Simple Reusable Gift Tags for Cloth Gift Bags

We love our reusable cloth gift bags. Compared to wrapping paper and paper gift bags, reusable bags are:
  • Eco-friendlier! We create less waste and recycling.
  • Cheaper (in the long run)
  • Faster and easier to wrap gifts with
  • Easier to reuse
  • More durable -- those paper gift bags only last so long when you reuse them
  • WAY simpler clean up (my favorite part)

But I did run into one little snag the first year I wrapped all of our gifts with cloth gift bags: gift tags. Those little card stock gift tags you tape onto presents? They just kept falling off. Tape doesn't work well on fabric. At least not the scotch tape I was using. Sticker gift tags didn't work either.

But I soon thought of a solution: reusable gift tags. I used the same idea as the one I came up with for the numbered tags for my Children's Book Advent Calendar Countdown. I made super simple gift tags using index cards punched several times at the top to make them easy to string along the ribbon used to tie the gift bag shut.

I decorated them with holiday stickers from my childhood collection (a little scary that I still have these). I put clear box tape over the stickers to prevent my little ones from peeling them off.

These tags work well for me since we generally purchase and wrap a set number of gifts for each child from the same people year after year (one gift from Mami and Papi, one gift from my parents selected and wrapped by me, one gift from Santa).  I also have made gift tags to and from "Tia," since my sister often spends Christmas with us.  I stash the tags with my cloth gift bags and ribbons for easy reuse.

How do you label your gifts wrapped in reusable gift bags or fabric?

Related Posts

If I Can Sew This, So Can You: DIY Reusable Gift Bags
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle while Wrapping Gifts
Children's Book Advent Calendar with an Eco-friendly Twist
Eco-novice's Green Gift Guide

For more great ideas on being green 
and saving green during the holidays, 

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Gifts that Encourage a Child's Sense of Wonder About Nature

Children are natural scientists and love to explore the world around them. But sometimes their enthusiasm for the natural world wanes as they grow up and become engaged in friendships, structured activities, and technology. Here are some gifts to encourage your child's sense of wonder about the natural world.


There is no shortage of fabulous non-fiction children's literature about the natural world. Just the other day I found a "Like New" used hardcover copy of an amazing encyclopedia of extinct animals. My kids and I have particularly enjoyed books for the backyard naturalist. Our favorite books about trees include:

For a long time my daughter's favorite book was Are You a Snail?, one of the books in the Backyard Books series, all about the little creatures you might encounter in your own yard.

We also have several books in the series of Take Along Guides for kids, including:

I also recommend investing in some guides for grown-ups about your own area's flora and fauna. My children have loved pouring over these, if only to look at the pictures, and they are great to take on hikes and outings (along with the Take Along Guides mentioned above) to help identify any wildlife or plants you might encounter.

Recently at the library I found the book Where Does My Shadow Sleep: A Parent's Guide to Exploring Science with Children's Books, which includes chapters on exploring the natural world. Find additional ideas for books about the natural world in Bugs, Bogs, Bats, and Books: Sharing nature with children through reading, published by the American Library Association (contains book descriptions, no activities).

Green Sisterhood Etsy Handmade Giveaway

2013 has been a great year for Eco-novice and to help show my appreciation to all of you readers, followers, and fans, I am excited to be able to co-host this incredible handmade giveaway from the Green Sisterhood. Loyal Eco-novice readers know that I am a big Etsy fan, and I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to these eco-friendly sellers and their fabulous handmade products. One person will win all of these items, a total retail value of over $200!

Thank you again for being part of this community. Good luck!

Note to email subscribers: You will need to visit the post to enter the giveaway. Click here to go to the post and enter.

Green Sisterhood's Eco-Friendly Holiday Handmade Giveaway!

1) Herban Lifestyle - Man's Grooming Set $40 
3) House of Metalworks - Yoga Hamsa Necklace $23 
4) Happy Earth Tea - Organic Immune Boosting Tea $12 
5) Crunchy Betty - Exquisite Cleansing Oil $15.50 
6) HerbanLuxe - Vegan Mascara $11.75 
7) Reiter8 - Clutch made from boat sail $23 
8) ecokaren - Eco Fabric Modal Scarf $30 
9) Snackaby - Food Safe Reusable Snack Bags $23 
10) Juniper Mercantile - Organic Unbleached Cotton Towels $15

And to improve your chances of winning, check out these participating bloggers. You can use the rafflecopter widgets on their blogs to gain additional entries.

