Monthly Archives: January 2009

Helping Your Child’s School Be Green

One of the things that pleases me about my daughter’s school is that they do endeavor to be fairly green. They started recycling last year. They have gardens. It’s pretty nice. But of course there’s always more to be done.

This has not been a year for me to participate much at my daughter’s school. I had such trouble with my last pregnancy that I am not about to push things this time. And things have gone much better this time, so with any luck next year I can actually start participating more directly.

Perhaps the simplest thing we do as a family is walk to school. We’re within a few blocks, so driving would be insane. The traffic backup at the school would probably make driving take longer than walking. Yet I know parents near me who prefer to drive that distance.

We just keep talking up the walking and the fitness advantages. The gas price advantage has of late slipped away somewhat.

We also pack lunches in reusable containers. My daughter adores her Klean Kanteen. And if it doesn’t cut back as much as I’d like on the food waste, at least she brings the excess food home so I know when she’s wasting it by not eating her lunch and we can talk about it. If she eats a school lunch, the excess just goes in the trash. What good is that?

Setting an example is one of the simplest things to do. Participating in the decision making process, of course, is far more powerful.

Joining the PTA is one of the best ways to have a voice. The one at our school is pretty active, which is nice. Lots of events to encourage parents to come over.

Of course, it helps that in southern California being green and wanting to conserve water is a sign of sanity. These aren’t so controversial as in some areas. It can be challenging some of the time, but really not so bad as other areas.

Another great thing you can do is volunteer in your child’s classroom. How better to give the teacher direct input and make suggestions?

Parent participation is required in the preschool program, and I was able to do a lot of it during my daughter’s kindergarten year too. It was fun. There’s nothing like getting to know your child’s friends and the other parents. This year, when it really hasn’t worked out due to my pregnancy, has been less fun for me because I don’t get to help out. I know a lot of the kids from last year, but it’s not the same.

Being involved means you can point out green alternatives. You can point out waste. You can help to find solutions.

What More to Do for a Green Baby and Green Nursery?

In general, I’m pretty pleased with how green we’ve kept things for baby. Choosing cloth diapers rather than disposables. Reusing so many things, both from things we still had from previous babies to handmedowns from family members, many of which have gone through more than one child already.

It’s quite the adventure doing all this so deliberately. So nice that I finally won some of the debates on green parenting issues with my husband.

But there are still some areas I haven’t gone over in relation to baby.

Baths are a big part of dealing with a newborn. We’re very fortunate in that our kitchen sink is a single basin, rather than two. Perfect for baths, and no need for an infant tub, just Mommy’s hands and full attention.

The right kind of soap matters too. I hadn’t even heard of BPA or phthalates with my older kids. Now they’re things I’d like to avoid where possible. Lucky me, California doesn’t allow phthalates in excess of 0.1% in products for children as of January 1, 2009. For the rest of the country, there’s a post on The Daily Green from last year that gets into how to spot phthalates in ingredient lists. The Skin Deep site has a Parent’s Buying Guide to help you find safer products.

California Baby Shampoo does well on their list, with a hazard score of 1/10. Dr. Bronner’s also has a lot of products listed with good scores. Lots of 0 and 1 out of 10 scores. I don’t know about you, but I like dealing with companies that are doing the right things because that’s just how they do business. They’re good to encourage.

For cleaning around the house or in the nursery when it’s set up, just my usual cleaning supplies, most of which are made from things like baking soda and vinegar. There really isn’t a need to get fancy. However, I would note that for washing cloth diapers I’ve seen people recommend Country Save HE Laundry Detergent. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I don’t have a HE washer, however. Might make a difference in how I use this product. I’m still figuring that out.

And of course, who can forget bottles?

Well, me, for much of the time. Except for the occasional outing with my husband once baby is old enough and I have enough of a backup supply pumped and ready for whichever grandparent.

We got rid of our old ones already, I think. I know the old nipples are gone, as those really don’t last through years of storage. I’m looking at BPA free baby bottles because I have too many relatives who will struggle enough with the whole cloth diaper idea. Buying glass baby bottles might be pushing things a bit far for them. It’s a bit of a balance sometimes.

That said, I’m just about in love with the Klean Kanteen baby bottle. Just so perfect for so many years! Pricey, of course, but when you consider that it won’t be outgrown it’s not so bad a deal. It’s the same size bottle as my daughter uses at school. That’s just much too cool.

If I had to buy a new crib, I’d probably be shopping IKEA first. Not only do I love their furniture, but they work hard at having safe and healthy products. I’ve gotten good deals there too. But I don’t need anything just now, soooo…

Give me a few months. We’ll be needing bunk beds and a new dresser. But I’m thinking thrift store for those. Hopefully no CPSIA problems by that point, as we don’t have the space to store these until needed.

Am I forgetting anything? How else would you green your nursery and baby’s first few years?

Can You Find a Green Home Business?

