Tuesday, April 17, 2012

There's A Tiny Human Inside of Me!

I'm 9 weeks 4/5 days pregnant. We had our first doctor's appointment today and got to see our little one and hear it's little heartbeat! Our baby's heart rate was 167 and it was a wiggling away! 

So, dear readers, if you're out there, I beg your forgiveness on the sporadic nature of my postings. This little one is very active and drains my energy like a tiny vampire, but not a sparkly one.

Baby Campbell giving the world a fist bump (or doing a super hero pose).

I'm due November 16th and we are beyond thrilled at this new adventure God has blessed us with.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10th Simple Step to Sustainability: Buy Local

Our next few steps will focus on where and what you buy what you eat. We're going to start with the "where".

Buy Local 

Simon checking out a tomato from the Farmer's Market

There are two ways to buy local: First buy from any local shop. This includes small business and national chains. Buying online might be more convenient (maybe even necessary sometimes) but buying locally saves on the environmental cost of shipping. The second way to buy local (my focus for today) is to buy local foods. You can buy local food from Farmer's Markets or from your grocery store. A lot of produce stickers now say where the item originated from. If buying from a grocery store, try to find produce and other foods that are made in your state or region. Buying pumpkins from New Mexico is better for Texans than buying pumpkins from Maine. (I don't think they grow pumpkins in Maine, but you get the idea.)

How It Helps: It takes a lot of gas, and therefore oil, to ship our food all around the world. Not only does that shipping process use up gas and oil, but there's also the issue of pollution from the vehicles that transport our food. By buying locally, especially from Farmer's Markets, you get fresher produce that caused less pollution and used up fewer resources. As a bonus- when you buy from Farmer's Markets, you're often buying straight from the farmer helping them to earn more for their produce and giving you the chance to ask questions about the product that grocery stores can't answer (What kind of chemicals are used, if any? When was it picked? What type of cleaning process? etc.)

How To Do It: Buying locally doesn't really take much effort on your part. You just have to plan your list a little better and read some labels. If you're going to buy from Farmer's Markets, you might have to get up a bit earlier or do some research about which one is closest to you. All it takes is for you to be a bit more mindful about the things you are purchasing.

Cost: Farmer's Market produce can sometimes be more expensive (usually because it's organic or better quality) but it can also be a bit cheaper. The above tomato cost me 50 cents. I've found that animal products are usually a bit more expensive, but they're more humanely raised and often organic. Buying locally in your grocery store won't cost you much more than you'd pay for other store produce.

Ask around for your local Farmer's Market or call your city hall to see when it is, and brush up on your local geography! Start buying locally and you'll get hooked.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

9th Simple Step to Sustainability: Tips to Start Recycling

Today's Step will be a little different. Today we will look at several tips if you would like to start recycling or take your recycling routine to the next level.

Here are some tips to help you start recycling if you don't yet. (I'm not going to go into why you should recycle, as that info is pretty much everywhere. If you have questions or need some convincing, please message me or leave a comment. Id' love to help!)

