Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Save some green to buy more green.

People constantly comment to me that buying green is pricey. I agree, but you need to know the tricks and then it is not such a burden on the wallet.  Coupons are my favorite. The catch is if you use a coupon for an item that you may not use, it is not a good deal. I try to have coupons for most of the brand name items that I buy (the rest, I buy generic. Almost every store has a store brand organic.)  Here are some sites that have printable coupons.

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/   Check this every other month for different coupons. Don't shy away from whole foods coupons, you can use them at Publix.

http://www.target.com/coupons These coupons change regularly and yes, you can use them at Publix too!

http://www.coupons.com/   These change every week, so check back.  There is a print limit, so don't print them all at once.

http://www.mambosprouts.com/bts10msngr/ Their coupons are all natural and organic, you can print them from the site.

http://www.couponmom.com/  She has links to tons of coupon sites that may have organic or natural coupons.

http://www.stonyfield.com/  These coupons expire quickly (2 weeks or so), so only print the ones that you’ll use soon. They also have a print limit, so print them sparingly.

http://www.energizer.com/ They usually have a coupon for regular batteries and rechargeable.  Using rechargeable is not only green, but it saves you green.  I have charged my batteries so many times and I can't remember the last time I bought alkaline.

Now go save some green, while you are saving the planet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can I recycle this?

Recycling can be a tricky job. Do you have to remove tops or not? Can the tops be recycled? What about recycling batteries, metal hangers and wine corks?  Luckily there is a wealth of information out there.

Most cities or garbage companies only take plastics #1 and #2. So, what do you do with the rest?  If it is a #5, you can bring it to Whole Foods.  Whole Foods will take the plastics, give it to recycling and they will make cool bags and other gear out of it.  They also recycle wine corks, so don't throw those corks away after you drink some vino! (Or of course you could compost the corks if you are feeling really ambitious.)

Check with your recycling program, because you may have to remove the tops from containers and set them aside. You can recycle them, maybe not with your garbage company but with Aveda. They collect plastic bottle caps to make new plastic bottles. Check on their website for the rules.

By far, the most helpful website is Earth911. Right there on their home page, you can type in the item in question and your area and it will tell you where to go. This is terribly helpful when you want to recycle something like batteries and don't know where to go.  (Hint-most Batteries Plus stores take them.)

Wire hangers continually pile up in our closet and they are so annoying.  My first instinct is to recycle them, but reusing them is much more environmentally friendly. Our dry-cleaner gladly takes any hanger, regardless of the color, and I am glad to give them away. If you can't give 'em away, check out earth911 for recycling centers.

If in doubt, check with your garbage company or your city recycling center.  Many recycling centers will take many things that they do not pick up in the curbside bins. The garbage company may even have special days that they recycle big items, so check their website or call.

Before you toss it, check with your resources or ask around, there is probably a place that will take it (either for recycling or reusing.).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Calling all promising green moms

I am officially a Moms Meet Ambassador and I would like to get a group of green-minded moms together to toss around what we have learned and are learning about greening our family's lives.

According to the http://www.greenmomsmeet.com/ website:
The Mom Ambassador Program is a network of confident, charismatic, and committed moms who are enthusiastic about parenting and green living.

Mom Ambas­sadors lead groups of par­ents in dicus­sion meet­ings, and act as ambas­sadors to present top­ics, prod­ucts, and ser­vices that they think would be valu­able to the par­ents in their communities.

In our group meeting/play dates we will talk about healthy practices, become closer friends, be able to test and review free products and be a voice for the community.

If you are at all interested, email me and we will talk. mygreenthumbs@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Paint those piggies

I can't understand it, but I have a child who is girly. I, myself, was a bit boyish, not caring about my hair, fashion or how dirty I got.   My daughter doesn't mind the dirt, but she loves to look sassy. She changes clothes multiple times a day, loves her princess dresses and shoes and begs to have her nails painted.

For the past few years, I have avoided painting her toes (if I can) because I could not find any polish that was not harmful. I ordered one online, only to have it rub off in less than 24 hours.

