Happy Green House

WAIT!!  Before you throw it away...read this!
Before you throw it away...make sure that you are properly disposing of these potentially hazardous items -

1. Batteries – batteries contain many heavy metals including mercury, lead and nickel which will leach into our environment if not properly disposed of. Most people throw batteries out with the rest of their garbage – but this needs to stop today! It is easier than you think to recycle batteries – simply take them to a battery recycling center (many hardware and electronic stores can collect them for you). California is the first state to make it illegal to dispose of batteries – they are considered hazardous waste. More states should follow suit and all of us should take it upon ourselves to recycle batteries!

2. Light Bulbs – especially CFL and other mercury containing light bulbs must be recycled or disposed of properly. Many of the materials can be reused in a light bulb, so some manufacturers offer a mail back program where you can simply mail used bulbs back to them. Because light bulbs are so fragile, they break in the garbage and the mercury and other harmful chemical will end up in our environment.

3. Electronics – what do you do with your old tv, computer, stereo, cell phone and all of the other ‘must haves’ of the past? E-cycling is a way to make sure that these items are disposed of properly. Many of these electronic devices contain copper, gold, silver and even lead which can be removed and reused. You can look up locations to drop off electronic waste, and some states even offer a mail in program.

4. Household Hazardous Waste – this includes cleaners, paint, chemical, medicine, syringes, lancets and more – all which need to be properly disposed of. Hazardous waste should never be disposed of down the drain as it will contaminate ground water. Again, you can sometime coordinate a pickup of these materials at your home, and often you can do a mail in disposal of these products.

Great resources for recycling and proper disposal information


Link to order a residential florescent bulb and battery recycling pack


Find out what can and cannot be recycled


Find a facility near you to recycle these items properly


Happy Green disposal and recycling
- Kristin

Ever wonder about what type of toxins are found in the area you live? You need to check out http://scorecard.goodguide.com/ This is an amazing website that allows you to enter your zip code and then provides you with the toxin, air, water, and environmental justice facts for your community.
I put in the zip code for my neighborhood and found out that my county was ranked one of the dirties/worst 10% of all counties in the U.S. The site even provides you with a list of the top polluters in your community, the top polluter in my community released 63,620 lbs of hydrochloric acid into our community (this toxin creates acid rain and smog).
Looking at the site for my community I found that three of the top polluting companies had toxic spills that contaminated our local water ways-this is scary. It is especially scary because I didn’t know about this. I find that this is a major problem, people are not aware of the environmental problems in their communities. If we want to take care of our planet we all need to educate ourselves and become involved. I implore all of our readers to check out the site and find out how your community ranks, if you don’t like what you read take some action. Write your local governments about your concerns, if we don’t take action things will never change.


Your Toxic Dumping
Once upon a time companies could dump their toxic waste into water ways. These toxins would make their way through the water ways into the ocean where they would poison the species living in the seas. These creatures would die or would be fished and end up on the tables of families all over the world. So the Clean Water Act was created and companies toxic waste disposal was regulated and it didn’t end up in the sea. At least corporate waste didn’t end up in the sea, individuals household toxic waste still did.
Today, the most harmful pollutants don’t come from companies dumping but from diffused sources such as your kitchen sink and sewer. Remember in Finding Nemo when Gill says, “All drains lead to the ocean,” well he was correct.  When you pour your household toxic waste down the sink or flush it down the toilet it enters either you sewer or septic system. If you are hooked up to a sewage system your toxic waste flows to a central sewage plant is treated and then discharged into your area rivers lakes and streams. Most sewage plants use bacteria and organisms to decompose waste at the treatment facilities, toxic waste can pass through  these and end up right in the ocean! If you use a septic system your toxic waste goes into your buried tank, the solids settle and the remaining fluids go into a drain filed. Toxins can then pass into your soil and then move to your ground water. The toxins can then pass to your waterways and head to the ocean or flow to your garden and contaminate your plants (so much for using organic fertilizer, your plants are getting toxins anyways). So how do we avoid this? Dispose of your house hold toxins properly!
 The Environmental Protection Agency says to “reduce, reuse and recycle.”
Reduce the amount of toxic products. Start by purchasing less products that contain toxic ingredients. Take the time to look for toxic alternatives, the green industry is booming and there are tons of all natural products out there!
Use up your entire product. When products are used fully and properly as they are intended there is no hazardous waste. Store the products that you have properly. Keep the bottles tightly sealed in their original containers and never remove their labels.
Recycle your waste. Check with your local waste management department to see how to recycle your toxic waste. In the state of California we have a Household Hazardous Waste Program that recycles all kinds of items like batteries, light bulbs, items containing mercury (thermometers, greeting cards that play music, and shoes with lighted soles), electronic devices, aerosol cans, and tons of other items (if you live in California and want a full list of items visit the California EPA site http://www.calepa.ca.gov/pressroom/Releases/2006/PR7-020906.pdf). Many cities have toxic waste pick up right alongside your recycling and trash. Also check with your local mechanic and gas station many will recycle your used car batteries, oil and transmission fluid.
Keeping the toxins out of our waterways is our responsibility. Do your part in keeping our oceans clean and our fish friends healthy!

