All aboard the zero waste train!

I can’t remember when it was, exactly, that I was introduced to the effects of global warming on Polar bears. It wasn’t until I learned about this that I started to care about climate change. I don’t think it had as much to do with the Polar bears, themselves, as much as it changed an abstract thought into a concrete fact. It suddenly became clear that what I do every day has an impact on the rest of the world. Because of my anxiety, I have quite literally thought about the Polar bears every single day ever since. When I leave the water running, I see the image of an emaciated bear. Same when I see trees being cut down or when we go on long car trips. It’s just who I am and how my mind works. The Polar Bear has become my symbol of change. However, through all these years I didn’t actually make any significant changes. More images of animals suffering and whales’ stomachs exploding with plastic haunted me but there was so much I needed to do that it became overwhelming and so I didn’t do anything at all. All it took was meeting some like minded friends a couple years ago and maybe one conversation to get the ball rolling and, boy, is it rolling now!

In honor of Earth day I put together a list of the first 15 zero waste changes we made that didn’t break the bank or drastically change our lifestyle but have made a significant difference to the waste we produce in our home. I’m not saying these are absolutely the first things everyone should do but it worked for us and I want to share in case someone is stuck in the same predicament and doesn’t know where to begin….

1. Reusable shopping bags

Have enough to realistically carry all your items and keep some in the car at all times for impromptu shopping.

2. Homemade liquid hand soap

Purchasing these every other week became a huge waste. Homemade is Easy, lasts a long time, works better than store bought, and cheaper. I buy Dr. Bronners pure castille bar soap with Lavender (in paper packaging). Using a cheese grater, grate 8oz- which is about a bar and a half- into a bowl. Meanwhile, bring a gallon of distilled water to a boil (The only way to get distilled water around here   is in plastic gallons so I just boil filtered water and it works fine for us but the recipe calls for distilled to be safe). Pour the boiling water onto the grated soap and mix with a whisk until there are no more chunks and the mixture is translucent. Then just let it sit for 12-15 hours mixing once or twice in the first 5 hours. It will look watery at first but suddenly at 12 hours it’s a solid jelly-like consistency. Use a hand mixer to make it smooth and break up the chunks of jelly then pour into dispensers/storage containers (we use mason jars). You’ll have to leave a little space at the top of whatever you’re storing it in so that you can shake It up again before pouring into soap dispensers as it settles back into Jelly after a few days.

3. Cloth Napkins

We purchase ours but you can make them at home if you’re a savvy needle worker!

4. Stainless Steel Straws

Love these!! The goal is to remember to carry them with us when we go out so that we can use instead of plastic when needed.

5. Stainless Steel/Glass water bottles

Single use water bottles are just the worst.

6. Homemade body wash in a glass dispenser

Super moisturizing and plenty of variety so you can find what works best for your body type. We use this with a wash cloth instead of any harsh soaps.

7. Wool dryer balls

Replaces dryer sheets without any problem. Just be sure to not overly dry your clothes as that creates more static!

8. Replace laundry detergent

This took a little getting used to because my husband really enjoys the strong smell of clean laundry and we switched to Crystal Wash reusable balls which leaves the clothes smelling faintly like essential oils. Other options are soap nuts, laundry stick, or homemade powder detergent.

9. Homemade body butter

I’ve made some for family and friends and it has been a huge hit! I use this recipe for whipped body butter but there are a TON of options online and they generally require coconut oil, almond oil (can be replaced with avocado, jojoba, or grapeseed oil), shea butter or cocoa butter- or both! This one is thick and on the greasier side but I like to put it on after a shower and let it sit for 10 minutes then pat dry with a damp towel. My skin has never been softer so it gets the job done and there’s no waste!

10. Opting for glass over plastic

Honey, vinegar, peanut butter, and yogurt all have glass contained options. They’re usually slightly more expensive (sometimes only a few cents) but I had to change my mindset. Plastic is not an option for us anymore so it’s just a matter of choosing between the glass options that are available. A few dollars more, if you can afford it, is worth it. Remember, Plastic NEVER GOES AWAY.

11. Shopping bulk food

Take your mason jars or cloth bags to your local Whole Foods, Sprout, Fresh Thyme, or wherever else has bulk items and fill them up instead of using their plastic bags. Some places allow you to weigh your own tare and write in on a sticker and at others you have to take your jars to a register before filling to get your tare weight so just check with them first. Do it once and you’re already a pro (Tare= weight of the container. When checking out, they subtract tare from total weight so that you’re not paying extra for a heavier container).

12. Reusable produce bags

I HATE plastic produce bags. If I forget my reusable ones at home I just grab what I need without a bag at all. They’re wasteful and truly unnecessary. I’ve gotten so many compliments on these reusable ones! Bonus, they have tare already on the tag!