Here is how to enter. If you can't see the widget below, CLICK HERE TO SEE the FORM AND ENTER a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: The giveaway is for US and Canada residents only and ends on Monday at 11:59PM EST, December 16, 2013. Please read the Terms and Conditions at the end of the Rafflecopter widget before entering. By entering, you are agreeing to subscribe to Green Sisterhood's email newsletter.

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Eco-novice's Favorite Kind of Toy: Wood Stacking Toys by Grimms

In my six-plus years as a parent, I've acquired and discarded a large number of toys. Some toys broke, some were made of possibly toxic materials, others were too annoying for the adults or overstimulating for the kids, and many quickly lost their appeal and were soon ignored. So I now have some well-defined preferences when it comes to owning toys.

Eco-novice's Toy Preferences

  • Quality over quantity
  • Natural, sustainable, and completely non-toxic materials
  • Aesthetically-pleasing
  • Open-ended to facilitate creativity and imaginative play
  • Durable
  • Appealing to a wide age-span (including adults)
  • Created by a business I can enthusiastically support
  • Worth saving for the grandkids

If I had it all to do again, I would own only these types of toys. In every way, our Grimm's toys fit perfectly with this philosophy.

Use a Pillowcase to Wrap a Large Gift {Easy Eco-tip Tuesday}

Today's Easy Eco-tip:
Use a pillowcase to wrap an especially large gift, rather than burn through half a roll of wrapping paper. Keep your eye out for festive, fun, and colorful pillowcases to use for gift wrap whenever you shop at the thrift store, or just use what you've already got. If you don't like the pillowcase idea, consider wrapping a large gift in a sheet or blanket (could be part of the gift) or, my personal favorite, stash the large gift in a closet or car trunk and send the recipient on a treasure hunt to find it.

Pillowcases make excellent extra-large reusable gift bags (I wrapped my yoga mat for the photo above). They can be tied off at the top with a ribbon, or for flat gifts like a box you can fold the pillowcase closed and criss-cross wrap with a ribbon to hold it shut (see photos in this post to see what I mean).

For oodles of additional eco-friendly and budget-friendly ways to wrap your gifts, check out my post Reduce, Reuse, Recycle while Wrapping Gifts.

Click here to browse the complete Green Holidays series.

For more Easy Eco-tips, click here.

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Stocking Up on Organic Unders on Cyber Monday

My 2yo in the Organic Cotton Training Unders.
They are thicker than the Classic Girls Unders but have similar fit and coverage.

So I did it. I invested in the organic cotton underwear for my kids. It's hard for me to cough up the money for organic cotton clothing. I like to get my clothes second-hand from family members, friends, or thrift stores. Underwear is one of the few things I do buy new though, and if you are going to invest in organic clothing, it might as well be the stuff directly against your child's sensitive areas all day. The fact that Hanna Andersson is having possibly its best sale of the year (15% off plus free shipping) helped ease my sticker shock a little. I ordered one each of several different kinds of under clothes for my kids a little while ago, and am stocking up on the ones we liked best. If you buy two or more sets of certain under clothes the discount is even greater than 15%.

Here is what I ordered from Hanna Andersson:

Let the Countdown Begin

I have wrapped 24 children's holiday books for our advent countdown. We started this tradition last year and I love it. Already the kids are remembering and anticipating their favorite books from last year. I was able to wrap all of our books with the gift bags I sewed a couple of years ago, plus a few sheet set bags and one old thin receiving blanket. You can read all the details, including how to make this work if you don't have 24 books or 24 gift bags, in last year's post.

I had my 4yo help me put them in order for a little number practice.

Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree and decorated it with our LED lights (last year's upgrade) and our stash of ornaments. It smells fabulous. I have plans to make salt dough ornaments with my kids this year. After dinner, we watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. This morning, my children have taken every ornament off the tree as part of their reenactment of the Grinch.

