Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A little greenery goes a long way

Is your house or office making you sick? Over the past 3 decades, outdoor air quality has improved. However, as it’s becoming safer to breathe outside air, it’s becoming more hazardous to breathe indoors.

In our homes and workplaces we are assaulted with indoor air pollutants including:


Radon
Pesticides
Cleaning solvents
Paint strippers
Tobacco smoke
Air fresheners
Oil, gas, kerosene, coal, and or wood
Chemicals in building materials and furniture
Formaldehyde
Asbestos
and more…

The bottom line is you cannot escape exposure to some type of indoor air pollution. However, there is one way, a green way, to help counteract the effects of poor air quality in our homes and businesses. Not only is this an easy solution, it’s also environmentally-friendly and attractive at that!

The solution? Plants. Lots of green plants.

Houseplants act as neutralizers of harmful ozone. By filling a room with certain types of live plants, you can have 60% less airborne molds and bacteria than if you opted to skip the plants.

Houseplants not only help to rid the air of pollutants and toxins, but they also contribute to the humidity level indoors. One word of advice here – keep your plants away from drafts as they are less effective if they are located in a drafty location.

The general rule of thumb for effective ‘pollution-control’ is one houseplant per every 10 square yards. This means you’ll want to have 2-3 plants in an average-sized living room. Calculate how many you’ll need for your office, bedroom, kitchen, etc.

Popular houseplants to buy for the purpose of ridding your indoor space of pollutants include: spider plants, rubber plants, weeping figs, English ivy, Boston ferns, and peace lilies. If you have pets in your home, however, avoid ivy, Indian rubber plants, and weeping figs, as these plants are toxic to animals.

Beautify the look of your home or office while providing green sources of cleaner air. Loading up with houseplants is a win-win situation. Of course, you’ll also want to limit the introduction of pollutants by making healthier choices when it comes to cleaning products, carpeting and furnishings. If it’s advertised as good for the environment, chances are it’s good for you and your family as well.

Keeping it green and healthy,

Hana

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Giving it our all

That the situation appears hopeless
should not prevent us from doing our best.
-- Aldo Leopold

Monday, September 28, 2009

Breast is best...and not just in my opinion

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in breastfeeding whenever possible. I believe it is the healthiest possible option for babies and apparently I’m not alone. As a matter of fact, at least four prominent organizations agreed wholeheartedly with me:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • American Dietetic Association (ADA)
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)

That’s an impressive list which makes it hard to ignore the opinion that breast is best. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes it even further by advocating the feeding of breast milk only for the first six months. Once food is introduced to the diet, they also recommend continuing to nurse until a baby’s first birthday, and beyond, if possible.

It’s obvious that breastfeeding is cheaper than formula feeding, but it’s not just about not having to buy formula. Because breastfed babies are generally healthier than formula fed babies, they require fewer doctor visits or hospitalizations. That means fewer co-pays and less money spent on prescriptions and OTC medications. Why is this?

First of all, because of the antibodies passed from mother to breastfed baby, there are fewer incidences of diarrhea (which can lead to dehydration), ear infections, and respiratory infections, as well as cases of meningitis. Studies have also shown that breast milk is especially beneficial for preemies.

Additional research indicates that breastfeeding helps guard children against a variety of conditions, including obesity, allergies, asthma, and diabetes. Many countries are including breastfeeding in their SIDS-prevention campaigns after a study in Germany showed that exclusively nursing a child for the first month cut the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in half! That’s a startling statistic.

Breast milk has long been referred to as the ‘perfect food’ for babies because of its nutrition value and the ease of digestion for infants’ immature digestive systems. The components of breast milk include lactose, whey and casein protein and fat, which contribute to fewer cases of constipation and diarrhea. It also supplies many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for the healthy development of an infant.

Of course, there’s no debating the convenience factor when mamma’s milk is already mixed, warmed up and ready! No need to prepare it or clean up afterwards! Even the middle of the night feedings are quick and easy when formula preparation is not involved. And for those of you who protest because they want their husbands to participate in the night feedings, let me tell you what my late husband used to do for me. He’d go and get the baby and bring her to me in bed where I’d remain, half-asleep sometimes, and nurse my daughter. When she was done drinking, he’d pick her up, burp her, change her diaper and put her back in her crib. What a sweetie. If you have a husband willing to formula feed in the middle of the night, he’d probably much prefer this scenario. And for those daddies who want to feed their babies themselves, there’s always a pump available to accomplish that goal.

If the health advantages, the cost factor and the convenience of breastfeeding still haven’t convinced you of its worth, perhaps knowing that breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink the uterus will make you reconsider. In fact, there are many benefits to the moms who choose to nurse their babies. Research studies have concluded that breastfeeding is directly linked to a lower risk of developing the following conditions and diseases:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

Between the benefits to your baby and to you, there’s really no a debate here. The breast is best when it comes to your child’s, and your, health. And after witnessing my daughter’s success with breastfeeding while working full-time, I can truthfully say it’s manageable, even for you working moms.

Keeping it green and healthy,

Hana


Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm not too busy...or am I?

I stumbled across a wonderful little book today by Jodi Hills. It’s called I’m not too Busy and was exactly what I needed to read right now. While reading it did induce sadness, it was only because I was being convicted of my own busyness…my own self-absorbedness. It reminded me of mistakes I’ve made and continue to make in my life. It reminded me of how often I’ve been impatient while waiting in line at a grocery store or in a line of traffic. I wish I could quote the whole book here, but Ms Hills might not appreciate it. (Please visit her website to see the wonderful products she has created at www.jodihills.com/books.cfm)

I hope she won’t mind, however, if I share just a bit of her wisdom, because I think it speaks to us all, especially moms and dads who have let the busyness of their lives crowd out what’s really important…like tossing a ball in the backyard, carefully arranging a fistful of wildflowers, or simply sitting and listening to the dreams, the angst, a retelling of a day at school, a dramatic monologue of teenage friendships gone wrong or whatever else your precious children have to tell you. Please take the time to play and to create and to listen. We’re all here for such a short while. When we let the days, the weeks, the years pass by, there’s no guarantee tomorrow will afford us more. The only guarantee we have is that someday our time here on earth will end. There will be no more opportunities to toss a ball, to arrange some flowers, to listen to stories.

Jodi Hills writes, “Sometimes, when you’re not looking, days go by. I encourage my microwave to hurry, as I’m checking my e-mail, and talking on my cell phone to my friend who’s in his car, rushing to his next meeting, and we’re both worried that time is actually speeding up, but we can’t get together, because we’re just too busy….” Does this sound familiar to you? Is this what our lives have become?

Do we not hang laundry on the line because it’s so much quicker to throw it in the dryer? I’ve found hanging laundry to be a time when I must slow down, just for a few moments. As I reach for clothespins and snap the wrinkles out of a pillow case, I notice a pair of squirrels chasing each other up and down the oak trees. I see that the Queen Anne’s lace on the hillside is finally revealing its delicate beauty. I hear the song of a golden finch and search the sky hoping to spot it. I smell the lilacs of spring wafting across the yard. I experience life in a different way than I would have by simply tossing the wet laundry into the dryer with a softener sheet. Sometimes, when my grandbaby’s with me, she hands me clothespins and experiences the wonders of the backyard with me. The joy of hanging laundry was introduced to me as a child as well and I’ll be eternally grateful to my own mother for the gift of that. A precious memory. But I wonder how many more there will be. My mother’s 82-years-old now and lives across the state. I don’t spend as much time with her as I would like because, well….I’m too busy. Isn’t that tragic?

“Birthdays are belated. Children become adults and grandparents’ memories are forgotten.” – Jodi Hills

Where do we store regrets when we just can’t seem to let them go? Someone dies and we never told them how much it meant to us the time they stopped by with a bag of groceries when they knew we didn’t have any money left that week? Or who showed up to mow the lawn when we were newly widowed…or brought chicken soup when we were ill. Did we thank them when they sent the perfect card out of the blue, just when we needed encouragement? Did we tell them we loved them?

A child disappoints us and we let them know. But do we tell them how proud we are of them? Or how blessed we are to have them in our lives? As much as we don’t want to think about it, children die too.

