Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Opinions needed

Ok, I need your opinions.  So if you read Green Gracious and have been waiting in the woodwork to comment, or not, now's the time!  

Family circumstances have changed since I began Green Gracious and publishing daily is difficult at best.  So here is my question, would you rather have:

a. Green Gracious published when possible
b. Green Gracious not published at all, there are plenty of other places to get green tips.
c. some other suggestion?

What do you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Much Needed Break

It seems my life has become slightly off balance and overloaded.  All of my volunteer commitments are culminating right now and it is all making for a very stressed out Willo.  And because my number one priority is my heath and my family, I have decided to take a couple weeks off to take care of business and do some reflection.  I will check back in with you then.  Thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Girls Only!

Ok, this isn't really girls only and deep down I know just saying that there will be men reading it, but this is definitely girl talk.  So men, you've been warned.  

Today we are talking about living sustainably and reducing waste during a very specific time of the month.   Let's start with the way things are usually done right now.  The way things work with most women, when they get their period, they run out to the store and spend money, buying products, made out of paper and chemicals.

But believe it or not, there is a much better way.  If you want to work into things slowly, you can buy products then are made chlorine free (that's right, chlorine in your Kotex, yuck!)

Or you can purchase products that are reusable and turn to them over and over again each month.  This is the option I chose because it reduced the most waste and saved me the most money.  

There are a few ways to go completely reusable for your period.
  • One is cloth pads.  Sometime handmade with reusable fabrics.  It doesn't get better then that.
  • Another is the diva cup which is made out of silicone and replaces a tampon but can be used day after day, month after month.   I own these and cloth pads, but both my good friends and I swear by this.
  • Finally, there is the keeper, which is similar to the diva cup but made from latex.
I know the idea takes some adjusting to, but what do you think?  Are you ready to make the change and save the planet and your money?  Have you already made the switch?  What do you think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Pencils

Well I am sad to say that this is our last 10 uses Tuesday for a while.  But it's a great 10 uses for something most of us probably have laying around the house, pencils.  For my suggestion I have a craft that I recently came across and might be a cute gift for Father's Day from your kids.  I also thought it would be a great idea to write reasons your kids love their dad on the flower petals or paper leaves.

What about you, any unusual pencil projects?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Paper from preschool

I have decided we will never need note paper again.  Our drawers our stock full of scrap paper for things like to-do lists, grocery lists, honey-do lists, reminders for my husband on his long undone honey-do list, reminders to myself about what I was going to cook for dinner this week, etc... Where did all this extra paper come from?  Preschool.  

My son is in preschool and brings home mostly blank, sometime totally blank pieces of paper daily.  This instantly become above mentioned scrap paper and are written on and utilized until they absolutely cannot be anymore and then recycled.  

I have to say that if I could not reuse the paper this way, these copious amount of paper produced just in preschool would seem like a waste.  I am kind of new at this school things with my kids.  Is it always this wasteful?  Is there a way to cut back?  A better way to reuse?  What have you done?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mama Bite

There is a great daily green tip website called Ideal Bite.  I have followed Ideal Bite for a long time and I am happy to tell you that you can now register for Mama Bite for green tips on all things mama and children.  Better yet, you can register to win a free trip to Disney World, and learn what Disney is doing to go green.  

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Avalon Organic Shampoo and Conditioner Review

I should confess that I usually don't use shampoo and conditioner when washing my hair.  You will learn more about that someday soon.  But today I want to tell you about a shampoo and conditioner product that I did try.  I recently purchased Avalon Organic Lavender Shampoo and conditioner (you guessed it, Target clearance).

I loved the smell of both and the results of the shampoo, but the conditioner left something to be desired.  I should say that I have long, thick, curly hair that is very difficult to condition.  But if you are used to the more toxic conditioners, this might be a real disappointment.  I would rather use nothing then a conditioner that doesn't work very well.  But I would love to hear if anyone has had a different experience?

