making the earth greener one tiny baby at a time

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cute or Conscious?

I had the pleasure of attending two baby showers in the last two weeks. I was really excited to celebrate two more lovely little girls coming into the world. And while I had a blast at both, you know what was going thru my mind as each expectant mother unwrapped another fantastic gift? Look at all this trash we are making!!

My mom and my friend Molly threw me the nicest outdoor baby shower last December. Unfortunately, it was the first cold day of the year and we all ended up bundling under cloth napkins.  A goal of my shower, and really any event I host, is to make sure it is nearly waste-free.  We included a note on our registry to fore go the wrapping paper.  My friends really came thru, wrapping presents in things like burlap sacks or using purchased baby blankets to wrap the rest of the gifts in, or my favorite, provided by my friend Katie, was a gift wrapped in wigs she had borrowed from me and was returning.  Yes, in my world, quite often friends are returning wigs to me.

All the food was made by friends and family, so there were no huge plastic trays involved.  Our friend Kim made the most delicious vegan scones and cupcakes (Shown in the photo above.  She is an insanely good vegan baker.  Go to her website and have your mind blown,  We used dishes...yes DISHES and real cups. We bought a few biodegradable, recycled plates and some silverware made of corn.  But for the most part we just took home the dishes and washed them.

In lieu of balloons or a lot of decorations, we did the old, "clothesline of baby clothes" and potted flowers that all the guests got to bring home with them.  I had a fantastic time, surrounded by whom I consider to be the coolest ladies on the face of the planet.  And went home feeling so good about my friends, my new baby, and the low-impact our shower had.  So why am I sitting around these other showers, devoting half of my brain to obsessing over the trash bags full of paper, plates and forks that will never biodegrade, and the other half of my brain jealous of how cute everything looks?!

So often I feel like this is a dilemma we are faced with when trying to be good to lady earth:  Should it be cute, or conscious?  I could wrap this gift in the most adorable paper with baby bunnies on it, surround it in a beautiful bow with matching baby bunnies, and place the entire thing in a gift bag with baby bunnies on it, gently cushioned by mounds of tissue paper...covered in baby bunnies.  Or I could stick it on the gift table and cover it with my sweater.

The theme of this blog has always been compromise.  So here are some ideas to make your parties adorably green!

Always save and re-use gift bags and tissue paper.  Wrapping baby gifts in baby blankets turned out to be adorable and you can do it with towels, scarves, etc.  I make a homemade reusable wrapping paper out of fabric.  Basically, it's just fabric wrapping paper with ribbons attached.  Use it forever!  Try a reusable shopping bag or left over wall-paper, magazines, newspapers, maps etc.  I had a friend once wrap a gift in old headshots.  There are "wrap bags" you can use over and over ( You can purchase biodegradable seed paper at  Your paper will make flowers bloom!

In some cities you can recycle your gift wrap, but the tape must be removed as it is petroleum-based, and basically terrible for the environment.

I'm just going to say it.  Let's do some dishes people.  Really, let's get zen about it.  Use it as a time to meditate and reflect on how great the party was.  Or think of it as a way to burn off the calories that you ate.  But if you can't be convinced to get dish-pan hands, here are some great disposable products:
Nature Friendly, Solo, Eco Products, Preserve and EATware all make plates, cups and silverware that are either biodegradable, recycled, compostable, or made of sugar.

I'm going to say it again.  Let's do some wash people.  Cover the tables in REAL tablecloths, and use cloth napkins.  This is where I think cute meets conscious head-on.  Nothing is lovelier than real tablecloths and napkins.  But if you don't want to take the time to get the chocolate out of your great-aunt's lace tablecloth, here are some options:
Seventh Generation, Marcel, and CVS Earth Essentials have either unbleached or recycled disposable paper napkins.

If you can really only manage to do the bare minimum, try this:
Recycle all those plastic cups and plates you are using.
Make sure left-overs go home with people or are put in the fridge so they don't spoil.
Put your used wrapping paper out with the recycling.
And please, please, please, just say no to balloons and those vinyl tablecloths.  There is really no redeeming green quality to them.

And let's not forget the power of a great wig...

totally depressing environmental fact:
Plastic cutlery is non-biodegradable, can leach toxic chemicals, and is ubiquitous all over the world. estimates 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in just the United States. The vast majority of these are thrown out after just one use.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Diaper Updates and More Great Links!

I had to fill you all in on the great cloth diaper strides we have made as of late! The big change is that Phoebe no longer wants her diaper changed every two seconds when she is in cloth. I don't know if she has just gotten used to it, or is a little bit older, but there is no difference right now in the number of changes I make with cloth and disposable diapers.