My family and I take a walk every evening, recently I noticed that there was a lot of trash along the sidewalk. My husband suggested that we have a police call (a police call is where everyone goes outside and picks up the trash within a designated area). That evening when we went out we brought trash bags and gloves. We ended up collect two garbage bags full of trash and one of recycling along our one mile walking route. Our three year old had a blast! You would never think a kid would have so much fun picking up trash, but it was like a giant scavenger hunt for her. She loved guessing if an item what trash or recycling and she loved to hear us cheer for her when she got the answer right!
After our police call we came home and did a little research on trash, here is what we found out:
The number one form of litter is fast food waste
Besides fast food waste the most common trash are cigarette butts, plastic bags, paper, candy wrappers, and bottle caps.
On average in one day 7 million pounds of litter are removed from beaches, lakes and streams
Animals from nearly 442 species are entangled in or ingest trash in water annually; the majority of these animals will die
People under the age of 15 are least likely to litter, people over the age of 25 are most likely to litter
In a poll conducted in 2010 people said that they litter because there is already a presence of trash, it is the easiest way to get rid of their unwanted things and because it is a social activity that they learned from their parents.
I have to tell you that some of the facts shocked me. Littering is a big no no in our house and was definitely forbidden in my home when I was growing up, it shocks me when I see someone do it so it surprised me how much litter is removed on average in a day. I was equally shocked by the fact that people over the age of 25 are most likely to litter, you would think this group of individuals would know better! The most important thing I learned was that people litter because their parents did. Children watch their parents do everything; even something as simple as tossing a cigarette butt out the window will be engrained in their subconscious and will be repeated when they are older. We must teach our children that littering is bad, and we need to do it by setting a litter free example.
Trash is gross; it belongs in a trashcan, recycling bin or compost not on the sidewalk or street. It harms animals and makes our neighborhoods ugly. I am proud to say that we have been picking up trash every night now for two weeks and we have inspired three other families on our block to do the same! When you ask my three year old what you do with trash she enthusiastic answers, “put it in the trash can!” It is our job to clean up our planet and teach our children to do the same. I heard this great quote the other day, “If every person picked up just one piece of litter today, there would be over 300 million fewer pieces of litter. If every person picked up 10 pieces of litter, there would be 3 billion fewer pieces damaging our environment. If you and your friends spend just one hour picking up litter in your own neighborhood, you will not only pick up thousands of pieces of trash, you will also make a tremendous impact on your community!”