Many stay at home moms want to do more than “just” care for their families. They want to help support it financially as well as emotionally and physically. It’s pretty necessary in a lot of cases.

We’re lucky. There are a lot of options out there.

Working at home itself is pretty green in a lot of ways. You aren’t commuting. You will probably use equipment you already own. You probably won’t eat out very often.

But it’s really nice if you can have a home business that is of itself a green selection. There are a few out there. Shaklee is one that comes to mind for me. They offer personal care and nutrition products, and don’t allow animal testing.

Watkins is another company that offers natural products. They have personal care, cleaning and cooking supplies.

And of course there are many other direct sales opportunities out there. Not all are green, but there’s a good number out there.

Of course, direct sales is not for everyone. But you have a lot of other options.

I enjoy blogging and affiliate marketing, of course. Finding green products with affiliate programs can be a challenge, but it’s worthwhile. It’s a slow build much of the time, not the instant riches so many people promise for home business.

There are a good number of green companies listed on ShareASale. They have a category for it, which most affiliate networks don’t have. Other networks do have green companies, but you have to search a bit harder to find them much of the time. Commission Junction and LinkShare are two of the other big companies.

Clickbank can be an interesting choice too. All they offer are electronically delivered products, such as ebooks or software. You can join them easily as an affiliate or a merchant. You can even do both.

This can be fun. Ebooks on some topics sell very well. Or you can write your own and try to attract affiliates to sell for you, alongside your own efforts. Both can be quite challenging, but some people do very well with it. Think about topics you know well, and you might just have an idea for an ebook. I have notes for about 5 I would like to write, and minimal concepts for a few more.

Now I just need the time!

Any home business is going to be challenging. Most people aren’t going to get rich, no matter what they hype. There’s quite a bit to learn, even when you know what you want to do.

In future posts I will talk about that. Mostly about the online options, as I know those best. And I would love to hear from other people who are running green home businesses. Just send a quick note or even a full guest post for my consideration through the contact form.

Does It Really Matter That You’re Just One Person?

The environmental movement has a lot of fans, but you get some negativity too, especially if you post a lot about what people can do as individuals. Naysayers go on about how what really matters is what we do as a society.

That’s a good point, but it shouldn’t be a criticism of individual action. Why discourage people from doing either?

Yes, governmental action is required to get things done at the level they need to be done. Businesses need to get involved. The effort required is, quite simply, huge.

But do you really think these things will happen if they don’t see individuals doing the small stuff? I don’t.

The small stuff is what I see as motivation for the bigger things. It shows that we care, that we believe in putting forth our best efforts to protect the environment.

Businesses won’t change their practices without financial motivation, whether it comes from governmental pressures or consumers. The government won’t change without pressure from the voters.

Living even a small part of what we’re asking them to do is creating demand for these changes.

Make your small changes.

Then start campaigning for more.

Pay attention to what’s coming out from the White House. They have a page on the site now on Energy and Environment. Encourage your Representatives to push for these changes.

But still, try to live a green lifestyle. If no one is doing it, our leaders won’t feel the pressure to make changes. We can’t demand action from them if we aren’t taking it ourselves.

How We Are Trying to Keep Our Minivan Green

One of the things we needed with the coming of the new baby is a minivan, which we bought a bit over a week ago. It’s an idea I resisted, as we’ve done so well as a one car family. But babies have more doctor appointments and our one car was a 4 seater. Not exactly adequate for a family of 5.

I kept aiming for a larger sedan, rather than a minivan. Better gas mileage as a general rule. But I didn’t win that debate, and a minivan is what we now have. A 2002 Mazda MPV, to be specific.

I have to admit, it is comfortable for all of us.

Our goal, however, is to only use it when we need to do something with the kids along. We aren’t buying extra car seats just to be able to switch back and forth by the number of people. That would be a waste.

Instead, the old car is the commuter/errands without kids car.

This allows us to take advantage of the better mileage of the old car. I built the habit quickly of running errands only when my husband is home, and I want to keep that habit so that I can just go in the car rather than the minivan. It just makes sense to me to be efficient.

Another key point is how long we keep it. I have always had a habit of driving a car until it costs more than I’m willing to pay in repairs. Generally someone else is willing to go further with it. I’m just not the sort to replace a vehicle every few years. That’s not a green decision in most cases, no matter how good a newer vehicle feels.

Some of the lacks I like. No DVD player installed, although it could have one. I’ve always felt that if you must have one, a portable one makes more sense than one stuck in the car. That said, we don’t have a portable DVD player either. I can think of other ways for the kids to keep themselves busy on the kinds of  (rare) trips we take as a family.

No power doors or power seats. That makes things harder for the kids, but I don’t mind needing to open the doors for them. The kids will be able to cope with those when they’re older. And I think I can adjust my own seat.

Overall, I think we can do well by keeping our usage sensible. No overplanning activities for the kids. No driving just to drive. Thinking about which car we use.

It’s not as green as a hybrid or low emissions car, but it will do. Especially on our budget.