(Pictured: Phoebe in her Bumkins All-in-One diaper)

I thought the Snappi was great? I was crazy! I got some Bumkins diaper covers and they are BLOWING MY MIND! You just put the cloth into the cover and attach it like a regular paper diaper. Easiest thing ever. Reuse them until they get messy, then wash them with the diapers. I ordered some additional Bumkins that are coming today (there is a great package on sale at, but my friend Jenna uses "Thirsties" and loves them as well.

I also ordered "wet bag." This is to use in place of plastic bags. It is a leak-proof cloth bag to put all your dirties in, then just toss it in the wash.

I have been using the gDiaper cloth inserts. They are great because the don't have to be folded and are as soft as...well...a baby's bottom. I would like them to be a little more absorbent, but according to a review I read, after six washes they plump up and start doing much better.

The result is in the past twelve days we have only used TWO disposable diapers!! Once when I ran out of clean cloth, and once at a baby shower when I was desperate. And do you know what it costs me to use cloth diapers per week (after the initial purchase of the diapers)? $2.25. That is compared to the $23.00 I was spending per week on Seventh Generation or Earth's Best. By the way, Earth's Best never got back to me with the questions I asked them about their diapers and wipes.

Speaking of wipes, you can buy reusable cloth ones on

Feel free to write to me with any questions or thoughts so we can get all moms and dads on board with the cloth. According to my gDiapers packaging 500 million diapers a day are put into landfills. That's you depressing environmental fact!

Here are some more great links provided by friends and readers:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hand-Me-Down to the Paradise City

When you have a baby, time is at a premium. So why am I wasting so much time coming up with ridiculous titles for my blog posts? I spent about twenty minutes brainstorming terrible ideas like, "Hand-Me-Downs Across America," and "Don't Hand Me Down...Bruce!" and of course, the gem I went with. It is very unlike me to make a GNR reference. If I keep up these terrible titles I may be able to land a job at the New York Post. Burn, New York Post!! I digress...let's get down to business.

(Pictured: Phoebe in her hand-me-down bathing suit and sunglasses)

Like any good Art School Alum, I love to shop at thrift stores. But I remember a few years ago seeing a rack of baby clothes at a Goodwill and thinking, "I would never buy my baby used clothes." I don't know what it was that turned me off so much. Maybe it was the fact that strangers have worn them, or that they were not crisp and clean and new. Maybe I felt like it would make my baby seem "poor." But after just six months of raising Phoebe my thinking is completely different. When you are having a baby, especially a first baby, and especially a girl, people love to give you clothes. I am just as guilty! I will pass by all of the truly needed items on someone's baby registry to grab a pair of newborn jeans or baby Chuck Taylors. Phoebe has a wardrobe that would put Carrie Bradshaw to shame. And while I love it, it is a full-time job keeping up with it. I want to make sure everything gets on her at some point. But even with my diligence she has outfits that she has worn a total of ONE time. When people say, "They grow up so fast!" they mean, "Literally, they grow up...really fast. Like one day she fits in a onesie and the next day she doesn't." So I'm over it! And while some of my favorite outfits have been the deliciously adorable ones that friend's and family have given us from Janie and Jack and Gap Kids, I am totally okay putting her in my cousin's sons pants or my neighbor's kids jumper. And yes, even the occasional $.99 t-shirt from Salvation Army. Because aren't thrift store clothes just hand-me-downs from strangers?

Here are some great bonuses to consider with hand-me-downs, craiglist and garage sale purchases, second-hand and consignment shops:

Lack of packaging
Package accounts for something like 30% of all waste. (I'll get the real facts on that). So when by using used clothes or hand-me-downs you eliminate the production waste, the gas it takes to get to get the clothes to the store, all the packaging that surrounds it when it gets to the retailer and the additional packaging (tissue paper, box, tags) to get it to your home.

If we've learned anything Kathy Lee Gifford it's that most clothes come with a human price tag. There is a great new campaign called "Free to Work" that will tell you what companies are not using forced child labor in their manufacturing. Get ready to be depressed about all the products you use that are NOT listed on their website. When you get used clothes, even if they were produced under poor conditions, you are not making them re-produce even more clothing.

Most Goodwill stores, Salvation Army stores, and other thrifts stores where the proceeds go to a charity or not-for-profit are tax free, and you can write off your purchases as donations! Take that, IRS!

