Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays.  I love the traditional Thanksgiving meal. I love that gifts are not exchanged.  I love that the holiday has not been hijacked by marketers and retailers -- possibly because gratitude is in many ways the antithesis of consumerism. I love that it is a non-denominational holiday that unites all Americans.  In honor of Thanksgiving, here are a few things I am thankful for.

Eco Gifts for Little Ones

Welcome back to Kelly from miskellany.

1. Stainless steel thermos or sippy cup

With all of the concerns about the chemicals in plastics, it is best to play it safe and choose nontoxic dishes, cutlery, and cups for children. BPA-free plastic is available, but stainless steel can be an even more durable option for safe drinking.

Two Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

This post is my kick-off of the Green Holiday series by Eco-novice and miskellany. 

Are you thinking about Thanksgiving yet? Here are two of my favorite side dishes anytime, but especially for Thanksgiving. Both can easily be adapted for special diets: dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free, vegan, etc.  Sadly, I can't remember the exact origin of either recipe (both have been adapted from whatever the original source was), nor do I have my own photos of either of these dishes.  Oh well.  Enjoy!

Green Moms Carnival: How to Be a Green Consumer

Welcome to the Black Friday edition of the Green Moms Carnival: How to Be a Green Consumer.  Whether you are trying to spend less, buy less, or buy greener, you will find insightful and useful suggestions within the posts below on how to green your Black Friday as well as your holiday shopping in general.

How to Be a Green Consumer

In honor of Black Friday, here are some suggestions on how to be a green consumer.

Don't Buy It. 

Do without. When I was a teenager, agonizing over whether to buy the red shirt or blue sweater, my mother used to remind me, "you know, one of the options is to do without." Before buying something, stop and consider whether you could do without this purchase. Ask yourself whether you would be willing to pack this item up in a few months if you were to have to move suddenly. Or simply wait a week and see if you can find a different solution (or source of satisfaction) besides buying something new. Perhaps there is something you already own (stashed deep within a box or bin in the closet or garage) which you will remember that you could use instead. Because I consider shopping with children to be mild torture, things often sit on my "to buy" list for weeks or months on end before I go to the store, by which time I often discover that the item that I once thought was essential is actually entirely unnecessary. It is not unusual to decide that I don't really need or want half of the items on my shopping list. I also tend to deliberate endlessly about any purchase over $50, which often results in me buying exactly nothing.

Borrow. Talk to neighbors or send out an email to friends to let them know what you need and you may find that you can borrow (often indefinitely) instead of buying. It's always nice to try something out first before buying it.  You may even discover that you don't really like using or caring for the item in question. Borrowing instead of buying is an especially good idea when it comes to any and all baby gear, since your baby will hate over half of it anyway.

Find it on Freecycle. Join your local Freecycle group and post a "Wanted" ad. Someone may be willing to give you exactly what you are looking for for free.

Rent. If no one you know has what you need, and you might only end up needing it short-term or aren't sure if you want to own the item yourself, see if there is a way to rent the item instead of purchasing it.

Fix what you already have. The ability to repair items seems to be a dying art, and getting an item repaired often seems much more of a hassle and even more expensive than just buying a replacement. How I wish we could have found someone to fix our toaster oven. But at least consider whether you can possibly repair an item you already have instead of buying something new. Here is an inspiring story of fellow green blogger Beth finding someone to help her repair her rice cooker!  A few resources for fixing it yourself include IFIXIT, the Fix It ClubRepair Cafe, and of course Fix-it-yourself Books, Knowing someone who is handy with mechanical and electrical items, as well as someone who can sew, can save you from a whole lot of unnecessary consumption.

Instead of Buying New, Buy Used. 

Craig's List. My favorite way to buy (and sell) used items. While you can save tons of money by shopping using Craig's List, it can be time-consuming. I have had the best luck on Craig's List with shopping for baby/kid items (clothing, toys, and other gear), small and large appliances, and furniture. Consult this savvy guide for tips about how to buy successfully on Craig's List.