After my youngest daughter left home, I found a notebook of hers and was paging through it. What I read there affected me profoundly and, as I write this, still brings the stinging tears of regret to my eyes. She wrote about how I was always telling her she could talk to me and then wrote, “But I’m getting really sick of talking to her back.” You see, she would come into my office to talk, but I was always ‘busy’ so I’d listen to her as I continued working at my computer. Didn’t she deserve some eye-to-eye contact? Didn’t the very presence of her warrant my undivided attention? What I would give to reclaim those moments. But days go by. Then weeks. Then years.

There is no going back and reclaiming time we’ve lost. We can’t Tivo life and hope to catch up on an episode later. We can’t hit the rewind button and listen again to what we should have heard while it was being said. This is real life and it’s going by, often faster than we think.

If your children are still at home, make sure they know you value you them more than your favorite television show or your ‘friends’ on Facebook. Catch up on your emails later. Let your crops die on Farmville. Life is worth so much more than that. It’s about people, folks. Face-to-face relationships. While catching up with friends and family via the Internet or telephone or Skype can be wonderful in and of itself, a cyber hug can never touch us the way a real hug will. LOL is not the same as laughing together over coffee. An emoticon cannot accurately portray our expression.

Our kids are looking for someone who’s not too busy for them. Wouldn’t it be grand if the person they find is you?

Thanks for reading,

Hana

Autumn. Changing scenery, cooler temps and gasp, firing up the furnace again


Autumn is upon us which means cooler temps for most of the country. As winter approaches, thermostats are switching from Cool to Warm settings, air conditioning units are being covered up and furnaces are being inspected. Some of us might not be happy with the news from our furnace man. It may be time to replace Old Faithful and while it might be difficult to fork over the funds to replace him, the savings on your energy bill may well be worth it. Even if your furnace gets a clean bill of health, if it has been in your home for 15 years or more, you may want to consider buying a new one.

New energy efficient furnaces can save you hundreds of dollars each year in fuel costs. Plus, because you won’t be needing as much electricity to run a new furnace, you’ll help reduce the air pollution produced by your local power plant, not to mention the overall improvement in the air quality in your home.

So if saving money is your bottom line, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. If the environment is your main concern, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. Or if your primary focus is on improving the health of your family, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. That said, it looks like buying an Energy Star furnace is a win-win-win situation.

Of course, ideally, installing a heat pump, solar hot water system and/or a woodstove are greener solutions, but if you must have a furnace, review your options, including the projected energy savings, before you buy.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, average savings for an average-sized home can range from a few hundred dollars to over twelve hundred dollars when replacing a 60% - 78% efficient gas furnace with an Energy Star furnace. Replacing an oil furnace can net even greater savings.

When shopping for a new energy-efficient gas furnace, look for a condensing model which contains a second heat exchanger that will pull in additional heat from the flue gases. Make sure the new furnace has a sealed combustion chamber to guard against carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from escaping into the air.

You can find a list of Energy Star furnaces and appliances on their website at http://www.energystar.gov/. There is also a savings calculator on the website that can help you figure out your potential cost savings.

Oil furnaces made before 1992 are generally only 50% - 60% efficient. Today’s energy savers tend to be in the 83% - 86% range, with some registering a 95% efficiency.

If you simply can’t afford to replace your furnace this year, keep in mind that dirt and neglect are the primary causes of inefficiency and failure in your heating system. Have an energy auditor come by and test for leaks in your ducts, where 35% of hot air can be lost. Also make sure you clean or replace any filters in your furnace every couple of months when using either your heating or your cooling system. This can help to prevent service issues and will lower your heating costs.

If you replace your furnace, be sure to check for tax incentives. Your energy provider should be able to guide you in the right direction here. Or you can visit http://www.dsireusa.org/ to see what incentives are currently available.

To get the best, most efficient use out of your furnace, make maintenance a priority and be sure to have a professional inspect it on a yearly basis.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A greener bailout


The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the “bailout bill,” has received its share of criticism. Rightfully so, in my opinion. But it’s not all bad. Clean energy programs are a good part of the bill in that they will not only create new green jobs, but they will also encourage the pursuit of renewable energy.

Are you aware of the 30% tax credit being extended over an eight year period for solar projects? While there once was a $2,000 cap on solar installations in homes, this cap has been lifted. Production tax credits for solar, wind and geothermal aim to promote development of utility-scale renewable energy. A 30% tax credit is also being extended for wind turbines with capacities of up to 100 kilowatts.

$800 million in bonds has been earmarked for a plethora of energy efficient projects and research.

What does this mean?
  • There will be an increase in renewable, clean energy technologies
  • Utility companies, businesses and residents can purchase or invest in greener sources of energy

Will the bailout bill produce the results it’s after? Probably not in all cases. But at least the government is demonstrating a conscientiousness toward environmental issues by including these tax credits in the bill. We can only hope for the best!

Keeping it green,

Hana

A greener way of life…it’s all about the little things

Little changes. Big results.

Here are just a few things to think about…and hopefully act upon.

Did you know that

  • for every aluminum can you recycle, enough energy was saved to watch TV for 3 hours
  • half liter plastic water bottles generate emissions two times the amount of gallon bottles
  • Americans throw away approximately 570 disposable diapers every second, and 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour
  • discarded electronics (including 130,000 computers daily and 100,000,000 cell phones yearly in America) contribute to the fastest growing global waste stream
  • recycling, instead of throwing away, just one ton of paper will save 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil 4,100 kilowatts of energy, 3.2 cubic yards of space in a landfill and 60 pounds of air pollution
  • a plugged in cell phone charger is still using energy even when not attached to your phone
  • clothes dryers are number 3 on the list of energy users in our homes
  • 100,000,000 trees are cut down annually to produce something none of us want anyway…junk mail
  • it only takes 3 months of energy savings to make up the difference in price of traditional light bulbs and their greener compact fluorescent bulb alternatives
  • Energy Star appliances are really worth it
  • it takes far less energy and water to recycle paper rather than making it from scratch (not to mention the trees it saves!)
  • the sleep mode on your computer uses approximately 65% less energy than leaving it on and idle
  • a single rechargeable battery can replace nearly 1,000 alkaline batteries
  • bars of soap are less expensive and save on packaging waste compared to liquid soap

Keeping it green,


Hana

Monday, September 21, 2009

Organic milk – a healthier alternative


My grandbaby, the lovely little Lady Laura, will be celebrating her first birthday next month. That means she’ll be ready to graduate from momma’s milk to dairy milk so I thought I better do some research into the best choice possible.

The first thing I learned was that you should never give dairy milk to babies under 12 months of age. Why?

  • Dairy milk is not only harder to digest than breast milk or formula, but it also hinders iron absorption, which can lead to deficient anemia. The most troublesome time to give a baby dairy milk is between the ages of 4 – 6 months, as this can pose a serious health risk to a child.

  • Dairy milk doesn’t provide the necessary amounts of vitamin E or essential fatty acids for normal growth and development.
    High levels of protein and sodium can lead to kidney failure and hypertension, even in young children.

Next, I discovered the reasons why you should give a toddler whole milk, rather than low fat, 2% or 1% milk. That’s simply because toddlers need fat and fatty acids for proper brain development. Most doctors don’t recommend giving a child reduced fat milks until after his/her second birthday, while others suggest waiting until after the child’s third birthday. The best advice I can give you here is to ask your pediatrician for his/her recommendation.

Okay, that all made sense to me, but why bother spending the extra money on Organic Milk? After all, sometimes it can cost up to twice as much as regular milk. Well, here’s why I found out. If a milk claims to be Organic, the following guidelines must be followed:

1. No antibiotics. One of the reason we’re facing an increasing dilemma over bacterial resistance is because we’re exposed to far too many antibiotics. When dairy cows are given antibiotics, it’s only natural the drugs will be present in the milk. Right there is enough reason for me to choose Organic dairy products. But there’s more.

2. No synthetic hormones. Again, cows given synthetic hormones are going to produce milk laced with these hormones. Not something I want to give to my grandbaby!

3. High in Conjugate Linoleic Acid content (CLA). These are important fats that are good for the body and research indicates a direct link between CLAs and reduced cases of heart disease and diabetes.

