Saturday, February 28, 2009

Organic Cotton (balls)

You may have heard of organic cotton.  You may have just assumed that there was organic cotton because these days it seems you can find organic anything you want.  And you would be right (I think) and organic cotton is a good thing for lots of reasons.  If you want a whole fancy list with percentages and numbers, look here.  But the long and short of it is that traditional growing of cotton requires pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that leak into the soil and the water, not to mention the cotton that you then use/wear.  So we got it right, organic cotton=good.

Ok, right.  But like most things organic, it costs a little (in this case sometimes a lot) more to get organic cotton, especially in "bigger" items like clothing.  My family, a lot of families, are not in the place right now to pay that kind of money.  So we still choose to buy most things second hand if possible to cut down our carbon footprint there.

But I have found a small way that I can contribute to the organic cotton industry and make a vote with the money I do have to spend, organic cotton balls.  Y'all have seen how I love using cotton balls for freshening the air.  Well, apparently I've been sucking up too many of the bad boys because last week I ran out.  

So I went on the prowl for some organic cotton balls and here's what I found.  You can get organic cotton balls (which I swear are softer!) for only a little bit more (within .50 cents) than traditional toxic cotton balls.  Now I know even .50 cents is a stretch for some people right now, but I was excited to take advantage of this small way to make a difference.  

The most prevalent brand I found was Organic Essentials which can be found at all of the major online retailers, so you can shop around for your best price and remember to buy in bulk as needed to save shipping impact (and cost).  I got mine at Iherb though because I found this handy coupon for $5 off your first order with them (coupon code: BEV426) which made my organic cotton balls FREE!  Saving $, helping the planet...doesn't get better than that folks!

Have you tried organic cotton (balls)?  Are you a fan?  Have you gone the expensive route?  Was it worth it?  Where are the great deals at?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Green Grab Bag 2.27.09

Happy Friday!  Here is this week's Green Grab Bag!

A couple more links for parents or soon to be parents and a big congrats to fellow-reader (and my cousin) Megan who had her first baby, darling little Iris, yesterday!
  • Product Safety for parents from the Environmental Working Group
  • If you are using a bottle with your baby, please make sure (and you have to actually make sure because it most likely isn't) that it is a BPA free bottle.

And as always, a few shopping tips.  But make sure you are a mindful shopper and ask yourself these 10 questions.  Then click away!

And finally The Future Is Green brings us a very funny reminder of why we keep on keeping on!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I have been sick.  It started in my head and has moved down (and out) my nose to my throat and chest.  It has been days of discomfort.  I spent all day Wednesday literally in and out of sleep, chills, and sweats.  So if I miss a blog or don't comment back or visit yours right away, this is why.
The striped sack of flax you see above (along with a very supportive husband) has been my saving grace.

This is a flax seed comfort wrap and it has been my savior more than once.  Most notably when I was in labor with my youngest.  Five days before that lovely experience, some friends took me to a craft show where we walked around trying to force the stubborn one out.  That effort was unsuccessful but while we were there I found this and had an inkling that it might be helpful when the time did finally come.  

Boy was it ever!  I had the nurses keep heating it up (in the microwave for no more than 2 minutes) and bringing it to me to help with contractions and after the birth with cramping.  One of my postnatal nurses actually said every woman who comes in should have one.  

And since then I have used it time and time again; with heat for sore muscles, cold (in the freezer for 2 hours) for headaches, and most recently heated on my sore and achy muscles and chest.  

The best thing about this is that it is totally eco-friendly.  There is no electricity required like with a heating pad (except the temporary use of microwave or freezer).  If you are crafty you could make your own by repurposing scraps or stained shirt, filling with organic flax seed and sewing shut.  If you are like me and far from crafty, I have found some Etsy shops for you that feature cuter wraps then mine for less money.  I am trying hard not to be jealous.

There are all kinds of ways to indulge.  Or, if you are trying to save money (and really, who isn't) I would suggest just buying a large versatile one like mine and draping it across the different areas of your body as needed.

There are also a number of artist's who make boo boo bags for your kid's bumps and bruises.