Like most things organic, these have lasted longer than more toxic products I used to use.  So for the clearance price of around $7 each, I think that the shampoo was completely worth it if you are looking for an organic shampoo (maybe conditioner) alternative.  

What organic shampoos/conditioners have you tried? What did you think?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Green Grab Bag 6.12.09

Friday-rama-lama!  Hope you had a great week and are looking forward to a great weekend. Here is the Green Grab Bag for this week.
  • If you are in the mood for a great drink this weekend here is a recipe for homemade Lavender Lemonade.
  • Tiny Choices has made the move to vegan(ish) and her experience might inspire you to start taking steps in that direction.
  • You may have heard a lot about stimulus money going towards green jobs but this article helps us figure out where they are.
  • I love DIY projects and I am over the moon for this briefcase made out of reused boxes!
Before you check out the shopping links this week, take a look-see at shopping tips from the Skin Deep peeps.
Finally, in a why we do this moment, you can track the sea turtles as they travel.  How cool is that???  Any big plans for the weekend?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Read Greener

If you are like me and Summer conjures up images of lying on the beach with a book in your hands, you may be looking for ways to read greener this summer.  After all, millions of books are printed every year, often using virgin timber for their pages and covers.  Here are a few ways to help the planet while enjoying a great book.
The biggest deal on the green reading front is the Kindle.  This is the electronic machine on which you can download and read books.  And the Kindle DX is now available as well.

But you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to go green.  If you don't have the money, don't like the idea of creating more electronic waste, or, like me, can't quite get the satisfaction of reading a story without the smell and feel of a real life book, there are other options.  
  • Check out your local library.  Chances are you can borrow books (and CDs and DVDs) for free.  Even our tiny library has a great selection.  I love that my kids know all the librarians by name and think the library is one of the most fun places to visit.  Our library also has an annual book sale of donated used books and on the last day I can get a bagful for $2, and the money goes towards this great cause.
  • Buy used.  There are lots of places to find used books.  Try Craigslist, garage sales, eBay, or my favorite; half.com.  Chances are you can find exactly the book you want, in like-new condition, for less then half the price of new.
  • Finally, if you have to buy new, look for books printed on recycled paper, preferably with a water or soy-based ink. 
  • And once you are done with your book, pass it on.  You can sell it via one of the ways listed above or pass it onto a friend.
What are you favorite ways to read green?  What great books are you reading/planning to read this summer?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Goody Bag Overload

My son went to his first birthday party for a friend from school today.  It was a lovely milestone and he had a great time.   We do birthdays very simply around here, even for the little guys so far.  So I always have to adjust to the amount of stuff that goes into throwing a child's birthday party.  And this time specifically, the amount of stuff my son came home with.  I would have thought he was the birthday boy with all the toys, goody bags, and treat bags.  And I realized that this happens every day, all over the world and will no doubt happen countless more times for Tucker.  Oh, the plastic/trash/toxin overload for the Earth.  

But before you go assuming that I am a complete party pooper, I am not suggesting that you don't graciously accept the goodies.  I just have a few suggestions for how we all might put them to the best use to help the planet.
  •  Ok, I said I wasn't suggesting you don't take the goodies; but if this is the party for a good enough friend, and you feel comfortable saying it, you might mention that she doesn't need to make up a bag for your child to begin with.
  •  Make it a habit to immediately sit down with your kids and give them a toy or two (their favorite of the bunch), a piece of candy or two, and set the rest aside.
  • Save the candy for treats throughout the week, special occasions, or if it's close to a holiday, Easter Baskets or Halloween buckets.
  • Put some of the toys aside for your home general store.
  • Put some of the toys aside for making your own grab bags later.  In fact, we have actually constructed whole birthday gifts out of such goodies.
  • Carefully fold the bags and tissue paper and put them aside for reuse on the next occasion.
With just a few simple steps you can make sure birthday goodies get a second (and maybe third and fourth) life, the Earth gets some relief, and you save some money in the future.  Oh yeah, and that you aren't picking random small plastic out of your couch cushions and the bottom of your feet for weeks on end.