  • If you are just getting started, start with just one type of recyclable such as paper, plastic, or cardboard.
  • Locate your local recycling center. They have them at a lot of major supermarkets, SAMs Clubs, and Wal-Marts. Take a look at what they accept. (It will be written on the dumpster.)
  • Contact your local waste management office to inquire about curbside pick up. Many cities offer this service as part of your city fees or for a small additional fee. There are some lucky (and smart) cities that even offer discounts on your garbage fees if you recycle!
  • My suggestion is to start with items that don't have to be rinsed or cleaned. Cans, bottles, and plastics should be rinsed of all food particles and cans and glass need to have labels removed. However, paper and cardboard tends to be an easier start: just dump it in.
  • Find a container and a spot in your house for your recycling. My paper goes in a canvas bag that hangs on the slider door. Other recyclables are sorted into old laundry baskets on our porch. 
If you're a seasoned recycler, there's always room for improvement. Here are a few tips to make recycling a bit easier and help you to recycle more and throw away less.
  • Get a good system in place. Once you're recycling many different types of materials and ones that require cleaning, it can be a little hectic, and let's face it, we're already busy enough. To get your juices going, our system includes all recycling that needs to be rinsed going next the the sink. I then rinse them when I do dishes (great for using the water while you wait for it to warm up). Afterwards, they go out to the porch. If it's hot, raining, or snowing, I might leave the recycling by the slider door until I can get out. (Makes a great kitten jungle gym!)
  • Pay attention to what recycling receptacles are at your recycling center. I started recycling glass when they added a glass dumpster to the center by our Wal-mart. 
  • Add one material at a time to your recycling routine. This helps to make one habit at a time which helps you to keep the habit going longer.
  • Build recycling into your schedule. Whether you load it up on your way to the store, or on Sunday night to take out Monday on your way home from work. Make it a part of your family's schedule to take the recycling out. It's easy to pile up the recycling on your porch, but it's got to make it to the recycling center it's just keeping a bunch of junk. (This is one of the hardest things for us to do!)
  • Watch packaging of unusual purchases for recyclable materials. It's easy to get into the habit of recycling your cereal boxes and soda cans, but that new toy for Johnny might have recyclable plastic casing and those inserts in your video games and DVDs can be recycled as well.
There it is. Step 9- ten tips for recycling. Don't know why I didn't make that step ten, but step ten will be awesome as well. (Yep, just looked at my cheat sheet and step ten is awesome!)

Comment Below With Your Recycling Tips!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

7th Step towards Sustainability: Cloth Cleaning Towels

In keeping on theme of green cleaning, let's work on reducing paper waste in the cleaning process. Often when you go about your routine cleaning, you'll use paper towels to wipe down your counters, your fixtures, your bathroom mirror... Just about everything. How many paper towels does that add up to? Well, I haven't done the math, but it's a lot! Even the most absorbent paper towels get used up and tossed out for new ones. Cloth cleaning towels solve that problem!

By switching to cloth towels for your cleaning tasks, you can stop the never ending cycle of using and throwing away paper towels, saving countless amounts of paper waste and tress! Back in the "old days" before paper towels, cloth towels were used for all cleaning tasks. That's just what you had. We invent paper towels and out go the cleaning rags.

How It Helps: Paper towels might be convenient but they require many tress to die and are really only usable once. Then, they go to that ever-so-hated place, the landfill. By using cloth towels, you reduce the needs for paper, and therefore trees, while also keeping our landfills a little bit more empty.

How To Do It: Use old washcloths or buy some cheap towels and set them aside to use for your chores. Once they've gotten all yucky toss them in the wash and do it all over again. We have a stack of towels in the linen closet reserved just for cleaning. Now, in all honesty, we do still have some paper towels in the kitchen, but  I go through a roll maybe every two months, probably closer to three or more. (I'm considering going to un-paper towels, but that's for another day...)

Cost: If you want to just use some old washcloths that you have lying around, they've already been paid for so there's no new cost! If you want/need to buy some towels for cleaning, you can get a good bundle at Wal-mart or any other store for $5 or less. Remember: you're using these towels to dust your furniture and clean your toilet, they don't need to be anything fancy.

There you have it. Another very simple and easy step to help make your life a little bit more sustainable.

Monday, April 9, 2012

6th Step towards Sustainability: Phosphate-Free Dishwasher Detergent

To follow up on step five, step six applies the same concept to your dishwasher routine. Phosphates in our cleaning products wreck havoc on the water-based ecosystems, especially amphibians. Those cute little frog legs suck up the chemicals in the water and create all sorts of trouble for their little froggie bodies.

Phosphate free dishwashing detergents are becoming more popular and common. The above pictured product is what I use. Palmolive's phosphate free is available at Wal-mart and other national stores and costs the same as regular dishwasher detergents. That being said, this is just what I use, there are many other options available. Seventh Generation also makes a dishwasher detergent. I'm sure there are plenty others out there as well. Look around the next time you need dishwasher detergent, most phosphate-free brands advertise it pretty loudly.

