It seems that with spring comes birthday season, and I don’t think I was a huge success in the gift selection process.  However, I feel like I did make some good ethical and environmental choices for the birthday party I had for Sarah.

Sarah loves horses, so this year it was a horse theme.  The horseshoe pinata was made from pizza boxes.  I went with real plates and glasses and our cloth napkins.  I debated about what I was going to do with the treat bags for awhile.  What I ended up doing is sewing bags out of an old sheet, and then cutting out a horseshoe from felt to glue on the front.  I used up material I have had for almost 15 years (Yes, I am a pack rat.), and the girls all have a bag they can keep using. 

The other issue is what do you put in the bag?  I have given up shopping at dollar stores because for such low prices how can there really be any hope that slave wages or child labour are not  involved in the production of those products.  This year I stopped at 10 Thousand Villages and found a beautiful glass ring and some fair trade chocolate, which I added to the bag along with a few other things.

We did not buy anything new for the invitations or thank you cards, and the invites had a silver painted horseshoes cut out of cereal boxes glued to it.   The thank you cards utilized some of the horse stickers that Sarah got for her birthday. 

I have been trying to rethink gift giving, to avoid meaningless purchases.  So this year Sarah got riding lessons from her grandmother for her birthday, and we took her to pick out  boots for her riding lessons.  She is now the proud owner of pink cowgirl boots.

I also have to add, that Sarah received a lot of money for her birthday this year and it has been beautiful to see her being generous with her riches.  The kids program at our church is collecting money to buy 10 bicycles for an orphanage in Guatemala.  Sarah has given $30.00 of her birthday money, and is thinking of giving more.  Seeing her generosity is further inspiration to continue my journey.  What a girl!

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 2:13 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m a Diva Girl!

Guys – just a warning off the top – this is really, really a girl thing!  You may experience discomfort if you continue to read.

In researching about cotton, the awful discovery of tampons being made out of the left-over pesticide rich gin trash has changed my ideas about what I want to place in the most private area of my body.  Here is a list of what can be found in a simple tampon: synthetic rayon, pesticide-laden cotton, dioxins, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and artificial fragrances. Loux, in her book Easy Green Living offers an experiment for women.  Take a conventional tampon, place it in a glass of water and wait for the tampon to expand.  Then take it out of the water and check out what is left in the water.  That is what you deposit inside your body with every tampon.

There are of course alternatives organic cotton, chlorine-free bleached pads and tampons, reusable cloth pads or reusable menstrual cups.  In considering the alternatives, I was most drawn to the reusable cups and had read about a couple varieties – The Diva Cup and The Keeper .  These eliminate tampons but do not require me to wash organic cotton pads.  That is just a little too icky for me. 

Then I had a couple friends mention The Diva Cup, one had been using it for a number of years and the other was just switching over.  So when my time was up, I, too, made the switch to The Diva Cup.  I have not actually seen The Keeper in any of the natural/health food stores that I have been in.  The investment was around $40.00.  It took a few tries to get the placement right, but after that I loved it and it works great.  Every time I pour out the contents, I think this is amazing!!   I have eliminated the waste caused by using tampons and pads, as well as eliminated chemicals being absorbed in my body.  I think it is a great solution!! 

In chatting about The Diva Cup more, I did find out that one of my cousins had tried a few varieties. They didn’t work for her because her flow is so heavy, so it kept leaking.  So it may work better for women who have a regular, as opposed to, a heavy flow.

Also, when I bought one for myself I also bought one for my niece who is seventeen and is embarking on a traveling adventure around the world.  What an absolutely great thing to have on your travels, you never have to buy any feminine hygene  in other countries.  If you have a water bottle with you – you can wash the cup anywhere.

I am a happy Diva Girl!

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm  Comments (2)  


Before, when I thought about cotton, I thought clean, comfy, and pure.  Well, I have to let go of that image now that I really know about cotton. 

Conventionally grown cotton is not a pretty crop.  Here are some of the dirty details:

  • Cotton requires a long growing season and huge amounts of water, causing desertification in some parts of the world.
  • Cotton consumes around 25% of the worldwide insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides, while occupying only 3% of the farmland.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 7 of the top 15 cotton pesticides as human carcinogens.
  • It takes around a 1/4 lb of chemicals to produce  1 T-shirt.
  • After harvest cotton is typically bleached (chemicals), dyed (more chemicals), and then treated with a formaldehyde finish (yet more chemicals).
  • In California cotton gin trash (the left-over leaves, stems,  and short fibers) is so contaminated that it is illegal to feed it to cows.  So instead the gin trash is used to make mattresses, pillows, tampons, cotton balls, etc.