4. Cows raised on Organic farms enjoy a better life, plain and simple. They are exposed to open air and can graze in organic fields of grass. I want Laura to grow up having an appreciation for being kind to animals. I believe God gave us charge over the animals He created, and it’s not only a privilege to offer proper care, but a privilege as well.

It will cost more to provide our children and grandchildren with organic dairy products, but the health benefits far outweigh the price. Besides, someday when they’re begging for the newest electronic gadget, will we opt for a generic, cheaper version or will we fork over the cash, or plastic, to give them what they ask for? Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not advocating spoiling them…but then again, isn’t that what a grandma’s for?

Keeping it green and healthy,

Hana

What does that mean? Making sense of symbols

More and more symbols are popping up on product labels these days. If you’re like me, they can be quite confusing. For instance, what does Rainforest Alliance Certified or Fair Trade Certified mean?

Here’s a list of five of the symbols you may come across and what they represent. If you have additional ones you would like to share, please do so in the comments section on this page. Keep in mind this is only a brief overview.


Certified Humane Raised & Handled
This is the only labeling program in the U.S. dedicated to the welfare of farm animals from birth through slaughter.

  • Animals are fed a diet without antibiotics
  • No growth hormones are given to the animals

Green Seal

There are strict guidelines that must be followed before a product is awarded a Green Seal and it is based on the reduced impact on the environment and on health issues. Bearing the symbol also means a product will perform as well or better than others in the same category.

  • Household Cleaners cannot contain any toxic components such as carcinogens, reproductive toxins or mutagens. The product is not toxic to aquatic life and is biodegradable. The packaging contains post-consumer content and either uses bags or pouches to reduce packaging or is recyclable.
  • Kitchen Paper Products and Paper are produced without the addition of chlorine and contain at least 30% post consumer fiber.
  • Paints must adhere to strict VOC (volatile organic compound) limits in order to reduce indoor and outdoor pollutants. They are also free of 25 toxic chemicals that are prohibited, such as benzene, phthalates, formaldehyde and heavy metals, including lead.
  • Windows and Doors are energy efficient with minimal air leakage. They are manufactured with no heavy metals, such as lead, mercury or arsenic and the packaging has to contain at least 25% post-consumer materials.
  • Hotels that bear the Green Seal are certified based on their minimizing waste and use of hazardous substances. They also have policies to purchase green products whenever possible.
For a list of hotels and products that are Green Seal certified, visit their website at http://www.greenseal.org/.



Fair Trade Certified

  • Food is grown on small farms
  • Disadvantaged farmers receive a guaranteed price for their products

According to Wikipedia, Fair Trade is an “organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods.”


Rainforest Alliance Certified

In order to receive the Rainforest Alliance Certification, there are 10 principles that serve as categories for 90 standards that must be met. These standards are enforced by the SAN (Sustainable Agriculture Network) and include:

  • Protection of wildlife
  • Ecosystem conservation
  • Workers must receive fair treatment and good working conditions

A minimum score of 50% in each of the 90 standards is required for certification, as well as an 80% overall score. Companies harvesting the food must practice conservation of soil and water and reduce the use of pesticides.

Products that may contain the symbol displaying a green frog inside of a circle include:

Bananas
Benches
Cabinets
Chocolate
Coffee
Coffins
Cork
Decking
Flooring
Guitars
Maple syrup
Mousetraps
Orange juice
Paper
Picture frames
Shingles
Tables
Window frames

USDA Organic

There are several different labels for USDA Organic foods.

  • 100% Organic -- all ingredients are organic
  • Organic -- at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made with Organic Ingredients – at least 70% organic ingredients with stringent restrictions on the other 30% which cannot contain any GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

In order to be considered an organic product, food must be grown without the use of pesticides, ionizing radiation, genetically modified organisms, sewage sludge, or synthetic fertilizers. Meat, eggs and dairy products can not come from animals that were given growth hormones or antibiotics.

If you’ve ever considered buying organic products but then saw the price, you may wonder why they can sometimes be so much more expensive. Quite simply it’s because organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like their non-organic farming counterparts do. Their farms are smaller and organic farming requires more work.


I started buying recycled products (paper, aluminum foil, paper towels, etc.) after my granddaughter, Laura, was born. Every time I spend the extra money on recycled goods, I just consider it an investment in her future. That’s the same way we can look at spending extra on food and products bearing these labels. Investing in a better earth for future generations, as well as caring for today’s population across the globe, is worth the added cost in the long run.

Of course, that’s only my opinion.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A well-behaved nation

The nation behaves well
if it treats the natural resources as assets
which it must turn over to the next generation
increased, not impaired, in value.

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trustees of Earth

Let every individual and institution
now think and act
as a responsible trustee of Earth,
seeking choices in ecology,
economics
and ethics
that will provide a sustainable future,
eliminate pollution,
poverty and violence,
awaken the wonder of life
and foster peaceful progress
in the human adventure."

— John McConnell, founder of International Earth Day

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's worth it!

Once again, Heather Desuta has agreed to be my guest blogger. Read on as she shares her experience and expertise on cloth diapering. Thanks Heather!



I am by no means an expert on cloth diapering, but I can share with you what I use and what I do.

When I decided to try cloth diapering, I sought out all kinds of advice online (and from my ONE friend who uses cloth, your friend and mine, the Green Grandma). I quickly decided that if I was going to give cloth diapering a go, it needed to be with an all-in-one diaper.

What is an All-In-One (AIO) Diaper?
All-in-one diapers have an inner absorbent layer attached to an outer waterproof layer with adjustable closures (either Velcro® or snaps). All-in-one diapers are just like disposable diapers except you wash them!

Pros:

* Most convenient
* Easiest to use
* Most like disposables diapers (trimmest fit on baby's butt)

Cons:

* One of the most expensive cloth diapering options
* Takes a long time to dry

Many online consumers recommended the brand bumGenius™, so that’s what I started with. Because I wasn’t sure if I could commit to cloth, I bought 10 used bumGenius™, diapers from a seller I found on my local craigslist (go to craigslist.com, choose the city nearest you). I paid $10 per diaper. New, they cost $16. Ten diapers allowed me to get nearly two days of usage between washings. (It is recommended that you wash cloth diapers every other day. The longer between washing, the more time for bacteria to multiply, and they’re smellier and harder to clean. I don’t let mine sit for more than two days before washing.)

Before starting to use cloth, I installed a diaper sprayer. Similar to the sprayer on your kitchen sink, this sprayer hooks up to your toilet plumbing and allows you to spray the poop into the toilet. No swishing it in the bowl. I’ve never swished. The diaper sprayer I use is manufactured by bumGenius™ and is available both online (http://www.bumgenius.com/, http://www.cottonbabies.com/, http://www.amazon.com/)
and in select retail stores across the country. The bumGenius™ diaper sprayer runs about $45 and I installed this myself without any trouble.

Some words of caution: spray carefully! The spray’s force is adjustable, and a very strong spray can ricochet off of the diaper. You don’t want a bathroom covered with poop-infused water spray. Seriously though, this is a great product that I would NOT be cloth diapering without.
So, I started with 10 used size small AIO BumGenius diapers, a diaper sprayer, a $10 diaper pail from WalMart, biokleen™ Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator (http://www.bi-o-kleen.com/) and Allens Naturally liquid laundry detergent (www.allensnaturally.com). Allen’s is a bit expensive but is very concentrated. Truly, just 1 ounce per wash. I use a dry pail and spray Bac-Out on my diapers, then also put some Bac-Out in the washing machine.

Another note of caution: using too much detergent makes diapers smelly! You must use the right amount of detergent (will take some trial and error) and do an extra rinse. AIOs need to be rinsed completely of detergent, or they will have a very pungent odor. Every once in a while, I strip them with Dawn dishwashing liquid and once in a blue moon, I do a strip with some bleach. Then I wash those diapers again like normally, so there isn’t any bleach residue in the diapers. Usually, I line-dry the diapers. AIOs take a very long time to dry and are often not completely dry even after a full day in the sun. It seems like I always have to tumble dry for a while, too. But for me, the convenience of AIOs makes this negative trait tolerable.

