Going Green With Baby Book Signing in Beaverton – June 13th

41kuwbjbgul_sl160_1 If you’re a mom concerned about living green with and for the sake of a little one, you have to get a hold of Melissa Moog’s new book Itsabelly’s Guide To Going Green With Baby. I’ve blogged before about what a complete guide it is to being an eco-friendly eco-mom. Now you can get a signed copy of the book, meet Melissa in person (she’s really great), and enter for a chance to win a $400 stroller from Baby Planet.  Here’s the full scoop:


Itsabelly’s How to Choose Safe Baby Products Event
Saturday, June 13th at 11:00 am
Barnes & Noble Tanasbourne, 18300 NW Evergreen Parkway, Beaverton
Local author Melissa Moog, author of Itsabelly’s Guide to Going Green with Baby will offer simple and practical Baby Safe Tips including:

* Shopping tips & reviews on safe & eco-friendly baby products
* How to go green without breaking the bank
* Tips about organic and natural family living

Raffle drawing for $500 in eco-friendly baby products (Stroller System, Earth Mama Angel Baby Gift etc.)

Refreshments provided by New Seasons.

Grateful For Diaper Service, As Gross As It May Be

TV’s grossest show, Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, recently featured my diaper service company, Tidee Didee. They 250px-dirtyjobslogofilmed at the Sacramento location but I’m sure the Portland location is just as disgusting.  My two-year old’s cloth diapers are nasty but what’s even more foul is the thought of all that waste going into a landfill and just sitting….and sitting…and sitting. For a very, very long time.

I’m grateful that Tidee Didee comes to my house every Friday morning and takes away the bag of soiled diapers, leaving me with a bag of fresh clean ones for the week.  I’m also grateful I don’t have to do the at-home equivalent of what you see in the Dirty Jobs clip.

I would like to point out that I flush Grace’s poo down the toilet. From the looks of this yucky video, many cloth diaper service users throw the poo in the diaper pail with the diapers. So are you people smelling that all week long until the diaper service comes to pick them up? Yuck, yuck and double yuck.

Thanks Tidee Didee for what you do. We could never pay you enough for the service you provide us, not to mention to our planet.

Four Fabulous Online Eco-Boutiques For Moms, Babies And Kids

As a fairly new mom (Grace just turned 2) I’ve found my desire to live in a sustainable way does not usually conincide with the marketing messages and products pumped out by most corporations targeting my demographic. There are some great online alternatives though, and these four I’m going to recommend all happen to be run out of mom’s homes within a 10-mile radius from my home. I’ve bought from some of them, am keeping my eye on others. I can vouch for all their products and customer service though, because I personally know the owner of each and every one. They are all proud mamas working hard to offer healthy alternatives for their own families and others.

Itsabelly Baby Concierge – Melissa Moog recently published the great guide Going Green With Baby. The book is available on her website as well as a nice selection of natural, organic mom and baby-care products. Melissa’s primary focus is on baby-planning, so she can offer an array of services to new or expecting mamas in getting adjusted to life with baby as well.

Punkin Butt – I recently purchased a stack of cotton training pants plus a cute little potty chair for Grace from Punkin Butt. Owner Audrey was so helpful in her recommendations, having just gone through potty-training with her own little girl. Punkin Butt’s specialty is cloth diapering but they also carry a great array of natural baby products as well as having dozens of helping articles on the website.

Little Jumping Beans – This is a really fun site of eco-friendly baby products run by a Tualatin mom, Jheni. The site is super-easy to navigate and there’s even a baby registry. I was amazed to see the array of products Jheni offers, knowing she runs the business from home.

Clementine NW – This site is primarily focused on eco-friendly baby gifts. It’s a great one if you want to pick out a fun gift basket for a new or expecting mom, and want to make sure the products are good for her, baby and the planet. Owner Brenna has put together a wonderful selection of natural toys, organic cotton blankets and bibs, and a great selection of organic, natural skincare products.

New Rules Designed To Protect Kids Are Hurting Small Businesses

Have you heard about the new rules put out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)? In response to the lead-tainted toy recalls in 2007, this legislation to require testing was to go into effect yesterday. Thankfully it did not.