What do you think?  Is it worth giving a shot?  Do you have your own household flu remedy?  If so, bring it on.  I am willing to try almost anything at this point.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Clever Clementine

What does the aluminum foil from yesterday have in common with this box of clementines?  Well, not much really.  But the netting covering these clementines can be used as a scrub 'brush" just like I suggested with aluminum foil. 

I first saw this tip in "Real Simple" and because I love reusing (oh, you know how I love reusing!), I had to try it.  So I took the netting off three different boxes of clementines (we love these sweet treats) and gave it a shot.  My version is made with three nets, but I think you could do more or less depending on your taste.  I tried tucking two nets into one creating a kind of ball.  I then took the twist tie off an old bread bag (reusing again!!!) and tied the edges together.  When I was finished I had this orange ball of a scrub brush.  
I have to say it worked pretty well!  I would recommend more then one twist tie to prevent the "brush" from coming apart with vigorous scrubbing.  This is a gentle scrubber which works wonderfully for getting leftover food out of containers to be recycled or reused.  

What do you think?  Are you going to give it a shot?  Do you have other clever ideas?   And it seems like y'all aren't digging 10 uses Tuesday.   Feedback?  Should we stop it?  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Aluminum Foil

Most of us know aluminum foil as a handy tool for wrapping our leftovers in, but there are at least 10 more uses for this every day item.  Food storage isn't even mentioned, and maybe that's a good thing.  The best green option for food storage is a reusable container.  Using aluminum foil for wrapping sandwiches or covering casseroles can be wasteful in more ways then one because once the foil has food remnants on it, it can no longer be recycled.

But if you do have to use it, as we occasionally do for the odd shaped pot cover, make sure you reuse it.  Choose something from the list of 10-I tried the tip about removing rust and was actually able to smooth out and remove some from our wood stove (although the sound is it makes is awful)-or try something new.  If it has food on it you can ball it up with the food inside and use it as a steel wool or scrub brush substitute on your dishes.  If it doesn't have food on it, tuck it away in a drawer or use it to enhance your viewing with your TVs rabbit ears (unless we are the only people that still have rabbit ears).  

What great reuses have you found for aluminum foil?  

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Blues Giveaway Winner!

I want to thank everyone who entered the Winter Blues Giveaway!  And without further ado...

***The randomly chosen winner is #17, Lori who wrote:
The With Love India Vol 2 envelopes were really pretty. Thanks for the chance!****

Thanks again for entering!  I will be having at least one giveaway in March as well so please be sure to keep reading and share with your friends.  I truly love this little community we are creating!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One woman's recycling is another woman's...

I have gathered up 8 boxes, 2 rolls of sticky bubble wrap, one plastic air pocket strip of packaging, and a few thousand packing peanuts.  On Tuesday I will put them outside my door and a kind fairy will come take them away.  Ok, she's not a fairy, her name is Sue, but she is kind and very helpful.  And she might say the same about me. 

See I found Sue on Freecycle.  She was looking for packaging people wanted to get rid of that she could have and use for her at home business.  Lucky lady, I just happen to have a lot of that laying around. 

I order a lot things online because the earth-friendly selection in this little village I reside in leaves much to be desired.  So (unfortunately) I have a lot of packaging that would normally go in recycling or trash.  And recycling is great and all, but remember, it's reduce THEN reuse THEN recycle.  

I am trying to reduce by buying things in bulk and ordering from companies that have Mama E lovin' packaging techniques, but at some point, I still have boxes and wrapping on my hands.  So I let Sue reuse it and it's a win/win situation for all of us.  

Give your local freecycle a look-see.  Your packaging materials may save someone else precious resources.  If you don't have a local freecycle, check with local preschool and kindergarten classes.  Often times teachers use these as forts, sensory materials, or craft projects for children.

How have you reused packaging materials?  

And remember, today is the last day to register for the Winter Blues Giveaway!  The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Organic Bouquet

I recently had the opportunity to send flowers to someone I care about.  Now, I don't usually send flowers.  I don't get really excited about receiving them (I know! I am like one of those silly women who doesn't like chocolate!) so I usually choose something else to send.  But this was part of a group effort and the group chose flowers, so I agreed, on one condition.  I asked that if we were going to send flowers, we send an Organic Bouquet.  