Always wash baby clothes thoroughly.
Wash any toys or furniture items with appropriate warm soapy, water.
ALWAYS check to see if items have been recalled. You can go to, the Consumer Product Safety Commission or even do a general google search.
When buying something off craigslist or at a garage sale, ask if the household has had any pets in case you are allergy sensitive or are wary of fleas.

My whole adult life I have asked myself the question, "Am I a conservationist, or am I just cheap?" Truth is, I am both. Luckily they can go hand-in-hand. So by doing this I reduce packaging, manufacturing, trash, and child labor, and in the meantime if I happen to save myself 80% on Phoebe's clothes, her crib, and her stroller, then I get to save the money for more important things like pre-school, college, and cloth diapers. That's right! I did it! I managed to take an article about hand-me-downs and drop in some more cloth diaper propaganda!! My pro-cloth-diaper agenda will be the "Where's Waldo?" of my blog.


totally depressing environmental fact:
banning child labor and educating all children would raise the world's total income by 22%, or $4.3 trillion dollars over 20 years.
-International Labor Organizaion


I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone posting with other great ideas, products, and posts. Keep them coming! Here are a few other great sites:

Shop away!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Final "D" Word

I know! You can't take anymore diaper talk! But rule of three's, I had to tie up some loose ends. Then we can take a diaper break and talk about much sexier hand-me-downs and BPA-free plastics.

I wanted to go into a wee more detail on a few topics.

These are perfect for parents who are way too intimidated to try cloth diapers. Like I said earlier, they are a diaper cover with a disposable insert. The covers are cotton and come in all different colors, patterns and sizes. You can purchase a starter kit, that will get you on your way. When you change your darling little angel's dirty diaper you can either throw the insert away or flush it down the toilet. The flush it, hold the insert over the toilet and pull the two strips on either side of the diaper until the insides fall out into the toilet. The starter kit comes with something I call a "masher" to mash up the diaper so it is easily flushed. You're done! Here is an issue I have had: What to do with the insert while you are still in the midst of changing baby's diaper? I have had to designate a little area where the dirty insert will sit while I put on a fresh diaper. After she is all set I put her somewhere safe and flush the insert. That's basically it with the gDiaper, but if you want to take it one step further, they are designed to use a cloth insert as well. I have not yet tried these, but paper ones are biodegradable!

Disposing Of The Paper Diaper

One of the biggest problems with trash in general is that we time-capsule it in thick plastic bags. Any of you who know me know that my enemy #1 is the plastic bag. I have nothing good to say about any plastic bag; grocery, trash, ziplock or otherwise. So when it came to disposing of our diapers I knew we would have to get creative. Our diaper pail is a tiny little metal trash can. I like keeping it small and simple so I am aware of how much trash I am making. Periodically we dump the diapers from the wee trash can into our kitchen trash can. We use these phenomenal trash bags from CVS "Earth Essentials" brand that are biodegradable. I am not going to pretend that these never rip and the hardiest thing ever, but if you put your priorities in order I am pretty sure that saving the earth will come in above cleaning up the occasional kitchen spill.

When we are out and about I try to throw our dirty diapers sans bag into any available trash can, but if you have to travel with it there are biodegradable diaper sacks. We use "Keep Me Tidy Clean and Green Diaper Sacks" from Classy Kid Inc. Longer name, please. They claim the bags break down into tiny pieces that eventually convert back to Earth when exposed to the natural process. The packaging is also made from EVA (more on EVA vs. PVC in an upcoming post). You can get them at Babies R Us or And they're cheap!


A totally easy commitment I have been able to make is to reusable wipes. Early on, when I was using regular disposable ones I turned to my mom during a particularly messy diaper change and said, "Oh my God, what did you guys use for wipes when we were kids?" Her answer was, "Washcloths." This almost made me faint. I couldn't imagine anything more horrible! But I started reading about families that made their own cloth wipes and solution at home and decided to give it a try. And it turns out I love it! Our friends Boyd and Anne loaded us up with great hand-me-downs from their daughter Wenonah and among them was a huge pile of what I though were little square burp cloths. But after reading the cloth wipe articles I decided that this was their intention. I still haven't asked them about it. If either of you are reading this...let me know! If you don't have a Boyd and Anne in your life, then just make a trip to a craft or fabric store and buy a yard of fabric you think would be absorbent, soft on baby's bum, and easily cleaned. Then just make some homemade solution (recipe below) and either squirt the wipes with it and wash baby, or I make a big bottle of it, fold all the wipes into the wipe warmer, and saturate them. This way these soft little wipes are kept warm and moist. After using them, just toss them in the bin with your dirty diapers and wash all together. I'm not a saint. I still keep the disposable ones around for travel and what my friend Karen has named "poo-splosions."