How can I say that, you may ask? I’m a mother of a toddler so obviously I care greatly about the safety of her toys. stuffed_llama_lgandsmThe problem is this legislation went so far it has already caused some small, at-home crafters to shut down and some European toy makers (the kind that make amazing natural wooden and textile toys) to pull out of the US market altogether. The requirements for testing are so stringent that large mega-corporations like Mattel can afford the equipment involved while smaller shops and manufacturers can not.

Enforcement of the legislation has been delayed for a year thanks to the lobbying efforts of many small businesses, including a number here in Oregon.  The rules were simply over the top. They were to require testing on baby products like cloth diapers or all-cloth stuffed animals, like these knitted toys I carry at Bambootique, even though cloth has never been a problem when it comes to lead-poisoning of children. The rules were going to require consignment and second-hand stores to test their products for lead as well, which they would never be able to afford to do. The equipment to test for lead starts at $24,000, according to the Oregonian article on the topic a few days ago. Few and far between are the thrift shops with that kind of money laying around.

As a mother, I do want my daughter’s products to be safe. I also know that as a mother I have to use common sense when shopping for toys. When she was a teething infant of course I bought products that were certified lead-free. Even at two she still puts anything and everything into her mouth as she explores the world of tastes and textures. But I do not expect small toy companies, which I tend to prefer for Grace’s toys, to go to ridiculous lengths to test inputs like cotton or untreated wood that clearly have no or very little risk of lead. On the other hand I do expect the big guys like Mattel or Hasbro to test anything and everything, since it’s failures by companies like theirs that caused all this hub-bub in the first place.

Personally I’m continuing to go out of my way to choose toys for Grace from smaller companies like Plan toys or Melissa and Doug because I want to make sure they’re around for the long-haul. Keeping our kids safe is essential but protecting them to the point of eliminating unique, interesting playthings would be too much of a loss. I’m already afraid that the choices are dwindling.

What do you think? Does this legislation go too far? What do you think needs to be tested and what doesn’t? For more info or to advocate on this issue see National Bankruptcy Day’s website.

Green Guide For New Moms: Going Green With Baby

My friend Melissa Moog of Itsabelly Baby Concierge just co-authored and published a fabulous difinitive guide to living green with your own little sprout. I was immediately impressed at how thorough Going Green With Baby really is.41kuwbjbgul_sl160_1 Melissa and her co-author, Jennifer Lo Prete, delve into every aspect of preparing for and caring for baby while being kind to the planet. They cover diapering (cloth is great but there are other green alternatives – see p. 101), nursery furniture (p. 87 tells you how to turn your changing table into a hip bar when you’re done with diapers), feeding (p. 25 demystifies all the label claims on food and more) and much more plus there’s a great guide in the back to help you create an eco-friendly baby registry.

Babies generate three times more garbage than grown-ups, according to the foreword of the book, so making green choices from birth makes sense to try to minimize your baby’s ecological footprint, even while their physical footprint is so tiny. I appreciate the book’s inclusion of budget-friendly options as well as more lavish products, because so often living green is mistaken for being very, very expensive.

Personally I wish I had spent more time and money in consignment shops and on craiglist.com before my daughter Grace was born. I bought and received lots of beautiful, brand new products that I’ve since seen available second-hand for much cheaper and in perfect condition.  Most of Grace’s clothes now are hand-me-downs (from her older cousin Sophia) or purchased at local consignment shops and you’d never know.  Same with her toys – I love ebay, craigslist and consignment shops for fabulous toys that don’t add more plastic to the supply chain and are cheap. Melissa gives some great second-hand resources on page 202 of the book.

The only downside I can see of Going Green With Baby is the quantity of the content. If you’re new to the concept of living green, you might find this book overwhelming as it’s simply a lot of information, although well-presented and easy to navigate. As the authors emphasize near the beginning of the book, the most important thing is to take baby steps and to make changes first where your baby’s (and your) health will be most strongly impacted (eg. things that will go in the baby’s mouth or affect the cleanliness of the air you are all breathing). So go green with baby and take Melissa’s book along with you!

Baby Plays – A Better Way To Do Toys

babyplays_xmas_logoAs mom to an energetic toddler, I face a common dilemma – how many toys does one toddler need? The ones we have can get boring at times, especially as the weather gets colder and we’re stuck inside more. But how much money do I have to shell out for new, fun, educational toys that I know she’ll outgrow in a matter of months? On top of that, I struggle with the environmental impact of all those resources (wood or plastic) for toys that are used for a short time. We do buy a lot of used toys from garage sales and consignment stores, but I don’t like to have so many toys at once that they take over the house.