Since I liked BumGenius, I bought a dozen size medium AIOs, new from the cottonbabies.com website. I got a mixed lot of colors and they’re actually very cute! Later, I ended up buying 6 “one-size” AIOs (again, from craigslist). I think that I actually like the one-size diapers better. You stuff the absorbent layer in the middle of these diapers, and it seems that since you take out the insert, it washes and dries easier. They are big, though. Snaps allow for size versatility, but I wouldn’t recommend one-size AIOs for babies smaller than 13 lbs. Teeny babies look so puffy in the one-size ones. I typically reserve the one-size AIOs for nighttime wear.

I got a lot of my info about how to launder cloth diapers from the following site: http://allaboutclothdiapers.com/.

bumGenius™ diapers can be purchased via the Internet or in some retail stores. Visit http://www.bumgenius.com/ and click on the ‘locations’ tab.

Craig's list (http://www.craigslist.com/ -- select your state and then nearest town/city) is a great place for used goods. I don’t recommend buying secondhand cloth diapers sight-unseen as you could end up with a stained or very worn product. With craigslist (or other face-to-face/in person exchanges) you can see what you’re buying, before you buy.

I estimate that I have about $450 invested in cloth diapers and products. When my daughter is potty trained, I should be able to resell some of my stuff and recoup a couple hundred dollars. So, if I stick with cloth, I will be able to pay less than $300 on diapering over the course of 2.5 to 3 years. Essentially, cloth diapering for 2.5 years the “expensive” way with all-in-one diapers should end up costing me about $2.30 PER WEEK. Disposable diapers cost, say, $0.25 per diaper. Multiply that by 7 diapers per day, and it ends up being about $12.25 per week for disposables. However, for me it’s not about the money (although the savings is a nice byproduct); it’s about producing less garbage and keeping our earth, and my daughter, healthier.

All around, the pros of using cloth really do outweigh the gross-out factor. It’s worth it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cloth vs. Disposable: Health Alert

If you’ve changed a super-absorbent disposable diaper within the last several years, you may have noticed a gel-like substance in the wet diaper. If it didn’t concern you, it should have. When a baby’s urine mixes with sodium polyacrylate, it turns into gel. This chemical is used in diapers to make them super-absorbent, but it’s no longer used in tampons because of the link between sodium polyacrylate and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Now are you concerned? Reports show a direct link between this chemical and severe diaper rash and bleeding of the perennial and scrotal tissue. Since it’s purpose is to absorb moisture, there have been cases where an infant’s delicate tissue is damaged as fluid is pulled directly from the skin.

The presence of sodium polyacrylate is not the only chemical in disposable diapers that raises red flags. Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching used on disposables. It is a highly toxic chemical, as is Tributylin, which is showing up in some brands. TBT is a biocide, which is used to kill/prevent bacteria growth. So what’s the problem with that? Well, the World Health Organization has rated Tributylin as having one of the highest levels of toxicity in products used commercially.

These chemicals, along with others, are linked to the rise in cases of asthma. My baby doesn’t suffer from asthma and rarely has diaper rash, you may be thinking. What’s the big deal?

How about the link to infertility? Studies show an overall drop in sperm count into today’s males. Of course, that doesn’t concern you now, but how will you feel 25-30 years from now when your son and his wife are unable to conceive? German doctors determined that higher temperatures are experienced in one-time-use diapers over cloth diapers. In these early stages of sperm development, there is reason for concern. The rise in testicular cancer has also been linked to the use of disposable diapers. Just because you can’t see a problem with the use of disposable diapers doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Since there are no government controls on the chemicals used in disposables, it is up to parents to do their research and decide what’s best for the health of their baby. We really can’t predict what harm putting your child in these chemically-laden diapers will do over the course of his or her life. But just the thought of daily exposure to toxic chemicals like dioxin, Tributylin and sodium polyacrylate for 2 ½ - 3 ½ years is sickening.

Sure, it’s a matter of choice. But at least take the time to make an educated one.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cloth vs. Disposable: Let’s talk money

When it comes to the money side of this debate, there’s no contest. Cloth diapering wins hands down. While the initial investment in cloth diapers and diaper covers may seem high, when you compare this with the cost of disposables over a two to three-and-a-half year period, the savings are significant. Add to that, your supply of cloth diapers can be reused with future children.

I’m not going to post any actual cost comparisons here because the costs vary greatly depending on whether you choose generic or store brand disposables or the more expensive brand names. There is also a wide variety of cloth diaper options and prices. Additional cost factors include whether or not you plan to have more children who can reuse the cloth diapers and the amount of months your child is actually in diapers. Research shows that, across the board, cloth diapered toddlers are potty trained much earlier than their disposable diaper wearing playmates, due to the fact that a child is aware of a wet diaper when in cloth, but does not mind wetting his diaper when wearing a super absorbent (and chemically laced) disposable.

One way to offset the initial cost of cloth diapers is to register for them as gifts. Do your research ahead of time to determine which type of diapers are right for you. Ask your environmentally-conscious friends which cloth diapers they use. Many prefer all-in-ones, but they are quite a bit more expensive than standard pre-folds. AIOs do not require any type of diaper cover, so not needing to buy covers offsets the price a bit. One of the popular brands of AIOs is bumGenius™ which boasts their diapers are designed to make cloth diapering easy for every-day people. The company estimates a savings of approximately $1200 for one child using bumGenius AIOs over disposables.

We use standard pre-folds with plastic pants, although we do also have a few diaper covers, styled like disposable diapers, that go over the cloth diaper and fasten with Velcro®. While a set of AIOs would be nice, the pre-folds are quite easy to use, especially since we use Snappi® diaper fasteners and not diaper pins. T-shaped, a Snappi® is made out of a stretchable non-toxic material with grips on the ends that attach to the diaper. Visit their website for more information and purchasing information: www.snappibaby.com.

Of course, the cost of laundering cloth diapers is an issue, but is offset by the added cost of trash bags (more plastic in the landfill) and extra trips to the store for diapers when you run out unexpectedly. Not to mention the increased visits to the pediatrician that are often necessary when using disposable diapers, due to increased and worsened cases of diaper rash, respiratory problems and reactions to the chemicals in the diapers. Tomorrow, I’ll address the health risks and issues associated with disposable diapers.

Basically, it’s just common sense to realize the savings of using cloth diapers over one-time-use diapers. If you pocket the weekly savings, you could reward your potty-trained toddler with a trip to Disneyland and not even touch your budget!

Keeping it green,

Hana

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cloth vs Disposable: An environmental debate

“You use cloth diapers?? Why?”

This incredulous inquiry is directed at my daughter, Jessica, and me on a regular basis. People just don’t get it.

There are countless reasons why we choose to use cloth over disposable diapers. So I’ll be addressing the various explanations over the course of the next few blogs. Tonight, I want to focus on the environmental repercussions of using one-time-use diapers.

I’ve heard the argument over and over again that washing cloth diapers causes more harm to the environment than using disposable diapers. I find it to be more of a rationalization than an actual intelligent argument. Here are the objections to cloth diapers and my rebuttals.

O. The soaps you use to wash the diapers are harmful to the environment.

R. First of all, it depends on the type of laundry detergent one uses. There are many environmentally friendly soaps to choose from. In the meantime, the waste water produced during the manufacturing process of disposable diapers is full of chemicals, such as biocides, solvents, furans, unreacted polymers, and dioxins, as well as heavy metals. Keep in mind that the production of disposables involves wood pulp, paper and plastics.

O. Washing diapers uses too much water.

R. Actually, it takes approximately 37% more water to manufacture disposable diapers than it does to wash cloth over the course of a child’s diapered years. 37% MORE! It is estimated that between 500 – 900 lbs. of fluff pulp and close to 300 lbs. of plastic is used to keep one baby diapered in disposables for one year.

O. It’s more convenient to just throw out a disposable diaper.

R. There’s that word again – convenient. Perhaps it should be the buzz word for the last couple of decades or so. Yes, I will admit, it is much easier to simply wrap up a disposable diaper and toss it in the trash, poop and all. However, it is also illegal to do so! Legally, you are not permitted to put human feces in the trash. Therefore, it is essential you wash out the disposable diaper before disposing of it. Hmm. The convenience factor has just dropped a notch. In defense of cloth diapers, isn’t it more convenient to simply reach in a drawer and pull a clean one out than to, gasp, run to the store at 2 a.m. when you suddenly realize the box of disposables you just bought a couple of days ago is empty? Once again, we’re looking at waste here – waste of gasoline when those inevitable trips become necessary. After all, there’s no predicting how many diapers your child will grow through in any given day. There are always those times when an upset stomach dwindles the supply rather quickly!

Those are some of the environmental objections I confront on a semi-regular basis. If you’re already using cloth diapers, you’re most likely confronting them as well. There is one more environmental issue worth mentioning:

Renewable resources – disposables use 90 times the amount versus cloth diapers
Non-regenerable resources – disposables use 8 times the amount versus cloth diapers

For instance, it takes approximately one full cup of crude oil to make a single one-time-use diaper.

Are you one of the people out there who consider yourself an environmentalist, yet you still are putting disposable diapers on your little ones? Or worse yet, the disposable pull-up pants? Do you support political candidates based on their stand on green issues? Consider the landfills. Nearly 1/3 of the landfills are packed with disposable diapers…none of which have decomposed as of now, which means the first disposable ever used is still resting somewhere in the bottom of a pile of waste, human and otherwise. That’s absurd when you really think about it.

Not only are the diapers not decomposing, but they’re also releasing harmful chemicals into the air, ground and water.
A matter of convenience? How about a matter of national (and international) concern? Not only is the environment paying the price of our laziness, but we’re paying with our health and the health of generations to come. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the health benefits and risks of cloth versus disposable diapers. I hope you’ll care enough to come back.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Monday, September 14, 2009

It keeps going and going and going…or does it?



Have you noticed that modern life is full of batteries? Our remotes have batteries, our handheld video games have batteries, our cell phones have batteries, our laptops have batteries, our toddlers’ toys have batteries, etc., etc. But, unlike certain type of batteries that boast they “keep going and going and going,” the fact is, they don’t. Eventually they die and we toss them in the trash, right? Well, that’s what I’ve always done. Little did I know, it’s not a wise thing to do, and is even illegal in some states.

Batteries contain cadmium, copper and, in the case of older batteries, mercury, which means they are considered hazardous waste! While over two billion batteries end up in landfills, they’re not supposed to be there. It is estimated that 88% of the total mercury and up to 50% of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream comes from batteries. This is a disturbing statistic.

The problems/hazards that may result from improper battery disposal include exposing the environment/water to lead and acid, polluting the waterways (because, when burned, the metals vaporize into the air), and heavy metal leaching from solid waste landfills. Remember, batteries contain corrosive acids that can cause burns and injuries to your eyes and skins.

So, what’s the solution? Here are some ideas to cut down on waste from household and alkaline batteries. Keep reading for dry cell battery advice.

1. First of all, become a better steward of your household batteries. Store batteries in a cool, but not cold, place with low humidity; heat can make batteries lose their charge faster. Make sure you clean the ends of your batteries before storing them. A clean pencil eraser works well for this. Keep the batteries in a non-metal container without other items because if they rub against other metal objects, they can short circuit and/or leak. If you won’t be using a battery-operated item for awhile, remove the batteries and store them.

2. Before you buy new batteries, check to see if you already have the type you’re looking for.

3. Consider buying items that don’t require batteries; i.e. hand operated can openers, flashlights that work by winding them, etc.

4. Purchase rechargeable batteries and a charger.

When it’s time to dispose of dead batteries, you have a couple of options:

1. Toss used batteries in a plastic container, away from moisture. When full, take the container to your local hazardous waste facility for recycling. Contact your local municipality for details.

2. Order a prepaid mailing package to send your batteries to companies for recycling. For example, you can use the iRecycle Kit which includes everything you need to recycle all of your batteries and hand-held electronics. Find out more at http://www.batteryrecycling.com/.

When it comes to dry cell batteries, as are used in cell phones, laptops, etc., many local stores will recycle them for you. Visit http://www.rbrc.org/ to find a store near you.

Other options include donating your old cell phones to charity. This benefits both the charity and you, as in most cases this is tax deductible. It’s also a good idea to contact the manufacturer of your major electronic equipment to find out if they offer a “take back” program.

A company called 2Recycle® collects and recycles rechargeable batteries from cordless electronic products, as well as cell phones, with over 30,000 collection sites in the U.S. and Canada. They offer free programs to retailers, businesses, communities and public agencies. Visit their website for more information. http://www.call2recycle.org/

Small dry cell rechargeable batteries include:

Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd)
Nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH)
Lithium ion (Li-ion)
Nickel zinc (Ni-Zn)
Small sealed lead (Pb)


Remember, it all comes down to using a little common sense, even if it’s a bit inconvenient. If we all start making small changes, we can make a huge difference in this world we’re leaving behind to our kids and grandkids. Isn’t a safer environment worth it?

Keeping it green,

Hana

Sunday, September 13, 2009


"We all moan and groan about the loss of the quality of life through the destruction of our ecology, and yet every one of us, in our own little comfortable ways, contributes daily to that destruction. It's time now to awaken in each one of us the respect and attention our beloved Mother deserves." -- Ed Asner



While I don't subscribe to the "Mother Earth" mentality, I do think this quote is worth posting. My personal belief is that the Creator gifted us with this incredible creation and as good stewards of the gifts He gives, it is our responsibility to care for it.


Keeping it green,


Hana

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The frog
does not drink up the pond
in which he lives.

-- Native American Proverb

Friday, September 11, 2009

Feeding without Fear

Our pets are an important part of our families. The following is an article I wrote that was first published in Pinpoint Publications magazines. It's about natural alternatives to processed dog food. After all, our pup's health matters too!


Feeding without Fear
Homemade Food for Fido

by Hana Haatainen Caye

February 2007 was a frightening time for dog and cat owners across the country. Every day the news seemed to report new products that were being pulled from the shelves, from dog food to cat treats, both canned and dry. Pets were dying from commercial food and treats and the list of affected pet food companies just kept growing. Premium foods, as well as grocery store brands, were recalled and pet owners were afraid to feed their dogs and cats. Imported wheat gluten, which is found in most commercial pet foods, was contaminated and nearly one hundred dogs and cats perished.

Consumer awareness about the actual ingredients of pet food grew and many pet owners turned to holistic and natural alternatives. Kitchen stoves were not simply used to prepare family meals any longer, as concerned dog and cat lovers started stirring up their own pet food concoctions. Problem solved! Or was it?

Homemade – the Right Way!

Veterinarians saw new issues arise as the pet food recall died down. Dogs were being brought into their offices with gastric disturbances, skin disorders and other problems associated with nutritional imbalances. The reason? Homemade dog food.

Homemade dog food is actually quite good for your dog, but it needs to be nutritionally balanced or the results can be catastrophic for your canine. Always check with your veterinarian before switching to home prepared foods. Most holistic vets believe that homemade dog food is best for dogs, but your dog’s unique nutritional needs must be met. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that it can be difficult to make a healthy meal for your dog.

Omnivorous, dogs need a balanced diet of meat and carbohydrates. Most experts agree that this means a 50/50 mix, although some promote 75% carbs to 25% meat and others a 40% meat, 30% vegetable, and 30% starch combination. Again, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian about what’s right for your dog. If your vet continues to promote commercial dog foods, consult a specialist who is certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. More information can be found on their website at http://www.acvn.org/.

Say No to Table Scraps

Do not assume that your dog’s needs are the same as your family’s needs. A well balanced doggy diet includes four parts:

• Proteins – eggs and meat, including organ meat* (liver, kidneys, heart, etc.), cottage cheese, peanut butter
• Starches/Grains – oatmeal, pasta, rice, sweet potatoes, finely ground seeds
Vegetables – beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, parsnips, pumpkin, squash, yams, zucchini
• Supplements – see sidebar
*Limit organ meat to once per week with a mixture of less than twenty percent organ meat with other meat.

A good sample meal would be ground turkey, rice and carrots or ground beef, brown rice, brewer’s yeast and carrots. This initial combination of foods will be a good introduction for your dog. It is advisable, however, to start off slowly when switching to homemade foods. Start by mixing the meal with the commercial food that your dog is accustomed to. Any sudden change in diet can result in digestive upsets with diarrhea or vomiting.

Cooked or Raw? Which is Best?

Of course, “fad” diets have started cropping up everywhere. There is a strong push for serving raw meats to dogs – taking them back to their primitive roots, but most experts do not advocate this practice and stress that meat should always be cooked. Vegetables should be put through a food processor to help with digestion. Cooked dog food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, but should always be served at room temperature. Try adding some hot water to the meal to help “warm” it up.

Garlic can be beneficial to dogs, as it helps to rid them of tapeworms and fleas, but caution has to be used. Garlic must be cooked. Raw or spoiled garlic can actually be poisonous to pups.

Knick Knack Paddy Whack

Another issue of debate is whether or not to give your dog a bone. While proponents state that dogs’ nutritional needs include the calcium and phosphorous that they’ll get by eating raw meaty bones, the opponents offer caution because of the danger of splintering. Fragments can become lodged in the digestive tract with disastrous results. Both sides will agree that cooked bones should never be given. Those opposed to giving dogs bones suggest grinding them and sprinkling them on top of the food for the nutritional value. Eggshells, which are rich in nutrients, can also be ground and added to the meal.

Foods to Avoid

As important as it is to serve your dog balanced meals, it is equally important to avoid feeding him certain foods. Vegetables to steer clear of include: beans, beet greens, bell peppers, chard, leek, onions, peas, potatoes, tomatoes. Other foods to beware of are:

• Any food containing the sweetener Xylitol
• Chocolate, nutmeg, coffee and tea -- can cause seizures
• Raisins and grapes – kidney failure
• Raw eggs – chance of salmonella
• Macadamia nuts – tremors, can lead to paralysis

Also avoid giving your dog moldy foods, yeast dough and fruit pits. While dogs need a certain amount of fat, too much fat can create problems ranging from nausea to pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening.

Why Bother with Homemade Dog Food?

Aside from no longer feeding your dog commercial foods that have ingredients that are questionable at best, there are numerous advantages to giving your dog a balanced diet of “people food.” The benefits include:

• Natural, unprocessed foods
• Quality meat (not fillers)
• Strong teeth
• Fresher breath, odorless stools, reduction in body odor
• Healthy, shiny coat
• Less illness and disease
• Higher energy level
• Happier, healthier dog

If you’re concerned about getting the perfect blend for your dog, there are other options. Sojourner Farms offers natural dog food mixes that contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and no preservatives. You simply add water and the meat of your choice to this all natural mix and can feel confident that your dog’s nutritional needs are met without the animal by-products, artificial colorings and chemical preservatives that are present in most commercial foods. Visit their website at http://www.sojos.com/ for more information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tears in a bottle


Today is the 20th anniversary of my husband’s death. While I am committed to writing about things related to being green and raising kids in a healthy environment, please indulge me on this one day to write about a man who died way too young and about the company who was responsible.

There is a chemical plant on Neville Island in Pittsburgh that is constantly in trouble with local environmentalists. They don’t care. As a matter of fact, they don’t care about much at all, except the bottom line.

On September 9, 1989, my husband, Jim, and his co-worker and best friend, Doug, were working at their unit at the above mentioned plant. For some reason, which is suspect, the chemical tank they were operating shut down. As a result, there was a spill that released volatile fumes into the air. As Jim was cleaning up the spill, Doug went into the unit to call his supervisor. At that moment, a spark ignited the fumes and a fire ball crossed the surface and surrounded my 6’4” husband in its fiery embrace. Doug was unable to reach him as he heard his cries for help. A hero on the ground responded by getting a fire extinguisher, climbing up to the top of the unit where Jim was, hitting him with the extinguisher’s discharge and carrying him down to safety. This co-worker, who never wanted to be recognized for his heroism, suffered burns as well.

Jim was Life Flighted to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh where he survived for 23 hours with third degree burns on 98% of his body. I will never forget the sight of him, nor the smell of burnt blood as it saturated sheets and dripped onto the floor.

The horror of it was only compounded by my having to tell my seven-year-old and five-year-old daughters that their daddy was never coming home.

A horrific accident like this…you would think the company would care. They pretended to. But when OSHA handed down a report three inches thick, their lawyers went to work. It was proven that the incident was 100% their fault. But since we live in Pennsylvania, I had no recourse. While people around me thought I’d at least be fairly compensated for the loss of my husband, I had to face the reality that would not be the case.

Had the investigations revealed a third-party was at fault, I’d probably be a millionaire. As it turns out, the Workers' Comp law in PA protects companies from being sued by injured workers or their families…even in the case of a fatal injury. The plus side of this law is that I did not have to go to work to support my children. Until the time I remarried, I was provided for with two-thirds of my husband’s salary and SSI. To me, that was nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the company who was responsible for my husband’s death. The OSHA report revealed that an electric box was located too close to the unit, which is suspected to have caused the spark that lit the fire.

The electric box has now been moved. The unit now has an alarm system. The workers now have regulations that require them to evacuate as soon as there is a spill. Hmm. Why weren’t these common sense factors in place prior to my husband’s death?

Was there follow up from the company? Did they care to check up on the kids as they were growing up? Of course not. The only follow up we had came from the Workers' Comp investigator who stopped by for his annual visit.

Forgive me if I’m coming across as bitter. Quite honestly, I rarely think about this, other than simply missing my husband. It just must be this anniversary. I wonder if anyone else remembers. Are Jim’s co-workers remembering him this day? Did one or two of them offer up a prayer for my girls and me?

Life is precious…and too often too short. Insidious diseases sometimes rob us of life. Drunk drivers veer into the wrong lane. Children ride their bicycles into the path of cars. Misled women choose not to give birth to their babies. People in despair end their own lives. Criminals, or jealous lovers, find ways to destroy others. The list goes on and on.

Death…it’s a part of life. But when it’s the result of someone else’s negligence and irresponsibility, it makes it just a tad harder to accept; especially when they cannot be held accountable.


That's why it's important that you take some time today to let the people you love know how you feel. Hug them extra tight. Say the words. Tomorrow it may be too late.

David writes in Psalm 56:8: You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle; are they not in Your book? God’s bottle must be awfully big, and there better be plenty of room for more. Tears are a given in life. Today, I’m going to let them fall.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Silence is golden…and green!


Something’s missing in the lives of many of today’s kids and it concerns me. What is it? Silence. Nearly everyone I know clutters their lives with noise; between the television, iPod, video game console, radio, CD player, etc., there seems to be no time left for quiet. Quiet tends to make people uncomfortable, and yet there’s such wealth in it.

Now I’m not dissing purposeful noise. There’s nothing wrong with turning on the TV when there’s something you want to watch. But why do people feel it’s necessary to keep it on even when they’re not watching? Not only is this a waste of electricity, but it’s also a waste of a precious commodity – silence.

Why is raising our kids to appreciate silence important? Because if we don’t introduce them to the wonders of quiet, it’s possible they’ll never learn to relish it. But what difference does it really make?

Well, for one thing, it encourages creativity. Our kids are deluged with stuff. Computers, big screen TVs, portable DVD players (we wouldn’t want to have to talk to them during road trips now, would we?), video games…When do kids have the opportunity to foster ideas amid all this noise? They seem to be operating on overload and that simply isn’t healthy.

Silence also gives children and adults alike the chance to recharge…to rest our brains. I know some people who even spend time in prayer with the TV on! When I hear them complain about God not answering, I can’t help wondering how they’d ever hear Him if He did!

This past weekend, my husband and I spent three glorious days in a cottage where our conversations were accompanied only by the sounds of songbirds and an occasional mooing from the cow down the road. There was a television in the cottage, complete with surround sound, but we kept it turned off until we decided to enjoy a movie together on Sunday evening.

When I arrived at Willow House (http://www.willowhousecottage.com/) on Saturday, I was tense and my mind was filled with the dozens of things I’d left undone before departing for this short break. By the time we left for home on Monday, I felt recharged and ready to face the looming deadlines and other tasks that would greet me as soon as we walked through the door of our house.

The quiet had settled down upon me like a down comforter in the middle of a snowy winter night.

Silence. It may seem awkward at first, but given a chance it will refurbish your mind and blanket you with contentment. And, of course, silence is green. It takes nothing away from the earth, yet nourishes us with its very essence. It is a treasure waiting to be unearthed. Let its riches reward you.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Debunking myths...can we always trust the rebuttals?

A bronze statue at Millersville University in Pennsylvania was unveiled the last weekend of May 2009. Designed and sculpted by my sister, Christina Haatainen-Jones, it was commissioned by Dr. Dennis Denenberg, author of ­50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet. Dr. Denenberg’s sister struggled with various forms of cancer throughout her adult life. The statue sits gracefully in the Diana Lin Durand Spirit Garden, created in her memory by her brother. With a desire to remind students at Millersville that life is wonderful and that we all need to strive to maintain it, Dr. Denenberg’s wish is for students to stop and think about life. Additionally, his goal is to raise awareness of breast cancer to college-aged women.

Ironically, there was a woman mingling among the crowd the day of the unveiling who was unaware that the insidious seed of cancer was sprouting within one of her own breasts. Fortunately, due to yearly mammograms, the cancer was caught in its early stages and the prognosis is good. If she were not able to have annual testing, which may soon be the case depending on what happens with the health care reform, who knows what kind of outcome she’d be looking at. But, of course, that’s a discussion that belongs on someone else’s blog.

Other than skin cancers (don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your little ones’ delicate skin), breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. This year alone, there will be an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S. That’s a startling statistic.

Equally startling is the evidence that BPA has been linked to breast cancer. In fact, in over 200 studies researchers have found that even in low doses, exposure to the synthetic hormone bisphenol A increases the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, early-onset puberty, and a variety of developmental delays.

So why are some people still ignoring the risks? Apparently an organization called the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) released a report stating that there is no health hazard associated with BPA…and some people have actually bought into their spin on things.

But if you look closer at the ACSH, you’ll see why I, personally, don’t trust their opinion. The ACSH is an organization funded by corporations…corporations with a stake in this issue. Remember, corporations are largely about the bottom line. If a baby product manufacturer suddenly has to change its materials and equipment, the bottom line is affected. Safety versus the bottom line. Hmmm. I wonder what many companies choose when faced with this dilemma? If they can garner up support to nullify the claims of the danger of a product, wouldn’t it be to their advantage to fund a research organization to do just that?

Now I’m not saying that is what is done. You can draw your own conclusions. I’m just suspect of the ACSH because I’ve looked at their list of corporate sponsors and some well-known names are on there; well-known names of companies whose bottom line would certainly be affected by a ban on BPA. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Before you hand your baby his or her next bottle, or your toddler a sippy cup, think about Diana Lin Durand and the Spirit Garden at Millersville University. Find a BPA-free alternative (like a glass bottle or a metal sippy cup, just to be safe). And then, when you get a free minute or two, pick up the phone and schedule a mammogram. After all, your kids need you.

Keeping it green and healthy,

Hana

P.S. A friend recommended two stainless steel sippy cups you may want to try: the FOOGO® by THERMOS® and SAFE SIPPY™ drink cups. Wares for parents who care. Thanks Dani!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bargain Shopping -- the fun part about going green!

On Friday I mentioned Goodwill in reference to dropping things off there. Tonight I want to refer to them again…this time by going to the front door rather than the back.

I am a Goodwill addict. There, I said it. If anyone knows of a support group for GAA (Goodwill Addicts Anonymous), let me know. Or not. I actually am thoroughly enjoying this addiction and since it doesn’t seem to have any harmful effects, I think I’ll embrace it rather than try to rid myself of it. Although my kids may be relieved to not have to cringe the next time someone compliments my leather boots and they hear me say, “Thanks. I got them at Goodwill for $3.99!”

I can’t tell you the last time I went to the mall, even though one of Pittsburgh’s finest is just a stone’s throw away – literally. But I rarely miss my weekly visit or two to Goodwill. There’s one conveniently close (about a mile away) and another, smaller but nicer one, ten miles down the road which I visit when I go see my chiropractor. Then there’s the one another six or seven miles north of that one and countless others south, east and west of the city. Pittsburgh is an ideal place to live for Goodwill junkies like me!

When I travel, I seek out local Goodwill stores. If there aren’t any, I’m sure to find a Salvation Army or other thrift store to deliver my fix.

I’ve purchased truly beautiful furniture, collectibles, fine china, designer shoes and handbags and countless gifts, brand new in boxes! It’s amazing to me what people will give away, but I’m oh so glad they do. Target provides the Goodwill stores with their salvage goods – most of which are in perfectly good shape. They may just be last year’s design.

A month or two ago, my husband and I were surveying our living room and we realized that only one piece of furniture in the entire room was purchased new. Even our 27” TV was bought at an estate sale for $30. It’s true we have an eclectic mix of furnishings, but they must work together because several people have commented that our home looks like it’s right out of a decorating magazine. Yet we furnished it at a fraction of the cost most others spend on their décor.

The best part is that we’re living with furniture that might have been destined for the landfill, except somebody cared enough to donate it instead. Now I’m back on Friday’s subject…which wasn’t my intention.

The purpose of this posting is to encourage you to consider thrift store and consignment store shopping. Why not recycle in this way? Of course, there are some things you want to buy brand new (underwear for instance – although Goodwill sells all of Target’s bras that were salvaged. I haven’t spent more than $1.99 for a bra in years!)

Most baby clothes look like they’ve never been worn. As a matter of fact, I often pick up beautiful clothing for my grandbaby that is still sporting the tags! A $30 Easter dress might run a mere $1.99. I will say, however, that I steer clear of the stuffed animals at thrift stores. Even though Goodwill sanitizes them, I still feel better giving Laura new bears, bunnies and puppies to cuddle.

Another option for picking up some fantastic buys of second-hand stuff is hitting the Saturday morning garage sale circuit. After closing time rolls around, many people hosting garage sales end up depositing their unsold items on the curb for the garbage men to haul away. Each purchase you make may keep something else from that fate.

So, the next time you go to replace something in your house, consider shopping around for a second-hand replacement before hitting the mall or other retail outlet. I know we need to stimulate the economy by flashing our credit cards and shopping for new merchandise. But, if you’re anything like me, you also need to think about your budget. Generally speaking, thrift store shopping fits right in. Oh, and don't forget to carry your cloth bags in with you when you go.

Keeping it green with an eye for a bargain,

Hana

Sunday, September 6, 2009

'Til it's Gone


"Don't it always seem to go

that you don't know what you've got
'til it's gone?

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."


-- Joni Mitchell

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Manmade Creations


"And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk and Man shook his head and cried, 'Look at this Godawful mess.'" -- Art Buchwald 1970

Friday, September 4, 2009

Trash night

I was driving home Sunday night and noticed something quite disturbing. It was trash night in our township and for some reason, in many households, it must have been a weekend dedicated to cleaning out the garage or basement. Alongside the road were computer monitors, adult potty seats, kitchen cabinets, old dressers, televisions (we can thank HDTV for that) and a menagerie of everything in between.

I got angry. So much of what was going to head off to the landfill in the morning could be of use to someone. When are we going to learn that just because we no longer want something, it doesn’t mean someone might not want it? Or is it that we’re just too lazy to drive a couple miles down the road to Goodwill where they’ll not only take most of what I saw, but they’ll give you a receipt for a tax deduction as well. How does it benefit anyone when you put usable stuff out on trash night? I’m willing to bet I would have found my share of plastic bottles and aluminum cans in the trash bags had I looked. After all, the recycling bin may have been a further walk than the trash can.

Do I sound irate? I am. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.

A few years ago my neighbors remodeled their kitchen. They had an assortment of perfectly good hardwood cabinets from a fairly large kitchen setting at the end of the driveway by the time they were done. There was absolutely nothing wrong with these relatively new cabinets. The wife just wanted a change.

As awkward as we felt, my husband and I grabbed our dolly and wheeled several cabinets back to our house where they found a new home in our laundry room, garage and spare bedroom. Another neighbor helped himself to what we didn’t take. At least none of them ended up in the landfill.

I just don’t get it. There are numerous organizations that will arrange to have items picked up at your home. There are Goodwill stores across the nation that will take most things, including computers, televisions and technological paraphernalia. They even offer a service to erase your hard drive when you donate a computer. They sanitize furniture and toys. They check for lead paint. They provide a service, not only to the community, but to hundreds of physically and mentally challenged workers as well.

I’ll get off my soap box now with just one last comment.

The next time you decide to clean out the attic or other room full of clutter, think twice before tossing items in the trash. Even if you can’t use, or don’t like something anymore, doesn’t mean it won’t be of value to another person or family. There’s an old saying that goes, “Your trash is someone else’s treasure.” Cliché or not, it’s just a part of being environmentally conscious.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Recyling Children: Adoption as an Option


Recycling Children: Adoption as an Option

Reality TV news this week is all about the Duggers, who are expecting their 19th child. That’s right, folks, 19th! At least this announcement gives the Gosslins a break…and all the rest of us who are tired of hearing of the trials and tribulations of Jon and Kate (God bless their eight!).

So, is anyone else out there disturbed by this news? What are they thinking? While I would completely oppose aborting this child, I would not oppose doing something to stop this recurring condition. Perhaps, if nothing else works, they should take a break from each other. Maybe spring for twin beds, unattractive flannel pajamas and garlic pills….lots of garlic pills. I can’t help thinking that 18 children would put a damper on bedroom recreation and private time, but where there’s a will it’s apparent there’s a way!

Now for all of you tired moms of babies and toddlers out there, can you imagine??

I have a suggestion for the Duggers family. Since it’s obvious they have a love of children and are willing to open their home to more…and more…and more, perhaps they should consider recycling. Recycling children.

There are countless children worldwide waiting for a loving home. They’re waiting to be “recycled.” For whatever reason, their birthparents are not raising them. Some are in foster care. Some in orphanages. Some are still in the womb. While there are not nearly as many newborns available in the U.S. as there were half a century ago, there are many, many children available; children who are praying for someone to love them. Wouldn’t this be a better option, perhaps, for the Duggers and families like theirs?

Maybe it’s an option for you. If, for some reason you’re unable to have a baby in the conventional way, you can still have a child “of your own.” Adoption doesn’t negate that…it validates it. Ask any adoptive parent out there. Is there less love for an adopted child than there is for a birth child? Not a chance. Our hearts grow with each child whether they grew in our own wombs (or wife’s wombs) or not. Does Octomom love her little ones more than Brad and Angie love their first children?

Recycling, folks. That’s what it’s all about. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having things or children that are brand-spanking-new. But there’s nothing wrong with enjoying things or people that are just new-to-you either.

And a side note to anyone out there who is adopted…your momma loved you. A whole lot. Take my word for it.

Adoption is just an option and this is, as always, just my opinion.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going Green -- A poem

Green to you
And green to me
Perhaps we see
Quite differently

Perhaps to you
Green’s kind of blue
A teal-ish kind of
Crayon stew

While green to me
Comes from my heart
Cloth grocery bags
Are just a start

Or light bulbs
In peculiar shapes
Or hanging up
Some thermal drapes

But when my green
Gets really sticky
Is when I wash
Cloth diapers – icky

I hang them up
On lines to dry
Save the earth?
I really try

Convenience
Is so passé
Recycle now
Don’t throw away

The landfills
Soon will overflow
With diapers, trash
And things that glow

With plastic bottles
Glass and cans
Old TVs
And broken fans

The time is now
To do our part
Let’s go for green
At least, let’s start

Hana Haatainen Caye
©2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Slippery Slope

I'm posting earlier than usual tonight because I want to give some extra time and attention to my guest blogger, Heather Desuta. Heather is a SAHM with a 4 1/2 year old and a baby. She runs a graphic design business from her home while caring for her little ones.

Thanks Heather...not only for giving us some excellent fodder tonight, but for gracing my page with this picture of your children and again, for designing my logo. I love it!


The Slippery Slope

Hi there! The Green Grandma asked me to guest blog for her tonight and was kind enough to let me choose my own topic. Here it is: slippery slopes.

I’ve been thinking about slippery slopes. How one decision leads you to the next, and the next, and suddenly, off you go. The thing about slippery slopes is that while we mostly refer to them in a negative way (e.g. one spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s leading to an empty pint), the fact is that good choices can also have a domino effect.

Earlier this year, I bought a hybrid. Up until that point, I guess I considered myself an environmentalist. I cared about the environment, but all I really did was recycle. I usually chose recycled and green products. When appliances needed to be replaced, I bought energy star. And my house was partly lit by those long-life light bulbs whose name escapes me at the moment.

But back to the purchase that sent me down the slope… my hybrid.

For a long time, I had been wanting the increased size of an SUV but was dreading the decreased gas mileage. While doing online research, I stumbled across something I didn’t even know existed… the hybrid sport utility vehicle.

I am not a car person at all, so I can’t comment on the hybrid SUV market, but I can tell you that I love my 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (and its remarkable 27-28 MPG!!) I was also loving the statement that it made… look at me, I care about the earth! Then I started to really think about it. I had made a big, conspicuous purchase signaling my concern for the environment, but other than my moderate recycling efforts, what else was I really doing? My second daughter was four months old, and I was throwing tons of diapers away every week. Hardly a great example of environmentalism!

Right around this time, I was helping my sister register for baby gifts. Registry gun in hand, I mock swiped a package of “gDiapers”—a product that has an outer diaper cover with a flushable/compostable liner. We laughed about it and scanned packages of traditional disposable diapers instead. Then, making a second trip around the store to make sure her registry was complete, I went back to the gDiapers and read the box. And something inside me said “YES!” Maybe I could try these!

I saw that a size small gDiaper starter kit (2 reusable covers and 13 inserts) cost $27 and a 40 count of refill liners cost $15. Being mathematically challenged, it took a minute before the voice inside me said “nevermind!” Not with my daughter using 8 diapers a day.

During my drive home that day, something crazy happened. I began to think “well, what about cloth?” For years, I’d been hearing my friend Hana (a.k.a. “Green Grandma”) talk about the benefits of cloth diapering. I listened, all the while thinking no way, not me, not ever. I’d used disposable diapers with my first child and never once entertained thoughts of switching to cloth. But after searching the blogverse about cloth diapers, I decided to give cloth a chance. I chose a brand called BumGenius. Turns out, you don’t have to fold big sheets of cloth, origami-style, and pin them strategically onto your baby. If you’re willing to spend some money to get the extra convenience, there are cloth diapers called “all-in-ones” (AIOs) that basically perform the same as a traditional disposable diaper. They have a waterproof outer layer, cloth filler to absorb, a soft layer for up against the baby’s body, and Velcro tabs.

I bought 10 used AIOs on craigslist. (They were in great shape, but I also stripped the diapers and washed them twice before letting them near Elena!) And you know, it wasn’t that bad! I was laundering the diapers every other day, and it was surprisingly not awful! I bought a dozen new cloth diapers and went from cloth diapering on a part time basis to using cloth only. My back was sore from all the patting I was doing, especially when I’d look at my empty, unused diaper genie. Then, Elena switched from being solely breastfed to breast plus rice cereal, fruits, etc. Cloth diapering became a little awful but not horribly so. I was using cloth exclusively for a while, but now I’m back to part time. It’s not the mess of the diapers that I find challenging, it’s staying on top of the laundry. It’s a work in progress, and in writing this blog entry, I’m feeling a renewed enthusiasm for the subject. Maybe I’ll set a goal of using only cloth next week. Even if I don’t meet that goal, at least there will be fewer diapers in landfills because of me.

So, I went from being your average recycler, to a hybrid owner, then a cloth diaperer! Green opportunities are all around us! When our water softener needed to be replaced last month, we bought a non-electric system that also uses less salt than traditional softeners. [Kinetico Mach 2100s / kinetico.com] When you start purposely seeking out environmentally friendly products, you may be surprised where you can go green. But beware--the slope is slippery! You don’t have to be perfectly green. Just be greener! Come slide with us!

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