Do you have tips for what to do with goody bag overload?  Come on, I miss y'all!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Sawdust

Happy Tuesday!  Hope your week is off to a great start.  I got thinking about today's 10 uses Tuesday this week because we have had a lot of storms here lately.  This means a lot of down trees and a lot of sawing/chopping wood for heating here in the winter.  It also means a lot of sawdust.  So check out this week's 10 uses for sawdust.
Then give my idea a try.  I am trying (slowly but surely) to sew a little more and I discovered that sawdust can make a great pin-cushion filler.   Just take an old scrap fabric (denim would probably work great), and sew it so it can be stuffed with sawdust, then sew it shut.  The saw dust makes a great, reused, inexpensive filler.  Seriously, using scraps, this pin cushion cost nothing.  The sawdust will keep needles and pins from rusting.  

What do you think?  You gonna give it a try?  Have you tried it before?  Any other brilliant sawdust uses?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Itchy Skin Solution

In case you haven't heard enough about my skin issues yet, I am going to indulge you further.  I have itchy, sensitive, often pink skin.  And it is so much all of these things, that when it flares up (often at my wrists, elbows, and chest) I have a really hard time finding anything to sooth and protect it.  

Occasionally hydrocortisone cream will work, but I try to avoid using it because a. It's toxic b. It smells funny c. I can't use it on my boys who have been blessed with these characteristics of my skin, mainly on their lovely cheeks.  I have also tried the natural/green versions of these creams and I hate to say this, but they didn't really work for me.  I'm not saying you can't go out and try them, or that they won't work for you.  I just didn't have success with them.

But I did have a ton of success with the simple solution I am sharing with you today...diaper cream.  That's right, when I get skin flare ups, I sneak into my youngest son's stash of Burt's Bees diaper cream and slather it on.  It works perfectly because it relieves the itch, eases the redness, protects the area from water, sweat (perfect when I am running), it's good for me and the Earth, and smells great at the same time (well, if you consider as fresh as a baby's bottom pulled out of  a beehive great).  It's also great not only for these spring and summertime flare ups but also for when their cheeks get wind burn (especially in the Winter).

I know what you are thinking, "But Willo, it's diaper cream, doesn't it get all over everything?"  Alas, it does.  And I have not come up for the perfect solution for this yet.  But I apply it to myself before I run and before bed, and the boys before bed.  And when we get up it is soaked in and the skin is healed (or mostly healed).  Don't worry, it easily washes out of clothing and bedding.  

What do you think?  Anyone else have skin like this?  Is it worth a shot?  Have you tried anything similar?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Does It Really Make It Easier?

Have you ever taken a minute to think about how many products are available that are supposed to make things easier?  Have you ever thought about how many of them actually do?  How many of us have bought something that is supposed to save us time, do the work for us, or be the miracle cure?  How often does it really work out that way?

This rant came about because this lovely tool I bought to help me slice apples for the boys broke a month after I bought it.  Not I have some non-recyclable trash, a cut on my thumb, and a new found appreciation for the old way of doing things.  Don't get me wrong, I am not stuck in the stone ages and I think that there are many innovations taking place right now that are good for the Earth.  I just think all of us need to take a good second look at things before we buy them and ask ourselves if it really is what it claims to be or if the tried and true way got that way for a reason.  What do you think?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Weleda Skin Food Review

I don't know whether it's allergy season, my new found working arrangement, or just my general sensitive skin issues, but my hands are so dry and itchy lately.  And as I have mentioned before, I am always on the search for a great hand cream.  This time I found one at Target on clearance in the form of Weleda's skin food.  