Then I was reading treehugger.com and saw a recommendation for Piggy Paint nail polish.  It mentioned that it is great for kids, has lots of colors to choose from and it is toxic free!  Their slogan is "it's as natural as mud". Cute. On their website they tell us that, "It is free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, biphenyl A, ethyl acetate and acetone... and made in the USA!"  Sounds great to me, let's try it.

We ordered the multi-pack with purple, light blue and pink in it and my daughter and I both painted our toes.  I love it!!! It dries quickly and with two coats it looks great for over a week.  They also recommend that you use a blow dryer for a minute to set the color and that definitely helps.  I am so happy. I think I will get green and yellow too.

If you become a fan of them on Facebook, they often give out discount codes for 15%, so it is worth trying. The shipping is reasonable too.  Happy painting...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The dilemma of what to pack

The other day, I realized that I have to pack my daughter's lunch 5 days a week, including a snack and drink.  Here's the dilemma...do I give her a PB&J daily?  According to what I have read, the kids will trade food if they don't like what you packed, so it is a good idea to pack what she likes and to make her involved in the process. 

After researching a list of several dozen possibilities, I stumbled upon smoothies or mixed fruit drinks.  The combinations are endless and hiding veggies in food just got easier! I started with just fruits and yogurt and some OJ, they loved it.  Then I used several fruits and 2 c. of spinach leaves, they loved it.  Now, I include all kinds of veggies including tomato and carrot juice with a little honey, silken tofu, flax seed, and applesauce.  I still use the Environmental Working Group's list of the dirty dozen for fruit and veggies to determine if the fruit or juice should be organic or not. (eg, pineapple juice is not organic, tomato juice is.)

After looking over dozens of sample lunches, I started to make a list of what she would eat and what I could get away with.  The list includes pita pockets with sandwich ingredients, tortillas with sandwich ingredients rolled up, ravioli, cheese and crackers, pasta salad, pancakes, scrambled eggs and breaded chicken pieces. Her snacks include dips like hummus and peanut butter and ranch dressing.  I give her pretzels, pitas, carrots, celery and apples to dip.  For snacks and other random stuff, she will eat hard boiled eggs (already peeled and sliced), yogurt, any fruit, cheese sticks, popcorn, nuts, raisins, applesauce, trail mix and edamame.  This list sounds extensive, but it may not be enough to last through the whole year.  Hopefully if I mix it up enough and don't fall back on PB&J, she will eat it.

The drinks were just going to be water, but she might get tired of that too, so I am going to do what Trader Joe's does.  They put lots of fresh, cut fruit in their water and my kids love it!  Her drink container is stainless steel, so juice is fine.  Now I will keep my fingers crossed and hope that we are off to a good start for the new school year!

Check out some holistic tips for lunch too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to school toxics

In about a week and a half, my oldest starts Pre-K.  It is much like public school in that I have to pack lunch, pack a snack, provide a backpack for her that fits a folder comfortably and cloth her in things that might last for the whole school year.

After looking everywhere and doing way too much research, I found our backpack.  It is from Crocodile Creek and it is the perfect size for an almost 5-year-old (it holds a folder too).  It is BPA, lead, PVC and phthalate FREE!!!!  Not only does it not have all these toxic ingredients, but it is also cute, functional and she LIKES it!  I was so excited about it that I bought the matching stainless steel drink bottle too.

Luckily the lunchbox that I bought for her last year is still intact and I will be using it again for as long as possible.  I bought a stainless steel food container that keeps food hot/cold, is BPA free, unbreakable(yeah!) and easy to clean with a wide opening. Now I can send her to school with food that is hot.  If only I could be sure that she would actually eat it. Ha.
I am afraid to use random plastic containers in the cabinet for juicy snacks like fruits and I need containers that fit together.  I found this set of containers that are perfect. They are also BPA, lead, PVC, phthalate and melamine FREE too!  Then for snack time, I found this small plastic pouch which is made of EVA plastic instead of toxic PVC, so you can put juicy snacks in it as well as any other snacks and feel good about it.

