Friday, December 30, 2011

Borrowing Earth's Top 5 for 2011

2011 is almost over, and we feel proud we are leaving it a little greener and bit more socially responsible. What were our top 5 favorite changes for 2011 (and yours, based on stats from Google Analytics)?

5. Home Energy Audit - Getting an energy audit confirmed what we knew was going well and gave us new ideas for conserving even more energy.

4. Avoiding the Dirty Dozen - We go organic as much as possible, but we always avoid the produce most covered in pesticides.

3. Indoor Plants - Feeling good about simple, cleaner air and great ambiance!

2. Breastfeeding - I wish I could have made it to the 12 month mark, but babies have their own plans. We were happy to save money and waste from formula, and so glad to give our little boy the most nutritious food possible for 9 months.

1. Cloth Diapers - With a new baby comes tons of waste, especially if you use disposable diapers. 10 months later, we still love our cloth!

We are excited to make more changes and share them with you in 2012! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thank Goodness for Grandparents

Wow, Christmas with a 10 month old comes with a LOT of waste! Our recycling bin is fuller than ever (and we normally need at least 2 bins for all the junk we recycle). Our stack of cardboard is literally as tall as me.

Thank goodness Grandma and Grandpa Brownie and Nana and Papa D understand our efforts in social responsibility. Many of their gifts came with minimal waste.

Some highlights included a handmade hippo from Grandma B-minimal waste there, and a pre-loved Lego Duplo table with Legos galore-just the wrapping paper (another gift in itself) for waste.

Happy holidays to everyone! I hope you received gifts of friends and family (and maybe a few waste free goodies too :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hot Cocoa

Perhaps this next idea isn't so much a socially responsible idea as it is a money saver. My coworkers are wonderful gift givers and they really bring the holiday spirit to the office. Unfortunately, I'm not great with gifts. Nate and I haven't given gifts to each other for a birthday or Christmas in years. I know it seems sad, but we both often buy what we want when we want it, and therefore don't see the need to buy more stuff on top of the stuff we just bought.

This year though, I had a fun idea, compliments of The Motherload. I made flavored hot cocoa mix as my gift. All I did is substitute flavored cream for the regular cream in the "gourmet hot cocoa" recipe. It turned out okay, but I think I'd use real cocoa instead of the chocolate drink mix to give it a bit more cocoa flavor.

The eco benefits of this would be reduced packaging, since I bought everything in bulk and packaged it myself. In addition, I could've bought all organic ingredients, but since this was a budget-based project, I had to pass on organics this time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BPA in Cans

I think most people have heard about the perils of BPA in our water bottles, baby bottles, etc. Bisphenal A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to breast cancer, ADHD, immune system disruption and other health issues. Research supports it's negative effects enough that many companies have taken action to remove BPA from our drinking vessils. However, BPA still sneaks into various places. One place we still see BPA is in the lining of canned foods.

The 10 worst canned items in regard to BPA content include:

  1. Coconut milk
  2. Soup
  3. Meat
  4. Vegetables
  5. Meals (e.g. ravioli in sauce)
  6. Juice
  7. Fish
  8. Beans
  9. Meal replacement drinks
  10. Fruit

Source: Safer Chemicals

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Torn about Tearing into giftwrap

Nate was reading his blogs the other day and quoted the following:

"Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. (Source: The Recycler's Handbook, 1990) In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons. In Canada, the annual waste from gift wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,00 tons. If everyone wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or fabric gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks. (Source: eartheasy)"

"Great idea!" I said, "But it's A's first Christmas, and I already bought wrapping paper..." 

To which he replied, "So?"

"So, I want to take pictures..."

"An even better reason why we should demonstrate our eco-lifestyle early in A's life."

I don't know what my deal is. My birthday gifts growing up were wrapped in the bag they were purchased in (if we were lucky, a reused bow was taped to the top). My grandma flattened out all of her gift wrap to reuse. I am not the type to be overly concerned about what a gift looks like on the outside (or inside, for that matter).

I have no doubt that we'll wrap gifts in reused paper next year, but this year, I'm still having trouble letting go of the fact that it's A's first Christmas. I'll get there, but in the mean time, the gifts will sit in the basement unwrapped as I practice letting go of my frivolous decorating needs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Calls it Quits

Picture Source:
Four weeks ago yesterday, A quit nursing cold turkey. I thought maybe I wouldn't blog about this because this really isn't applicable for most of my readers, but for the few for whom this is relevant, I wanted  to share my experience in the hopes that it is helpful for you.

Since I started enjoying nursing (it took about 3 weeks) I had planned to nurse until A was 12 months old, the AAP recommendation.