Thrift Stores.  I like to shop for children's clothes, toys, books and gifts for all ages at thrift stores. Before I had kids and had the patience to try on dozens of items, I was also quite good at shopping for myself at thrift stores. Here are my tips for shopping successfully at thrift stores. One thing I love about thrift stores: if you buy something, and decide you don't want or need it, just donate it back to the store.  Your purchase almost always supports a charity, and you've done zero damage to the environment. One friend of mine actually views the thrift store as a place to "rent" toys (picking out the toy is the main entertainment, and toys are returned/donated after several weeks). I usually find my local thrift stores by "searching nearby" my house in Google Maps for "thrift store" but you could also try consulting a directory.

Garage Sales. If you are willing to get up early on a Saturday and have the patience to look through other people's castoffs, there are tremendous deals to be had (usually much cheaper than Craig's List or a consignment shop, for example).  Find local listings in your local newspaper or Craig's List.  Or just walk/ drive around your neighborhood looking for signs on the weekends.

Consignment Shops. You will generally pay more at a consignment shop than a garage sale, thrift store, or even Craig's List, but the items also tend to be better organized and in better condition.  You can also call the store and see if they have what you are looking for.

If You Buy New, Buy Green.

Buy high-quality durable goods instead of whatever is cheapest. Do a little research on reliability and quality using Consumer Reports or Consumer Search.

Buy the simplest model possible, so that there is less to break and a more likely possibility of being able to repair the item if it breaks.

Consider the amount of packaging (one of the best things about buying used = no packaging).

Buy local; buy handmade; support your favorite eco-friendly socially conscious businesses.

For gifts, consider giving products that reduce overall consumption, such as reusables or cookware.

Consult eco-friendly buying guides before purchasing. Some of my favorites:

What is your best tip for being a green consumer?

This post is for this November's Green Mom’s Carnival, which I am hosting.  Check back here on Monday for links to posts by other green bloggers full of tips and suggestions about how to be a green consumer.

Click here to read the complete Green Holidays series.

Green Phone Booth: The Push for Safer Chemicals

Today is the Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals sponsored by the organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

For more information about how to join this campaign for safer chemicals, including how to participate today in the digital stroller brigade, click over to today's Green Phone Booth post: The Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals is Today!

Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

Actually, I don't really know much about natural cold and flu remedies.  Note that I am not a medical professional nor an herbalist. But I have survived many, many, many illnesses with children too young to take common cold remedies such as decongestants or cough suppressants, as well as many colds myself while pregnant (when I try not to take any medications unless absolutely necessary).  So how do we deal with the stuffy noses and sore throats and other miseries of minor illnesses around here?

10 Places to Use Your Toy Roll Up

Toy organizer travel roll-up ($15)

The toy organizer travel roll up ($15) by Kidsstore features seven pockets of various sizes that can hold crayons, paper, and small toys such as a deck of cards, Hot Wheels, or little play figures. The roll has a fold over flap and attached elastic closure (thick hair band) to hold everything inside once it's rolled up. It rolls up quite compactly and could easily fit in a purse or small bag. I've already used our toy roll ups at church and at a restaurant.  These are perfect for anytime you need your child to stay put and play quietly for a period of time. The fun of simply taking out and putting back the objects into their pockets should not be underestimated. Here are 10 places where I believe a toy roll up would come in particularly handy.

Warm Fuzzy PJs without the Flame Retardants

By rolling the cuffs at the ankles and wrists,
this 3T 
Snug Organics sleeper fits my 2-year-old just fine.

Do you like to dress your children in fuzzy polyester fleece pajamas during the colder months, but have serious misgivings about the synthetic flame retardant chemicals in those pajamas? (ALL synthetic fleece pajamas for children above 9 months until size 14 contain chemical flame retardants.) Perhaps you've even tried to remove the flame retardant treatment from your fleece PJs by washing with soap or vinegar? Well, then, this post is for you.


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