For the daunting task of clothing her, I am grateful for the Fall Consignment Season. They have it all, shoes, boots, jackets, hats and tons of jeans and shirts.  The above mentioned website is fabulous for finding sales all over the country and gives you all of the details for when to shop and the "rules" of each sale. Last year I got so many good deals that I could not help myself from buying for others too!

 Not only is buying at a consignment sale good for your wallet, it is good for the environment.  The things you buy are getting re-used, most of them have been washed a few times(which removes a ton of chemicals that new clothes have) and it is keeping things out of the landfill!! WIN-WIN!

After all of this is over, then I can sit back and relax and know that I have kept a few toxins away from my precious little one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The smell of suncreen

We have been using natural sunscreen for several years. Today when we were at the pool, I got a whiff of what traditional sunscreen smells like and I have to say, I am glad we switched. (Not only because it smells "off", but because heavy smells indicate something fake.)

I have used a number of sunscreens since we switched and all of them worked, but since then I have done research to find out that some are a little more chemical laden then I thought.  Environmental Working Group is an organization that works tirelessly to rate all of the sunscreens that they can get their hands on.  They rate them according to chemicals, too high or too low SPF, the balance of UVB and UVA protection and other factors.  It is a good idea to go to this website to check out a sunscreen you have or one that you are going to buy.

This photo is property of www.flickr.com/sicilianitaliano

I just ordered sunscreen that ranks a #3 on the EWG list.  Usually I try to use products that are 4 or less.  I ordered Aubrey Organics Sunscreen for Active Lifestyles.   I was using Trader Joe's sunscreen, which ranks a #4, but it contains Vitamin A.  According to EWG:
The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed the development of cancer.

Recently available data from an FDA study indicate that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). This evidence is troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens.


Due to the fact that people are so scared of skin cancer, we lather up on the sunscreen (makes sense, right).  Well, according to US News & World Report, you need about 10 min. of sun exposure WITHOUT sunscreen to get enough Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is said to help in the prevention of Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, Cancer, Depression, Insomnia and Immune System problems.  So, wait until after you get outside to spread it on.

Check the list and know that you are not polluting your family's bodies when enjoying the sun.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


People are always asking me either where I get the products that I use (bug spray, hand sanitizer, soap, lotion, essential oils) or what works for me.

When it comes to mosquitoes, I either use citronella essential oil or a rub on stick from Badger. Badger is a great company with good morals and a good reason for being in business.  The stick is a little pricey, but it works and I like the strong smell (probably because it doesn't smell fake).

When I pick the kids up from school, when they are leaving a store or after they help me play in the dirt, I use CleanWell Hand Sanitizer. They have spray in full and travel sizes, wipes and soaps. I love the smell and effectiveness and lack of chemicals in this product.

For buying hand soap, I am all over the place. I like Method, Trader Joe's brand, Simple Green and Burt's Bees. The only Method "flavor" that I like is "go naked", because it does not have artificial coloring and I don't really care for the pump (so I buy the refills and fill up other containers).  Trader Joe's smells good and is a great price. Simple Green is a nice mild smell and a huge container, Burt's Bees makes me smile because I love the smell, but it is a little more expensive.

I use a couple of sources for oils.  I get most of my essential oil from Swanson Vitamins and the rest of it from my local health food store. I use essential oil for everything, including: air freshener(grapefruit), bug spray(citronella), bath salts (lavender), headache relief (peppermint), freshen and clean bathroom(lemon & eucalyptus), rash relief and lice killer (tea tree), holiday scent (balsam) and there are many more

For most of the brands that I have mentioned, they have websites. Go to their site and sign up for their newsletter.  Many of them will offer you a discount, mail you a coupon or just let you know about sales and other good deals.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What to pack...

So, my daughter is going to camp and she eats lunch there.  This means packing a lunch that she will eat and not toss, that will not leave her hungry, that will not pollute her body and that will not contribute to landfills.