This isn't specifically marketed as a hand cream but is the right price ($1.99 for .32 ounces) and size to fit right into your handbag (or in my case, diaper bag).  It also has a great smell.  It's thick. so a very little bit goes a very long way.  The skin food can be a little oily at first, but it quickly soaks in and leaves your hands soft and protected.  I use it on my hands/forearms, but i am pretty sure it would be a great lotion no matter where you choose to use it.  Plus it's easily available for you to pick up on your run for other necessities.  

Has anyone else tried this?  What did you think?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Green Grab Bag 6.5.09

Is it just me or has June just come way too quickly out of nowhere?  But alas, it is here, and I hope your first week was divine.  Speaking of divine, here is this week's Green Grab Bag:
This week we have some great shopping ideas.
  • Don't forget Father's Day is coming up.  Prissy Green brings us some good giving ideas.
  • The Shoe Blog is one I had never seen before but I had to show you this article on socially conscious shoes.
  • Another blog I had never seen is Green Baby Bargains which offers Earth-friendly ideas for your little ones each day!
  • Finally, I am blown away by the intricacy, beauty, and detail of these handmade paper crafts.
I know we haven't done this in a while, but I couldn't resist this week a reminder of why all these links matter and we keep doing what we do.  Have a marvelous weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sun Safety

The sun is shining and it is glorious.  But I have a confession to make.  My complexion is consistently that of pale and pasty and there is no getting around it.  I have learned to accept it.  I now realize that when I color myself with crayons, I can't use peach, but instead must use the palest of pinks.  I tell you all this to say that I need sunscreen, and my kids do too.  And we want to do it in a safe, non-toxic way.  

The sunscreen we have chosen is Alba Botanical Kids Waterproof SPF 32.  I chose this because it was cheap, effective for kids too, waterproof, high in SPF, and safe for us.  I love it for all those reasons and the fact that it smells great, has excellent coverage, and isn't greasy.  

But I know that the same thing doesn't work for everyone, so here are some other safe sunscreen options:
Has anyone else tried any of these?  Any other safe sunscreen suggestions?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bugs be gone!

Is it just me or are the bugs crazy this summer?  Ok, that was a rhetorical question.  I am fully aware that the mosquitos are insane this year and I feel like if they got organized they could pick me up and carry me away.  Between the rain and the early heat, it is a perfect mosquito storm here in Michigan and it shows on my little guys in large red bumps every time they go outside.  

The problem is that bug sprays are full of toxic chemicals which are then directly absorbed into your skin.  So the solution my family came up with is a super simple, super effective one.  We bought the largest bottle available of organic citronella essential oil.  Before we go outside each time I just take a few drops and rub it directly on the skin.  Mosquitos stay away and we stay safe, happy, and toxin free.  

Has anyone else tried this?  Do you have another great non-toxic solution for keeping the bugs off?  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

10 Uses Tuesday: Tennis Balls

Photo credit
This weekend my son and I went to see the movie "Up."  It was really cute and we had a great time, but something from the movie got me thinking.  In the movie, Mr. Fredrickson had a walker, the feet of which he had covered in tennis balls which were also useful later in the movie.  That got me to thinking, there must be a 10 uses Tuesday for tennis balls, and lucky for us, there is!  So check out these 10 great uses for tennis balls.

And then lay back, relax, and discover this additional use for tennis balls.  Make your own easy, reused, tennis ball massager.  Let me know how yours works and if you have any other unmentioned uses for tennis balls.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I made my raised beds

So I am happy to report that with my mom's help, and a few hours hard work, the raised veggie beds are in.  My mom found these wood frames at a garden co-op for $5 a piece but they are would be super easy to make with some lumber (re-used is even better!) and hinges.  Then we just added some organic soil, some of my beautiful compost with the most beautiful, fat worms I have ever seen, and our veggie seeds and organic tomato plants.  Now just to get it to grow.  Although with that compost it might be impossible not to.  We also have lettuce and swiss chard growing in pots in the small greenhouse we have.  It's not perfect, but it's a start.

Where are you at in your gardening?  Are you growing something this year?  Are you using compost? Any tips?