I first read about Organic Bouquet in the February issue of "O" magazine which made the excellent point that traditional growing methods for flowers usually include leeching lots of pesticides and herbicides into the soil and water, not to mention covering your beautiful gift in them before sending them to someone to enjoy in their home.  

Organic Bouquet offers only flowers that are grown, well, organically (and sustainably).  Which means that you can feel good about the gift you are giving in more ways than one.  I love that they also offer charitable arrangements which give five percent back to a charity with their purchase.   For our purchase, my group chose the Women for Women bouquet which arrived on the specified delivery date in a recycled glass vase ($13 more) and wowed the recipient with it's beauty.

You can also choose from a selection of California grown flowers which will presumably cut doubt on the carbon footprint of the flowers in their travel.  

If flowers aren't your thing, choose from a selection of treats like fair-trade organic chocolate or these organic Peace cookies.  Or choose wreath or a plant that will keep growing and giving back.

The point is, when you choose your gifts (or your special treats to yourself), do it mindfully.  Think not only about how beautiful the item is, but how it contributed to the beauty of our planet.

Have you had any experience with "greener" flowers or gifts?  Are there companies you would recommend over others?  Have you ever had the pleasure of being the recipient of such a gift?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Green Grab Bag 02.20.09

Happy Friday!  I hope y'all had a fabulous week and are looking forward to a magnificent weekend.  If you have a chance, check out some of these treasures.

Continuing on the pregnancy theme...
The Green Phone Booth offered  thoughts that made me smile and ponder...
There are also some cool things out there if you are in a (window) shopping mood...
Finally, a little reminder of why we keep making the effort.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blessing Way

About three-and-a-half years ago a group of women gathered to give me one of the biggest blessings I have ever received literally and figuratively.  I was very pregnant with my oldest son and these caring, loving women gathered around me for a Blessing Way.  A Blessing Way is like a baby shower without rolls of wrapping paper, bows, and gifts.  

I write this because my dear cousin is going to give birth any day.  As I anxiously await the event, I think back on this time in my own life before the birth of my first child and that blessing way is one of my fondest memories.

It was a green event before my days of eco-activism.   Instead of more stuff, one of the women gave me a foot rub while another brushed my hair gently.  They each shared with me pearls of wisdom from years of different experiences.  They allowed me to write and read a letter to my precious cargo.   Then they each gave me a token of significance.  These were collected on a yarn and taken with me to both of my birth experiences as symbols of feminine strength and encouragement. 

I know we have a couple pregnant readers and I know that this idea isn't for everyone.  But maybe the idea of welcoming children into the world without mass consumerism is something we should consider.  Don't get me wrong, I know we need stuff for our kids, but maybe we can reframe our thoughts on that stuff.  

What about a Craigslist/Ebay/Freecycle baby shower?  A handmade shower?  What about an organic shower?  What about a minimalist shower?  Those of us "experienced" mothers must know oodles of stuff we got and didn't exactly need right?  Mine was blankets.  I am still donating blankets.  What ways have you used to reduce new baby stuff overload?  Do you have any great green baby experiences?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The dish soap that didn't pan out

When I ran out of dish soap last month, I decided to branch out and try a brand offered at my health food store.  The Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate was at least $1 more than I usually spend, but I thought that might be because it lasts longer, like other green things I have tried.  No such luck.  In fact the Ultra Dishmate did the exact opposite.  I had to use approximately 2 spoonfuls every time just to get enough suds to cover my dishes.  The entire 25 oz. bottle lasted me 3 weeks, compared to about 2 months for the less expensive and more readily available Method brand.   And to add insult to injury, it smelled nothing like pears, nothing like anything really.

So I am switching back to that and thinking twice before I try anything more expensive again.

Does anyone still hand-wash dishes like us?  What earth-friendly soaps have you used and loved?  What would you warn us against?  And if anyone has a "green" dishwasher soap recommendation, I know fellow-reader Debbie is looking for one.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Magnets

I hope you are all having a terrific Tuesday!  Today's 10 uses is all about magnets.  