How It Helps: Phosphates in the water are linked to major issues with our amphibian populations. Not only do they create issues with amphibian reproduction but can create all sorts of deformities in other amphibians. Phosphates also effect the plant life in the water ways which then changes the entire ecosystem and not for the best. Changing just one cleaning product to phosphate-free can help reduce the amount of phosphate put into our water ways dramatically and can help make the world a little more froggy-friendly.

How To Do It: This is another really simple one. Just buy the phosphate-free. Whenever your dishwasher detergent runs out, just take a little more time to choose your dishwasher detergent.

Cost: Some phosphate-free versions cost the same as their chemically loaded counterparts. Others can be a bit more costly. If you can afford dishwasher detergent, you can afford to go phosphate-free.

Once again, another really simply change to make that can make a huge difference!

5th Step towards Sustainability: Scent and Dye Free

Ok so... it was a great, but long weekend. The kids had a great time at LTC. Then I got sick. But, I'm feeling better and catching up on the Sustainability Series. We'll continue today with step five: switching to scent and dye free laundry products. Homemade and "green" laundry detergents and softeners are great options, but often they're expensive and hard to find. However, scent and dye free versions of national brands like Tide and All can be great middle grounds.

The dyes and scents in traditional products get washed out with the wash water and seep into the ground and our water supplies and reservoirs. By using products that don't have these additional chemicals, you can make a great environmental impact without having to make a huge change in your laundry routine.

How It Helps: The dyes and scents added to laundry products, like I said above, end up in our water supplies and reservoirs. This includes many lakes and rivers. The impact of these and other chemicals on our waterways is tremendous. These chemicals change the pH balance of the water creating a hostile environment for many water dwellers. While an all natural "green" detergent is likely to have a smaller impact on our water ways, going dye and scent free is a great start!

How You Do It: Buy your favorite laundry products in the dye and scent free version. Pretty much all of the major national brands offer a dye or scent free version. If you can find and afford a phosphate-free or green product, that would be an even better option.

Cost: The "green" detergents can be pricy. Making your own detergent can be cost saving. However, if you just go with the dye/scent free products, they cost the same as the scented and dyed version.

Don't worry about products that don't have scent leaving your clothes "smelly." When properly washed, your clothes will be clean and therefore won't smell. I was worried about clothes (particularly husband socks) being smelly when I switched over, but it's never been an issue. Further, the scent and dye free products are less likely to create allergic reactions! All around, a great option!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Reusable Swiffer Pads from Handknitted 4 You

I stumbled upon this product while looking through the eco-friendly items on Etsy.com. Handknitted 4 You has been on Etsy for a bit over a year now. They make adorable hand knit items of all sorts. The hand knit Swiffer pads are available as singles or in sets of three. I got a single one for $3.50 plus shipping.

Pros: It works great! It picks up hair and cat fur and all the other junk that lives on my floor. It is machine washable. It did shrink a wee bit the first wash, but not enough to make it fit any worse.

Cons: I would say that the only downfall that I've found is that you can only use the pad once before having to wash it. You might be able to flip it inside out and use it a second time, but I've tried and it's been pretty hard to flip like that.

Overall, it's great! I plan to buy some more when I run out of the disposable pads that I still have.

8th Simple Step to Sustainability: Reusable Swiffer Pads

We've all got to clean, and that glorious invention The Swiffer makes the chore of cleaning the floors much simpler and easier. But what about all those Swiffer pads? You use them once (twice if you flip them) and then what happens? Like so many other things in our American life, you throw them in the trash and they make their way to the landfills. Well, no more of that!

Reusable Swiffer pads are often knit or crocheted pads that you use just like normal Swiffer pads but instead of throwing them away you wash them! It really is that simple.

I currently only have one Swiffer pad, but plan to buy more soon. Last time I bought disposable pads I bought them in bulk, so I've been using the one pad that I have and then using disposable ones while it waits to be washed. It really doesn't add much to my laundry and works great!