A nursed as usual when we woke up on November 12 (his 9 month birthday), and then refused to nurse for his second morning feeding. I didn't think anything of it and gave him some bananas and cereal. Then at lunch, he refused again. At that point, I had to give him a bottle because he needed the nutrients. When he refused again that afternoon, I started looking online. I'll tell you right now, in the 4 weeks I've been trying to figure this out, I haven't found anything helpful, and this blog won't offer you any new insights either. Everything I read said "a majority of infants don't quit nursing on their own until around 18 months of age." This, of course, makes me feel like a failure. My research told me this was most likely a nursing strike, perhaps due to teething or just a growing independence. I was under the impression it might last 2-7 days.

When 7 days came and went (at this point we had stocked up on formula to supplement the bottles of frozen breast milk), I researched the longest nursing strike: 18 days. So I figured I'd give it 18 days and then figure out what I'd do. I pumped and got enough milk to give him a bottle of breast milk a day. The rest of the day he'd get formula.

I called the Health Partners Lactation consultants and got no help from the nurse with whom I spoke. She told me that when her little one went on a nursing strike, she simply told him "this is where your milk comes from. You get it here, or not at all." Um, not going to work for me. My son goes to day care, so he already knows that's not true. She told me to not offer him an alternative, but I'm not going to refuse to give my son nutrients to teach him where milk should come from. And she told me the reason most babies quit nursing this young is not their choice, but because the mother gives up. Thanks for making me feel like crap, and not helping me find a real solution to the problem.

If you experience the same situation, do not feel bad. You can grieve the change in your relationship with your child, but then move on. Trust that you've done all you can and trust that you will make the best choices for yourself and for your child.

When the 18 days passed, I decided I'd pump enough milk to have a bottle a day for him until he's 12 months old. Ufda, that is 100 times harder than nursing exclusively. I'm not going to make it. And quite frankly, my supply won't either.

I woke up this morning with A, and I just didn't have it in me to pump. So I guess without really making a decision, I've made the choice to call it quits.

It took me 4 weeks to come to terms with this, but as Nate reminded me a few weeks ago, if I continue to set my heart on fulfilling all my plans, I will continue to be disappointed. I don't get to make such detailed plans as a parent. I'm okay with my decision. A had 9 months of breastfeeding and then made his own decision to exert his independence. His favorite way to take a bottle is standing up, holding on to the table. Not really an option with a breast. I hope it's a sign of good parenting to recognize what he needs and allow him to fulfill those needs in a healthy way.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Post Black Friday Walk of Shame

I am probably at my worst social responsibility-wise on Black Friday. Growing up, my parents and I stayed in and decorated for Christmas on Black Friday, or what I used to call simply the Day after Thanksgiving. Then, I started dating Nate. In order to prove my mettle to his bargain hunting family, I had to get up at 3 am to line up at Best Buy 7 years ago. I held my own, holding the line to check out while the rest of the family scrounged up the best bargains. 7 years later, I find myself in the line at Shopko, taking the lead on pulling coveted items off the shelves and politely telling 13-year-old girls to go to the back of the line (and yes, I really was polite).

This Black Friday was a milestone for me because it's the first (of many, I'm sure) hunting for the best deals for my son's Christmas presents. 

However, my shopping spree gives me nothing to blog about. In fact, I'm so consumerist that I'm ashamed to blog about the experience at all. I didn't even bother to bring our reusable bags!! 

The dark side of my shopping hit me when I opened my new, much needed memory foam contour pillow to find a warning that I should air out the pillow for 48 hours because it's a petroleum-based product with natural chemical odors. What was I thinking? I can't sleep on this for the next 5 years! (Which is how long I've been sleeping on my old pillow, thus the permanent crick in my neck.) But oh, I laid my head on my new pillow and it is sooo comfortable! 

I'll be doing some further research to decide if I need to give up my own bargain in lieu of something more eco friendly (and that I feel good about breathing in every night) or if I can keep it because it's not as bad as the warning suggests.

Between that and the pound of tissue paper and cardboard Nate pulled out of his 7 new work shirts, I'm feeling the post-Black Friday shame. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm Back!

Wow, have I ever been a slacker!! I have no excuse for my absence from blogging except that I am fully immersed in motherhood. Our little guy is 9 months old, crawling, pulling up on things, clapping, and babbling away, and I don't want to miss a minute! But since I want my son to grow up in a socially responsible world, I'm summoned back to the blog.

With winter in full swing in Minnesota, this tip will be easier to implement than ever. Take your shoes off when you come inside. Shoes track in the chemicals you've sludged through all day. In addition, this will keep your floors cleaner, thus requiring less cleaning.
shoes at door
Image borrowed from Around Hawaii

Source: Safer Chemicals 

Monday, October 3, 2011


There are many foods that are no-no's when you are pregnant. Most people will tell you to avoid certain types of fish that are high in mercury. The challenge is that fish is a very good thing to eat when you are pregnant because it provides a lot of omega-3s, which are great for baby's developing brain. This, of course, led me to extensive research about which fish were low enough in mercury to eat while pregnant.
We continue to avoid high-mercury fish because it's still a risk for my breast-feeding baby, and I really don't see the point in eating mercury laden fish when there are many safer options. Below is the list of safe fish, fish to eat in moderation, and fish to avoid while pregnant. I have found Super Target to have a surprisingly wide selection of safe frozen fish. The Market Pantry Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon is great and relatively inexpensive.