That’s why when I discovered Baby Plays, I signed up immediately. Baby Plays is essentially Netflix for toys. It’s a mom-owned business through which you rent toys for a month or two at a time and when you’re done, you pack them up, send them back and get a box of new (to you) toys!

The system is simple. First you set up a wishlist of twenty toys you’d like from their great selection of toy-garagehundreds of toys. You pick from a variety of plans (based on number of toys, how long you get to keep them, etc). Then after about a week your first box shows up!

I signed up for a bi-monthly plan of 5 toys at a time. It’s $27.99/ month so I’m paying about $54 to rent five toys for two months, including shipping. That certainly saves me money from if I were to buy all those toys new – our first shipment contained toys worth $135, based on a quick calculation on amazon.com. With Baby Plays I can pick toys that I want (instead of what happens to be for sale at that day’s garage sale!) plus I get to send them back when we’re done. I do not want to have a house so overrun puzzlewith toys we run out of storage space, plus I love that we’re reducing our consumption of natural resources.

Our first delivery contained a toy camera, a wooden puzzle, a Curious George hammering table, a small play house complete with doll, table and chairs, and a parking garage with three cars. Grace loves all the toys and they are all unlike any toys she already has, so playhouseshe’s still having a great time even though we’ve had them for about three weeks now.

My daughter Grace now gets very excited any time a box arrives at our door, yelling “toys toys!” Try explaining to a 21-month old that she’ll have to wait two months for the next delivery!

Green Party Decorations

Not literally green, although it is an awfully nice color. I’m talking about making your next party festive without generating a lot of waste. The first one you probably already use: balloons! Yes, it has recently come to my attention, thanks to blog reader Pam, that latex balloons are actually biodegradable. Latex comes from the rubber tree, so they’re natural and break down in landfills within about six months. Seriously I had no idea balloons were eco-friendly. Still you might want to think twice before releasing them since I imagine they could harm a bird or other animal who might find them before those six months are up.

Another cool alternative is reusable pendant banners. A fellow mom and entrepreneur, Jill Friese, makes colorful fabric pendants like the one below and she just opened her own shop on Etsy.com. I want to get this multi-colored banner to have on hand for baby showers, birthday parties or summer barbecues.

How do you decorate for parties without creating a lot of waste?

Cooperatives Work Here, Too

When I buy products for Bambootique, one of the things I look for is groups of women who have come together to form cooperatives. In a cooperative artisans band together in a way that benefits all of them to buy inputs in bulk, negotiate shipping rates for their products and to have bargaining power with buyers like me, among other things. This bargaining power of cooperatives is a central principle of fair trade and is missing from most economic transactions between the West and the developing world. It’s not just alive and well in my business, it’s also a thriving principle in my neighborhood.

Last week while playing and giggling on the floor with two little toddlers, one mine, it dawned on me that I am also part of a cooperative. The other toddler in that happy moment was my neighbor’s son, Braylon, who spends one day a week with us at our house while his mom works from home. Grace goes and spends another day every week at Braylon’s house while I get a few precious hours to work myself. The kids have a wild and crazy time and the moms get worn out but it’s all good fun.

By pooling our resources (time, patience, lunch, sanity, toys) my neighbor and I both come out much better off than if we each did everything on our own. Our little neighborhood co-op makes us each stronger and saner not to mention the savings on babysitting fees. This power we women hold together is definitely much greater than the sum of our individual strengths.

A Good Read: Healthy Child, Healthy World

I’m an information junkie. If I care about a topic, I read anything and everything I can find on the subject, sometimes to the point of obsession. So when the publishers of Healthy Child, Healthy World asked me if they could send me a copy of their new book to read and review, of course I jumped at the chance. The offer involved three of my favorite things – babies, the environment, and free stuff. Of course the publisher was looking for some publicity for the book and I’m happy to oblige, although I can tell you right now my buzz always includes the good, the bad and the ugly, as you shall see below.

I was skeptical at first glance of the book’s cover. In big bright letters at the top the cover announces “Foreword by Meryl Streep” and “With Contributions by Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, Tom Hanks…” and the list of celebrities involved goes on and on. I am generally turned off by books that declare a list of celebrity endorsements. Call me a cynic but I want my information to come from experts in a field, not from celebrities with no related credentials beyond their fame.