How It Helps: It's very simple. When you replace a disposable product with a reusable one, you save the landfills from pilling up, reduce the need to destroy our natural resources, and reduce pollution from production and shipping.

How to do it: If you use a Swiffer, start with one or two reusable pads. Once you see how easy they are, you can add more to your stash if needed to meet your Swiffering needs. If you only have a few hard surfaces and only Swiffer occasionally, you might be able to get away with just one or two.

Cost: These reusable pads cost about $3-8 a piece. Most are handmade and therefore take more man power to make. However, not only are you helping to be more sustainable in your life, you are supporting an individual craftsperson!

If you Swiffer, this is an easy and great option! Give it a try!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


So... We leave in the morning for Leadership Training for Christ. We're really excited to go with the kids this year. Unfortunately, that means I won't be posting for a few days. I had planned to write out the next few days of the sustainability series and schedule them to post while I'm gone, but that didn't happen. If you stick with me, I will catch up when we return.

Have a great Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

4th Step towards Sustainability: Dryer Balls

Today's step starts a section on healthier, more sustainable cleaning. I'll continue to focus on small changes that most can make with little effort. If you really want to go all out, you could make all your own cleaning supplies! There are a ton of great recipes online. However, if you're not quite ready to take that step, let's start with something small.

Dryer Balls

Here you see my first attempt at making dryer balls. So far, I haven't been particularly successful. You can buy dryer balls (which I might if I can't figure it out). You can find them at conventional home goods stores as well as eco-stores and of course, Etsy.com.  You toss one, two, or more in the dryer with your clothes and it works to fluff your clothes, speed up drying time, and keep your clothes soft. Choose dryer balls made with natural materials like wool. Wicker is okay, but try to avoid plastic.

Here's How It Helps: This helps out in a lot of different ways. First, there aren't any chemicals. Some of them have essential oils for scent, but otherwise, they're chem-free. Secondly, you use them more than once. Sure, there are ways to reuse used dryer sheets, but generally speaking they get used once then they get tossed in the trash, and where does it go from there? That's right- landfills.  Dryer balls last for months before they start to break down. Even then you can reuse them by adding a new layer of wool or use them as pet toys!

Here's How To Do It: Buy or make a few dryer balls. Then use them in your laundry. It's really about that simple. It might take some time to get used to using them, but once you get into the habit, you can just stop buying dryer sheets.

Cost: Dryer balls cost about $4-10 each depending upon size, material, and whether or not it has any scented oils. You can make about three the size of the one above for one bundle of wool that runs about $6. 

So there you have it. One very simple step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. If dryer balls aren't for you,  stay tuned for tomorrow's sustainable laundry tip.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

3rd Step towards Sustainability: Reusable Grocery Bags

Today's step will round out our talk on reusable bags.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are becoming more and more popular and in some states/counties you can now be charged for using plastic grocery bags. These reusable grocery bags replace the need for plastic grocery bags during your next shopping trip. They now come in a variety of colors, prints, and styles. You can get them insulated, with wine bottle pockets, with zippers, tons of bells and whistles! Some stores now give you a discount for using these bags as it saves them money on plastic bags.

Here's How It Helps: You guessed it! Using your own bags reduces the demand and use of plastic bags. It really is that simple. When you don't use as much plastic, less gets thrown away and less needs to be made. This saves landfills and factory waste. Even if you recycle your plastic bags, there's still an energy demand for recycling. If we simply require less plastic to be made, it won't be made. Your one little grocery trip might not seem like much, but each trip adds up. Then each year adds up. Then maybe your neighbor starts, then your kid's Sunday School teacher, and it snowballs from there.

Here's How To Do It: Buy a few bags to start. It's hard to tell how many you'll need. The reusable bags usually can hold quite a bit more than plastic bags. My Wal-mart black ones are pretty old and easily hold 6 two liters. You'll have to figure out how many you need based on how full you like your bags and how many you need for your typical grocery trips.  I also like to keep one in the car for those quick trips to the grocery store after work.

