Monthly Archives: June 2011

Take good care of my baby!

When my kids were babies, I wasn’t as environmentally savvy as I am now. In fact, ten years ago, the green movement was hardly a movement at all. More like a slight twitch. Now, as elementary school-ers, my kids are relatively free to explore their world and all I can do is try and make it as safe for them as possible. But when I see all the green and natural baby products we sell at, I worry that my kids are worse off because I didn’t know about all the toxins in home cleaners, the potential dangers of BPA and toxic flame-retardants in almost everything.

With all the warnings and dangers we face, especially on baby and children’s products, it’s a wonder a new mom can stay sane. Frantically trying to keep in mind everything she should and shouldn’t do. The products she shouldn’t use. Perhaps even worse, being undecided while the jury’s still out on several big issues.

So what’s a new mom to do?

Well, there are a few things we know for sure:

If I’d had the choice of natural disposable diapers, I would have gone that way. It doesn’t take an expert to tell me I don’t want chlorine touching my baby’s bottom. (Yes, I know I could have used cloth. But I just couldn’t get past dipping poopy diapers in the toilet.) Another “so now you tell me” concept is all-natural bath and body care.  Again, I’m sure these products existed when my children were babies. I just wasn’t cued into that lifestyle yet. When I think of all the fragrance, sulfates, parabens and toxins I smeared on their skin, I could shudder.

Worrying about your newborn’s safety and wanting the best for that little bundle is normal. But it’s up to each of us to decide what’s right for our family. Be warned, it takes more research today than it did a decade ago. A degree in science wouldn’t hurt, either.

The Phantom of the Electric Bill

The phenomenon known as “phantom electricity” is the continuous sucking of power from everything you leave plugged in – and it’s a big deal, accounting for roughly four billion*, yes BILLION dollars spent annually by residential America. The biggest energy vampires? Television and audio equipment, computers, and large appliances.  

How do you fight back? Simply being cognizant of phantom energy is half the battle. The other half is figuring out what to do about it. The simplest solution is to unplug everything (yes, everything) when you’re not using it: phone chargers, computers, media equipment, lamps and appliances.

Keep in mind; I said “simplest,” not easiest solution.  The easiest is to buy some smart power strips – those extension cord-looking things with several plug-in slots and convenient on/off toggle switches. By using these you can easily plug in everything from one area in your house (say your DVR, DVD player, TV, receiver, speakers, etc.) and simply flip the switch to “off” when everything is powered down. That’ll stop most of the insidious energy-sucking.

More simple ways to stop power bleeding

  1. If you’re not using a power strip, at least put your computer on hibernate mode when not in use.
  2. Disable “quick start” mode on blu-ray players. 
  3. Unplug things you’re not constantly using, like coffee makers, toasters and other small appliances. 
  4. Disconnect your cell phone, Bluetooth, tablet and other chargers once they’re powered up. 
  5. Buy appliances with the Energy Star® rating – they’re designed to use less energy, thus reducing phantom use.

 To learn more about phantom electric use, I’ve included some handy links below.

Phantom Load – a white paper by Student Sustainability Education Coordinators at University of California, Berkeley

Energy Reduction – from the U.S. Department of Energy

Standby Power FAQ  – from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Natural Lawn Care for a Natural Summer

Who doesn’t love summer? It’s practically a nationwide celebration taking place in every backyard, especially for those of us in the Seattle area, who’re used to being doused by rain almost daily. Here in the Northwest, we are most grateful for those rare days of pure sunshine.

I’m excitedly anticipating the days when temperatures have warmed up enough to go barefoot, wiggle my toes in our emerald lawn, cuddle the kids and roughhouse with the dog under the great blue sky.

Get ready to enjoy the season to the fullest, by showing your yard a little TLC. Below are a handful of environmentally-sensible lawn care solutions that’ll keep you and your family happy, healthy and surrounded by all things lush and green.

Avoid chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers. These poisons can affect your family through direct contact or by breathing in the dust and vapors. You can also, unknowingly carry these chemicals inside the house on your clothes, toys and shoes. Seek out natural alternatives – and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The folks at your nursery will be happy to make suggestions.

Reduce air pollution by trying out an electric or push mower instead of a carbon-intensive gas powered one. And set your mower to the proper height setting. If it’s set too low, you’re exposing the soil to sunlight and removing stored nutrients in leaf blades. This results in more weeds. Cool weather grasses should be mowed at a height of 2.5-3.5 inches. And warm season grasses should be maintained at 1.5-2.5 inches.

Feed your lawn. It’s important to fertilize your lawn in the springtime to replenish the food reserves your yard uses while dormant in winter. Fertilizing your lawn fuels grass into a phase of rapid growth. If you’ve been composting your kitchen waste, you can use compost to fertilize both your lawn and garden, for a healthy lawn that won’t be overrun by weeds. If you’re not keen on composting, try a packaged organic fertilizer. Want to learn more about composting?  Here’s some good information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Water your soil, but only when it’s needed for preservation. Try watering in the morning to lessen evaporation. Leaving your grass wet at night can encourage a wide range of fungal diseases as well as weeds that attract pests. When watering, soak the soil just enough to reach the grass roots. A simple trick to tell when you’ve watered enough is to set a baking pan near the sprinkler. When the pan is full, your soil should be properly saturated.

Start taking care of your lawn naturally and enjoy a healthy backyard all summer long.