There are probably a million different ways to use magnets but making a magnetic broach is definitely the cutest one I have heard about in a long time.  Check out these beauties coming soon from The Broken Plate Pendant Company.  These are brilliant for two different reasons.  The first being the obviously genius use of magnets.  The second is that they are reusing another item, a broken plate.  And I absolutely love this idea because we break a lot of dishes (some which are really rather pretty) around here.  You know that I adore when I can get a two-for-one in the green department!  

Now being that there millions of uses for magnets I know you must have a few.  What are they?  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter Blues Giveaway!!!

YAY!  The time has come for the first giveaway at Green Gracious!  This giveaway is kindly sponsored by Jess at Umlauf and open to any person with a US mailing address.  I asked Jess to tell us a little bit about why handmade treasures are not only special and important in keeping crafty artisans at work, but a great environmental option for people wanting beautiful and useful things.  I think she put it perfectly when she said:

Receiving a handmade gift is really special. As sentimental as this may sound, there is a certain energy that flows from, say, a set of handbuilt bowls. You look at the texture carved into them, the glaze, the shape, and immediately are able to connect it with the ceramicist who put her time and heart into them. It's an experience in direct opposition to going to Target and plonking down some cash for factory-made bowls.

I'm in constant awe of the wares I see on, and since I opened shop there last year, I've made a conscious effort to buy handmade more often. Many artisans and craftspeople place a priority on producing items that are friendlier to the earth than mass-produced items. They choose to upcycle and reuse materials that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill; they use vintage fabrics; their packaging is recycled. The mindset here is to, as much as possible, make beautiful clothing or wood products or paintings using materials that are already out in the world. By doing so, they lessen their dependence on factory-manufactured materials and take advantage of the existing abundance of goods.

When you buy handmade, you buy stock in human creativity. You're helping to support not only the maker's family, but also the community to which they belong. You're also most likely lessening your own carbon footprint. You're making an important choice to NOT put money into the pockets of a multi-million dollar corporation.

And for all those reasons and more, Jess is giving away this gorgeous handmade neck-warmer.

In order to win please pop over to Jess's shop, come back here, and post a comment on your favorite item she offers.  If you email address is not easily accessible, please leave it in your comment.

For additional entries (one for each of the following, please leave a comment for each):
  • Follow or subscribe to Green Gracious
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Blog about this contest
  • Tweet this contest
  • Become a fan on Facebook
The contest will run from February 16 through February 22nd and the winner will be announced February 23rd.  Thank you for entering!  Have a great day!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We Are the World

Some of you may have heard that I am having my first giveaway tomorrow.  It's so exciting that everyone around here wants in on the action.  I tried to tell Precious that she would get car-paw-tunnel but she couldn't help herself.  

So tomorrow launches our first giveaway from Green Gracious. Umlauf, handmade treasures from a good friend is sponsoring the Winter Blues Giveaway because that is what everyone here in Michigan is experiencing right now.  

However, I do recognize that all of our readers are not experiencing Winter right now.  There are many readers here from Australia (Owl and Fox and Little Eco Footsteps) who are not only battling heat, but tragedy and my heart truly goes out to the people down under.  

I am so very proud of our international readership.  We have this beautiful representation of readers from all around the world.  Green Gracious consistently has visitors from Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, France, South Africa, Italy, and a surprising number of visitors from Slovenia.  In fact (thanks to Eva), outside the US, Slovenia makes up Green Gracious' biggest readership!  I cannot begin to describe how lovely I think it is that we have people coming from all over the earth to try to help save it!

It is with a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for all of you international readers that I sadly announce that the Winter Blues giveaway will be for US addresses only.  So, if you live in another country and have someone at a US address that will ship it to you, I say more power to you.  But for our purposes, the prize will only be shipped to a US address.

With all of that said, tune in tomorrow for a Green Gracious first, the Winter Blues giveaway.  And in the meantime, if I missed your country, let me know!  I would love to hear from more international lurkers!  And fill me in on how your Valentine's Day went!  What did you do?  Who did you love?