Cost: Bags will usually run about $1-5 each. I got a bunch of basic black ones from Wal-mart a few years ago for $1 that are still holding up well. My United green ones cost maybe $1.5 and the insulated one costed a little bit more, maybe $3. You'd be surprised how many you pick up for free too. The last few conferences I've been to have given them away for their goodie bags and my school gave you ones if you pre-ordered your textbooks. As I mentioned before, these bags will sometimes save you money as well. United gives a five cent discount per bag that's filled. It's not much, but it adds up.

That finishes off the reusable bags portion of the 22 steps towards sustainability. These first three are very easy adjustments to make, and you may have already made some of them. Next we're going to look at some common cleaning issues and ways we can make some greener changes without having to make major lifestyle changes!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: Reusable Produce Bags from Eco-Friendly 4 U

Continuing along with today's sustainability tip, I thought I would review my own produce bags. I bought my produce bags from an Etsy shop, Eco-Friendly 4 U. This is a Canadian shop and the owner makes all sorts of produce bags, tech cases, and snack bags. I  got a set of four large produce bags, plus a bonus purple bag for $6 plus shipping. I found this to be a great price comparatively to other shops and have been very happy with the bags.

Pros: The bags are lightweight and easy to clean. If they get dirty, I just rinse them with hot water and set them to dry on my dish rack. I've not noticed any additional weight to be added by the bags, if any is added, it's a tiny fraction of an ounce. These bags have held up well. I use them for any produce that you'd but in a bag, including onions and potatoes like you see above. I even use them to store some produce in the party.

Cons: Really the only negative that I recall from the entire transaction, (and I really hesitate to call it a negative) is that it took a long time to get my order. Now this wasn't the shop owner's fault. Anyone who has ever purchased anything internationally knows that delivery time for international shipments is a guessing game. The owner did ship the item quickly, so once again, I hesitate to even call it a downfall.

Overall, I love these bags. I use them every time we go shopping and plan to buy more in the future.

2nd Step towards Sustainability: Reusable Produce Bags

In keeping with the reuse theme for the first few steps. Today's step is another simple replacement:

Use Reusable Produce Bags when shopping

This is another potential sewing project if you're handy with thread. They're also available in eco-friendly shops and handmade stores like Etsy.com, if you don't wish to make your own. These bags are often made with mesh or mesh-like materials and drawstrings. This helps to keep the bags light. I use mine at every shopping trip and haven't noticed them adding any weight. 

Here's How It Helps: When you buy your produce at the store, you put it in one of those little plastic bags. Then you get home and put up your apples and oranges and what have you. What then do you do with those little plastic bags? You might reuse them once but then they end up in the trash. If you recycle, you might add these little bags to your recycling, which is better than the trash, but still not ideal. The ideal would be to use less plastic in the first place, helping to reduce the demand for this earth un-healthy product. By using reusable bags, you're saving three or four, maybe even six or seven little plastic bags each shopping trip!

Here's How To Do It: Buy or make a few bags to start. Think of how many you usually use in your regular shopping and try to get that many. Then as you get ready for your grocery trip, take them with you. I've found that many farmers at the farmer's market also use plastic grocery bags, you can take your own bags with you there as well. They're see through so I've never had a problem at any traditional store, even Wal-mart. If your bags get dirty or need to be washed, some are machine washable, but I've found that I just need to rinse mine with hot water and lay them to dry.

Cost: I bought a set of four for $6 plus shipping. You could probably make a good number for about that much in materials. While this doesn't save you money, it's a minimal investment for quite a good environmental impact.

There's today's simple step. Make a small purchase and save some plastic!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review: Reusable Sandwich Bags from My Outdoor Mom

Here's another option for reusable snack and sandwich bags from Etsy.com. My Outdoor Mom is a new shop to Etsy, but is already having a ton of success, and it's easy to see why! I bought my bags when I was first starting to work towards more reusable products. I got a pair of reusable bags, one snack bag and one sandwich bag, for $10 plus shipping. While this is a little expensive, I think it was worth it. You choose the pattern for each bag, and they come with a solid inside and zipper.

