Going green is hard. Being green is easy.

Earth Day graphicWhen I first set out to cloth diaper, it was mostly as a means to save money. I wanted to stay home with Hannah, and saving two grand seemed like a great way to manage the financial change of not returning to work. I quickly began to search for more and more ways to save money with reusable products.

There I sat on the interwebs scouring for reusable zip lock baggies, Eco-friendly car seats, and bpa-free storage containers. It took me a long time to realize that green living wasn’t an apples-to-apples transition at all. It’s about evolving to fit the seasons and the surroundings. I had to learn not only to be resourceful, but understand what my actual resources were and how to use them. It wasn’t just about swapping from non-stick cookware to stainless steel. No, I had to learn the secrets of cast iron cooking (which is also non-stick). Just when I thought I was finally catching on, I discovered that the ease of eating raw food is such a simple option that it is often overlooked. Through it all, I’ve realized that I’m done Going Green.

I am at the beginning of a new life of being green and it is a beautiful thing. The problem is, the days that I truly feel green, I’m not very entertaining. We watch grass grow. We listen to the trees. We take half the morning to cook lunch, do the dishes by hand, and then cook dinner after a nap. For me, I’m torn because I desperately want to be the blogger I set out to become. I want to share about great experiences and give handy advice. On the other hand, I want to walk out the door with my family, head to a desert island and never come back. If that does happen, you better believe I won’t stick around to tweet about it! Consider this my pre-written blogging Eulogy. Life is good. I predict it will get even better. There is a lot for me to learn. After all, you’re talking to a girl who, at age 2, replied to the pediatrician’s inquiry about green leafy vegetables that “My Mom never makes me those.” For now, I will be here learning and living. Maybe I will teach some of what I learn, but I need you to know that I am not an expert on green living. I am a Mom on a journey to make a better life for the next generation. If you think I am unique or different or crazy, you may be right! However, there are lots of other green bloggers with terrific information about how to be green. Whatever it is that inspires you to love your surroundings, dive into that. Go ahead and Google “Does Target carry Eco-friendly shampoo” or “Local Organic Dry-cleaning.” Live guilt-free by trying your best. Don’t be surprised if one day, you fall off the wagon into your own green backyard paradise with everything you need. No matter the journey, some day we will all be dirt. I’m just going to get used to that now.

In celebration of Earth Day and life in general, I’m taking a few days off the internet to enjoy everything that I have. You better believe I’ll be kicking off my shoes and walking barefoot through the grass with the girls.

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Thrift Shopping Season – Impact Thrift Store

Have you ever wondered how the experts pick their wares for the fabulous shabby-chic look? I had a chance to learn from Denise of The Painted Home at her thrift shopping event for Impact thrift stores. Denise brings an elegance to the art of ‘trash picking’ on her blog by creating swoon-worthy home decor. See anything you like?

The Painted Home Website

The Painted Home Website

I first met Denise through the Upcycle Challenge this winter and we were so inspired by her creativity. When the chance came to hear about how she rummages through trash to discover future treasures, I couldn’t pass it up. It is clear that Denise can see beauty and versatility in every piece. When I arrived at the Impact! Thrift, I noticed her display area immediately. The pieces all looked like they belonged in a DIY Network room-makeover. She staged a room with items that could easily start a conversation and create a homey atmosphere.

It was incredible to see a designer sift through the vintage cast-offs and share easy ways to transform them into a design statement. Her top choices were picture frames, suitcases, and chairs. With a coat of paint, anything can have a new life. I won a nifty set of Martha Stewart stenciling gear that I plan to put to use on some upcycling projects of my own. There is definitely a season for the hobby. The best time to shop is during spring-cleaning and the two weeks following.

thrift store fids

My personal tips for thrift shopping or garage saleing are to wear your baby for ease of transportation and to make a list in advance. My shopping trip was a huge success for these two reasons. I searched for something to wear to an upcoming event and was thrilled to find a classic white eyelet dress. My mason jar stash from the bric-a-brac section was an incredible find! I can easily buy a new set of lids or cover the jars with plaid fabric after canning depending on how long I plan to store them. In a pinch, these will make terrific glasses for an outdoor party, too. The window screen in my shopping cart is going to find a new home in our sand box. I’ll use that with the girls to sift through buried treasures like seashells, spindles, and wire baubles.  Audrey brought a smile for all the other shoppers to enjoy and gave me two solid hours of thrifting before encouraging me to move onto a more important activity (nursing the baby.) Where do you nurse a baby at a Thrift Store? In the furniture section, of course.

Denise has been wondering if the word “Trash Picking” is a turnoff for you. What would you rather call the art of searching for an upcycle treasure?

Shop the Best New Toy Store In the Philadelphia Suburbs

Monkey Fish Toys opened their doors for a sneak peek for bloggers in preparation for the Grand Opening in April. They are currently open daily to the public in their new space in The Shops on Eagleview Boulevard. The new shop boasts 19 eco-friendly or sustainable toy brands in addition to the mix of popular toys like Legos and Gund. They have done a really great job identifying brands that parents can trust and value. The best part is that I didn’t see a single toy in the shop that required batteries.

monkey fish toys

Going to the shop is an awesome experience in itself because there are stations where kids (and adults) can test out or play with the products. For special occasions, parents can book the shop for an unforgettable party featuring their children’s favorite toys. With themes like Legos, dinosaurs, pirates, dress up, crafts, or Holidays, every kid is sure to have a great time.

All the craft supplies are from a new brand called Eco Kids that boasts products made from natural materials. This is huge for me since my kid always puts crayons directly into her mouth. We picked up a pack of the exploratory molding dough. I like that it is an appropriate toy for kids 2 and up since it is non-toxic. Some of the brands I’ve seen in stores recommend waiting till kids are 3, but age 2 is the perfect time to squeeze and press the dough into shapes. Hannah loves the stuff!

For me, seeing how hard Monkey Fish Toys worked to find new brands that fit the eco-friendly lifestyle is a huge motivator for me to help get the word out about their shop. It’s encouraging to see that a company who chooses toys that increase in value over time (like Legos) has honed in on this niche. I’m inspired to pick out the educational toys that will foster a love of learning through play in our home from their great selection and I would encourage you to visit the shop, too.

monkey fish toys exton pa chester tounty toy store

How to find Monkey Fish Toys:

This part gets a little confusing since they are in the transition phase, so I’m going to give as much information as I can.

Shop Address: 264 Eagleview Blvd, The Shops on Eagleview Boulevard, Exton, PA 19341

Phone: (484) 341-8367

Email: KerriR@bullmarkettoys.com

Monkey Fish Toys on Facebook

Monkey Fish Toys on Twitter

The Online Shop – Bull Market Toys 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received compensation for sharing this information. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Benefits of Composting – Grocery Stores, Take Note

We just started enjoying the benefits of composting in our home. In a few short months, we have completely overhauled our waste output. Adding the simple task of composting to the mix helps us tackle food waste from the ground up.

As soon as we started our compost collection bucket, I immediately felt happier. A lot of the foods that I prepare are from fresh, wholesome ingredients like carrots, apples and celery, and it always irked me to have so much waste from their prep. Now that we compost, I get my little one involved in the process and she eagerly helps me toss the scraps. We’ll work on our compost this year so that next year’s garden can benefit from the rich addition to our soil. I can’t wait to show my little one how this all works!

The other day we were at the grocery store and I noticed that Wegmans has ready-made packs of prepared veggies all throughout the store. At first I thought it was a great idea to prevent food waste because they are obviously using up the veggies that would otherwise go bad by displaying them for quick sale. Although there’s a bit of packaging that’s going to waste and I would love to see a creative solution for that, there is another issue at hand. The big question I had was, you guessed it, “do they compost?” So I asked via Twitter:

benefits of composting wegmans

@Wegmans Do you compost all the fruit and veggie scraps from your ready-to-eat packs?

Sadly they do not, but they are passing my suggestion along. I’m enthusiastic about this because I think we can help them make a positive change. The reason I never composted before was that no one said, “Here’s how you compost” or “Why don’t you compost” until all of a sudden a bunch of people I knew started to talk about composting. I quickly discovered how easy it was to get started and haven’t thrown a scrap in the trash ever since. 

What do you think would happen if we all (nicely) let Wegmans know that we think it would be cool if they implemented this sustainable business practice? They’re sure to save money by eliminating the trash bags and collection service fees. Plus, I would love to see a partnership with local farms who might use the scraps to enrich their soil. Wegmans is always asking for feedback, so let them know on the next e-form they send or leave a comment here and share this post with a friend who might have a connection. Changes like these can take time, so let’s get the ball rolling and start asking friendly questions today.

