Monthly Archives: November 2010

Go Paperless in the Kitchen – Green Gift Ideas

Most families use a lot of paper unnecessarily in the kitchen. That’s what makes it such a great target for going paperless. There are simple cloth alternatives for most paper used in the kitchen.

It’s also a nice gift idea for any time of year. You can give attractive cloth alternatives and help someone you care about use less paper in their kitchen or even go completely paper free.

This works best as a gift for someone who wants to be more eco friendly. If they just don’t care, these supplies will probably be tossed in with the rest of the cloth supplies they don’t use much. Cloth napkins will be used only rarely. Cloth towels pretty much reserved for drying dishes or hands.

You can provide a few types of cloth for use in the kitchen:

Cloth Napkins

Give a large selection of plain cloth napkins for daily use. A few different colors can be nice. Organic cotton is always a good choice.

For those you know enjoy entertaining, some nicer cloth napkins are a good addition. Look for attractive designs, maybe as a part of a set with a tablecloth or that can easily be paired with one.

Towels for Cleaning

An essential part of the paperless kitchen are the towels used in cleaning. Most people will go through a few of these a day.

I suggest some microfiber towels for their absorbency and cleaning ability. I have a few, and they’re great. Go for quality, as cheaper ones don’t really last as well. They can clean up spills, wipe countertops, dry hands, dry dishes, and more.

Towel Rack or Hooks

The one challenge with using cloth so much more is that you need a place to dry your damp cloth napkins or towels before throwing them in the laundry. You don’t want them to get moldy.

To make this gift complete, include a small towel rack or hooks that damp towels can be hung on to dry. These can be hung under the sink, in the laundry room, or wherever the washing machine is.

Buy Christmas Gifts That Encourage Kids to do More Outdoor Activities

Here it is, the start of the holiday shopping season, or at least the start I’m willing to admit to. I’m trying to ignore all those businesses that had Christmas stuff out back before Halloween, or the ones that tried to move Black Friday a week early.

At this time of year, kids are clamoring for all kinds of gifts. The hottest toys are discussed, and most kids want far more than they could ever play with. It can be pretty crazy.

With all the toys many children already have, I like to suggest thinking about what it is you’d like them to be doing, as well as what they like to do. Any gifts you do give you will want appreciated, after all.

My own favorite gift for my kids to get right now is anything that encourages them to be more active. They’re pretty active already, and I’d like it to stay that way as long as possible. Better for their health and certainly a better way for them to appreciate the world around them.

The really great part about outdoor activities is that whatever equipment they require is not likely to include a lot of small pieces to be left all over the house. Sports equipment and the like left around the yard, sure, but not all over the house.

Here are some ideas to get you going on shopping for outdoor toys and equipment for your own kids.


The right wheeled equipment depends on age. Younger kids will need more stable equipment than older kids, and any kid will need a bit of time to get used to unfamiliar equipment. But it’s all fun.

Consider a bike, tricycle, scooter, roller skates, skateboard, and any of their cousins. These help kids to be more active and learn to balance well. Don’t forget appropriate safety equipment and discussions.

Team Sports

Whether you enroll your kids in a team sport or just play at home with family and friends, team sports help your child be more physically fit and active while learning how to play on a team. Just how good the lesson is will depend on the particular team, since some overly emphasize winning and giving the top players most of the game time.

Your child probably has a favorite sport, and it’s best to stick with that when getting your child into a team sport. You can push for other sports, but if you’re going for more active, you want your child to enjoy what they’re doing. Physical activity should not be dreaded.

Swing Set

How can any young child resist a good swing set? It’s hard for many adults! Figure out the space you have and a reasonable budget, and get things moving.

There are of course many other ways to get kids active outdoors. What are the favorites in your family?

Are Reusable Bags a Bad Idea After All?

I’ve seen a few stories on the news lately about many types of reusable bags having a high lead content. This is an issue because the lead can rub off and contaminate your food. Not immediately, as the bags tested used materials that would not leech lead too easily. But as it wears down, maybe a problem.

Does this mean buying reusable bags is a bad idea?

Not in my book. What it means is that you need to think about the type of reusable bags you get. The cheapies from the grocery store are likely not such a good idea.