Safe Fish-fish that are high in omega-3s and low in mercury. Doctors say up to 2 6 oz. servings a week are safe, and even recommended.
farmed abalone, farmed catfish, farmed clams, stone crab, king crab, flounder, haddock, atlantic mackerel, farmed mussels, wild Alaskan or pacific salmon (we eat a lot of this), canned wild pink or sockeye salmon, sardines, bay scallops, farmed scallops, northern shrimp, Oregon shrimp, spot prawns, farmed striped bass, farmed sturgeon, farmed trout, butterfish, calamari, Pollock, whitefish, ocean perch, flounder, hake, herring, spiny/rock lobster, shad, sole, crawfish/crayfish, clams, tilapia, freshwater trout
Eat in Moderation-no more than 6 6 oz servings per month.
  • carp, mahi mahi, Dungeness crab, snapper, blue crab, atlantic herring, snow crab, monkfish, freshwater perch, skate, cod, Canned light chunk tuna, fresh Pacific Albacore tuna
Avoid-these are too high in mercury. This applies for everything baby eats until 1 year of age.
  • king mackerel, Atlantic salmon, Chilean sea bass, shark, unidentified or farmed shrimp, swordfish, tilefish, canned albacore white tuna, orange roughy, grouper, marlin, bass saltwater, croaker, halibut, fresh bluefin tuna, ahi tuna, sea trout, bluefish, American/Maine lobster.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cloud Computing

Nate insists that his eco-friendly activities get shared as well, so this week's post is about cloud computing. I guess it's something we both do, but he takes advantage of it much more as a tech junkie.

Cloud computing is essentially storing your data in a centralized location out of your computer. The hardware is not at your site. Because you don't have to pay for very expensive, top-of-the-line hardware yourself, you save money. In addition, because the information is stored off site, you can access your data from anywhere.

More importantly, but consolidating the energy that all of us use during computing to one central location, we reduce the energy used. "A recent report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Verdantix estimates that cloud computing has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by millions of metric tons (Google Blog-Gmail: It's Cooler in the Cloud)."

Nearly everyone is already cloud computing without thinking of it-email, Google docs, Facebook, etc. We can make conscious choices to do even more. Dropbox is one free option. This program allows you to easily upload data from your computer and access it from anywhere.

Look for other ways to increase your cloud computing and decrease your carbon emissions even more. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Composting-The Details

We've been composting for so long, I just assumed I had a lengthy post including all the details of how we do it, but Nate just pointed out that the blog is missing this key aspect of our green life. My very first real post  mentions that we compost, but that's it. So here's how it works.

All of our food scraps (fruits, veggies, egg shells, coffee grounds) go in a little compost bin under our sink. We were using a small garbage can with no lid, but as we got lazier about taking it out, it got stinkier, and we got fruit flies, so I invested in a bin with a lid and filter. We haven't had any problems with it since. Once every week or two, we take the kitchen bin out and dump it in our outdoor compost bin. We also throw our yard waste in the big bin outside. If it gets stinky (which happens once a year when everything thaws in the spring) I throw in some paper or cardboard to get rid of the wet. 

When I get the time (which happened once this spring before I planted the vegetable garden) I scoop out some of the rich black compost from the bottom of the bin and spread it over all the gardens.

That's it! It's that simple.

There are too many benefits of composting to count, but here are two of my favorites:

  • Our garbage bin is the smallest option Veolia provides, and we could go smaller. (Although we probably could use a bigger recycling bin). This also means our garbage cost is the cheapest it can be.
  • If I had time to garden more effectively, my gardens would look amazing because of the wonderful food compost is for plants.
A friend of mine composts banana peels, coffee grounds and egg shells. She keeps it simple, and these three items are garden's favorites! Maybe this is a place for you to start too! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Air Freshener

A colleague recently came into my office and said, "you're green, right?" (I love that that's the image I portray!) And then he inquired about the Glade Plug-in I had, which sits on my floor, more so because it smells like Christmas than because it is not eco-friendly. He was looking for an air freshener that didn't negatively impact his health or the environment. After doing a little research, I couldn't find a simple option to replace the rather toxic plug-in variety.

