Category Archives: Going Green

5 Types of Eco Friendly Toys to Consider This Year

Kids love getting toys for Christmas. That’s normal, but oh, the mess of it all. And it lasts. It’s not like the toys vanish when the kids tire of them. You want toys that will last well for your children, that are made in a reasonably eco friendly manner, can be handed down or recycled, and of course are loads of fun to play with. It’s a tall order, but I think some toys succeed in hitting those points.

1. Bamboo Toys

Bamboo toys are really popular with eco friendly families. Bamboo grows really fast, making it a nicely renewable resource. Make sure the toys are painted with non-toxic paints, of course. You can find toy cars, dollhouses, games and more made from bamboo.

My favorites:

2. Wooden Toys

Wooden toys are generally eco friendly too, but some more so than others. Make sure you consider the company you’re buying from and that they have a good, eco friendly reputation.

My favorites:

3. Recycled Plastic Toys

While plastic is generally not eco friendly, recycled plastic is much better. There are some great toys made from recycled plastic that might not hold up so well if made from other materials, such as a plastic tea set.

My favorites:

4. Solar Powered Toys

For kids interested in science or alternative energy, or parents who want to save on batteries, solar powered toys may be a good option. These are kits for kids to build their own toys, so they’re better for those who are ready to put a bit of work into a new toy.

My favorites:

5. Organic Plush Toys

Plush toys are common favorites of younger children, and may be treasured as they get older. Check out some of the plush toys made from organic fabrics for some fun, cute options.

My favorites:

13 Great Apps for Green Living

While iPhones, iPads and other such things have their own problems in an eco friendly lifestyle, they can also help you do better. Here are some apps that may help you, whether you’re looking for environmentally responsible food or want to take a hike.

1. AllTrails Hiking & Mountain Biking Trails, GPS Tracker, & Offline Topo Maps – AllTrails, Inc.
Are you ready to get out there and enjoy a nice hike or a challenging ride on your mountain bike? You can find trails near you or plan a trip elsewhere, or even submit your own hike to their listings by using GPS.

2. GoodGuide – GoodGuide, Inc.
Want to know if you’re buying safe, healthy products? What about how it rates on an environmental or social scale? The GoodGuide app has more than 170,000 products in its database. Scan the barcode and see what comes up.

3. EWG Sunscreen Buyer’s Guide – Environmental Working Group
The great part about the EWG’s sunscreen guide is that they’re so thorough in gathering the information about the many products they rate. They went through a variety of databases to come up with the health hazards from various products. They’ve reviewed more than 1,800 products, so you have a good chance of finding your sunscreen here.

4. iRecycle – Earth911, Inc.
Want to know where to recycle something? The iRecycle app might just have the answer for you. When you’re done with that, it goes beyond recycling to current green news.

5. Eco Chef 10 Minute Meals with Bryan Au – The App Company
Chef Brian Ayu shares simple raw, organic recipes in this app. The app includes HD videos showing you exactly how to prepare the recipes and use the recommended tools.

6. EcoChallenge – Raureif
Are you ready to take on an eco challenge? This app gives tips on ways to make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly. Some may be easy because you’ve already made changes, but others might make you think.

7. vegLookup – Josh Highland
Want to know if a food is vegetarian or vegan? This app can help.

8. Healthy Child Healthy World Pocket Guides – Spirit Quest World
This app may be a great resource for parents. There are a variety of guides to help you choose the right products for your children.

9. Locavore – Hevva Corp.
Want to know what’s in season in your area? This app knows. It can also help you find local farmer’s markets so you can buy that local produce. Not all farmer’s markets are listed, of course, but it’s a help.

10. Garden Tracker – Portable Databases
Planning a garden? This app can help you plan it out. It has a variety of vegetables preloaded, and you can set up a schedule of caring for your garden.

11. Skeptical Science – Shine Technologies
Ever get tired of arguing with climate change skeptics? This app can help you deal with many of the common claims made by such skeptics.

12. Label Lookup – SmartTools
Just what do the claims on the label mean? This app can help you figure out which claims mean anything.

13. The Recycler – Square One
A fun little game about recycling. Looks like a nice way to teach kids about recycling.

What are your favorites? I know I must have missed some.

Thinking Over a Green Summer

I’m watching my husband and oldest daughter in the garden today. They’re planting some aloe vera we bought the other day. I have fond memories of aloe vera from my childhood, as my skin has always sunburned easily. My kids tan like their father, but aloe is still good to have around. We also have some swallows nesting on our house for the first time ever. I’ve heard that can be messy, but they’ve picked pretty good spots so far as I’m concerned (not near any doors), and will hopefully help control our hornet problem.

It’s a good start to the summer.

We have a lot of plans this summer. Camping in Yosemite is the big one and I can hardly wait for my kids to see it. Yosemite is very special to my husband, and it has been far too many years since he has been there.

I’m preparing the kids for all the hiking by taking regular family walks. Now that school is out, I want to take regular walks in the morning to the local park, about a mile each way, and mostly uphill on the way there. Given summer temps around here, these have to be in the morning. I don’t want to do a lot of walking in 100+ degrees F weather, and that’s what we get pretty often here during the summer. I bought some Blue Lizard sunscreen to help ward off sunburn.

That will also be a part of their tradeoff for TV/computer time. They have to play outside to earn time sitting in front of a screen.