So, after buying her a washable lunchbox that is PVC-free from Lands End, I decided to tackle the sandwich first. I went to reusablebags.com and bought a Wrap-n-mat, which not only holds the sandwich, but it also doubles as a place mat (aka clean surface).  Then I tackled the fruit.  For some reason or another, I save containers (sour cream, yogurt, butter) and these came in handy for fruit, other than watermelon (which is a bit drippy). For crackers, or anything else dry, I use Tupperware-type containers.  The drink is a Sigg aluminum bottle with a sport-type pull up lid.  While I was shopping the reusable bag website, I also stumbled upon a non-toxic freezer gel pack, which helps to keep everything cold while the lunch box sits around waiting for the contents to be devoured (we hope).

I feel good about packing her lunch and the lack of waste it creates, hopefully she will eat what she is given. (even though she came home today and mentioned that everyone at camp shares food for lunch-ugh!)

Check out this article about lunches.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I am carbon neutral!

I am going carbon neutral, so my blog and it's viewers are not creating any CO2 emissions when they view it.  It will cost me nothing,  Make it Green! and the Arbor Day Foundation are planting a tree for me to counteract my emissions!

The trees will be planted in Plumas National Forest in CA that was devastated by forest fires in 2007.

Thank you to Make it Green! and The Arbor Day Foundation!!

(Click the link below to make your blog green too!)

carbon neutral coupons and shopping with kaufDA.de

Friday, June 11, 2010

What am I eating?

photo property of: www.flickr.com/wisely-chosen
Some of the food that we eat is garbage. Some of the things that I have eaten over the years are garbage, but things have changed at our house (for the most part).  Fortunately it is not difficult to educate yourself before it goes into your mouth.

Preservatives are in all kinds of foods.  They help to prolong the life (in the fridge or out) of the item for months or years or in the case of Twinkies, a lifetime. To name a few, BHT(keep oils from going bad), aspartame, nitrates(preserves flavor of meat), MSG(can cause headaches and nausea), High Fructose Corn Syrup[HFCS] and potassium bromate (increase volume in breads).  Some of these are even know to cause Cancer, steer clear!

Artificial Colors are relatively obvious (check out the bright colored fruit loops). They are in yogurt that is blue or soda that's not clear or M&Ms or jelly beans or frozen ice pops.  Mischievous companies put color in all kinds of things to entice our children to beg for them. Things like goldfish, cereal, crackers, jelly, hot dogs, snack food, and juice.  Artificial colors are usually the last thing listed on the ingredient label as FD&C Red 40 or Blue 2 or any variety of combinations, it's usually obvious.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are scary. They are seeds that are manufactured to resist pesticides and/or herbicides and they are mainly used to grow corn, soybeans, cotton and canola.  There are so many reasons why we don't want these engineered seeds in our bodies and on this planet.  First of all, they are hard to avoid, because 70% of processed foods contain them.  Second, scientists say that side effects of eating GMOs are allergic reactions and gene mutations.  Not to mention we are basically eating foods that have more pesticides than a non-GM crop and it is killing the soil. 

What to do? Eat certified organic (they are not allowed to use GMO for use with the organic label), look for foods that are GMO-free (Trader Joe's private label products are already GMO-free), and download this list of how to eat GMO-free from The Center for food Safety.

Making these changes or even a few is wonderful. It has taken our family years to get there and sometimes even we fall off of the bandwagon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dirty, dirty air

They say the air in your home is 3-5 times dirtier that the air outside. Scary.  

Obvious things like smoke pollute the air, but hopefully most people go outside. 