The only green air freshener I found is this:

Most green people suggest a lot of do it yourself ideas. Some are fairly easy. Here are some I found:

  • Burn 100 percent pure beeswax candles with 100 percent cotton wicks—they purify and clean the air
  • Use green tea to refresh your home
  •  Simmer cinnamon and cloves, fresh ginger, or herbs in water on the stovetop.
  • Simmer water with a drop or two of your favorite pure essential oil.
  • Use organic sachets and potpourris.
  • Try these other homemade Home Sweeteners
  • Combine 5-10 drops of an essential oil like lavender, lemon, peppermint, bergamot, balsam, eucalyptus, tea tree, or sweet orange in a spray bottle with two cups of water.
  • Place a drop of your favorite essential oil on a light bulb prior to turning it on or add a dozen drops to a bowl of water placed on a radiator.
  • Place a couple of drops of essential oil on your vacuum cleaner's exhaust filter to freshen exiting air. A few drops of lemon juice on your vacuum cleaner bag will do the same trick.
  • Open windows.
  • Clean the source of the odor with non-toxic products.
  • Empty the garbage frequently.
  • Use an open box of baking soda for smelly rooms. We keep baking soda near garbage and the dirty diaper bag. 
  • Use indoor plants to clear carbon dioxide and other toxins.

I would say an essential oil would be a good way to go. You can buy a few varieties at Cub in the natural foods section, or there’s a bunch more at a food co-op or Whole Foods. I use essential oils for a few different things, and they really do a good job of naturally cleaning and smelling nice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

National Zero Waste Week

This week is National Zero Waste Week. Visit the link for ideas about how to reduce your waste this week and all year! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011


A returned to day care last week, which brings a whole host of new parenting dilemmas and choices to make. A has been enjoying his morning cereal mixed with breast milk this summer, but day care staff aren't allowed to transfer breast milk due to health and sanitation concerns. So here I am, researching formulas to mix with the cereal. Just like cloth diapers, I keep wading into more and more options with long lists of pros and cons.

If you want to go eco-friendly and uber healthy for your baby, here's what I found:

  • Check the ingredient list. Make sure it is made with milk lactose or brown rice syrup. Avoid cane sugar, corn sugar, and sucrose. Babies don't need super sweet formula. 
  • Decide if you want it made with DHA/ARA or not. Manmade DHA is a fairly new idea and not much is known about it's effects on infants. 
  • Look for the USDA Organic label
  • Go with powdered formula instead of premade formula. Powdered formula requires less packaging, and premade formula has been found to contain high levels of BPA. 
  • Mix it with regular tap water or filtered water, not bottled water. Bottled water creates unnecessary waste and might leach BPA into the milk. If you are still nervous about your water, boil and cool it for use. 
Four formulas continue to come up in my research as the best options. In order (based on my opinions of what I think is best for A):

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Organic Boy

I have been so proud that A has only eaten organic foods since he started solids. As we add more and more variety to his menu, I can't find organic produce at Cub where I normally shop, so I've made a few trips to the Mississippi Market in St. Paul for my organic goodies.

I love the food co-op. I don't have to spend nearly as much time weighing my options and searching odd corners of the store to find eco-friendly items. I like the mission of food co-ops, which focuses on sustainability and consumer control. I read once in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, "Eaters must understand, how we eat determines how the world is used." By shopping at the co-op, I feel like I'm helping to make my statement about how I want to use the world. 

I know A will have to eat non-organic someday, and probably someday soon, but I will hold out as long as possible and give his little body a chance to avoid extra chemicals. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tea Tree Oil

The logical wipe to use when using cloth diapers is cloth wipes. If you use disposable wipes, you have to separate them from the diaper to throw them away, and that's icky. With cloth, you just throw them in the wash with the diapers. No need for extra handling. But you need to get the cloth wipes wet so they actually do some cleaning, and just using water doesn't really seem like the best way to clean a baby's bottom. So I Googled cloth wipe solutions and came up with my own little mixture.

1 cup water
1 squirt baby wash
4-6 drops tea tree oil
1 tsp. grape seed or olive oil

After buying the tea tree oil for the wipes, I'm finding it is a miracle essential oil. It is a natural antibacterial oil, so every time I research natural cleaning and skin care products, tea tree oil seems to be included. Other uses to which I've put it include:

  • Foot lotion
  • Skin toner
  • Mold cleaner
  • Shower curtain cleaner
Next time you are looking for a new way to clean something, see if tea tree oil can help you out! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Showers get dirty too

Our shower curtain liner has been one of my cleaning frustrations for a long time. When I asked my in-laws how they kept theirs so clean, they said they just replaced it. So I've resigned myself to replacing it with more frequency than I have done in the past.

I stocked up on a few PEVA shower curtain liners. Traditional vinyl shower curtains give off toxic gases and release toxins that affect developing hormones. Since bath time is the favorite time of day for our little guy, I couldn't continue to let him inhale the harmful scent of vinyl.

I also thought perhaps I could prolong throwing the mildewed curtain out by spraying a cleaner on it every day. I made a homemade brew that I hope will make frequent scrubbing of soap scum unnecessary. Since I didn't have any hydrogen peroxide, I improvised. Here's what I came up with:

1 c. water
1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
6 drops Seventh Generation dish soap
4 drops tea tree oil

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Birchwood Cafe

I have been meaning to try the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis for a very long time. The opportunity finally presented itself this week. We had weddings for some friends during the last two weekends, and friends were in town from all over the country (and world) for the week. When some of my favorite girls wanted to meet for dinner, I suggested this little gem.