Tweet: Hey @Wegmans, do you compost all your fruit and veggie scraps? #happyscraps

Cloth Diaper Problem Solving

bumgenius, diaper, baby, toddlerI had just about had it with cloth diapers. Nearly every diaper that I fastened to my spirited toddler leaked as she trolled around the playroom. I desperately wanted to keep her in cloth diapers because they were a big investment up front. Even though they save a lot of money over time, they can be a headache. It just wasn’t working. I don’t know why it took me so long to arrive at the solution of using wool. Just like everything else in the green spectrum, I had to turn it down several times before giving it a shot.

Everything about cloth diapering has been foreign to me since day one. I went from turning up my nose about cloth diapering, to diving full fledged into green living all to save a few thousand bucks. I was SO BLIND to eco friendliness that I couldn’t even fathom simple household solutions like cloth towels or reusable storage containers saving money. After all, they cost so much more than the disposable counterparts. It took me a long time to realize that I could save money by investing more up front and even longer to realize that I could save the most money by using what I already have.

I’ll admit, 85% of the reason why I agreed to give cloth diapering a shot was because they were CUTE. I’m a sucker for great clothes, so I looked for the most fashionable cloth diapers. I quickly found out that I hated them after trying desperately to make them work. When I had the chance to reuse all the diapers for a second time and avoid most of* the mistakes of the first time, I opted for Thirsties Covers and prefolds. They have worked like a dream for Audrey. My second baby is the reason why I’ve kept at cloth diapering for so long. It’s why I had to become a super sleuth about fluff.

There is a reason why there are so many blogs, books, and shops for cloth diapers. It’s like gardening. They come in all different shapes and sizes and the fulfill a huge range of problems. It helped me to start thinking of diapering as a problem to solve instead of as a cute accessory. Once I washed away all my pre-conceived notions about washing poop, it got a whole lot easier. Then, I read four words on www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com that changed everything for me:

It’s all just cloth.

Once I saw that, my entire attitude changed. Did I worry when the diapers got frayed around the edges? No, they’re just cloth. What happened when we were out and I didn’t have my large wetbag? I used the wipes wetbag. I started looking at the clothes pile I was antsy to donate and I suddenly found so many hidden gems within. Poplin shirts can easily become handkerchiefs. Pajama bottoms make great wipes. I’ll fashion a mini baby-sling for the girls’ dolls out of my outgrown tshirts.

There I was with a mountain of cloth solutions and a big, wet problem that I couldn’t piece together. I even had two sweaters of my own in that pile! I’d love to tell you that I got out my sewing machine, felted the wool and stitched my own soaker, but I’ve been too afraid to set up my sewing machine for fear of Todzilla battling the presser foot. Instead, I used a coupon and ordered a new solution. It’s a little awkward to put a wool soaker over top of an all-in-one diaper, but it works and that’s what’s important.

Some day I’ll look back at all this with the wisdom of an experienced Mom and laugh at what I went through. Cloth diapering didn’t have to be hard. I made it that way because I wanted it to be fashionable. It’s almost like I forgot what kids DO in diapers. I’ve realized that’s no big deal either. After all, it’s all just cloth.

Quit Throwing Out the Most Expensive Ingredient in the Kitchen

Think.Eat.Save – Reduce your foodprint!

Food waste doesn’t start in your fridge and it doesn’t end in your trash can. I’ve seen estimates that Americans as a whole discard at least 40% of the food they purchase. That is a sad fact because if only one in five people are hungry, we clearly have more than enough to go around. I think the biggest problem is too much diversity in food choices. By attempting to please everyone, we make it easier to discard something unappetizing. Here’s my plan to cut down on food waste.

leftoversAt home, we’re keeping our meals simple, especially during the winter. This is one of my favorite ways to be green while saving green. First of all, I’m using the same ingredients over and over so I can save by purchasing the larger quantities. I also don’t balk at buying organic because the prices are closer to the small, non-organic counterparts. We’ve cut back on buying processed foods and I am still campaigning to get my husband on board with drinking more water instead of other beverages. At around $60 per week, our grocery bill is completely manageable even when we factor in $125 at the butcher each season.

It was easy for me to accept the idea of eating chicken noodle soup 4 out of 7 days per week because I grew up eating PB&J nearly every day for years at a time. I’m used to repetition of favorites and I’ve found that my daughter likes it, too. By having this one simple meal as our staple, I can splurge a little on other things. We make a great spread for each Holiday and we like to have a hearty breakfast every weekend. Whether we make french toast or pancakes, our Saturday breakfasts can’t be beat. No matter how small, the leftovers are great for my toddler in a pinch so I save everything.

My microwave is my biggest ally in the kitchen. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to put a healthy meal on the table so quickly for my daughter. My own version of ‘fast food’ generally consists of leftovers. Often, I use 2 oz jars to freeze small portions, but old spaghetti sauce jars also make great storage vessels for anything in the freezer as long as they aren’t filled to the brim.

We finally began composting late last year and I am thrilled that we’re off to such a great start with the practice. I love discarding our leftover peels and kitchen scraps knowing that in a few months they will feed our garden healthy soil. I’ve seen a huge drop in the amount of trash my family produces from the time when my husband and I were just a new couple. Because I changed, I know that others can, too. Taking on a new habit is a challenge, but living with a new habit like being mindful about food consumption is so easy.

There are a lot of additional costs to factor beyond just the price of any food that ends up in the trash. Think about the cost of your trip to the store or the transportation of the food throughout the production process. How much did the packaging cost? When you throw food away, how much are you paying for garbage bags? Your county may even be raising the cost of garbage pickup because of the volume of trash in town is so high. These changes need to start at home because the big companies are even more wasteful. I have seen few fast food restaurants or grocery stores with recycling programs in action. For me, that is inspiration to stay at home and cook a healthy meal.

I value my time at home with my family above all other things. I enjoy taking fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of lazy afternoons reading book after book with my girls. Going to the grocery store with two under two is a huge challenge, even when I wear the baby. By keeping our shopping list consistent and slim, I can get in and out of the store in under an hour. What I’ve noticed so far is that my toddler is very receptive to eating healthy foods when I keep them readily available to her. In fact, I’m going to grab her a carrot right now. We’ll peel it together, compost the peelings and then split the healthy snack. The same foods that used to end up in my trash after being forgotten are now our favorite staples.

I am so happy I made these changes and I invite you to change your food mindset as well. What is one thing that you can do to minimize food waste in your house?

I wrote this post to enter to win an amazing  trip to blog for United Nations Environmental Program’s World Environment Day 2013. If it inspired you to reduce your foodprint, please comment, like, share, tweet, pin and help me get the word out about this important message. Thank you for your support! Learn more: http://unep.org/wed/blog-competition/howto/

Old Man Murray’s Organic Soap Review + Giveaway

My first step to making some eco-friendly adjustments to my beauty routine is to start using organic soap. I recently found out about Old Man Murray’s soaps through a network of Green Mom bloggers and I had to give them a try. Each of the scents has a name that offers an authentic nod to the herbal remedies of the past. There are four divinely feminine soaps and four distinctly masculine options. I selected Honey Butter for myself and Gin and Tonic for Mr. Eco Incognito. Of course he decided to use mine anyway, but I would say that they both offer a refreshing cleanse so they are certainly appropriate for either gender.

Until recently, I’ve been a body wash junkie, but I’ve never found one that has had a lasting effect on my skin after a shower. I was always hesitant to use bar soap because I thought it dried out my skin. However, I was missing the important step of lathering up with lotion after showering. A body wash contains lotion and lots of water, so it generally costs more than using a bar of soap and your own lotion. Plus, taking the additional step after a shower helps lock moisture in your skin and promotes relaxation. I don’t have a lot of time these days for a beauty routine, but I’ve decided that this is worth it.

To put Old Man Murray’s to the ultimate test, I even shaved my legs using just the soap. I have always thought I had sensitive skin, but now I’m wondering if my reactions were to the parabens and additives in popular shave gels. I was surprised and delighted to find out that I could get a clean, close shave simply using a bar of soap. Even the packaging is a great alternative to the cans.

There are a lot of reasons why I want to ‘green’ my beauty routine and I feel like adding this soap to the mix is a great first step. I hope you’ll give it a try, too! I love this list of ingredients in the Gin + Tonic soap. Look at all the great benefits of each component.

handmade natural soap

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

You can win the Old Man Murray’s soap of your choice by commenting on this post! Simply click over to http://www.oldmanmurrays.com/ and let us know which herbal organic soap you would love to try in the comments below.

You can earn two extra entries:

1. ‘Like’ Old Man Murray’s on Facebook, then come back and leave a comment letting us know!

2. ‘Like’ Eco Incognito on Facebook, then come back and leave a comment letting us know!

3. Follow Old Man Murray on Twitter.

4. Sign up for the Old Man Murray’s newsletter on the bottom-right of the home page at http://www.oldmanmurrays.com/

Contest is open to US residents only. Winners will be announced 2/19/13 and contacted via email. 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.