Monthly Archives: July 2008

Water: A California Story at San Diego Natural History Museum

I think by the title you can guess where we went this weekend. My mother heard about the water exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum on the news and figured it would be a great experience for the kids.

As it turned out, the display was mostly so-so for bringing a 6 year old and a 3 year old along. Most of it was too old for them, although probably great for older elementary school age kids. But they weren’t into many of the exhibits at all. The mist entryway they enjoyed, and the 3 stages of water that they could play with were fun, but that was about it for them.

Which meant I had little time to read up on the parts that interested me.

The kids did kind of enjoy the model of the carousel water pump that some communities in Africa have now. The idea behind these is that the children play on the carousel, causing it to pump water for the community.

If you are in the area and want to learn more about water conservation, this was a good exhibit. Not much new for me that I had the chance to read at least, but my opinion might be different if I had had a better chance to go through at my own pace. So take the older kids, but not younger ones unless you want to be a bit rushed.

Cleaned Your Lint Trap Lately?

While it’s summer around here and the clothesline is getting some good use, I do still use the dryer some. Being pregnant has left me a little low on energy sometimes for hanging a full load out to dry, especially on really hot days.

I’m good about cleaning the lint trap out each and every load. My husband not so much. How well do you do?

Cleaning out your lint trap saves a lot of energy that your dryer would otherwise use. The dryer vent should be checked regularly too. Excessive lint build up can cause a fire.

Especially if you use dryer sheets (I don’t and my clothes feel and smell fine, thanks), you will want to scrub your lint trap’s screen periodically. Dryer sheets cause buildup on the screen, which make your dryer less efficient.

Why I Don’t Like Antibacterial Products

I find one of the benefits to making my own cleaning products to be that I don’t have to search for things that aren’t marketed as antibacterial. It never ceases to amaze me just how paranoid many people are about germs because the commercials have told us to fear them.

Exposure to germs is normal, after all, and within reason a healthy thing for you. You can’t build up immunity to things you aren’t ever exposed to.

Wandering around online, I came across this article from last year on the difference between how regular cleaners work and how antibacterial ones work. The more traditional soaps and such simply loosen up dirt and such so they could easily be wiped away. They don’t tend to leave residues.

Antibacterial products, on the other hand, generally do leave residues. This can encourage the development of resistant bacteria.

I’m sure many of you know that resistant bacterial diseases are a problem already due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics in medicine. Too many parents demand antibiotics when they aren’t the answer, and many people don’t use the full prescription, allowing the more resistant bacteria to survive and reproduce.

Frankly, I’d like to avoid having the same thing happen in my home.

That’s why I don’t use antibacterial products. If regular cleaning can simply get rid of them, what more do I need?

Worse, antibacterial products like triclosan are contaminating the environment already. That’s more chances for bacteria to develop a resistance to these things.

These are very simple reasons to avoid antibacterial products, I think. At the very least they’re good enough reasons for me.

Limiting the Environmental Impact of Having Kids

With the discovery that I’m pregnant again, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to just how you limit the environmental impact your family has on this planet. At the very least while you’re raising them, and hopefully providing them with the skills they need to continue with a green lifestyle.

It’s certainly not easy. With all the pressures kids have to conform and to want pretty much everything they see on television or their friends tell them about, the environment is only so much on their minds.

My main thoughts are currently centered on how to start this baby off right. Since my husband has finally agreed to go for cloth diapers, that’s going to be one good start. We haven’t gotten rid of the older children’s baby toys yet, still have the stroller, pack ‘n play, cradle, crib and so forth, so that’s going to help. They were about to head off to the thrift store. I told him trying to get rid of such things was dangerous!

Have to get a new infant car seat, though. Ours is older than the recommended age and I would hate to guess wrong on whether or not that recommendation is too conservative. Too much at risk in an accident.

And yes, we have tons of old baby clothes, either here if it’s a boy, or with my sisters if it’s a girl. There’s plenty of time for those to wander back into my custody if needed during visits that would happen anyhow.

Yes, I will be breastfeeding, and I’m thinking I’m going to use my reliable old baby food mill a little more heavily this time. Both of those have always worked well for me.

Helping Older Kids Reduce Waste

So really I should probably be thinking more on what to do to continue teaching my older kids. The more habits I can build into them, the better.

The challenge here is of course that older children don’t always understand why you’re telling them something, and will do things completely without thinking. That’s why my daughter had to fetch a spoon out of the trash the other day. That also explains why so much of my silverware is missing, because I’m sure I haven’t caught that happening every time. Very frustrating but a good example of how kids can do things unthinking when they know they shouldn’t.