I ordered the Turkey Club, and oh my goodness, it was the best sandwich I've ever had! We stayed long enough for dessert and enjoyed the carrot cake, 2 chocolate chip cookies, and a fruit cobbler as well.

The front door proudly states: We love local farms, and the food reflects this. In addition, the cafe composts everything it can.

Visit the website for more information, and visit the Birchwood Cafe for delicious food you can be proud to eat!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Nate came home this weekend with Roundup weed killer. He had had it with the weeds in our rocks lining the driveway. They don't really bother me, but I'm not the one pulling them.

Regardless of his frustration, I told him I really was not okay with using Roundup, we agreed to look up some safer alternatives. We agreed to try spraying vinegar on the weeds. One week later, the weeds are brown and shriveling. and Nate will be returning the Roundup.

We will need to do some prevention to keep the weeds from reseeding. Corn gluten is supposed to prevent seeds from growing, but it takes a few years to be efffective. We've put corn gluten down twice, so we'll see what the outcomes are in a year or two.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby Food!

A has begun his adventures in eating. I have no doubt that he'll develop a sweet tooth like his mom, and a snacking habit like his dad, but while I still have full control over what he eats, I'll try and prevent that from happening.

We started with Gerber's organic brown rice cereal. This was after much internal debate on my part. I wanted to excite his taste palate early and often, but the doctor thought I was a little crazy. After discovering that rice cereal can be whole grain, I allowed myself to feel okay starting with this simple food.

The next food introduced is where things got interesting. I decided to puree my own organic sweet potatoes. (1 potato made 18 servings at a cost of about $.07 a serving, compared to my jar of Earth's Best organic which cost .$.15 a serving). Nate insisted I need to account for my time as well-this first foray into purees took me 2 hours :o. I blame the blender though-it's a piece of junk. So I indulged in a $35 food processor. Hopefully this (and experience) will speed my process up. And after tasting both varieties myself, I have to insist that my fresh puree is much better than the jarred stuff.

Regardless, A is loving his solids. He says "mmm" after every new food. It's been very exciting for both of us!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Toys for 6+ Months

As A whined on his playmat he's had since birth, I thought, hm, maybe he's ready for some new toys. So I Googled "6+ month toys" and was reminded of a website I've visited before, Baby Earth. According to the website, their commitment is “to making baby’s world as healthy, happy and safe as possible." And, "While only a portion of their products are eco-friendly, BabyEarth boasts one of the largest selections of eco-friendly baby products in the market today." 

I'm already itching to buy a bunch of new, reasonably priced, eco-friendly toys for my little guy to chew on. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Our green activities have always been within the parameters that they must not make our lives too challenging. Therefore, when A came along, I knew we were bound to compromise on something. Our compromise has been line drying laundry. I still get a load on the line every once in a while, but where it was once peaceful to spend time just hanging laundry, it is now stressful to get A and the laundry outside, get the line up, keep him entertained, and get it all hung, just to repeat in reverse a few hours later.

We'll get around to line drying again, I'm sure. I can already see the days when he happily runs around the yard while I hang everything. Or maybe I'll be napping in a hammock while he does the laundry :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The New Dirty Dozen list is out

If you want to limit your pesticide intake but don't want to go organic on everything (and until prices get reduced, who can afford that?) go organic on the following (in order from most pesticides to least):

The Environmental Working Group has come out with it's new "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists. These lists name the top 12 most pesticide-ridden produce and the top 15 cleanest fruits and vegetables.

    Green Apples
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Imported Nectarines
  7. Imported Grapes
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Domestic Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens
  13. Cilantro
And feel free to indulge on non-organic items off the following list (in order starting with the cleanest):
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Domestic Canteloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms
*Thank you to E-The Environmental Magazine for bringing the updated list to my attention. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Nate and I eat a lot of chicken. After several years of eating free range chicken, I have found the most delicious chicken I've ever tasted. Bar 5 Meat and Poultry has a free range chicken breast that has been out of this world no matter how I prepare it. They are at the St. Paul Farmers' Market every Saturday.

One of the daughters on this family owned farm replied to my question about whether the chicken were free range, "They're so free range I have to check my shoes for chicken poop before I get on the school bus."

I enjoy eating happy chickens. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why I Breastfeed

I've been putting off this topic because it seems highly personal, but I think it's time to share the benefits I've found in breastfeeding.

First, the most obvious reason is that it is the best food for my baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year. Breast milk offers more nutrients and antibodies than can be found in formula, and is uniquely adjusted to the needs of your baby in every moment; your body responds to baby's needs every time he eats.