We celebrated my toddler turning 2 last month, and one of everyone's favorite gifts was the Uncle Goose Spanish ABC blocks. Our cheapy Melissa & Doug wooden alphabet blocks just do not compare in any way. So when I saw these Uncle Goose Christmas blocks, I decided to add them to our Christmas decor. (Disregard the crappy reviews: it's because they used to have the wrong product photos displayed. You can see additional views of the blocks currently for sale here.) I love holiday decorations that can be handled and played with by little ones.

One year I even made a list of child-friendly nativities I loved on Etsy. I didn't buy any of them because we already have three child-friendly nativities, but I love to admire them and think about buying them just the same.

Have you started decorating for the holidays yet?
What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Click here to browse the complete Green Holidays series.

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Shop Green on Black Friday

I don't have to take any pledges to stay home from shopping Thanksgiving evening. Or even on Black Friday. Because I dislike shopping and dislike crowds, so there you go. No Black Friday shopping for me.

Except online. Black Friday is a great time to purchase some of those green products that have been sitting on your wish list for a while.

Thanksgiving Turkey Nature Craft with Fall Leaves

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know you'll be relieved to know that my natural leaf garlands still look great.

I noticed while collecting leaves that the abundant leaves from my neighbor's tree looked a lot like....turkey feathers.

It would have been much easier to glue the leaves down if we had pressed them overnight inside heavy books. Instead, we glued them so they would stay put long enough for us to glue the turkey's body on top of them, and then we pressed them flat while the glue dried.

Gobble, gobble!

Hope you get to spend time this week surrounded by loved ones.
Thank you for reading, commenting, and being a part of this little blog.

Click here to read the complete Green Holidays series.

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

The Non-toxic Avenger: Book Review and Giveaway

It’s time for Eco-novice’s Great Green Guide Giveaway, during which I will be giving away at least four different books about green living. These are books from my own library that I am ready to pass on to another eco-novice.

This book by green blogger Deanna Duke (a.k.a. The Crunchy Chicken) chronicles Duke's efforts to live free of toxic chemicals. Duke, who is a long-time environmentalist and parent of two, used to believe that products sold in stores were generally safe since the FDA said they were. Although she started to think otherwise after reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck, still she was satisfied to let other environmentalists focus on toxins in products while she concerned herself with reducing waste and energy use. Then in 2007 Deanna received a "Double Whammy": members of her family were diagnosed with autism and cancer. Deanna was forced to confront the reality that environmental toxins, including those her family was exposed to through the use of everyday supposedly safe products, most likely played a role in these conditions. She then undertook a mission to reduce her family's exposure to toxic chemicals. The Non-Toxic Avenger chronicles these efforts. 

Unlike most green guides, The Non-Toxic Avenger is not organized by rooms or by types of toxins. Instead Duke's book is chronological, and reads a lot like a series of blog posts. If you like Duke's blog Crunchy Chicken, you’ll probably enjoy her book. The book does have a great index and lots of descriptive subheadings, which makes it easy to go back and find particular sections later. One of the strengths of Duke's book is that it really shows what trying to eliminate toxic chemicals is like, how difficult and maddening it can be. The incomplete labels. The endless internet research. The intransigent family members. How you think you’ve said goodbye to Teflon or BPA or phthalates, and then there it is again in a new guise. It's also fascinating how Duke gets herself tested for a variety of toxic substances before and after her numerous lifestyle changes to see if her levels changed. Finally, in her book Duke names specific products she and her family loved or hated. I found these explicit product recommendations (and criticisms) very helpful, and have since tried and enjoyed many of her recommendations.

You can read an excerpt from The Non-Toxic Avenger in this blog post.

You can read my interview with Deanna Duke about her transformation from a trusting consumer to the Non-Toxic Avenger in this blog post.


Enter to win The Non-Toxic Avenger below. The book is in used condition, and has some underlining of the text. Contest is open only to those with a U.S. mailing address, since I will be mailing it by media mail. Giveaway ends December 14. Hopefully, you’ll receive them in time for gift giving! You need a rafflecopter log in to enter below -- I'm hoping that's less hassle for you than leaving your email in the comments! 

Stay tuned for additional giveaways!