Then there are chemicals, we use them to clean, we use them to kill bugs,we use them to paint our house, and there are chemicals in our carpets (no matter the age).  The first one is easy, use green cleaners. The second is a little harder, no one likes bugs in the house (except for an Entomologist), but we don't want the chemicals either. I have hired Greenhouse Pest Management to come and rid me of these creatures.  They use things like Borax and Pyrethrins (that are not harmful to any animals). The third is easy too, use VOC-free paint. Yes, it will cost almost twice as much, but there is NO smell.  The carpets, it is a love-hate relationship.  We love them for the softness and the warmth that they create, but they harbor germs and bacteria and allergens.  To counteract the VOCs from carpets, I put plants in all the room.  Of course, most of you are thinking that plants will surely die, but not if you get philodendrons or peace lilies. They can both tolerate low light and they will wilt when they need you (aka water).

Another indoor pollutant is gas like carbon monoxide, radon and leaking natural gas.  For carbon monoxide, a detector can save your life, so it is worth the cost.  Radon must be checked by a professional and gas may be leaking from your appliances without even realizing it, so that needs a pro too.

Other pollutants can include water leaks that cause mold, not taking shoes off (which brings in everything you stepped on during the day), or not using a hepa-filter on the vacuum cleaner

Change your air filters every three months. Period.  Even after almost 3 months, our filters are so disgusting, I am thinking of changing them more often. We use the 3M filters that are supposed to filter out more allergens, but we also have a cat and a dog.  That leads me to mention another source of allergens, animals.  Vacuuming regularly, brushing them outside, wiping their feet, making sure they have no fleas and washing their bedding helps.

Open your windows when the weather is nice (if  bugs come in, just call your green pest guy).  Air out your home and the chemicals.  Make sure to never bring drycleaning bags in the home (my hubbie asks for no bag on the clothes, so they are aired out by the time he gets home).

Nothing is ever easy, including the air.  Do what you can or change things gradually, it took me years.  The payoff will be a healthier house and healthier family (including pets).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Don't toss it!

I have a problem with lots of trash.  When most of it can be avoided, composted, reused, or recycled.  The landfills are so full that it is becoming a problem as to where to put the trash.

When it comes to avoiding trash, that starts in the store.  Think about how something is packaged, when there is tons of styrofoam with no # or tons of "blister" packaging, think twice before you buy it.

By reusing things, I repurpose them. We make bird feeders out of milk cartons.  To-go containers for lunch are butter, sour cream or cottage cheese tubs.  Toilet paper tubes are used as binoculars for the kids.  Or I literally reuse things by using freecycle or donating to a charity. I even take used egg cartons to my local friendly egg supplier (or you can take them to the farmers market).

I love to garden, so it made no sense that I went to Home Depot to buy compost when I could make it myself at home.  It couldn't be easier. I layer "brown" (yard waste-leaves, pine straw, weeds)  and "green"(kitchen waste, rinds, eggshells, napkins, pasta, etc.) and I add a little water and the sun adds the heat. I wait a few months and I have beautiful black gold (aka compost).  I did learn a few months ago that I should NOT add receipts from restaurants and stores. These receipts commonly are printed with ink that contains BPA.  That BPA does not go away when you make compost, therefore getting into anything that you grow. Yuk!

Luckily I live in Roswell, GA and recycling here is pretty advanced. We don't have to sort recycling and we  can recycle plastics #1-6.  Most cities are 1 and 2 only. Regardless of this fact, I would still recycle everything some way or another.  If in doubt, I go to my favorite recycling website.  This place has it all and even some tips that even die-hard-greenies might not know.  One thing I do make sure to do is remove the tops of all containers, no matter what material.  Hard plastic tops can be recycled at Aveda.  Some things that I have learned along the way: aluminum foil doesn't have to be washed, just pick off the food, so the bugs don't have a picnic. All paper is recyclable as long as it is not shiny. Break down boxes, small and large. Don't put broken glass in the bin.  Make sure your area recycles paper milk cartons (usually 1/2 gallon), most don't, so don't buy them.  Most importantly, don't let trash get in your recycle bin.

I feel like I have an obligation to my kids and their kids and their kids' kids' to leave the earth better than I found it.  I might not be here in a hundred years, but my trash will be. That should be a reason to care.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I love dirt (when it is outside)!