13. Bamboo

We switched to bamboo tableware for the kids. It’s sturdy, beautiful, and fully compostable!! We also switched out our Charmin toilet paper for Who Gives Crap bamboo toilet paper because store bought paper is packaged in a ridiculous amount of plastic and detrimental to our tree population. I’m pretty picky about my toilet paper and these work great! I will say, they don’t look as pretty- without pattern and dull in color, but you literally use it to wipe your butt so….

14. MY MOST FAVORITENorwex Cloths.

OMG the Norwex cloths. They are amazing! I can go an entire month without using a single paper towel. As a matter of fact, after I purchased them I had run out of paper towels and didn’t buy a new pack for 6 weeks. So a pack of Norwex has taken the place of kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner (I still use toilet cleaner but there are people who keep a cloth specifically for toilets so I’m working up to that!), window cleaner/polisher, stainless steel cleaner/polisher. I use it to clean our wood tables too but will use a separate oil/conditioner to keep it looking fresh. I have 4 EnviroCloths with Baclock and 3 window cloths because I like to always have one near by but you only need 2 enviro and 1 window if you’re trying to be minimal.

15. Forgo

There are so many things that we get just to get and could easily do without. Being aware, and making intentional choices about what comes home is important. We’ve started making our own granola/protein bars, cookies, and cakes to take the place of store bought snacks that come covered in plastic (and usually preservatives). We still have ways to go in this department but we’re getting there.

Keep in mind that it’s a process. Start with good intentions. Small changes lead to big progress. It took me a full year to start remembering my bags every time I leave the house. Sometimes I would remember them leaving the house but then forget them in the car! Or when I shopped bulk, I wouldn’t bring enough jars so I filled what I had then used plastic for the rest. When it comes to less waste every little bit helps. Would you like to swim in a pool of 10,000 pieces of garbage or 100? Neither sounds great but that’s not where we are right now so we have to do what we can with what he have where we are (Theodore Roosevelt). Happy Zero-Wasting!

p.s. If you have any awesome zero waste recipes, ideas, or blogs please share them with me!

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Minding words and guiding love

A topic that often comes up among my mom friends is how to avoid jealousy between siblings. As with everything, I believe we, as parents, plant the seed. Many times, unknowingly, we do and say things that encourage siblings to resent each other- sometimes before they’re even born! It is up to us to help nourish a loving bond between them. It’s most helpful if it begins before a new baby is born but, if you’ve already passed that stage, it’s not too late!! There are always improvements to be made!

*This post is all important but a longer one so if you don’t feel like you have the time, or want, to read it all then just skip to number 4 for one that can quickly be implemented today!*

Starting out, I hadn’t intended on making these posts in bullet points but its easier to organize my thoughts that way… so here are a few ways (in no particular order) that we can help build a better bond between our children:

 

1.Participation

Our days are busy and there is always so much to be done and, if you’re pregnant, all these things take ten times the amount of effort to accomplish. It’s understandable that you don’t have the time to let a toddler help you complete your tasks. However, it’s SO important that, when you’re preparing for baby, big brother or sister gets to help. Putting together a crib? Let them hold the instructions. Let them try to screw something in or hold up a piece of the bed. Anything. It’s going to make the process a little longer but it’ll be well worth it in the end. Anything that has to do with new baby should include big brother or sister as well. Shopping for clothes? Pick two outfits that you love and ask them to choose the one they like best. Then let them fold it and put it away (or hang it) once you get home. If they show interest in anything that has to do with the pregnancy or the baby, don’t dismiss them. Answer their questions and ask them follow up ones. Do anything you can, before baby comes, to make big brother or sister feel like it is just as much their baby as it is yours (also, make sure to make it clear that they are big sibling and not mommy or daddy because I’ve seen this go overboard in the other direction and the big brother or sister wants to take over being the parent and gets upset when the parents try to do anything because they’ve been told it’s “Their” baby. Balance and clarity is key). Keep in mind that there are going to be times that they DON’T want to help or talk about the new baby. That’s ok too. Let them take the lead on their feelings and run with it. If you get offended when they don’t want to participate it’s going to feel like they’re being forced into it.

 

Same goes for older siblings. It’s all about participation. When one has something special, the others are there to encourage them. The reason for this, is that it isn’t always possible to have them all in the same amount of programs or get the same amount of presents, or whatever. Things cannot always be physically or monetarily equal. So, we have help them encourage each other. Help them see their place in what everyone else is doing. For example, When Medina (5yo) plays soccer, the younger ones have “jobs”. Amaya (3yo) is the water girl and Lana (1yo) is the cheer leader (she claps and screams). When Amaya has a class, Medina and Lana are waiting to give her hugs when she’s done and I help Medina come up with questions to ask Amaya about her class. Whatever it is, they’re all involved in it together in one way or another.