Not that I’ve generally liked the cheap reusables anyhow. From what I’ve read, they don’t last well anyhow. I prefer to buy things that last. Better to buy once than over and over.

I love my cotton bag, for example. It’s sturdy, and even if it develops a hole or tear, odds are good that I can patch it. I have no worries about lead with it. I don’t have to worry that in the someday future that it needs to be disposed of, that it will leech horrid nasties into the landfill. Cotton bags are also more easily washable, which is great for getting rid of germs.

Of course, it also pays to remember that the media can hype these things up quite a bit. If you’re worried about lead getting onto your food from your reusable bags, make sure you rinse the food off before eating it. At the very least, you’ll cut it down.

How to Teach Your Kids About Conserving Water

Water is one of the most important resources we have. Here in the United States, most of us take for granted that we will have safe, clean water available for drinking, bathing, cleaning and watering. It’s very rare to have a serious water shortage here to a point beyond where yard watering is limited.

Our water resources aren’t infinite, however, despite that water goes through a continuous cycle on this planet. Fresh water can be very hard to come by, and many places are beginning to struggle with how to keep a sufficient water supply available.

This is why it’s important for you to teach your kids about water conservation. Helping them to understand the value of water will help them to think about how they use water.

1. Make a Rain Gauge.

You can make a simple rain gauge by placing a glass jar or plastic bottle outside to collect the rain, and then measuring how much rain it collects. The sides should be as straight as possible, and the opening should be about as wide as the rest of it.

Leave it outside when it’s raining, then measure how much rain it collects. You can chart it over several days if you like, noting either rain totals or dumping the jar regularly to measure the rainfall for a particular period.

This is a good lesson in how much rain falls in your area. You can talk about what’s normal for your area and how it effects the availability of water where you live.

2. Make or Buy a Rain Barrel.

The next step is to make or buy a rain barrel (if permitted in your area) to collect rain off your roof. Show your children how you can use this water around the yard. Install your rain barrel and take advantage of this free water.

3. Discuss Your Local Water Resources.

This is a good opportunity for a field trip. Visit a local dam or any local water resources open to the public. Tell your kids how the water comes to your area.

If water tends to run short in your area, talk to them about why water can be an issue and what you can do as a family to limit your use of water.

4. Don’t Use Pesticides or Fertilizers.

Explain to your kids that when pesticides and fertilizers are used, they get washed down into the gutters and can contaminate the water downstream, as well as the health issues involved in using such chemicals in the first place.

Caps On or Off for Plastic Bottle Recycling?

Even when you try to avoid plastic bottles, most of us end up dealing with them sometimes. If you’re lucky and live in an area with easy recycling, you can toss them into the recycle bin. If you’re really lucky, they take all types of plastic, not just #1 and #2.

There’s one step that confuses a lot of people. It’s whether or not to remove the lid from their plastic containers before recycling. It’s a different type of plastic. Can the lids be recycled too?

That depends on where you live. The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers says it is more often okay to leave the lids on now, but to check with your local recycler to be certain. Used to be they didn’t want the lids at all, and would toss any bottles with lids rather than take the time to remove the lid. The lids would jam their machinery. Now many of them are willing to deal with the lids. The demand for the type of plastic used in lids has apparently increased over time.

Personally, I don’t like to leave the caps on when I send a bottle for recycling. Not that I have a problem with recycling the lids. It’s just that I think it’s better to let the bottles dry out with the lid off.

You always need to pay attention to the recycling rules in your area. Where I used to live, their flyer only said they too plastics #1 and #2, and only in the shape of a bottle. When my husband talked to some of their representatives at a home expo, he was told they took all types of plastic, including plastic bags.

Where we are now takes plastics #1-7, but absolutely no plastic bags. They provided a great little chart we keep on the fridge that shows what they do and do not accept.

Just as with the rules about plastic caps, the rules for recycling other products can change over time and by where you live. You can’t take the answer from one place and be certain it’s right for another. You have to get answers that are specific to where you’re dealing with the recycling.

Overall, however, I’m just glad to hear that plastic caps can often be recycled. Much as I prefer to avoid using plastic at all, it’s nice to know that when it comes into my life, even that little piece may be able to be recycled. I just have to check the local rules.