Upcoming Giveaways in the Great Green Guide Giveaway

Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home by Christopher Gavigan
And possibly more! (I'm still deliberating about a few.)
Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post two or three times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

DIY Fall Garland Made with Real Autumn Leaves

I was thinking of making some kind of Thanksgiving banner this year. And while browsing Etsy and Pinterest for easy Thanksgiving banner ideas I had a stroke of insight. Why not make a banner/ garland out of real fall leaves?

I am not a very crafty person. But I do excel at something: collecting leaves. My kids and I love to collect leaves and other natural objects that have fallen from trees and plants. And fall is one of our favorite times to go for a Nature Treasure Walk, as we like to call them.

Now I'm sure at least 100 other people have already posted how to make a natural leaf garland on Pinterest. But I want you to know that I came up with this idea all by myself, and I'm pretty pleased about that.

If you'd like to make your own fall leaf garland, and are lucky to live in a nice moderate climate like mine where the trees are still losing leaves, here are the steps.

[Check out this post for photos of the leaf banner I made with my 5yo in 2017.]

Another Craig's List Success Story

Actual photo on Craig's List.

I thought I would share with all of you my latest Craig's List find.

Two days ago my daughters asked me to attend their puppet show. They have been very into puppet shows lately.

While watching them perform this show while unsuccessfully ducking behind pillows on their bed I thought, maybe we should buy a puppet theater.

Of course I could make a puppet theater, but I've had that thought about a dozen times already with nothing coming of it. I know myself well enough to know that I probably won't get around to making a puppet theater until my kids are too old to enjoy it. Or I'd make a cheap and fast one out of cardboard which my toddler would destroy within a week.

Six Simple Steps to a Paperless Kitchen

1. Switch to cloth napkins.

Not ready to commit to a paperless kitchen? Still in love with paper towels? Just try switching to cloth napkins. You'll feel like you are eating in a fancy high-end restaurant every night! We use a mish-mash of cloth napkins at my house. I like cotton napkins that are somewhat absorbent best, because then they can soak up a spill in a pinch. We use our cloth napkins for a full day (sometimes longer) before washing. We just leave them on the table between meals. You can get different napkin rings if you want to make sure each family member reuses the same napkin.

Sweets and Treats I Let My Kids Eat

Halloween is just a few days away and I've been making my preparations for the Switch Witch's visit. My children leave all their candy for the Switch Witch on Halloween night, and in return she leaves them a gift and a small quantity of better (less bad) candy. I've resigned myself to the fact that my children will get lots of extra sugar on many occasions and holidays throughout the year, but I'd like to avoid feeding them the food additives and other weird ingredients that often accompany the sugar. Ingredients such as:

I also like to avoid chocolate produced by child slave labor (pretty much all chocolate in mainstream candy, sadly). Yes, I do realize, I'm sucking all the joy out of eating candy.

Here are a few of the treats I let my kids eat:

I actually have some of these treats on hand at all times, because I've learned that people love to throw candy and treats at children at all times of the year, and I always need to be ready to make an exchange.

But I wonder how long I'll be able to keep this up. 

If you have older kids or teenagers, how do handle Halloween and other occasions filled with candy (Easter, Valentines, etc.)?

And on a related note, there is the dilemma of what to do with the conventional candy I collect from my kids. If you have a solution for that, click over and comment on this week's Green Phone Booth post.

Related Posts

Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post two or three times a week). You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

The Poop Report: Diapering and Pottying at 21 Months

Sometime in the last month of so, I started to think of my 21-month-old toddler as more or less potty trained. Or, at least, I'm no longer really making any active effort to train her. Here are some reasons why:
  • She used a toilet in a public restroom (with my assistance, of course) two days in a row.
  • She regularly announces that she needs to pee and poop and then goes to the bathroom with me.
  • She is always dry in the morning and after naps.
  • She almost never has an accident outside of the house. I can't remember the last time we had to restock the back-up underwear and pants in my van.
  • She has taken off her underpants and used the potty by herself (although this is still an infrequent occurrence).
  • We often go more than a week without washing cloth diapers (mostly training pants/underwear and wipes these days).