Second, we save money. Formula is expensive! Breastfeeding just requires me to eat a few extra calories, which I'll happily do. In spite of my extra caloric intake, it also helps me to lose my baby weight. Gotta love that.

And then there are the environmental reasons. Formula comes in packaging, which must be thrown away, which means more junk in landfills. In addition, the packaging and formula require energy to be created. Using formula requires bottles, nipples, liners, etc. that must be produced, washed, and eventually thrown away. (To be fair, as a breastfeeding and pumping mom, I use bottles as well, but some women have lifestyles that allow them to exclusively breastfeed.) Finally, using formula requires fuel; a vehicle must get it to the store, and then you have to take your vehicle to go get it.

Breastfeeding is not without its difficulties. In my first weeks home with my newborn, a friend said to me "I don't know why you wouldn't breastfeed." I thought to myself, "I do." The first three weeks were incredibly difficult. My little (big) guy wanted to eat every 1-2 hours; my entire world had shifted to feeding the hungry boy. It was exhausting. But I also recall a very distinct moment when he was three weeks old and had finally started falling into a routine. He had just woken up and started eating, and I felt a sudden pleasure and bond in breastfeeding him. From there on, it has been an enjoyable experience. Even after an incredibly painful clogged duct at about 3 months, I'm happily breastfeeding.

I have all intentions of discontinuing breastfeeding at a year. Perhaps something will convince me to switch to formula before then. (Let's be honest; my baby doesn't have teeth yet, and I bet that's a whole new set of challenges.) But for now, I'm happy and proud to be breastfeeding. I know he's getting the best, and so is the planet.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fat Tire Beer

I'm not a beer drinker, but Nate is. We were very excited to discover that his new beer of choice is also an incredibly socially responsible company. New Belgium Brewing makes Fat Tire Amber Ale. While Nate loves the flavor, we also both love what the company stands for. The "Company Core Values" include:

  • Kindling social, environmental and cultural change as a business role model.
  • Environmental stewardship: Honoring nature at every turn of the business
  • Balancing the myriad needs of the company, our coworkers and their families.
  • Having Fun.
What fantastic values. They demonstrate these values in a number of ways, including: 

  • Wind powered
  • Employee owned company
  • Use of natural lighting
  • Promotion of bike commuting
  • Low-water landscaping
  • Use of reclaimed materials
  • Porous sidewalks
Nate can feel good about a beer that tastes good and that matches our socially responsible values. A great discovery just in time for the summer cabin season! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Home Energy Audit

We just got done receiving a home energy audit from Tom Nolz with the Neighborhood Energy Connection. Tom was full of information about how to improve our home's efficiency. We were excited and proud to be told that we are currently in the top 5-10% for our minimal energy use. But we also know there's always room for improvement. 

Tom's biggest task was to complete a blower test. He sealed a big blower into our front door and then essentially sucked all the air out of the house. Then he and Nate walked around to literally feel all the spots where air can get into the house from openings in our home. Our furnace had hot air being sucked in like a wind tunnel. In addition, our patio door is warped and a strong breeze made its way through the cracks in this door. This might be a replacement we'll take care of in the near future.
Tom suggested that we do regular, annual tune ups on our furnace, but it probably wouldn't be the greenest option to replace it because our heating use is so low. 

I would highly recommend getting an energy audit done on your home. Tom was extremely knowledgeable. He was very positive and supportive, and he provided realistic suggestions that we could handle making. He didn't make us feel bad about the giant leaks in our patio door and furnace; he just helped us to see how we could realistically make these problems better. When he suggested a swinging patio door and I said I wasn't interested, he was able to provide another option that would still be an improvement on our current situation (a wood frame sliding door will be less likely to warp than a vinyl frame door). 

All you need to do to get started is contact your energy company (We just called Xcel Energy). 

Let us know if you get some new ideas for efficiency after your audit!
A picture of the Blower Door Test. This man is not Tom :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Great Veggie Recipe!

After a brief hiatus from our weekly vegetarian dinners, we recommitted with this tasty dish: Baja Black Bean Cakes with Spicy Sweet Potato Sauce. Thanks to Simply Organic for directing me to The Vegan Chef for this recipe. We are loving our adventures in vegetarian eating (although Nate hates the excessive dirty dishes I create when I dive in to new cooking territory--I cook and Nate does dishes, thus inhibiting my ability to limit my dish use.)  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We took the Mow-Hi Pledge!

Our 3" Lawn

This year, the city of Maplewood challenged citizens to take the Mow-Hi Pledge. According to the pledge, raising your lawnmower to 3 inches has a number of benefits for your yard, the environment, and yourself.