-2 TBSP baby wash

-2 TBSP olive or grapeseed oil

-2 CUPS water


Can we take a second to give huge props to our mother's, our grandmothers, and every other parent in our lineage that didn't have any options and wrapped our bums in sheepskins and banana leaves? Thanks!


The bottom line is that cloth diapers are the best choice for the planet, and your baby's skin, but require extra work for you. But here is the biggest bonus to choosing cloth...YOUR BABY WILL POTTY TRAIN MUCH, MUCH FASTER! That's right! When you make a baby too comfortable in a paper diaper they have no reason to want to use a toilet. And the more they get used to them, the less fussy they are about wanting them changed so frequently.


This blog has been so good for me. It is making me do more research to get good answers and re-commit to cloth. I contacted Seventh Generation and Earth's Best with two questions: Can the packaging for the diapers and wipes be recycled, and Can the diapers be composted? Here is the depressing answers I got from Seventh Generation (Still have not heard back from Earth's Best):

Answer #1

Just like most disposable diaper designs in the marketplace, Seventh Generation diapers are not biodegradable, nor can they be composted. Many of the materials used are synthetic, and do not biodegrade.

Most diapers end up in a landfill where they will not biodegrade, even if they were designed to do so.

AHHH! This is terrible! So I just went on to and ordered a bunch of gDiapers cloth inserts, disposable inserts, and a Bumkins diaper covers.
Answer #2

The packaging for the diapers can be recycled, this is the same material as grocery bags. Many grocery stores will have a recycling bin at the store entrance. Most municipal facilities still do not take this material.

The tubs for the baby wipes can recycled, they are a number 5. The refill wipes packaging is not recyclable, we are working to make this recyclable.

These can't be composted, our R&D team is looking into new ways to package our products in packaging that will have the smallest impact possible. We hope to have some new packaging available soon.

I had no idea about the diaper packaging. So #4 can only go into the grocery store recycling bin. Good to know!
Stick with me! We can figure this out!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The "D" Word...Part Deux

I warned you I talk about diapers a lot. So here is the conclusion of my journey. And by "conclusion" I mean, "still trying to figure it out on a daily basis." I stuck to the initial four-week commitment to the diaper service, but I gave myself a break. If we were leaving the house or putting Phoebe to bed for the night she got a paper diaper (Seventh Generation or Earth's Best). We are at a point where Phoebe sleeps in huge chunks during the night, so I don't feel at all wasteful in the night-time hours. I cancelled the diaper service...and am doing some cloth on my own!! It is not nearly as bad as I thought, but it's really easy to get lazy. If we have a day at home and everyone is in a good mood (mainly me) we do the cloth. We have a special bin for all diaper related dirtiness and it gets washed once a week. My friend Stephnie gave me some Bumkins (diapers and cover all in one) and I LOVE them! The only issue is that they are about $15 a piece, so I don't have as many as I would like. So here is your chance to forward my blog to all those execs you know at Bumkins so I can get some product-placement swag. Your product is awesome, Bumkins!! Bumkins are the best ever!! Bumkins, Bumkins, Bumkins!! We are also a big fan of gDiapers. If you have never heard of them, they are a hybrid...a cloth cover with a disposable insert. These were actually pretty difficult when Phoebe was tiny. Her poop would get all over the place and I would have to wash the whole thing every time she went. But now that she is older, fatter, and poops much less often, I can pretty much determine the part of the day she will be "number two-ing" and keep her in a paper diaper until I know we are in the clear. And since she is chunkier the gDiapers are a much snugger fit and really do the job. They are also adorable!

To be totally honest, as I read this I realize I am not as good as I could be with the cloth diapers. When you are as tired as we all are, sometimes putting in the extra effort is that straw that breaks your back. But babies are so innocent and pure, and I hate to think that anything about this beautiful little being is having a negative effect on the world. So maybe it will help, every time you place a diaper in the trash, to think about truly consider it. Think about where it is going, and how long it will be there, and if it really worth the extra time and energy that a cloth diaper takes. If your answer is "yes," then you can take small, teeny, bitty steps in the right direction. And if your answer is "no," then, I hear you sister. You probably need a good night's sleep. But promise me you will ask yourself again in the morning!

totally depressing environmental fact:
Introduced just over 25 years ago, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society's consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that's 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The "D" Word

Let me start this new post by saying that I can't believe I am a person who talks about diapers. And I talk about diapers a lot...and think about them even more. I have done exciting things in my life! I've sipped wine in Paris, smoked a hookah in Istanbul, at one point I even had a wild monkey on my head. But if you are at all passionate about the environment you will quickly become consumed with how much trash your new baby makes. 2% of the solid waste created by Americans are diapers. That is 18,000,000,000 diapers a year that take about 500 years to decompose. Think about that. The dirty diapers that you made as a baby should finally decompose by the time your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren are born.