She still has accidents regularly. I'm going to guesstimate 2 to 5 a week. The main reasons for accidents are:
  • She needs to poop and doesn't want to. I have learned that when my daughter refuses to pee even though I know she needs to go (for example, it's 2 hours after she woke up dry from a nap), it's probably because she needs to poop and doesn't want to. I have to pull out all the stops to get her on the potty in these situations.
  • She's playing outside. Usually I'm not outside with her, but sometimes even when I am. For some reason, she just feels A-OK about peeing in her pants in the great outdoors. When I remember, I try to get her to use the potty before playing outside. A few times she has taken off her shoes and come inside to tell me she needed to go, but that is (not surprisingly) very rare.

Almost Plastic-free Pizza

I did it! I finally found a tomato sauce jarred in glass that works as a base for my sauce for our Friday night pizza!

Eden Organic's Crushed Tomatoes are thick and just barely chunky ("screen-finished" rather than pureed), and come in several varieties (roasted garlic and onion, sweet basil, plain). I think I like the garlic and onion one the best, but I've tried them all and they all work. I buy them in bulk at Whole Foods every couple of months. I should probably ask Whole Foods about getting the case discount. You can also purchase directly from Eden Organic. One 25 oz. jar costs about $4, but since the jar is almost double the size of a can, I get two weeks' worth of pizza out of it (the sauce lasts fine for at least a week stored in the fridge) and it ends up costing me about the same as the Muir Glen organic tomato sauce in BPA-free cans.

I bought a few other tomato products in glass (Bionaturae) and the less-preferred Tetrapak (Pomi) to try, but I sampled the Eden Organic product first and it worked well and wasn't more expensive so I'm sticking with it. But if I ever run out and use those other kinds, I'll let you know how it goes.

Now the only plastic in my pizza is from the mozzarella cheese. I suppose I could go the Barbara Kingsolver route and make my own mozzarella from the local milk we get in glass jars. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. My next pizza priority will be to make and can pizza sauce I make myself from local organic tomatoes purchased at the farmers market. And someday, in the hopefully not entirely imaginary future, I will make homemade pizza with our own homemade pizza sauce made from homegrown tomatoes. But in the meantime, I'm happy to have found some plastic-free tomatoes.

Friday Night Pizza

[Find my more detailed recipe for homemade pizza with additional photos and instructions in this post.]

4.5 cups flour (I use 2 cups white whole wheat and 2.5 cups unbleached white )
2 t kosher salt
1 T yeast
2 cups water

1 can tomato sauce (I use half of a 25 oz. glass jar of Eden Organic's Crushed Tomatoes)
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t rosemary
1/2 to 1 t table salt (I use about 3/4 t salt with no salt added tomato sauce)
1/4 t pepper

16 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
whatever else you like

Combine flour, salt and yeast, then pour in 2 cups warm water and combine. Knead in more flour until like pizza dough: smooth and not-too-sticky. Return to (dirty) bowl. Allow to rise until double.

Preheat oven to 415. Divide dough into 2 or 3 balls. Roll your pizza dough into a circle using a rolling pin and place on a greased pizza pan. Poke dough with fork all over. Put your dough in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it starts to get golden some places on top. Make the sauce by combining all ingredients.

Divide sauce evenly between crusts. Then add mozzarella, pepperoni, and other toppings. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes until cheese is fully melted. For an extra crispy crust, use tongs to drag your pizza off the pan directly onto the oven rack and remove pan from the oven after cheese is mostly melted. Allow to bake directly on a lower rack for 2 to 4 minutes, then use tongs to pull off rack back onto pan and remove from oven. 

Allow pizza to cool and slice on wooden cutting board. Enjoy! 

How do you avoid eating plastic?

Related Posts

Absorbent Yet Trim: Hanna Andersson Training Unders

My 22-month-old in Hanna Andersson XS Training Unders in organic cotton

Now that I am nearing the end of our days using training pants, I decided it was time to give those Hanna Andersson Training Unders in organic cotton a try. Guess what? They're great! Too bad I didn't invest in a stash when my first child was potty training. They cost $26 for 3 (solid colors) or $28 for 3 (patterns) and are made of 100% organic cotton, certified by Oeko-Tex Standard 100, an excellent third party certification for textiles.

