Make Every Day Towel Day

Don't Forget The Towel! Photo from flick user puuikibeach under CC.
Don’t Forget The Towel! Photo from flick user puuikibeach under CC.

In honor of Towel Day, I could tell you about my love for Douglas Adams and how much The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy means to me. Instead, I want to tell you about my little life experiment with towels and encourage you to take my unofficial Towel Day pledge with me!

It all started one December day many years ago. I was bouncing around ideas for a New Year’s resolution the way people do around that time of the year. The recurring theme of my New Year’s resolutions for most of my adult life has been about changing my habits to become more environmentally friendly. One of the wasteful habits that had been bothering me the most was the use of paper towels around the office. I’m in the office for nine hours a day where I use the bathroom probably an average of four times (four paper towels), clean my tea mug and water bottle every morning (two paper towels), and clean my lunch containers and silverware every lunch (two paper towels). That adds up to an average of eight paper towels per day, 40 per week, and over 2,000 paper towels per year. At home, I had kicked the paper towel habit a couple of years prior (also a New Year’s resolution), so the situation at work was really bothering me.

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Do the Tadpole Wiggle and get a Lesson in Science

My two year old is a bit of a music afficionado. He likes Mozart over breakfast, Disney in the car and Sandra Boynton’s “Personal Penguin” at all other times. On a recent car ride from New Hampshire, we listened to “The Bare Necessities” for about half an hour, it starts to grate a little. When he was a baby the only thing that would put him to sleep was our local rock station, AC/DC was his favourite. I indulged myself by loading up an iPod with the entire Beatles collection, and had that playing all night for him, mostly so he couldn’t hear the fun happening in the rest of the house. We are always looking for new, fun music to get him singing and dancing. Recently, the songs that have been getting stuck in my head all day are from The Chickadees’ new album, The Froggy Hop. Led by Mary Karlzen and backed up by Anji Rodee, Carmen Nickerson and Rosie Dempree, The Chickadees are an environmentally aware children’s quartet. They offer up catchy tunes accompanied with environmentally sound ideas and lyrical scientific fact.

No matter where we are, the title track has my son hopping and wiggling as only a two year old can. When we ask him to do the froggy hop he bounces up and down. When we ask for the tadpole wiggle he does, what appears to be, a version of the chicken dance. In a mini, tuneful, biology lesson he is also subtly learning the life cycle of a frog. And he’s not the only one learning new things, as I find myself receiving a refresher course in basic biology. My husband and I were blown away by how many animals listed in the song  “Hibernation”, we didn’t realize hibernated! It’s very humbling to learn alongside your two year old. It’s a lot of fun too. Especially when you hear new things that you always just assumed you knew. Each song offers some new information to digest, be it musical or as a William Shatner-esque narrative set to music.

Other tracks, such as “The Hiking Song”, encourage environmentally sound hobbies and practices: “always remember to tread light-ly, won’t you come on a hike with me.” Our family are avid hikers but have yet to hit the trail now that this song is in our repertoire, I am sure there won’t be any soft quiet walks in the woods now that we have a little boy who shrieks “Hiking life for me” at the top of his lungs.

The energy brought to the songs by each of the artists is contagious, even for parents, and it’s hard not to bop along with him. It’s one of the few CDs that carries on playing for a track or two after the daycare drop off, before we realize we’re still singing along. After listening for a few weeks I have yet to find the songs annoying – which I find unusual in an album designed for kids. I’m sure it will come, but for right now, all members of the Pinault family are quite happily doing the froggy hop.

I received a copy of this CD for review purposes.

No More Crafting Tubes? Scott Says Good-bye to Cardboard

Photo: Kimberly Clark

For the crafty ones in our midst, there might be sadness in this latest announcement. But for the benefit of the environment, this might be a move in the right direction. Are we ready for toilet paper rolls with no tubes in the middle?

Some argue that it’s not the tube that’s making the dent in the rain forest. They suggest we all join much of the rest of the world in using bidets, doing away with the need for any toilet paper at all.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that move yet. Old habits die hard. As much as I enjoy a good toilet roll craft, I have to admit I’m okay with this new turn of events and would probably purchase this new product. That is, if the Kimberly Clark company doesn’t try charging me more, after taking away part of their expense.

Growing a Green Geek: Cloth Diapering

Diaper laundry is the best laundry.

There are so many choices to make when having a child, beginning before conception (if we’re lucky), and continuing right on through the day we are no longer parents. In today’s commercially-driven society, it is so easy to be sold choices that appear to have more benefits than detriments due to either convenience or a perceived greater value . The cloth vs. disposable debate is all over the web. And while every parent is different — and every child’s needs vary — for me, raising an environmentally-conscious child began the moment I discovered I was pregnant. That was the moment I started researching cloth diapering options.

