Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to "Love Your Mother Earth"

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day. Events are hosted all month long all over the nation in support of cleaning up our act and in turn cleaning up the Earth. As I type this I’m watching WALL-E as a reminder of what can happen if I don’t do my part to help (we should NEVER allow this to happen by the way). I have been on a path to becoming an active eco-conservationist (pretty sure I made that up but I’m going with it!). I want to set a good example for my daughter in her growing years so that being eco-friendly is second nature to her and not a complete lifestyle change.  Here are my favorite ways to be an ECO-FRIENDLY PARENT: cloth diapers, cloth wipes, diaper free, natural cleaning and beauty products, get your child involved in Earth Day, buy local and/or organic products, lessen our consumption of beef, use with non-dairy milk, breastfeed, commute and "run" errands.

Cloth Diapers
Thanks to the popularity of the green movement you can find eco-friendly products and alternatives everywhere. Diapers are no exception to this. For parents, especially first timers, deciding how to handle a child’s elimination can pose an overwhelming challenge. Before we go into eco-friendly elimination handling here are some things I discovered along the way.  
  • It can take up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to break down, keeping in mind disposables only break down and do not decompose and forever leave plastic in our precious ecosystem.
  • Parents who use cloth diapers typically have babies who are toilet trained a year earlier than parents who use disposables.
  • Estimates show a single child can go through as many as 5,000 to 6,500 diaper changes from birth to being toilet trained (the average age in the U.S. is now 2.5 years old). 
Can you imagine what all those used sposies would amount to?  There's an image floating around the internet that represents 5,000 disposable diapers. It makes me wish I had started cloth diapering from the start.

Where exactly does a parent begin when trying to find a diapering solution that fits with the family needs, time and money allowances, takes the child’s health into consideration, and perhaps still offers some fun along with it?

Thankfully I have a cousin who already took the dive and tried out all sorts of systems and different wash methods. Her guidance lead me to gDiapers, a hybrid cloth diaper with the only Cradle to Cradle certified 100% biodegradable refill. The greatest resource you can use to find out about gDiapers is their very own website such as this simple little “how it works”.

Source: via Lacy on Pinterest

1)       Outer layer: gPant – the cute part! – This is intended to be reused multiple times.
2)       Middle layer: gPouch – a waterproof liner that protects the outer gPant from getting soiled allowing it to be reused. Depending on the soil level you may reuse the gPouch as well and simply insert some fresh fluff. This is a unique feature of hybrid diapers as other types, such as all-in-ones, are only intended to be used once. Less to wash = water preserved!
3)       Inner layer: Fluff of your choice which is inserted into the gPouch. There are two types: gRefills or gCloth. gRefills are 100% biodegradable and can be flushed, composted, or tossed.  gCloth inserts are made of microfleece and hemp/cotton and can be washed and reused over and over again. I personally use a 100% cotton prefold that I fold to fit but that is what is so great about gDiapers – versatility!
Cloth Wipes
If you are going to take the plunge and become a cloth diapering mama then it is worthwhile to consider also using cloth wipes. I repurposed my daughter’s flannel receiving blankets by cutting them into wash cloth sized wipes and with the help from a friend sewed up the edges to prevent fraying. For my wipe solution I use Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion and mix it according to directions in a travel sized spray bottle. To use simply spray the handmade wipe and spray the bum, wipe and toss in your wetbag or dry pail. Easy-peasy and saves from buying and tossing single-use wipes loaded with chemicals.

If you aren’t interested in cloth wipes gDiapers has you covered here too with their biodegradable gWipes. They are the best smelling wipes I’ve ever smelled, probably due to the coconut derived mild skin cleanser.

Diaper Free
Cloth diapers easily trump sposies (short for disposables).  As great as cloth diapering is, however, there is a trump card that reigns over it: using no diapers at all! Diaper free baby, natural infant hygiene, elimination communication (EC). No matter what your preference in what to call it they all refer to the same thing. Babies are born with a natural instinct to prefer not to sit in their own urine and feces. Babies, even as newborns, offer us cues to assist them in not doing so, and it is up to us to decide to listen and act upon those cues or let them get accustomed to soiling in a diaper and doing traditional potty training at a later age. Once you pick up on the cues, it is as obvious as knowing the cues of when your baby is tired or hungry.

My start to EC came after my daughter was diagnosed with a UTI/probable kidney infection. I was determined to change my daughter’s diaper immediately upon soiling from then on so that she would have minimal exposure to bacteria. Soon I noticed that I could tell when she was going and then soon after that I noticed signs that she had a need to go. After some Googling I came to find out about the diaper free baby method and thought what harm could come from trying it out. Anything was better than sitting in a hospital with a sick baby.

I allowed my daughter to go completely sans diaper with the intent of closely monitoring her elimination patterns for 2 to 3 days.  Within 3 hours my daughter peed over a toilet. I was hooked! I quickly took notice which facial expressions she made when she peed and pooped. Surprisingly her best smiles were when she peed – go figure! There were obvious patterns like needing to relieve herself before a nap, after nursing, and right upon waking from a nap, and then the rest were in timed intervals ranging from 30-60 minutes. Once I started allowing her to no longer sit in a dirty diaper – ever – amazingly she started clustering her peeing pattern.

ECing has been a rocky road for us as we have had more UTIs and a minor corrective procedure to go through, but I credit ECing for keeping me in tuned with my daughter’s health. I’ve been able to tell immediately when she has had a UTI and could get her to a doctor before it had a chance of messing with her kidneys again. I’ve also been able to avoid having to put her through getting cathed a couple times because she will pee in a cup for me (with assistance from my husband that is).  We currently continue to EC with cloth diapers as a backup. Some days I can only have 1-3 misses (soiled diapers) and other days I may have 6 like with this past week when she had 3 molars start erupting. Major events like that can really throw elimination patterns out of whack! With ECing though I have gone from having to wash diapers every 2-3 days to only once a week. That, my friends, is a lot of water saved. ECing may not work for everyone, but it has been worth it for us.

Natural Cleaning and Beauty Products
Do away with harsh chemicals and seek out cleaning and beauty products derived from nature. After all, everything that washes down our drains end up back in our lakes, rivers, and oceans eventually.

I clean just about everything with vinegar. Mix a solution of half vinegar and half water and use it to clean practically everything: sink, toilet, shower, countertops, floors, windows. If you are worried about your home smelling like vinegar have no worries. As soon as vinegar dries the smell dissipates. A friend told me about adding orange peels to the vinegar solution for a more pleasant citrus smell. Turns out lemons and oranges can be used as natural cleaners as well.  For really dirty spots you can make a paste using baking soda and water and scrubbing it in with some elbow grease. Baking soda is a fantastic aid in the laundry room as well.  Don’t forget to use cloth wipes for cleaning and skip paper toweling. Avoid using ammonias and chlorines when possible which are not only harmful to you and your family but harmful to the environment.

There is also the infamous ‘poo-free method for washing hair that uses baking soda, but I was not able to master it with my naturally curly hair. During the ‘poo-free trial, however, I did discover just how great weekly apple cider vinegar rinses are in treating dry scalp which I am chronically prone to. I no longer buy facial cleansers and instead use the oil cleaning method for washing my face (use equal parts olive oil and castor oil, massage onto face and drape a hot washcloth over your face for a minute to steam your pores, then wipe clean). Last but certainly not least is coconut oil. I have only been using it for a couple of months now but goodness all-mighty you can use it for everything!!

Get Your Child Involved in Earth Day
Set an example for your kids to follow. Bring the whole family out to a cleanup group and work up a little sweat for good old mother Earth. She’s absolutely worth it. I promise! Contact your local community centers or try a Google search to see if anyone has already organized a cleanup you can participate in. If you can’t find any start your own! 

In San Diego my dear friend, Megan, and I brought our kids to the RECYARD on base and participated in a naval base cleanup. I haven’t helped in a cleanup in years and I must admit it felt GREAT. Our small group of 15 collected a total of 111 pounds of trash including cigarette butts, plastic, scrap metal (including a muffler), and much more. It may seem like a small amount but looking at the pile of garbage we collected and how much better things looked after made it worthwhile.

My friend, Megan, taking a "no excuse" approach to helping out

Milla is doing her part which is LETTING me do mine 

This is what I'm talking about! Get your kids involved!

Mostly cigarette butts - disgusting!

