – precisely because they use less water.  Think about it: you’re washing something lightweight that’s highly absorbent.  The machine automatically gives the load little water, and the diapers suck it up, with only a bit left over in the wash.  This can lead to stinky diapers, that aren’t fully clean, and detergent build-up, because of incomplete rinsing. 

I cloth diapered with BumGenius Pocket Diapers for about 6 months, washing in a top loading machine.  Then, I had to switch to a fancy, top-of-the-line front loader for about 9 months.  I immediately smelled a difference!  I tried using less detergent.  I also changed from doing a pre-rinse before my full hot/cold wash to doing a full cold wash before my hot/cold wash.  Neither change seemed to really make a difference.  When I was able to switch back to my top-loader, the smell significantly subsided. 

Well, I wondered if it was just me until I received an email from a customer who experienced the same smell-issue when she got a new front loading washing machine.  After some research online at DiaperSwappers.com, here are some tips for washing cloth diapers successfully with a front load machine:

  • Don’t use too much detergent – 1 tbsp is a standard, though you may need less
  • Switch to Tide HE powder detergent – mom’s with top loading machines say they see an immediate improvement when they switch to this product (especially an improvement over natural detergent brands)
  • Use options for extra rinse, extra water and presoak whenever possible.  Anything that puts more water in the load will help avoid the stinkies.
  • Do at least 2 full cycles (one cold, one hot – both with extra rinses).  If you’re still having troubles, try adding a 3rd cycle.  This can make a load take 3 hours to wash… which is why a top loader is more convenient.
  • Tricks for “tricking” the machine to put more water in each load
    • Use delicate or hand wash cycles, which automatically use more water
    • Manually shorten the spin between cycles (and never use spin max extract), because the water left in will make the diapers seem heavier to the machine.  The machine will respond by adding more water to the next cycle.
    • Pour a few gallons of water into the machine through the soap dispenser during the wash cycle.  This seems to be the last resort for those that are desperate!

If you have any tips to add, please share!

 

Today’s Green Mama June 25, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 5:34 pm
Tags: ,

_MG_5784Next spring I’ll have a vegetable garden fueled by my own compost.  This weekend I bought a sewing machine.  Last month we installed a clothesline.  Earlier this year, I learned to make my own sandwich bread.  Who am I?  I’m today’s “Green Mama.” 

Whereas our mother’s generation pushed forwards searching out new styles of living, new standards of mothering, new products; today’s mothers are rediscovering grandma’s lifestyle.  What’s green?  So often, it’s the “old” way of doing things.  From the slow-food movement to cultivating a simple life, we’re finding wisdom in the ways of the past. 

  • Traditional, labor-intensive agriculture – not pesticides.
  • Organic cotton and wool bedding – not polyurethane foam and fire retardant chemicals.
  • Food made at home, preferably purchased from local farm – not fast food or processed convenience foods that travel thousands of miles to reach our door.
  • Line dried laundry – not routine machine drying.
  • Cloth diapers – not disposables.
  • Breastfeeding – not formula.
  • Wooden and cloth toys – not plastic.
  • Homemade cleaners of baking soda, vinegar and essential oils – not commercial products.
  • Making our own and buying from artisans (such as on Etsy.com) – not relying completely on mass-produced merchandise

_MG_5750The list could go on, and it’s not to say that choosing a green lifestyle never involves using new technology.  For example, dishwashers are reportedly more efficient than hand washing dishes.  The point is that for the most part, today’s eco-aware, modern mamas are embracing lifestyles of days gone past.  We’re finding that slowing down, simplifying, savoring the family and creating a handmade life offer more meaning and joy than other paths. 

As I share these reflections with you, it occurs to me that critics describe the “green” movement as a fad, or worse as a marketing strategy.  While some interpretations might stray, the truth is that this movement is a lifestyle.  It’s as unique as the people living it.  And, it’s alive – changing, growing and deepening everyday.  I’m proud to be a part of it.  I hope that this blog encourages you as you make your way down your own path.  Thank-you for walking it with me.

 

Coloring with Block Crayons: For Babies, Preschoolers & Moms too June 11, 2009

This past school year, it has been my privilege to “homeschool” my preschooler.  I can’t say anything but positives about the experience.  It has brought us closer as a family and I have seen so much growth in my preschooler and in myself as a parent. 

One of my favorite parts of our preschool routine has been a regular “coloring time” on Wednesdays, at which time my 2-year-old, 4-year-old and I sit down with crayons and blank paper.  Coloring on blank paper was all but unheard of in our family before fall of 2008, when I dove into Waldorf head first.  Early on I choose to relegate our coloring books to the top shelf of our craft closet, soon to be forgotten.  My daughter was a bit off-kilter at first.  She didn’t know where to start with blank paper.  Even now, she’s stumped at times.  My son, on the other hand, who has only ever drawn on blank paper, goes at it with gusto.  He already tells us that his 2-year-old squiggles are daddy or a house or a cat.  I think his imagination flows more freely because he’s never been hemmed in by coloring book lines or been made to feel that a “proper” bear looks like Winnie the Pooh. 

One of the things I enjoy most about our coloring times is the crayons we use.  Of course, I grew up with Crayola.  Turns out there’s something way better – beeswax crayons.  These crayons are made in Germany with a beeswax base, instead of with oil, making them more eco-friendly, more vivid and surprisingly sweet-smelling.  They’re pricey (natural always is, right?), but they last a long time.  Also, the colors can blend, so red and yellow make orange, etc. which actually can create beautiful effects, while teaching a little science in the process. 

We have both Stockmar’s block crayons and Stockmar’s stick crayons, both of which are available at www.EuphoriaBaby.com.  The block crayons are rectangular blocks.  At times, when my son doesn’t feel like coloring, he’ll actually make towers with them!  The stick crayons are nice and thick – like Crayola’s chunky crayons for tots.  But, although they seem tougher than Crayola’s, they do break.  I hate that.  It’s never seemed to bother my children much, but broken crayons just grate at my nerves.  I attempt to limit my youngest to a particular set of stick crayons that’s already pretty broken, but I’m sure you can imagine how insistently he goes after his older sister’s set. 

If I was to do it again, I’d save the stick crayons for kindergarten or first grade, and only have block crayons for now.  And, that’s not just because I hate broken crayons.  When I color alongside the children (which I do about 1/2 of the time), I’m finding I prefer the block crayons.  You can set the background awash in an even, pale blue with a few swipes of the blue block.  You can make interesting and useful shapes by twisting the blocks as you move them.  And, it seems easiest to blend colors when I’m using the block crayons. 

I recently purchased a DVD by Sieglinde de Francesca, called “Coloring wtih Block Crayons: Emphasizing the Primary Colors”.  It is available at a great Waldorf homeschooling site www.ALittleGardenFlower.com.  The DVD has been a treat.  I’ve learned simple things that make coloring more fun for all three of us, as well as worked on some drawings that are developing my extremely limited coloring skills (I hated coloring as a child).  I tell you, it’s absolutely breathtaking what can be created with three simple block crayons – red, yellow and blue.  Here’s a great teaser on YouTube for the full DVD that’s sure to have you inspired to try some block crayons!

 

Are Swimming Pools Safe? June 9, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 3:14 pm
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Moms everywhere are starting to question the safety of the chemicals our children encounter in the average American lifestyle.  With June comes weekly trips to the pool, and one wonders if sweet little ones are marinating in a toxic soup.  After all, when you can smell the chemicals, that’s usually a very bad sign!

Healthy Child Healthy World, one of my favorite organizations, published Chlorinated Pools and Your Child’s Health, by Janelle Sorensen last year.  The article raises concerns about the safety of the air above the water, which in chlorinated pools will emit fumes that have been shown to trigger asthma, and the safety of the water itself, which will contain volatile compounds as a result of the chlorine coming into contact with hair, body products, sweat, saliva, or urine.  These volatile compounds are carcinogens (links to studies are included). 

Swimming is a wonderful, healthy past time.  This is not to say that we should keep our kids out of pools, but we can make choices that will minimize these risks. 

There are alternatives to chlorine.  If you have your own pool, consider using a mineral sanitizer, ozonization or ultraviolet light to sanitize the pool without dangerous chemicals.  Nature2 Express is a quick, affordable ($175) and eco-friendly sanitizer that uses the mineral elements of silver and copper, with a bit of chlorine, to keep your pool clean.  Read more about alternatives in this article at the Green Upgrader

If a chlorine-free pool is not available to you, be sure to swim in an outdoor pool, which will have exponentially cleaner air than an indoor pool.  Favor pools that have “shower before swimming” rules and be sure to follow them.  Even swimming in less popular pools or when few people are present does something to counteract the concerns.  If your community has a pool, talk to the management about how often it is emptied (which clears out some of the volatile disinfection bi-products) and about experimenting with greener sanitizing options.

 

Etsy Find: Chic Clothespin Apron June 8, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 5:17 pm
Tags: ,

apronAnyone who uses a clothesline will know that clothespins can be a problem.  As in, um, where are they?  

As an addendum to a popular post The Best Clothesline Ever, I’d like to share a great Etsy find.  With my clothesline, I cannot hang the clothespins in a pouch on the wall (which works with a reel clothesline), nor can they be placed in a pouch that is pushed along the line (which works with a stationary line clothesline).  Instead, I need the clothespins to be on my body.  An apron is an ideal, albeit old-fashioned, solution.  Whether bending down to grab some more clothes or reaching up to take clothes down, a large apron pocket is always with me, located in an efficient path of motion. 

Momomadeit over at Etsy.com makes an impressive variety of chic household aprons.  I had her sew up her half-apron that’s ideal for clothespins in a custom fabric that matches my laundry room.  Because, why not have it match my laundry room, right?  While she was at it, I also had her make a painting apron for my son.  His yucky plastic one had disintegrated after a few months of use.  Both have since been put to good use, with happy results. 

One might ask, why spend $25 on a clothespin apron?!?  Well, it is a bit much, but if it makes it easier both practically and psychologically (isn’t it so cute!)  for me to commit to hanging ALL 5 loads of laundry each week… I say it’s worth it.  And, actually, my husband agrees.

 

Announcing Kidishes: The clear and simple alternative to plastic June 4, 2009

I was thrilled to discover Kidishes, a new line of tempered glass children’s dishwear made in France.  The bowls, plates and little cups are perfectly sized for little hands and oh-so-safe.  No dangerous chemicals.  No breakage.   And, no reason to avoid the dishwasher or microwave! 

We immediately added this great product to our store (http://www.euphoriababy.com/store/pc/Tableware-c6.htm), and I’m bringing home some much-needed bowls and cups for my kids today!  If you haven’t already ditched your plastic or melamine kids dishes, now’s the time!