But wait!  These are not your mom’s cloth diapers (or your grandparents’, since I’m an older new mom).  There are so many colorful and convenient options in cloth diapering, from the traditional birds-eye weave cotton nappies, to all-in-ones, to hybrids like gDiapers, and more.  With a little research, a system might be found to work for any family lifestyle, and there are hundreds of articles on the web about how to get established and many reviews of the diapering systems available on the market today.

I did my research, comparing the price of disposables to the sticker-shock of an up-front investment needed for some cloth diaper brands. Many provide significant savings, especially when you are considering having more than one child. Every family routine is different, and I am not recommending anything without doing your own research. But, the following system has worked for me (at least, it has for 9 weeks–these things subject to change without notice).

Soft, clean cloth diapers!

I decided to go with the Bummies cloth diapering system. Based out of Montreal, the company was formed by moms with earth-friendly sensibilities. Bummies Diapering Kit comes with just about everything one needs to diaper baby. The cloth is 100% organic cotton, and the washable covers come in a variety of colorful prints. Each kit comes with flush-able liners for easy clean-up of solids, and a few re-usable fleece liners which act as “diaper-doublers” for super absorbency overnight. There is also a large capacity diaper bag for storing soiled nappies until laundry time, should you opt for dry storage. You might need to add a bit of baking soda to the bag, depending on the age of your child and the length of time between laundering.

We decided to go with a wet storage method for our soiled diapers. After removing the disposable liner, I spray off any remaining solids at the sink. We are able to go about three days between washings, and there is no foul odor thanks to an enzymatic bacteria-digesting agent called Bac-Out from Biokleen. This is handy for all sorts of smelly situations, from pet stains to refreshing garbage cans, and the product is biodegradable. I also add a scoop of oxygen bleach dissolved in a gallon of warm water to the pail, to help keep the cloth stain free. Should you use an enzymatic agent, or oxygen bleach, you should add a pre-rinse to your diaper laundry routine to ensure the diapers are free of the agents, which can irritate sensitive baby skin.

Environment-friendly diaper cleaners

Most cloth diaper advocates recommend using a residue free detergent  Charlie’s Soap Powder is a perennial favorite, but Seventh Generation or Dr. Bronner’s could also be used. I opt, again, for an additional rinse cycle, just to be sure all soap is removed from the diapers. If the detergent residue builds up, it can effect the diaper’s absorption, and might also irritate sensitive skin.

To this point, we have not had any issues with diaper rash or skin irritation.

It is much easier to detect when a cloth diaper is wet, versus the super-absorbent gels at the core of most disposable diapers. We used disposables for the first week after bringing my son home from hospital, and we literally had to tear open the diapers to check for pee. Frequent diaper changes help prevent moisture on the skin, and the associated, irritating rash. Diaper ointments can be used with cloth diapers, but a liner is recommended to keep the cream from coating the cotton fibers and harming the absorbency of the diapers.

I line dry whenever possible. This saves a ton of energy not using the clothes dryer, and the sun helps further bleach out stubborn stains and makes the diapers smell nice and fresh. If you notice your diapers are a bit rough or stiff coming in off the line, you can add a vinegar rinse to your wash cycle, as you would fabric softener, or pop your diapers in the dryer for a quick fluff on low heat. In any case, you’ll want to make sure you diapers are completely dry before storage to eliminate any chance of them harboring bacteria or growing mildew.

I know we made the right choice for our family, and I have know it will not be the last of my green lifestyle choices concerning my son. Earth stewardship is an important value to me, and I’d love for him to grow up with a shared respect for the earth and our responsibility towards our planet.

Drop the Plastic Baggie Look With Lunchskins!

There’s no getting around it, packing a lunch is the frugal thing to do. Usually it’s the healthiest option too. But what about all those plastic containers and plastic bags? They aren’t economical, health-friendly or kind to the environment.

There are all sorts of alternatives out there. My favorite? Lunchskins. These brightly colored, U.S. made bags come in three sizes: snack, sandwich, and sub. They’re free of lead, Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. They can be reused hundreds of times and withstand the high heat of dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.

Our Lunchskin bags have softened after repeated use, just like a pair of jeans tend to do. We find they’re best washed inside out and can be personalized with permanent markers to avoid lunch packing squabbles. They’re also handy for packing non-lunch items.

The three busy moms who started the company estimate that sales of Lunchskins averted the use of 12 million plastic baggies in just one year. In 2011 they hope to prevent 100 million baggies from getting dropped in the trash.