My garden is thriving this month and I can't wait for the next month to show even more color. The veggies are growing, slowly, but surely and everything seems to be bigger and better than last year.

All of my yard and garden are organic. Not certified, but close. he he  I use no pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, funcicides, or fertilizers that are not completely natural or certified organic.  I haven't used any of these chemicals for years and my grass, flowers, fruits and veggies are beautiful proof that I am doing something right. 

To prep soil, I use compost from my bin, mushroom compost and natures helper.  To fertilize, I use Miracle Gro organic fertilizer for the whole yard.  For weed control, I use corn gluten on the lawn and shredded newspaper in the plant beds with a heap of mulch.  When there is something bothering one of my plants, I spray soapy water on it, slugs get cups of beer and caterpillars get picked off and squished.  If I really need help, I bring a leaf or more to a Master Gardener friend to help and make suggestions about incecticidal soap or other organic bug traps.

My reward: My kids and my dog can play in the yard at their leisure and I never lose sleep over it,  I attract more birds and toads and wildlife, and I am never polluting the waterstream or anything else for that matter.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Keeping the dirt at bay

Cleaning is one of my least favorite activities. It is always on my to-do list and it never seems to make it to the top.

When I decided to go "green" with my cleaning supplies, it was exciting to think that I would only have a few bottles of cleaner under the sink, rather than dozens. My first "aha" moment was when I opened the newly run dishwasher and one of my small kids was breathing in the fumes. From there on out, we were a "green" house.

I buy mostly "products" like seventh generation, method, and trader joe's brand for cleaning. For some things, house hold products work well, vinegar & baking soda for drains, lemons and the juice for the garbage disposal and bleach replacement, vinegar to kill weeds, borax for laundry and to kill pests, essential oils for fresh smells and good old fashioned non-antibacterial soap to clean almost everything.

My house is still not the most spic and span place you'll visit, but at least it does not smell like cleaners.

Check out this link for some good info. http://www.grist.org/article/possessions-cleaning/

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where do I begin?

For several years, I have been gradually increasing the amount of "green" things that I do in my life and I would like to be able to tell my friends about what I have learned along the way.

I have been a consistent recycler for years, but that did not seem like enough. Then I had kids and my view of the world in which we live, changed. Now, most of the "green" moves that I make are motivated by two little people that don't even know what they have inspired.

I started with food and realized all of the chemicals and hormones and antibiotics and who-knows-what-else was not what I wanted to put in our bodies. After switching to organic milk, I started with the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and veggies that Environmental Working Group recommends that you buy organic.  I started pricing out where to get the cheapest apples, pears, strawberries, etc. I also learned out to save food and eat in season. (That is quite a challenge, since I still can only freeze food and we just eat a lot of frozen fruit in the winter.) I buy most of the pears and apples in bulk at Trader Joe's and strawberries from May-July where I find them cheapest (sometimes Costco has frozen ones). I buy potatoes in a big bag at Publix. Blueberries I either pick in July and freeze or buy frozen at Costco. Salad greens I get at TJ's.

From the fruit and veggies, we moved on to meat. As many of you know, I don't eat much meat, but I have watched Food Inc., and many other food documentaries (as well as read the book, "Skinny Bitch" by Rory Freedman) and I know what they do to it. Scary stuff, if you don't already know, you need to find out. So, I buy organic chicken at Costco and grass fed beef and organic beef hotdogs at Trader Joe's (along with most of my other food). I have gotten fish recommendations from Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Now I try to buy all organic when it comes to what the kids eat. Whole foods has the best and cheapest cheese sticks and boxed mac and cheese, both organic. TJ's has organic tomato sauce and pasta and cereal. Costco has great frozen organic veggies and peanut butter and jelly and edamame.

Now that I am set with where I buy food and what I buy, I am concentrating more now on where it comes from. I would rather have local than not and I would rather have made in the USA than China. For example, I needed honey. Publix honey is made in FL, but the Organic Goodness Brand was made in CA. No question about that, I bought the one from FL.

I still have a lot to learn and I am learning more daily. Keep reading.