Monthly Archives: February 2010

Great Green Toys for Toddlers

As babies become toddlers, they start to take more of an interest in playing with toys. The challenge comes in avoiding the parade of plastic toys and keeping things a little better for your tot and the planets. Here are some suggestions:

Plan Toys Punch and Drop

Plan Toys Punch and DropPlan Toys in general makes great toys for kids. They use organic recycled rubber wood for this to. It’s made really well too.

The Punch and Drop is your classic hammering toy. Kids have played with these for a long time, and there’s a reason why they keep making them. Kids enjoy hammering. The colors are great too.

And you can’t forget the lack of batteries!

Educo Alphabet Abacus

Educo Alphabet AbacusThe Educo Alphabet Abacusis the kind of thing that can hold my toddler’s attention for a long time. She’s very much into anything brightly colored and fairly complex. Pictures in books and magazines get her babbling too.

This has the advantage of giving her something to look at as we sing the alphabet song. She loves music of any sort and even babbles along. Using any sort of visual may eventually help her to start pointing out letters at a young age without quizzing her all the time. Early exposure helped my older two, anyhow.


No, it’s not a toy as such. But it’s a great idea to expose your baby to all kinds of music very young. But rather than buy a musical toy, just find appropriate music to download on the computer you already own. Get that toddler dancing!

WONDERWORLD Puffy Dragon Ride-on

WONDERWORLD Puffy Dragon Ride-onIs the WONDERWORLD Puffy Dragon Ride-on cute or what? I mean really!

My one year old is very much so into ride on toys. She started liking them before she could walk, of course. This looks nice and soft as well as fun.

And I could never resist saying my child rides a dragon! He’s made from rubberwood and biodegradable fabrics.

Whaling Keeps Moving Along?

This is just sad. I’m reading an article over on Discovery News about a new deal being worked out on whaling by the International Whaling Commission. The article says the draft of a new deal that has been posted on the IWC’s site doesn’t look good at all, despite claiming to reduce whaling.

Sounds lovely in principle, except what it really does is ban whaling in an area where none takes place anyhow, and opens up a previous sanctuary. The article on Discovery News notes:

the crux of the agreement as presently constituted is that Japan, Norway and Iceland will all be allowed to continue whaling, unchallenged, for the next ten years.

They haven’t even set limits yet, but they’re expected to be basically what the whaling nations want them to be.

The really pathetic part is that the nations that are doing all of this whaling can’t even sell all the whale meat they kill anyhow. They’re just trying to keep things going and hope the market opens up again.

Sad to see that the IWC doesn’t have what it takes to protect the whales. I guess they aren’t paying attention to whale populations.

What it’s really going to take, I suspect, is more people from the whaling countries to demand that whaling cease. Demand is way down in those countries, but there needs to be more insistence that whaling not take place at all. I don’t know what it will take for that to happen.

Green Sports for Your Kids to Enjoy

Most parents sign their kids up for a sport at one point or another. My oldest two, for example, are currently enrolled in karate and have been asking about soccer. It’s nice being able to keep them active.

While signing up your kids for sports isn’t necessarily a time many parents think about the environment, maybe it should be. There are more and less green sports for them to choose from.

Karate is a fairly green example. The class my kids are in takes place at the local Elks Lodge, so all it requires is the uniforms and the gas to go to and from class. They’re evening classes about 3 miles away on very hilly roads, so not a practical walk for a 7 and 5 year old. At least not if I want them to have energy for class. Not to mention the return home.

As the kids get to higher levels, there are some more resources used, but it’s not all bad. It’s not like they’re going to be breaking bricks right from the start, and one of the things their sensei showed us was the reusable breaking boards they have for teaching them some time down the road how to do that. Certainly better than boards that only break once.

Their choice of soccer isn’t as green, although it could be worse. The bad part is simply the care of the playing fields, which in most places means using a lot of chemicals on the fields and trimming the grass quite short. But at least the equipment needs are minimal.

For those who are into it, hunting and fishing can actually be quite green. This is because the licensing most often goes toward conservation efforts and there are generally sensible limits geared toward maintaining the resources. There can be issues with less than green equipment, however, not to mention the ethical considerations many have toward eating meat.

Bicycling is another great green choice. The bikes take some resources to maintain, but not a lot and as kids outgrow them bicycles can be handed down or sold. Bikes are easy to buy online or locally. Best of all, even if the kids use bikes for sport they also have a practical purpose as transportation.

If you’re up for letting your kids do it, rock climbing can be another green choice. Minimal equipment and you take it all home with you at the end of the day. Rock climbing can help to develop quite an appreciation for nature also.

Hiking and camping are also great choices, provided you stick to established trails and bring back out everything you bring in. You can even make improvements if you come prepared to haul other people’s trash back out.

For all sports, be sure that you consider the environment when you buy equipment. Buying used is always a great choice, but if you need new consider what materials you’re buying. Amazon Green has a sports section, although you still need to consider whether it’s green or greenwashed.

Always remember how very important it is for children to be active, especially outdoors. It’s not just about keeping our kids fit and healthy. It’s building an appreciation for activity and the outdoors. You can’t love nature if you only see it on TV.

Insulate Your Water Heater – Green Step By Step

Your water heater can be a big part of your energy bill, 14-25% according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Making it more efficient can be a big help.

There are several ways you can save money on heating water for your home, such as turning down the thermostat on your water heater to no more than 120 degrees F. But insulating it is another great step.

You can buy a water heater blanket for under $20 on Amazon, although they can run more as well. Home Depot and other home improvement stores often carry them as well. You have to be sure not to cover the thermostat when you cover it. They are made of fiberglass in many cases, so you will need gloves to protect your hands as you install it.

The water heater blanket will help to cut down on the heat loss on your water heater. This is particularly nice first thing in the morning if your water isn’t always hot right away.

Composting in the Kitchen

One of the challenging parts to composting can be how to keep your scraps until you are ready to haul them out to the compost bin. You don’t want a stinky mess in your kitchen.

If you drink coffee, a simple solution is to save an empty coffee can and keep it under the sink. Throw your vegetable and fruit scraps in there, and when it’s full haul it out. Simple and it allows you to reuse the container.

I don’t drink coffee, so I had to get one from my mother. We’ve also done this using a bucket with a well sealing lid. You really don’t want the stink in your kitchen.

There are compost bins made for the kitchen. They may come with a charcoal filter to keep the smell under control. Many are small and really made to do the job I’ve always done with the bucket or coffee container… to hold the compost until you can get it to the garden. The filters do mean you may not need to empty them so often, though.

The key is simply to find what works to make composting easier for you so that you’ll do it regularly. If running scraps out daily isn’t a big deal to you, don’t buy anything. If looks matter or you can’t run the scraps out too often and smell is an issue, get a kitchen compost bin. If you just need something to tuck under the counter and will empty often enough that smell’s not a problem, find a container you can reuse.