There is no lack of trash cans around so there is NO EXCUSE for this
Buy Local and/or Organic Products
Discover your local farmers market so you can choose local produce or check out the organic section of your local grocery store. You’d be surprised how some organic produce costs practically the same as the pesticide-laden produce. Plus the closer the produce originated from the place you buy it from, the less gas it cost to get it there. This reminds me…if possible try to find companies that use green shipping when making online purchases.

Lessen our Consumption of Beef
Every year more and more cattle in the U.S. are being raised in feedlots in order to keep up with demand, and the environmental impact of that is astounding. Cattle and other hefty mammals compact soil with each step which in turns contributes to runoff, taking away our topsoil and creating gullies because the soil can’t absorb water when compacted. Wildlife that threatens to harm cattle are quickly dealt with even though we continue to encroach and their territory and take away their food. According to a wonderfully written article by Steve Boyan Phd, cattle produce nearly 1/5 of global methane emissions from their….uh-hum…cattle farts, and methane is 24 times more potent to the climate than carbon dioxide.

I am not suggesting you stop eating beef, which would be hypocritical. I eat me meat. I love a juicy burger once in awhile. What I am suggesting is we explore alternatives to a fatty diet filled with beef and look at lessening our beef demand. Substitute ground turkey or ground chicken in place of ground beef in your favorite recipes. Take a look at vegan recipes and try having meatless dinner at least once a week. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy what so many delicious vegan recipes have to offer. 

Use Non-Dairy Milk
Another way to decrease our cattle demand is to decrease our dairy usage by using alternatives like coconut milk and almond milk.  A company called So Delicious makes wonderful dairy free products including yogurt and ice cream derived from coconut milk and almond milk.  Not only is consuming beef and dairy products leading to a demand for cattle that in turn is impacting our environment but consuming dairy products is really quite difficult for many of us. Rob Dunn’s article about milk goes into great detail just how troubling digesting milk is. I have noticed a huge decline in stomach issues since switching to coconut milk and almond milk and soon plan on adding hemp milk into my flexitarian lifestyle.

Breastfeeding is a clear winner over dairy derived formula in being eco-friendly category with no transportation costs, no need to use energy to heat, and for those who go straight from tap creates less waste than those who bottle feed. It also provides an immunity boost and can fill in the nutrition gaps during teething or illnesses. Have you noticed that Target, the department store chain that was recently in the center of a nurse-in action, even refers to their breastfeeding section as “natural feeding”? But what about mother’s who can’t or choose not to breastfeed? There are options for them as well if they want to avoid using formula.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies is a network where moms can donate and receive breastmilk. As an oversupplier I used their Facebook milksharing network to find a local mom to donate my extra milk to. It was an incredibly rewarding, heart-tugging experience!  Other alternatives that could be looked into, but do require a good talk with a doctor and lots of research, include using almond milk, coconut milk, and even goat’s milk.

Commute, "Run" Errands
This one is quite simple in theory. The first couple of times it takes a bit of time to work into your schedule but you will soon get into a groove. If you live near where you work consider hanging up the car keys for the day and walk, run or bike to work. Leave early so you can take your time and not sweat too bad (for the sake of your co-workers). You can always pound it on the way home. Bring baby wipes or better yet cloth wipes with your own solution of course and wipe down before starting work. One year I had a work commute that was 3 miles roundtrip and another year I had a commute that was 12 miles roundtrip and mixed up if I ran, biked, or took my vehicle. I loved the double whammy of saving gas and getting a workout in at the same time.

It doesn’t have to stop when you have kids either. For instance two days ago I needed dog food. I decided to run the 3.5 miles or so to the grocery store with my daughter in her stroller, bought and loaded the 18-pound bag of dog food in the undercarriage basket, headed to the park so my daughter could play, then ran back home. I have a new respect for moms that have two (or more!) kids in duallie strollers. If you don’t think you have the time I encourage you to find a way to make the time so you and your kid can get some fresh air.

An 18-pound bag of dog food fits perfectly under our BOB stroller
“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.” – The Great Law of the Iroquois 
Seven generation sustainability was introduced to me in grade school. I know it is vital to Earth’s sustainability that each generation thinks about the consequences of their actions towards future generations. I have said on many occasions that we are really screwing up this planet. Remember how I said disposable diapers can take up to 500 years to dispose? If the average generation is 25-30 years then the sposies I used will remain for 16-20 generations. That’s an incredible impact on my part for future generations to deal with.  

We all can do something…what will you do? 

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