I’m working on Mylar covers for some of my windows. Now Mylar is rather ugly, so I’ve added some white tissue paper on the parts visible from outside, so the homeowner’s association won’t give me any trouble if anyone notices. It’s mostly back windows anyhow, but with the white facing out, it’s not that different in appearance from the white backing of some of my curtains. Or so I hope. I can really tell which windows I’ve done, and even with the tissue paper, the Mylar seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the heat out. From the inside, of course, the curtains hide it.

The Dark Side of Trash Picking

By Tyler A Weaver

Not so long ago, I heard a hard knock on my door.

I open the door, and some dude is trying to look official and not pulling it off, even with the clipboard in his arm. He looked rather nervous, and for a second I even wonder if I scared him. Maybe he realized I knew his game before he played.

“Mr. Weaver, it looks like you owe the water department money. I’m from the Philadelphia Water Department, and I need to collect $198.50 from you…”

Of any bills I have to pay each month, an auto paid water bill of twenty odd dollars a month isn’t going to get missed. Then I laughed to myself and thought, I wonder if that’s why I get those ugly blue envelopes each month although I’ve had auto pay and opted to go paperless nearly 5 years ago.

I asked the guy for some identification, and he flashed me something, but it definitely wasn’t an ID. I think it was a Rite Aid card or something. He didn’t have a bill of mine either…and that’s because I shred them.

I laughed pleasantly at the guy on my porch and said, “From one trash picker to another, I respect your game, but you need to leave.”

He was about to reply, but he just turned around and hurriedly walked down the block.

Is this situation familiar to you? I’ve had a few people tell me in recent months that they’ve had false bill collectors showing up at the door demanding money. That’s a shame that somewhere out there people have coughed it up to these jerks.

Then I thought about how I go through waste, and how much I like hovering over blue bins on Sunday in my neighborhood just to see what my neighbors think is recycling, or if I think I can spot a disposal error due to a drunk putting their beer bottle in my garbage (Philadelphia trash fines for a future article!).

One thing I see somewhat often in the blue bin is shoes. I also see a lot of wood…like broken chair legs and stuff. Both are recyclable, but not for a curbside service, folks. It’s funny to think that if you just threw all your waste in the blue bin, you’d probably be correct most of the time. All we need is curbside composting here…

Anyway, I thought about how if I wanted to, I could do the same thing this crook is doing. Most people don’t seem to shred their paperwork. I’ve had dreams of becoming a spy for a large company and stealing the trash of their competitors. Do you think that job exists? Contract Garbage Spy? I would think so…and if not, I may have quite a business model! Ha.

Then my dumb thoughts drifted even further. My mission is to get everyone more in touch with their waste habits…and that definitely goes hand in hand with trash picking. What if everyone that read my stuff actually began trash picking and telling their friends about it? What would happen to our waste? How many would become debt collectors? Would someone start looking through business waste? Where does it end?

I don’t know. But remember to shred your paper before you put it out curbside. Or if you’re paranoid now that I’ve brought it up, shred it and put it in your compost pile/worm bin.

Ever wonder about waste? How about the design of effective waste receptacles, or how to make compost? If none of these interest you, then you should definitely check out to learn about waste from another perspective. It will humor you, make you think, and if I’m lucky, alter your habits a little bit.

Editor’s Note:

I like this. My mail sometimes piles up before I shred it, but I definitely shred the stuff that matters. Obviously not bulk mail like grocery store circulars, but lots of other stuff. That and every possible bill is on autopay and paperless. Makes life so much simpler.

My shredder is a crosscut shredder. The kids love using it, and of course I supervise. Not that it would be easy for them to get hurt. It only runs if it’s firmly on top of its bin, and the opening is nice and small. Even small fingers won’t go in. Still, it’s only for use under parental supervision, and the rest of the time it’s unplugged.

Just Who Are You Keeping Up With Anyhow?

It’s pretty much in our nature to be interested in what other people have. It’s interesting, and sometimes you get some neat ideas. It’s probably a part of why Pinterest has taken off so well – we like seeing what has caught other people’s attention. But really, who are you trying to keep up with when you buy stuff, and why?

I had a talk with my daughter about this recently. She was bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t have her own cell phone, iPod, etc., yet she says all her friends at school do. She’s in fourth grade, so I can well believe that these days most her friends have such things.

We had a little talk about why she doesn’t. In large part, it’s financial. I see no need to strain our budget just to have the cool gadgets. It’s under enough strain as is. But it’s also because we don’t need them, and she doesn’t need them.

She does have an MP3 player. It’s a few years old, doesn’t play games or look cool in any way. But if she wants music, it’s there for her just as soon as she recharges the batteries, and my husband has a huge library of music to go through. She’s not exactly deprived of the chance to carry her music with her if she’d like. It even plugs into her clock, which is nice since we get lousy radio reception here. It just isn’t the “right” brand.

Lots of us have the same problem even as adults. You see what someone else has, and you want it too. You end up buying stuff you don’t need and sometimes isn’t even the best choice for your own needs. That’s great for marketers, but not so great for the environment and possibly not that good for you either, especially when it means you end up spending more money than you should have.

Sure, there are times when you learn about products you really do need, are great for the environment (at least relatively speaking), etc. through friends and family. Sometimes it’s worthwhile. It’s just that more often it isn’t.

Rather than keep up with others, keep up with yourself. Really think about what it is you need. Consider which products suit your budget and sense of environmental responsibility. You’ll probably be happier with your purchases in the long run that way. You may even find that simplifying works better than buying more in some areas of your life.