Hanna Andersson Training Unders look a lot like Gerber training pants in photos, but they are so much better.

(Note: You can read an in depth comparison of the five other styles of training pants we've tried here.)

Why We Love Hanna Andersson Training Unders

  • Well made. I'm impressed with the quality of materials and construction. 
  • Organic cotton. Conventional cotton accounts for 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of insecticides use worldwide. Organic cotton is much better for the environment. I don't buy much organic cotton clothing for my kids (they wear mostly second-hand), but I do buy organic pajamas and I'm moving towards organic underclothing. I figure they wear their pajamas for about 50% of each day and their underwear is right against their skin and in contact with their most sensitive parts. So those are my priorities.
  • Great fit. The training unders come in size XS (1-3.5 yrs, 20-33 lbs) and S (3-6 yrs, 31-48 lbs). The XS fit my 22-month-old really well, and I'm sure they would have fit her well around 9 months and one-year as well (since she was chunkier then).
  • Very easy to pull up and down. My toddler can remove and pull back up these trainers all by herself.
  • Absorbent. The Hanna Andersson Training Unders have a four-ply crotch panel and are surprisingly absorbent. Not quite as absorbent as the Imse Vimse training pants, I'd say, but much more absorbent (maybe 3 or 4 times more) than the Gerber training pants  Despite the fact that they are similar colors to my Gerber training pants, I never have any trouble telling them apart, because they just feel denser and more substantial. I have been really surprised by how much the Hanna Anderssen Training Unders hold. They often prevent puddles, even for big accidents (which is the main kind of accident we have around here), especially if my toddler is wearing pants over them.
  • Yet trim. The training unders feel like underwear made of heavy fabric with a little extra absorbency where it counts. As with the Gerber training pants, I will continue to use them as regular underwear even when my toddler's potty accidents are a distant memory because they basically have the same fit and bulk as regular children's underwear.

Naturally, they are not waterproof. But you could always slip a nylon shell over them if you needed some insurance.

I like our Training Unders and the idea of organic under clothing so much that I'm going to watch for a sale and stock up on Hanna Andersson underwear and undershirts for my older two children as well.

What are your favorite training pants?

Is Your Child Ready to Use the Potty?
Top Methods of Entertaining a Child on the Potty

Disclosure: I purchased our Hanna Andersson training pants (and all of our other training pants) with my own money. All opinions are my own. Hanna Andersson and Amazon links are affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog, which I very much appreciate. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Puddle Jump Safely with PVC-free Rain Gear

One of the only hand-me-downs I have ever turned down was a fireman rain coat. It was so cute and in quite good condition, but when I looked at the label, it said: 100% vinyl. And, for me, that was a deal breaker. Vinyl pops up everywhere but is especially common in waterproof products, such as rain gear, crib mattresses and waterproof mattress coverschanging pads, and children's bibs

What's so bad about PVC/ vinyl? 

In a nutshell, PVC plastic is uniquely toxic among plastics because of its highly toxic ingredients which readily migrate into the environment during its production, its use, and its disposal. This means, for example, that the phthalates (which are endocrine disruptors) added to PVC to make it softer and more malleable so that it can be used to make a rain jacket can then readily be inhaled or ingested (through hand-to-mouth contact) by your child. Check your child's rain gear. If it's made of PVC, I would seriously consider replacing it, particularly for younger children.

Question: How Do You Compost? (Please Comment!)

Dear Readers,

Help me out. I really want to compost. I feel guilt every time I toss watermelon rinds and carrot peelings in the trash. But I'm having trouble jumping in and trying it. Here are my issues:
  • There are multiple methods. Which one is the best for me? Note that I have actually ruled out worms because a couple of my friends tried that method and it seemed like a lot of work.
  • If it takes too much time, I will fail. I know, because I watched two tomato plants die over the summer simply because I didn't water them. (In case you are concerned, my husband is in charge of watering our new tree.)
  • I have a toddler. A crazy, gets-into-everything, I-cannot-control-her toddler. I need to be able to let her roam somewhat unsupervised in the backyard or I will lose my mind. We are also hoping to get a dog. I cannot have an amorphous pile of compost that my toddler or future dog will get into.
  • I'm scared of attracting vermin. I've had ants, cockroaches, fruit flies, and rats. There are also plenty of stray cats and dogs in my neighborhood that I would like to stay off my property.
  • I am completely willing to drop $100 to $200 on a compost bin if it will solve all my problems and make all my composting dreams come true. But I'm scared I'll buy a bin, and it won't work all that well, or won't make composting easy-peasy enough, and then I won't use it, and then I'll have a big hunk of plastic in my backyard and a lot of eco-guilt.