In addition to raising lawnmower height, we agreed to leave clippings on the lawn. Some benefits of these 2 simple steps include:

  • Research shows that the shorter you mow, the faster the lawn grows. This seems counter intuitive, but it's true. Therefore, you'll need to mow less frequently. The City of Maplewood recommends timing your cuts so you remove no more than 1/3 of the blade height. 
  • You'll save on water because longer blades shade the roots and therefore water loss is reduced.
  • Root depth equals the height of the grass blades, so roots reach down further for water. 
  • Leaving clippings on the lawn substitutes for 1/3 the fertilizer a lawn needs per year. 
  • Less mowing equals less gasoline used (or, if you use a battery powered mower like us, less electricity used). 
For more information about leaving your lawn long, visit the University of Minnesota's Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Indoor Plants

Like most new moms, I've felt my fair share of fear about SIDS. When A sleeps too long, I still tiptoe into his room and poke him to make sure he's okay.

One thing that helps me (and A) to breathe easy is a plant in his room. While all plants help to cleanse the air around us, some are more efficient than others. We spend a lot of time indoors, babies even more so, in places with poor air circulation. Our indoor spaces are full of pollutants, often the air we breathe inside is more polluted with chemicals than the air we breathe outdoors. A study by NASA found that certain plants more efficiently filter out toxins and create cleaner air for us to breathe. The ten most effective plants to remove pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide are:

  • Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglanema modestmu)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
  • Janet Craig (Dracaena
  • Marginata (Dracaena marginata)
  • Mass cane/corn plant (Dracaena massangeana)
  • Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria laurentii)
  • Pot mum (Chrysanteium morifolium)
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum "Mauna Loa")
A's the proud owner of a Janet Craig, and we all breathe the fresh air a little deeper in his room. 

(Information obtained from Raising Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene, M.D. (2007).)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Plastic Conversions to Oil

Sometimes I forget how many people have inspired my passion for social responsibility. Though I didn't know it until the last years of my Grandpa Willson's life, he was a huge advocate for social responsibility. Grandpa was converting plastic into oil on his farm years before I was born, similar to this.

What an honor to be related to such a genius. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Big Rollover

That's right, A started rolling over! I can't believe how fast he's developing. Hopefully, he slows down and let's me enjoy this incredibly fun age a little bit before he starts crawling, walking, and running.

Witness the rollover here. It took two weeks to get a good video, but I finally captured it.

We've gone vegetarian...

...twice a week. There's no way Nate and I could commit to a full vegetarian lifestyle. In my family alone I was raised on a wide range of wild game, and I think my family might disown me if I gave up meat.

However, we made the commitment last week to eat a vegetarian meal once a week, on top of our weekly meal of fish. Why would we ever want to do such a thing?

Well, for one thing, it's healthier. In addition, Nate is not quite the hunter my dad is (no offense Nate) so our rotation of meet tends to be limited to beef, pork, and lots of chicken, which gets quite boring after 3 years.

Of course, there are also environmental benefits. Animal waste is a major contributor to polluted rivers and streams. In addition, the grains made to feed animals are coated in pollutants, which makes its way into our waters and plants as well.

It's also a way to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals. "The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of the pesticide residue in the typical American diet comes from meat, fish, and dairy products (Vegetarian Times)."

Most of the grain farmed in the US is given to animals. If we could instead use that grain to feed people around the world, perhaps we could reduce famine. In addition, cattle are not even designed to consume grains; they are meant to eat grasses. The changes made to cattle in order to feed them grains (which is cheaper) have a large impact on the planet and on us as consumers of beef. (More details in a future  post).

Finally, animals we eat today are rarely treated humanely. People fall all over a continuum on this issue, but my personal opinion is that animals do have a right to humane living while they are alive. I won't apologize for eating meat, but I think while the animal is living they deserve a natural, healthy environment (which also makes them healthier food for us).

By cutting out one meal of meat a week, we decrease the global impact of meat eating. Everything about the production of meat--loss of cropland due to grazing, the inefficient process of feeding vast quantities of water and grain to cattle, factory farm pollution--is a major environmental issue with far reaching consequences (E Magazine).

Last week was our first vegetarian meal, and it was one of the best meals we've had lately! We didn't miss the meat at all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What I've Learned about Cloth Diapers

There is a whole community online of cloth diapering parents, which is helpful but also a little overwhelming. I started looking into cloth diapers right when I got pregnant (an easy summer job gave me lots of time to research online). After all my research and no baby to test out the diapers on, I ordered a Bum Genius Flip. When A came along, I realized the Flip was not the diaper I wanted to use. It was way too big. So I went back to the blogs, forums, and shopping sites and started my research over.

We've had A exclusively in cloth diapers for the last 4 weeks, and here's what we've learned about all the brands we've tried.

Bum Genius Flip: This was the first diaper we tried and the one I wanted to make work because you have the option of putting in a disposable insert, but they are a one-size that grows with baby, and even for our 10 pounder it was too big-spreading his legs way far apart. We never even used it.

GroVia All-in-2: This was recommended by a friend. We had the same issue as the Flip- it was way too big. And it took forever to dry.