So here is the long and the short of it all. Cloth diapers are a bazillion times better for baby and Earth, but crazy hard on you as a parent. When my daughter Phoebe was six-weeks-old I decided to go 100% cloth and get a diaper service. This is HANDS DOWN the way to go with cloth diapers, especially to start. The service and everything they provide is cheaper than regular diapers, so it's a win-win! In the Los Angeles area there is one provider; Dy-dee diaper service ( They are wonderful. They drop off the diapers, the dirty diaper bin, and instructions. You drop the dirty diapers in the bin, and once a week they haul them away and give you fresh new ones. But do you want to hear the nitty-gritty?

I was a total dumb-dumb and didn't consider that I needed something to keep the diapers together and keep them from leaking. This led to an emergency trip to Babies R Us to get diaper pins and vinyl undies. Problem solved? Nope. Diaper pins are a nightmare, even the cute little ones I bought with flowers and peace signs on them. They are hard to maneuver, especially around a wiggling baby. And the worse thing about pins is that they are actually pins! In an effort to not pierce tiny Phoebe's skin I pierced my own several times. I had just about had it with them, so I did a little research and found this amazing product called the Snappi. It's one stretchy piece of rubbery plastic that easily pulls the baby's diaper together. It turned out only two places in all of LA sold these tiny miracles, and one was just blocks from my apartment! The store is called Green and Greener (4838 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Valley Village CA 91607) and it's great. I nearly wept when I brought the Snappi's home and used them for the first time. You may think I am over-dramatizing my cloth diaper experience, but what you need to realize is that I was trying this on my own. My husband had gone out of town for the first time since the birth of our daughter and I was completely sleep-deprived and overwhelmed.

Here is one more vital fact you need to know about cloth diapers, and get ready, because it's a doozy. When you switch to cloth you will change about 3x more diapers than you will with disposables. Yes, I said it. You will have MORE diaper changes. Disposable diapers are designed to wick away moisture. This is why your baby can pee several times in them before they cry to have their diaper changed. But while wearing a cloth diaper (which is healthier for your baby's skin) they will want their diaper changed every time they go. I learned this lesson between 3 and 5 AM the second day of cloth diapers when I changed SEVEN diapers in that two-hour period and was sure Phoebe had some illness where a symptom was excessive urination. A week after the diapers had first arrived I felt like I had been thru boot camp. I was a non-stop diaper-changing machine, carrying a bag of dirty cloth diapers, in my pin-pricked hands, home with me after a day out with Phoebe. I remember collapsing on the sofa wondering if someone could actually die from exhaustion from too much diaper changing.

I had had it. I was done. Parenting was so exhausting to begin with, there was no way I could keep this up. But I found a way to make it work...sort of...

To be continued...

totally depressing environmental fact:
the average baby will use 13,000 disposable diapers in their lifetime.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Being Eco-Conscious...When You're Barely Conscious

I just had a baby and can barely wrap my brain around everything it takes to keep this wee bundle alive. And seriously? I need to think about being a "Green" mother? Oh, ok. I'll do it in my spare time. I'll fit it in between my mid-morning nap and my daily massage. I'll just make sure my nanny and personal chef have given the unicorns their vitamins.

As a new mother I have quickly adopted the phrase, "as much as I can." I'm not going to be that perfect environmentalist who only dresses my kid in clothes made of bamboo and gets a special attachment for my toilet to spray the baby's dirty diapers...yikes. But I can't get swept up in the runaway train that is new-parenthood and throw away every thing the child touches for a clean, fresh, germ-free one.

So I'll be a hybrid! I'll tell you the things I've learned, the experiments I've tried, and the stuff I just totally gave up on. Hopefully I can spare you some of my greatest deciding to do 100% cloth diapers the first week my husband was out of town. Or thinking I could handle our new "Worm Factory" alone. I'll try to keep the posts short so you can get in and out and learn something. I'll put up new posts on the regular schedule of "when I have the time." And don't be mad at me, but I will probably end each post with a totally depressing environmental fact.

Let's do this! Come on! We can do it! We can make the world a better...oh god...I am so tired...let's save the world after this nap.

totally depressing environmental fact:
the highest point in the state of ohio is a landfill