Plan Now For Reverse Trick-Or-Treating

trick_or_treatWhile poking around online today, I just noticed it’s time to order Reverse Trick-or-Treating kits from Global Exchange.  Last year our household managed to order on time (this year’s deadline is October 13th, but if they run out before then it’s your bad luck) and had fun giving away the fair trade chocolates and info cards to our neighbors.  This year we’ll do it again but I’ve realized I don’t need to be limited to the “reverse” idea. I mean, I don’t have to just have Grace hand out the cards and chocolate as we go door to door. We’ll also give out the fair trade info and chocolates to all the kids that come to our house, getting the word out even further.

What is Reverse-Trick-Or-Treating, you ask?  It’s a fantastic campaign put together by a variety of fair trade groups to get the word out about unethical practices in the cocoa trade. For just $5.50 (the cost of shipping the kit to you), you get a bag of mini-chocolates and a stack of informational postcards about the cocoa industry and the alternative fair trade chocolate industry. The “reverse” idea is that your kids give the cards and chocolates out as they go door to door, while of course still receiving the free goodies (fair trade or not) from all the neighbors. Our neighbors loved getting something in return plus hey, it encourages the trick-or-treaters to give not just get. See more of what our family did last year here.

I just ordered my kit and can’t wait to shower our neighborhood with fair trade chocolate love.

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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:

EVENT:

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.

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!

Making Your Dollar Go Further In Troubling Times

Like a lot of people my husband and I are more aware of what we are buying, and we’re definitely cutting back even though our day-to-day income hasn’t been impacted at this point (investments certainly have been).  As the owner of a local small business myself, I’m trying to be more intentional with the dollars I do spend to make sure my purchases are purposeful and as local as possible.  It’s the little guys who are going to be most impacted by this downturn. The hairdressers whose clients come in every 6 months instead of every 6 weeks. The local restaurants who no longer see families coming in for dinner. The small retailers who can’t compete with big-box store prices when everyone is looking for deep discounts.  The local farmers whose produce consumers no longer wish to purchase for more than the cheap imported food.

Here are a few ways we’re spending our money to make sure the impact is felt as strongly and close to home as possible:

  • I’m still going to my hairdresser, Melody Oliver of J and J Hair Studio once every six weeks. I know she needs it as she’s had other clients have to cut back. My hair appreciates it too!
  • We’re buying our eggs from our neighbors who raise chickens.
  • We bought our Christmas tree from the farm across the street, Century Farm at 10050 SW Hazelbrook Road. We got a great deal too with a pre-cut for only $15!
  • We’ll be picking up some of Grace’s Christmas presents at Mudpuddles in Sherwood, a wonderful local toy store.
  • Although I don’t have to buy a lot of clothes for Grace, thanks to hand-me-downs from her cousin Sophia, when I do shop I like to go to Baby and Me or Katelyn’s Closet consignment stores. I know I’m supporting local businesses and shopping in an eco-friendly way.
  • We use Tidee-Didee diaper service, which means we’re keeping diapers out of landfills plus our diaper dollars are going to local jobs instead of multi-national diaper companies.

How about you? Do you have a favorite local business you are going out of your way to support? It’s not always the cheapest or most convenient option, but being intentional about how we each spend our money may help some of our local businesses weather this economic storm.

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!

Keeping Your Skin Fresh and Fair

I grew up going to the Nutcracker ballet every Christmas. I loved the magic of the performance and still hangnutcracker_lipbalm on my tree a ballerina Christmas ornament my mom bought me one year following the show.

Just in time for this weekend’s trunk show, I got in these Nutcracker Sweet (not a typo) lipbalms from Anti-Body. They are made from fair trade shea butter and coconut oil, essential oils and nothing artificial. A bit sweeter than their Chocolate Raspberry and Peppermint cousins, this set of three includes Strawberry, Chocolate Hazelnut and Plum. Yum! Each tube represents a different character from the beloved Nutcracker Suite.

Anti-Body also makes luxurious body lotions, bath fizzers, and body soaps, all using organic, fair trade ingredients, no parabens or other harmful chemicals and only essential oils for fragrance. They smell fantastic and it’s all thanks to nature, not to harsh chemicals, plus your skin just drinks it all in.

Anti-Body’s products are available on Bambootique‘s site and will be available to try and buy this weekend, Nov. 15 and 16th, at our Holiday Fair Trade Trunk Show at my home in Tualatin. The public is welcome, just email me for address and directions.

Reverse Trick-Or Treating In Action

Today was Halloween and our 20-month old, Grace, got to trick-or-treat for the first time. OK, technically the second time but last year at eight months and not walking she really had no idea what was going on. Needless to say, she did not get to eat her candy last year (and I did!).