GDiaper: We bought these because they were the only cloth diaper Babies R Us carried, and I had a coupon for them. They leaked every time we used them. I liked the fit a lot though. GDiapers also have the option of a disposable insert, but they are made with the same gel in disposable diapers, which is bad for baby and the environment. 

Swaddlebees: We tried the old side snap model and the Simplex. I liked them both a lot, but couldn't find anyone who carried enough for me to have a full supply. I got frustrated trying to purchase them from different companies, so I gave up. I found out on a forum that the company just doesn't keep their supply meeting their demand. I just tried putting the Simplex on again yesterday, and it leaked. I'm happy we didn't wind up with these as our main diaper; the snaps are much more difficult and you have to put an insert in, which would be harder for grandparents and friends to use.

Picture Source:
Bum Genius All-in-One 3.0: This is what we settled on. The only thing I dislike about this one is it takes forever to dry. I was using them still a little damp, but yesterday my mom suggested turning them inside out before drying them. They've been coming out completely dry since I started doing this. We had a few leaks recently ,but we started putting inserts in at night, and haven't had a leak since.

I highly recommend cloth diapering. We find it as simple as using disposables-really! If you are thinking about getting started, you might want to try a diaper trial (I just heard about Jillian's Drawers). I wish I had known about this before we tried all these. You pay a deposit and get to try a bunch of varieties. I've also discovered the Diaper Swappers Forum that has been very helpful. I posted some concerns on there and got a bunch of responses that were helpful right away. 

Why did I do all this researching, trial and error, and suffering of some big leaks? The simple answer is the first two weeks that we used disposable diapers, we went through about 200 diapers, costing us about $100. In my opinion, it took just as much time to take out the trash of stinky disposables as it does to throw a load of laundry in every day.

The cloth diapers we've decided on are probably going to cost us about $1200 over A's lifetime, and we can  reuse them for future babies, or sell them or give them to friends.

The biggest reason I wanted to go with cloth is because the disposables are one of the worst pieces of garbage we have, taking up to 500 years to decompose. I don't know about you, but that's not how I want to leave my mark on the world. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A's First Month

A is already 4 weeks old. It's unbelievable how fast 4 weeks has gone by, and how much he's grown! At 2 weeks old, I remember thinking this new parenting thing was really a challenge. But now I'm loving it. He's already sleeping longer at night and he's working at a smiling. He loves books; his favorites are "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See" and "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."

Here are some pictures of the past month.
Dad cutting the umbilical cord
Sleeping in the hospital
Dad with A
Grandma and Grandpa with A
Nana and Papa with A
Uncle A, meet Little A
A's first moments home
Uncle T with A
Our Family Photo
Our first visitors: N...
and N

with a mohawk
sleeping like uncle T
Dad feeding A his first bottle

R playing copy-cat

Monday, January 24, 2011

38 Weeks and Still Growing

We've blown by the 37 week marker where it's safe to deliver and we're still growing strong.

The doctor says he thinks our boy will be about 7 1/2 lbs, but he hesitated when he said it so I think he's trying not to freak my out with a potentially bigger boy. This was especially concerning when I told him Nate and his brothers were all over 8 lbs, and all he said was, "huh."

I think we are finally ready for him to be born; Nate is getting us ready materially (we now have car seat bases installed in both cars, and he seems to be nesting more than I am, cleaning everything) and I'm finally psychologically prepared.

We'll keep you posted! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baby Shower

I'm finally posting some pictures with my head attached to the growing belly. I know it creeped some of you out to see all the headless photos. 

 The wonderful hosts, Nate's Aunt Linda and my Godmother Barb

 The quilt my mom worked on up until the last minute. She says letters N, O, and P have been to the Panama Canal. She also worked hard to find eco-friendly materials, though it's a challenge in Mankato. She was able to find fleece that was made from recycled products for the back. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

36 weeks

Sorry for no picture this time. Imagine a woman who's 9 months pregnant and that's pretty much exactly how I look.

I'm now scheduled for weekly doctor's appointments until Baby Boy gets here. This definitely helps to alleviate some nerves as I get closer to the due date. It's nice to have a professional checking to make sure I didn't miss the signs of labor or something.

To my relief, Dr. Baram tells me he'd guess the baby is about 6 lbs and would expect an average sized baby-around 7 1/2 lbs. He also reassured me that the very annoying Braxton Hicks contractions are not the real thing, and I'll just need to tolerate them until the real contractions begin.

No green updates to report, except that plain white onesies are much more exciting  to get as a gift when they are organic (thanks Julie!)

I'm excited to finish stocking up on all the "necessities" (in quotations because all we really need is a car seat and some warm clothes-I'm reminded of this when Nate's mom tells me he slept in a drawer for the first few months. Babies don't need nearly as much stuff as we somehow acquire. But it's all so cute and little!)

I'll try to get a picture up soon!


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