That is one of the things I like about the school the kids are at now. The school started a garden area for the kids last year. They’re big on having the kids run and the play area is more challenging than most I’ve seen recently. They have a new recycling program in the lunch area, and I believe in the classrooms.

My daughter brings lunch to school just about every day when school in in session, and always in reusable containers. She’s as near to zero waste for lunch as I can manage… not counting whatever she refuses to eat.

There are some great reusable lunch bags and boxes out there. I love the Laptop Lunches Kit, since that’s pretty flexible. has a lot more lunch bags available, so if the Laptop Lunches Kit is too small you can find something more to your size preference.

Amazon also carries plenty of lunch bags; just do some research to avoid lead and BPA.

Reducing Waste at Home

Beyond just keeping kids from accidentally throwing things out that they shouldn’t, there are many things you can have them do at home.

Keep that wardrobe under control, for example. I find this one surprisingly difficult, not because I buy many clothes at all for my kids, but because relatives do! I am constantly amazed at how many clothes my kids end up with despite the fact that I almost never buy them anything, new or used.

We teach them the difference between play and nice clothes, so that nice clothes get ruined less quickly. Of course play clothes are at first defined as any clothes that will wash up well, and later as the clothes they’ve ruined for other purposes. Playing in torn jeans means nothing to my kids so far, other than that they can get as messy as they like.

I’ve posted in the past about using trash as craft supplies. If your kids are creative, it’s a great outlet.

Toys, Toys Everywhere!

I consider toys a weakness around here, even though, once again, we don’t buy that many! It’s the challenge of generous relatives.

I do tell people that anything that encourages active play or creativity is more welcome than any toy that limits the kids by how it’s supposed to be used. It doesn’t always help, but it’s worth the try.

When you’re stuck with tons of plastic toy clutter it’s time to teach the kids about generosity. Take some time regularly and go through the toys and figure out what can go to charity. Or you can go entrepreneurial and have a garage sale to teach them about earning money. Either way the toys are getting out of your house and being reused by someone else.

Magic Cabin is a really great place to find natural toys for children. Any time I visit their online store I go nuts wanting too much stuff. Not everything there is natural, but as a whole they tend to offer many more creative toys than most shops.

Cleaning Up Your Hike

My kids love to go hiking. A very simple bit of responsibility to teach them is that if you see trash, you pick it up. And of course, if you bring it in, use it up or take it out. Simple rules kids understand.

If you haven’t encouraged this before, you may be amazed at how much younger children in particular enjoy doing this. Keep in mind that the same kid who will absently throw a wrapper on the floor at home will be completely absorbed by the notion that they can help clean up natural areas. It’s just not the same to them.

Garden Organically

Kids love gardens. Mine are just about obsessive about planting seeds. Given that they know nothing about it, most of what they plant never grows, but at least they try.

Our pumpkins really took off this year. They came from seeds from ones we bought last fall, and it looks like we will have a pretty nice supply for Halloween.

They really go for the tomatoes too. Those were just about the only other thing that did well in our garden this year for some reason.

But trust me, young kids don’t mind too much that the garden isn’t producing well. Being in the garden means they can dig in some dirt (set aside an area for that) and look for bugs. Oh, and you can’t forget how much fun they have nibbling on anything you’ve approved. Mine love basil and mint.

We compost, so food waste goes to making each year’s garden a little healthier without fertilizers. It works pretty well most years.

No matter what you do, of course, people have an impact on the planet. You can still take steps to limit your own and that of your family.

How Green Are the Lawns in Your Area?

I’ve been noticing a trend in my area. Lawns are looking a little browner than they do most summers in my area. Seems like a lot of people are watering them less.

Not a bad start, if you ask me.

Better, of course, is to do something useful with the land, or at least xeriscape so that the yard is not completely unattractive. But it’s nice to see that more people in my area seem to be more willing to deal with a less than perfect lawn right now.

In my area, that’s a very rational decision. We’re facing a huge water shortage and they’re trying hard to get us to cut back on our water usage. I’m determined to keep the garden alive, but the lawn? Only enough for the kids to play on. And they delight in dandelions and other weeds just as much as they enjoy the grass.

Quite frankly, if we owned this house rather than just rented, the front lawn would be long gone. There’d also be a much bigger garden in the back yard, which might make up for any water savings, but at least the water would be used productively.

We’d probably also be looking at installing water barrels or some such for those rare times when we get rain. Be nice to get some use out of what would otherwise be runoff. We have lots of dreams for when we own a home. Too many changes just don’t work on our current budget, even when they’re possible for a renter.

Fresh, clean water is something that is just going to become more valuable throughout much of the world, and it’s time for people to start understanding that. Using less even when you could have more isn’t a bad habit to establish at all.