Click here to continue reading (and to comment!) at The Green Phone Booth.

If you are a composter, I want to hear from you! Please click over and share your wisdom.

Use Eco-friendly and PVC-free Yoga Mats to Avoid Phthalates and Other Toxic Chemicals

Once I began exercising again after my third child was born, I decided it was time to retire my decade-old yoga mat and invest in a new one. My old yoga mat was very thin and not very high quality (it came free with a yoga DVD), but still usable. However, after years and years of using it, it dawned on me that it was almost certainly made of vinyl (PVC).

PVC is arguably the most toxic plastic. It's made with toxic chlorine which results in toxic dioxin being released into the environment. PVC products are also made using toxic additives such as lead and endocrine-distrupting phthalates, additives which readily migrate and off-gas during the use of PVC products. I especially wasn't comfortable with exposure to phthalates, which are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible (like a yoga mat), and which readily migrate to the surface of PVC products in which they are found. Phthalates also readily pass from mother to fetus through the placenta and are also found in breastmilk.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to:
  • lower testosterone levels
  • decreased sperm counts
  • poor sperm quality
  • malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer
  • obesity
  • reduced female fertility
  • preterm birth and low birthweight
  • a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms
  • behavior changes

Natural (PVC-free) Yoga Mats

Ten years ago, I'm guessing it was pretty difficult to find a PVC-free yoga mat. But now, thankfully, there are many PVC-free options. I wanted a natural rubber mat, and also a thicker one that would give me some decent cushion on top of my hardwood floor. I ended up purchasing the Gaiam Sol Power-Grip Yoga Mat made of natural rubber (note: I remember that it smelled strongly of rubber initially). It is pretty thick (4 mm) and has a nice grip to it too. I use my mat for beginning yoga but also for general exercise (while barefoot on hardwood) that includes pilates, weights, cardio, and stretching. I do not get super sweaty when I workout and am not terribly concerned about slippage. If you are a serious yogi, see the reviews below by yoga experts.

Some other natural (PVC-free) yoga mats include:

TPE and PER Plastic Yoga Mats

There are also less expensive synthetic yoga mats made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) and Polymer Environmental Resin (PER). TPE is a synthetic rubber that is touted as a healthy alternative to PVC. According to Thinksport, TPE is "free of BPA, PVC, Lead, Phthalates, Dioxins, and biologically toxic chemicals." What exactly TPE is I couldn't tell you. But I feel confident stating that it is far better than traditional PVC.

Yoga Mats Made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) 

Probably the least expensive alternative to traditional PVC is Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), which is touted as a less-toxic form of PVC. According to one manufacturer, which describes PER as "clean PVC," PER is free of "phthalates, dioxins and furans, phenal, or heavy metals and has a ecologically safer method of production which is better for the workers and the environment."

Yoga mats made from Polymer Environmental Resin (PER)

For my daughter, who often likes to "exercise" with me, I got a smaller mat so it wouldn't take up as much room. I purchased the Namaste Kid's Eco-friendly Kids Yoga Mat (made of PER). It measures 24" by 48" and is much thinner than mine, but suitable for my toddler, 4yo or even 6yo. It's main purpose is really to keep them off my mat and out of my way. I actually didn't realize PER is a form of PVC when I bought it. I couldn't find a small-sized rubber yoga mat. In retrospect, I would have preferred a TPE mat such as the Little Yoga Mat for my kids, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to stop using the PER mat.

Looking for additional PVC-free products? Check out these posts that describe and review PVC-free:
Stay tuned for additional posts about PVC-free alternatives to traditionally vinyl products.

Additional Eco-friendly Yoga Mat Reviews for Serious Yogis

How do you avoid PVC?

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