Cute as a button in her butterfly costume from Old Navy, Grace and her neighborhood buddy, Braylon, went door-to-door up and down our street. We had signed up to receive a Reverse Trick-or-Treating kit from Global Exchange. At each house Grace handed out a card with information about lax conditions in the cocoa industry plus a mini piece of Alter-Eco’s delicious dark chocolate.  Our neighbors are pretty socially aware so I don’t think fair trade is new to any of them, but sampling something delicious is a great incentive to change anyone’s buying habits.

Grace and Braylon reverse trick-or-treating (note the flyer in Grace’s hand)

The fair trade chocolate eyeballs from Divine chocolate we gave out at our house. Yum!

Making Halloween Green And Fair

This year I’ve already strayed from my “sustainability principles” and bought my daughter Grace a brand-new Halloween costume from Old Navy.  I couldn’t resist as it was a butterfly costume. Grace is obsessed with butterflies, so my impulse to see my daughter giggle with delight overturned my best efforts to have a green Halloween.  The costume is basically a sweat suit with wings and antennae, so I figure she can play in it all winter long. At least it will get worn more than once.

Still I think I have some good ideas for making your (and my!) Halloween a little bit greener and, of course, fairer. My mom was the queen of homemade Halloween costumes when I was growing up. Here are a few green costume ideas:

  • Shop at Goodwill for costumes. I think nowadays they even sell actual used costumes, but when I was a kid a frumpy red housecoat became Pippy Longstocking’s battered dress. If I had the time I could have bought an old sweatsuit for Grace and made her a butterfly costume myself.
  • Borrow from friends with older kids. Last year Grace also had an Old Navy costume, but it was a secondhand ladybug costume borrowed from my friend Jill’s little girl who is exactly one year older than Grace.
  • Shop at consignment stores. They have lots of gently used costumes still in great shape.
  • Make your own! I remember being proud as a peacock of the princess costume my mom made me, complete with aluminum covered paper crown and homemade purple cape. I fully intend to do this with Grace at some point, it just hasn’t happened in her first two Halloweens!

Halloween is the perfect time to promote fair trade chocolate. Conventional Halloween treats are not only made from bad, waxy chocolate, most are made by companies who operate unethically when it comes to how they pay and treat their cocoa farmers.  Fair trade chocolate comes from farmer-owned cooperatives, mainly in West Africa, plus the chocolate is so good you’ll be glad if there are leftovers.  Last year I had a hard time finding mini-sized fair trade chocolates but settled on these gold coins from Global Exchange.

This year though, fair trade Halloween chocolate options abound! I got in on time this year to order Reverse Trick or Treating kits. It’s too late now to order the kits, but keep it in mind for next year. It’s not too late though to order your own mini-size fair trade chocolates from Global Exchange, Equal Exchange, or Divine Chocolate. Personally I’m partial to Equal Exchange’s mini dark chocolate bars, but since most kids prefer milk chocolate I’ll either go with the gold coins from last year or these foil-wrapped milk chocolate eyeballs from Divine Chocolate.

Do you have a green or fair Halloween tip to share? If so post it here!

Mark Your Calendar For Our Holiday Fair Trade Trunk Show – Two Days This Year!

By popular demand, this year’s fair trade holiday trunk show will be TWO DAYS! That’s right, you’ll have Saturday and Sunday to shop for fair trade gifts for everyone on your list. Pick holiday gifts this year that make a world of difference and that everyone will love!

Here’s the scoop:

Holiday Fair Trade Trunk Show

Saturday November 15 (10am-4pm) and Sunday November 16 (1-4pm)
Beth’s home in Tualatin, Oregon
Public welcome and bring friends!
Contact us for location and directions or email Beth at beth at shopbambootique dot com. Your invitation will include a money-saving coupon to use at the show!  (I don’t really like to post my home address online, but I’m happy to share it over email!)
Our biggest event of the year is now going to two days! By popular request, you’ll have more shopping hours to choose from, which is a good thing because there will be more items to choose from than ever before!

This year’s trunk show features new products from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Thailand and Cambodia plus favorites from Indonesia, Nepal, Guatemala, Honduras, Togo and more!  Besides our coveted bags and jewelry we’ll have fair trade, organic skincare products plus Christmas ornaments, scarves, and eco-friendly candles. We’ve also added kids’ products so be sure to check out our Global Kids Corner.

And speaking of kids, little ones are welcome at the trunk show. We’ll have a special area set up in the shopping area with toys and snacks to keep little ones happy so mom can shop. More details on the kids’ corner in upcoming post.

If that’s not enough, this year’s show features free swag bags for every attendee! Our swag bags will be full of fair trade product samples such as tea and chocolate, coupons and info so you can try the products out and learn more about how you can incorporate fair trade into all aspects of your life.

Other features of the show include deeply discounted samples and clearance items, homemade chocolate chip cookies and hot apple cider, and great music! See you at the trunk show!

Remember – email me at beth at shopbambootique dot com for an emailed invitation with the location, more details and a great discount coupon.

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