Here is the snack size with blueberry print. Easily holds a chopped apple.

Here is the sandwich side bag with strawberry print. This easily holds a regular sandwich, but a really hefty one might not fit too easily.

Pros: I love the zipper! The zipper keeps everything in, even peanuts and popcorn, and doesn't take up hardly any bag space. I also love the prints. Not only are they fun, but they're more "adult" than a lot of the reusable bags out there. These bags are also machine washable. I've washed them once or twice in the machine, but usually just rinse them out with dishes.

Cons: These aren't exactly airtight. The other day I brought cheese and crackers to work. I cut the cheese the night before, put it in the blue bag, and put in the fridge. Well, by the time I ate the cheese the next day, it was starting to get a wee bit hard. It was still fine, but is a downfall to those who are used to the airtight plastic bags.

Overall, I really love these bags. Budget-willing, I'll be adding more in the future.

Review: Reusable Sandwich Bags from The Green Haven

To go along with today's sustainability tip, I thought I would review some of my own reusable snack bags.

I got this pair of bags through a trade on Etsy. (Trading on Etsy is a great, "green" way to get products.) The Green Haven is a shop on Etsy.com that's been open since 2009. The shop offers a ton of great reusable bags, lunch bags, and drink cozies. I got a pair of cute snack bags in a jungle print. Had I paid for the bags, they would have been $7.00 plus shipping.

Pros: They are adorable! They have also been very easy to flip inside out and clean. At $7 for two, they were also very reasonably priced.

Cons: Probably the biggest con is the velcro. It limits the volume of the bag slightly but the bigger problem is that it doesn't seal it completely. It's great for larger items like chips or apples slices, but if you were to put something smaller, like Cheerios, they would slip out the ends.

Overall, I'm happy with the bags and they definitely serve a great purpose! These can be a great option to fill out your collection of reusable snack and sandwich bags.

1st Simple Step to Sustainability: Reusable Sandwich Bags

Our first simple step to a more sustainable life is very easy, and over time saves you money.

Buy Reusable Sandwich Bags

If you're handy with a sewing machine or needle, you could easily make some of these yourself. I prefer the zippered ones, but velcro is also an option. You can buy them off various "green" product websites, or etsy. And as you see above, they can be kind of cute.

Here's How It Helps: When you send your kid to school with apples or take a sandwich for your lunch, what do you do with the plastic bag? You throw it out. That plastic bag was made to be disposable. It will serve it's purpose once (maybe twice if you reuse it), and then it will sit in a landfill. Plastic doesn't seem to biodegrade, or at least, none of it has yet. By using cloth sandwich and snack bags, you eliminate the need to buy and throw away plastic. This saves you money and saves the landfills, not to mention the added benefit of reduced factory waste in the production of plastic.

Here's How To Do It: Buy a bag or two to start. If you tend to take snacks to work, buy a bag that would fit the size of what you need. Buy a few bags for your kid's lunch boxes. You can get plenty that are big and roomy for a nice sandwich and others that are smaller for grapes or chips. After you use the bag, you wash it and use it again. Many of these bags are machine washable, but I find that for most of the time, mine just need a quick rinse in hot water then I lay them on the dish rack to dry.

Cost: The bags vary in cost, usually about $2-3 per bag and then go up for larger bags, zippers, different patterns, etc. Unless you buy these at a craft fair or a local store, you will also need to pay shipping. However, keep in mind that once you buy these, you will only need to buy more when they wear out. I've had some of mine for months now and they look practically new. When you buy disposable plastic bags, you have to buy new ones every couple of weeks and you're throwing that money away.

So friends, that's today's simply step. Whether you live by yourself, with a family of ten, or in your mom's basement, anyone take this simple step to a more sustainable life!