 

2. Honesty

 

Here it is again! Honesty is the basis off which all that I do with the kids. It’s definitely difficult sometimes, that’s for SURE! But, really, it makes things more simple in the long run and being honest with them has a great effects all around. If you want to teach them to be understanding, you have to give them the opportunity to understand. Just like adults, they wont always accept the truth gracefully. That’s perfectly ok. Just because they’re crying over the truth doesn’t mean they didn’t need to hear it. For example, Amaya and Medina share a bedroom. Amaya has to go to bed at 7 and Medina at 8. As you can imagine, Amaya was NOT happy about this recent change. I had to talk to her and tell her that she’s 3 and Medina is 5 and she needs more sleep than Medina does to be able to grow and once she’s 5 she can stay up another hour too, if she wants to. It took a few days of explaining it again and again but now it’s normal. She knows what’s happening and she understands the reason why. Also, It is now a part of Amaya’s routine that Medina hugs her sister goodnight and walks her to bed (participation). It would be so much easier to dismiss Amaya’s sadness about the change, or lie and say Medina will be in bed in a few minutes or something but the unintentional repercussions of that is resentment between siblings. Amaya will not understand WHY it’s happening and it’ll seem like we are favoring Medina. If something is seemingly unfair, explain to the kids why it’s necessary. Over and over again if they need it. Eventually they’ll get it and they won’t blame each other.

Same goes for siblings of babies. Explaining that babies have different needs (and maybe adjusting a little so that they can help with those needs if they want to) can have an immense effect on their connection to each other. Again, when things are seemingly unfair, take the time explain why they are necessary. I know some people will try to make things fair by saying things like…”ok you can stay up until the baby falls asleep”….but you’re only hurting yourself in the long run. Things can be fair without being the same. The earlier kids know this the better it is for all of you.

 

 

3. Get rid of unnecessary competitions

I restrict competing to actual competitions. Which is rare. So rare, in fact, I’m not sure they’ve competed against each other in anything other than a race across the yard. Not that I don’t find value in competing but I do think there is a time and a place. Neither of which are at home amongst the family while doing family things. A common competition is “who can finish their food first?!”- but it doesn’t matter. As long as they finish, who cares who finishes their food first? The problem with this is that, generally, one child always just eats better and faster than the other. For me, Amaya gags if she eats too quickly or takes bites that are too large, so she just naturally has to eat slower. It also really crushes her spirit when people point out how slow she is….but she almost always finishes everything on her plate so it’s unnecessary to do that to her. All it does is make her annoyed with her sister for being able to eat so quickly. Btw, it’s also a really unhealthy habit to eat quickly, so this is a bad competition all around. I was going to take the time to list a number of other competitions that need to go but, really, I can’t think of any that are good for a sibling relationship. A competition is literally a rivalry- and a rivalry definitely has no place within a family. If you find yourself saying “look ________is doing it better/faster than you” or ” lets see who can ____________first” just to get them to do things more quickly then take a moment to evaluate why you needs these things done quickly- if for any reason at all! Sometimes we just get into the habit of rushing for the sake of rushing. Slow down a little and help them encourage each other instead of wanting to “beat” each other see how quickly that’ll change their relationship!

 

 

 

4. Taking the name out of excuses

 

A small change in the way we speak makes BIG difference in how kids interpret a situation. When you say:

“I can’t help you right now, the baby needs to be fed”

they hear:

“I’m giving my time to the baby and not you”

instead you can say:

“I’m busy right now, I can help you in about 10 minutes, I’ll set the timer for you”.

Then no one gets the blame for you being unavailable.

Always rearrange your words in such a way that you acknowledge what they need and let them know when you will be able to attend to them. It’s very difficult for kids to understand how a parent’s time needs to be split amongst the family so instead of saying where else your attention is going to right at that moment, let them know when the attention will be back on them. Instead of “I need to help Amaya right now, I’ll read to you later” I simply say “I’m sorry I can’t read to you right this moment, but if you wait for me in your bed, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” then I make sure to do just that.

 

 

The right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do. These little beings are watching us and responding to everything we do so, even after we’ve responded to everyone’s needs all day, we have to pull it together and continue respond to their needs with love, kindness, and compassion and hope that we do a good enough job that they learn it and send it back out into the world as they grow. OH! And of course- chocoalte. Lots of chocolate, coffee, and Target are involved in the success of this….and all other things.