So I definitely gagged more than once when reading some of the celebrity testimonials sprinkled throughout the book. For example, Tobey Maguire’s unimpressive contribution is that he is thinking about getting a refillable water bottle instead of drinking bottled water! Wha’? I’m supposed to be compelled by that? On the other hand I was duly inspired by Michelle Obama’s call for change in our health system, where she notes only 4 cents of every dollar is spent on prevention and public health. Others including Meryl Streep and Erin Brockovich made their own helpful contributions and I was actually glad they were involved in the project based on what they added.

Now that I’ve made clear what I didn’t like about the book, let me tell you what I did like. A lot actually. This book now holds a place of honor coveted by all other books in my house. It sits in a small pile of a few other favorites on the footstool in my study, a place reserved only for books I want to refer to often and don’t want to become lost in a bookshelf. I found Healthy Child, Healthy World, written by Christopher Gavigan of the non-profit by the same name, to be practical, helpful, inspiring and informative. The book demystifies the world of environmental awareness using science, experts and, sigh, celebrities. From craft supplies to cleaning supplies, it cuts through all the confusing information and advertising out there and boils it down to what you need to know to make informed decisions.

I also appreciated the practical advice to start making changes with the things I use a lot, such as food, and make switches in other areas later. Still at times the book felt overwhelming. After reading each chapter I could easily list half a dozen things I wanted to change right away. It was an easier read when I took it one chapter at a time and then put it away for a few days, which gave me time to process each chapter’s large volume of information.

I’ve read through the whole book once but have referred to it many times since and will continue to do so. I recommend you look it up and see if it can help you and your family live greener and healthier, hopefully more so than Mr. Maguire.

Throwing a Green (and Pink!) Baby Shower

Hosting a baby shower doesn’t have to equate with throw-away plates and piles of wasted wrapping paper. At least, that’s what I decided when I hosted a baby shower for my friend Katie last weekend. I set out to host an event (co-host actually, with her sister-in-law) as free of garbage as possible, and we were quite successful without much extra effort. Here’s what we did:

We kept the decorations simple with a few bouquets of fresh cut flowers from my yard (no carbon footprint there) and a dozen helium latex balloons. I realize the balloons would not be considered eco-friendly but we divvied them up at the end so various moms took a few home to their kids to enjoy, at least getting a double use from them.

We steered free of any prepackaged, processed foods in favor of homemade brunch goodies. The food responsibilities were divided between four of us so didn’t create an undue burden for anyone. I baked blueberry muffins, my friend Karin made fruit kebabs on bamboo skewers stuck playfully in a pineapple, my co-host, Zephyr, baked a fabulous cheesy egg breakfast dish, and Katie’s mom Vivian baked some sinfully sweet muffins. Not only did we avoid waste from food packaging, the food was all so delicious there was no food waste to speak of either!

Plates, Cups, etc
Last summer I bought several dozen reusable plastic plates and cups on clearance at Target for less than it would have cost for the same quantity of paper plates and cups. Their bright summer colors (pink, green, blue and yellow) work perfectly for baby showers and have also been perfect for hosting large summer barbecues. The plates and cups are unbreakable so can be used outside and can be thrown in the dishwasher to make cleaning up easy. We used real silverware (why not, since we were running the dishwasher anyway) and broke down with the use of paper napkins. Those that weren’t heavily soiled we were able to recycle.

Art Project Instead of Games
I actually think baby shower games can be fun but a lot of people roll their eyes at them, so for Katie’s shower we replaced games with decorating organic onesies instead. I bought super soft Gerber plain white organic onesies which each guest decorated using fabric markers. This made for a great activity as people were arriving and Katie left with a dozen unique pieces for her baby girl to wear. There were some budding artists in our midst that day!

Baby showers can create a huge pile of ribbons and wrapping paper, some of which can be recycled but it’s always better to reuse first. Literally all the guests used gift bags instead of wrapping paper, owing perhaps more to our lives as busy young moms than our eco-sense, but it’s an example of going green making life easier rather than more complicated, as is sometimes falsely assumed. Katie left with one huge gift bag full of tissue paper she plans to reuse plus a pile of baby girl gift bags she can pass on at other baby showers!

The Happy Mama and Grandma-to-be

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