Supporting conventional cotton growing is not something that I want to be a part of, so what are the other options out there?  Organic products are, of course, the recommendation: cotton, hemp, bamboo, ramie (an asian grass used to cover mummys back in the day), linen, silk (the caterpiller friendly kind – in which they let the caterpillers live), wool, alpaca, cashmere, and lyocell (wood pulp).  Choosing hemp and bamboo, even if they are not organic, are still a better choice because they require little to no fertilizer.

Avoid nylon, polyester, and acrylic which are all fossil fuels. 

I did a little web surfing the other night, and I found a few Canadian companies that are offering some of these products online, including fabric.  A lot of the products in clothing tend toward yoga wear, t-shirts, items for women and infant/toddlers.  So, as far as I can tell at this point, the selections are somewhat limited.  There is more choice if you are looking for houshold linens and towels.

I think, for the moment, second hand stores are going to be the ticket for me.  That way I will not consume raw materials and I will help limit new uglies from being created in the environment (as well as not unknowingly supporting sweatshops).  Swapping clothes with friends is another great way to get a new wardrobe without being wasteful, and it would be so fun to organize a Swap-O-Rama-Rama.  The website states at the outset of their philosophy:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”  –Gandhi





Well, I have just flushed my first diaper! 

I have been struggling with the diaper decision for about three weeks now, and I am down to 5 disposables left, so I needed to make a decision.  The environmental adage that I have read over and over is, as you run out of a product replace it with something that is a better ecological choice.  So today when I was shopping the gdiapers and refills were on sale and I took it as a sign.

Diapers are filling the landfills and they take hundreds of years to break down, so every time I threw one out I did feel bad.  Three weeks ago I started removing the poo from the diapers before I threw them out, so that I could diminish my contribution to the creation of methane gas, and contaminated ground water from human feces being in a landfill.  Such messy business, because Riley just does not have really firm bowel movements.  But it was something proactive I could do at the moment.

Traditionally the diaper debate has been between cloth or disposable.  Well, it just got better.  Now you have cloth, disposable, flushable, and chlorine-free disposable.  With cloth diapers the down side has been the excessive amounts of water that it takes to wash them, and the inconvenience.  Disposables are convenient, but are clogging the landfills.  Seventh generation came up with chlorine-free disposables, which although do end up in the landfill, at least do not cause toxic chemicals to be released during their production.  gDiapers are flushable or compostable (the wet ones), but more expensive than your average diaper. 

They have an outer cloth pant (which is really cute), with a snap in liner, and you place the flushable in the snap in liner.  It is best if you see them, so check out their great website (complete with videos to show you how it is done).

I just love this decision.  It feels so right, and I am looking at the higher cost as my investment in a better planet.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Magic phrase: “100% Post-consumer”

I was recently shopping for some home basics: TP, paper towels and kleenex, and I was excited to find 2 out of the 3 with the magic phrase on them.  They proudly displayed their “100% post-consumer recycled paper”, and with glee I popped them in my cart.  We continue to be without kleenex because I have yet to find some kleenex that is made with post-consumer recycled paper products.  So right now, in sniffle season, the family will just have to be content with the recycled TP.

Paper products are around 1/3 of the waste we throw away, so imagine the impact if that paper was not virgin paper (and if everyone recycled the paper).   The virgin paper industry is really eco-destructive:  logging timber from ecologically rich habitats, polluting waterways, and being the third largest emitter of global warming  pollution.  Manufacturing from recycled pulp uses less energy, creates less water pollution and less air pollution.

Not all recycled paper products are created equally, and the highest percentage of post-consumer content the better.  Companies can also put recycled on their products even if no post-consumer materials were used.  If they are using up their own left-overs, even if it is virgin forest left-overs, it can be labelled recycled material.  So, make sure you look for the magic phrase when shopping.

The other phrase to look for when shopping for paper products is: “Made without the use of chlorine.”  Paper products have traditionally been bleached with chlorine to make them bright and white.  Manufacturing with chlorine creates dioxin pollution.  Dioxins accumulate in our tissues (we never get rid of them), they travel up the food chain, and they are carcinogenic.  Just to name a few of the nasty presents they give. 

The eco-friendly way to make something white is oxygen bleach, which breaks down into oxygen, water and sodium bicarbonate.  Aaah, something nontoxic!

Besides buying the best 100% post-consumer and non-chlorine recycled paper products, we can also use less paper products.  I have cloth napkins, and I have placed these in the container we previously had paper napkins, so they are the most accessible option.

Other hints I have read are:

  • print on both sides of paper
  • limit magazine subscriptions (read them online, or share a subscription with a friend)
  • use nonrecyclable paper for packing material or wrapping paper
  • reduce junk mail by getting your name off mailing lists
  • write notes & lists or create artwork on the back of papers that come into your home

When you have exhausted every other option for reuse then recycle every piece possible.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment