Monday, January 23, 2012

Plastic-free New Year

Happy New Year!  This year I am looking forward to learning new things about how to live green and sharing these tips with you all.  The good news is, you learn something new every day.  The bad news is, you learn something new every day.

Unfortunately for me, once I learn something about the environment it's extremely difficult to get it out of my head.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  The latest example is that now I have learned more about plastics than I ever cared to know, and now I must incorporate that into my everyday life.  This article breaks down all the numbers in the magic triangles according to their recyclability and what these plastics are made from. Most importantly, though, it tells you that most of it is bad for your health.

Here's the breakdown of it all:

  • 1 is safe unless exposed to heat and then it releases toxins
  • 2, 4, and 5 are safe
  • 3 and 6 are NOT safe
  • 7 is safe as long as it's BPA-free.  

It says the plastic containers should be tossed if:

  • They're old
  • Have been exposed to heat (like the dishwasher or microwave)
  • Have been cleaned with harsh detergents
  • Are scratched or worn

If you have plastic containers:

  • DON'T use in microwave (even if labeled microwave-safe)
  • DON'T use to store foods that are hot, oily, fatty or acidic
  • DON'T reuse the take-out or disposable containers since they are only meant for ONE-time use
  • DON'T wash in dishwasher, and wash by hand instead

So, I went through my cupboards and got rid of it all.  Including many of my water bottles.  It goes against everything I've been taught in the eco-world to toss things, but as long as I'm putting them in recycling it's staying out of the landfill.

From now on, we'll use stainless steel water bottles.  I particularly like the Thermos brand stainless steel for kids lunches since they are shorter and wider and much easier to clean.  For leftovers I'll use glass or ceramic containers and will use any BPA-free plastic containers to store dried goods like Goldfish crackers or cookies.

Whatever I can do to keep the kids away from toxins or carcinogens and at the same time keep our environment a little greener, I'm all for it.  I toyed with the idea of going completely plastic-free but it's close to impossible in this society.  Packaging alone contains so much plastic that I wouldn't be able to buy practically anything from the grocery store, toy store, or even clothing store.

I'll start with baby steps, in the kitchen first and see where that takes me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cloth Diapering: Part Two

It has now been about 8 weeks since I've started cloth diapering and I'd like to tell you what I've learned, what have been the advantages and disadvantages, and my take on the whole thing.

What you need:
As I said in my previous post, cloth diapering isn't as difficult or as daunting as it seems. The diaper option I've chosen is the cloth diapers that pretty much look like regular disposable diapers. They're called "All in Two's" and I've tried two different brands: Bum Genius and Tiny Tush. They consist of a cloth diaper with snaps to adjust to the girth and length of your baby, and have a microfiber insert that you take out when you're ready to wash them.

Cleaning them requires a diaper sprayer so you can spray the poop off the diaper before you throw it in the wash. They say you can throw them directly in the wash if you're only breastfeeding, but I think that's pretty darn nasty so I rinse them out first. I bought 18 (at a deal of buy 5 get one free) and have had to do laundry every 3 days or so. I've thrown other things in the wash with them in order to make it a full load (things such as shower curtains or bath rugs) to be a little more energy efficient. I hang them up to dry so I save even more energy in the process.

What works:
You have to have a system, from what I've learned, in cleaning the darn things. I unsnap them completely before I take them off for a changing, and separate the microfiber inserts from the diaper. I have 2 wet bags (which are lined cloth bags that contain the odor miraculously),
one large one for the liners and the already rinsed diapers, and a small one for the poopy diapers. I then take the small bag to the bathroom with the diaper sprayer and start cleaning.

What I need to do in order to make it less of a pain to clean is to start rinsing them every day at the end of the day. Otherwise, they just sit in the bags and become a little more difficult to rinse off. Of course, I can't let them sit too long since I'll run out, but even a day in the bag gets crusted up. (I know, nice visual).

Also, after they have been washed I assemble them so they're ready to go when I need them. At night I put two microfiber cloth inserts to make sure they are extra absorbent and have one extra assembled diaper in case I have to change him in the middle of the night. In the beginning of my trial with cloth diapers, I found that I wasn't adjusting the diapers tight enough and had many leaks. It's a learning process but once you get the hang of it it's super easy and convenient.

I have even gotten brave enough to leave the house with cloth diapers in my diaper bag to change while I'm out and about. I did NOT, however, take them with us for our trip during the holidays since I didn't want to do laundry while we were away. Again, it's still less disposable diapers than if I hadn't started cloth diapers at all.

I think I'll buy another wet bag to keep in my diaper bag so I can use less plastic bags. And I might just buy a few more cloth diapers so I can go an extra day without doing laundry.

What didn't work:
I took a stab at the cloth wipes, but found them to be more of a pain in the ass because they're not easy to clean unless you get your hands all over them, so I just eliminated that out of the equation. Less stress makes it more enjoyable and more likely that I'll continue to do this. Yes, I'm creating waste with disposable wipes, but it's much less than what I would have made with disposable diapers.

So there's the good and the bad so far in my cloth diapering journey. I'll write another post once the baby starts solids. Something I'd like to delay as long as possible since I don't want to think about those poops.

Thanks for reading!