How to Recycle
Remember when you learned about the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – in school? Did you realize then how important those three R’s would be later in life? Probably not! Most of us just learned it, and then poof, out of sight out of mind.
So…here is a refresher on how and what to recycle!
I love to recycle! But am I doing it right? Am I recycling enough or am I recycling too much?
An easy list of things to NEVER recycle – food waste (or items with food waste on them – make sure to rinse!), yard waste, disposable diapers, cloth diapers, plastic wrap, wood, cloth or clothing, trash. Plastic shopping bags typically cannot be recycled in the home containers, they need to be collected and taken to your local grocery store to recycle (they often have containers outside to place them in.)
Many city recycling programs have websites full of information that you can look up for how to easily recycle in your city. The information provided was found from my local waste management site, for California – so be sure to check your site for do’s and don’ts that may be specific for your area.
In Sacramento, all recyclable materials – plastic, metal, paper and more – can be put into one single bin because they have an innovative sorting technology that allows them to recover three times as much recyclable materials as they could previously.
I found a great do’s and don’t list at this link for my area - http://www.wm.com/customer-service/residential-recycling-faq.jsp?zip=95628

Here is an at a glance view on items that you can and cannot recycle
· Corrugated cardboard (boxes)
· Magazines
· Office paper (all colors)
· Newspapers
· Paperboard (cereal boxes)
· Paper cardboard dairy/juice cartons (in limited areas only)
· Unsolicited direct mail (even window envelopes are okay)
· Phone books
· Aluminum cans
· Foil and aluminum bakeware
· Steel cans and tins (rinsed-out soup cans, veggie cans, coffee cans, etc.)
· Wire coat hangers
· Empty aerosol cans
· Clear glass (rinsed mayonnaise containers, pasta sauces, pickle jars, etc.)
· Brown amber glass typically used for beer
· Green bottles typically used for wine
· Plastic containers can often be recycled but make sure it’s clean! Does that peanut butter jar still have some remnants sticking to the side? Don't recycle it until it's clean!
· Plastic products labeled Code 1 and Code 2 are widely accepted at recycling facilities. These typically include soft drink and soda bottles; plastics from cereal boxes; containers for salad dressing, vegetable oil, and peanut butter; oven-ready meal trays; butter and margarine tubs; and containers for laundry detergent and some household cleaners.

· Waxed paper
· Food-contaminated paper (such as a cheese-encrusted pizza box)
· Mixed metal and paper (like stapled paper – just remove the staple and the paper can be recycled)
· Food-contaminated metals (like a half-eaten can of beans – rinse out the beans and the can is good to recycle!)
· Automotive parts
· Plumbing parts
· Paint cans with wet or dried-on paint
· Electronics
· Any glass contaminated with stones, dirt and food waste
· Ceramics, such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items
· Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex
· Mixed colors of broken glass
· Mirror or window glass
· Metal or plastic caps, corks or lids
· Crystal
· Light bulbs
· Cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) found in some televisions and computer monitors (See our Other Waste section for how to properly recycle electronics)
· Municipalities differ on whether to accept products labeled with Code 4 and Code 5. These typically include squeezable bottles, bread wrappers, frozen food bags, dry cleaning bags, yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, some straws, and prescription bottles.
· Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly, but not always, made from plastic types 2 or 4. These bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores.
· Plastic products labeled with Code 3, 6, or 7 are less-often accepted for recycling. These typically include window cleaner and dishwashing detergent bottles, some shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, plastics used in most blister packs, disposable coffee cups, polystyrene, plastic egg cartons, aspirin bottles, and compact disc cases.
Some interesting facts about recyclable materials (visit www.thinkgreen.com/resrecycling for more information)
Paper production represents 1.2% of the world’s totally economic output yet it makes up more than 40% of landfills!
The scrap value of the 36 billion aluminum cans Americans discarded in one year alone was about $600 million. Apart from the economic impact, the environmental savings of recycling metal are enormous. Recycling steel and tin cans, for example, saves 74% of the energy needed to produce them in the first place.
Glass is endlessly recyclable, and most glass bottles and jars produced in the United States now contain at least 25% recycled glass – which also requires 75% less energy to produce than glass made from new materials. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle glass is that even small amounts of some materials (like ceramics) mixed in with glass can contaminate entire loads.
Did you know that every year we produce enough plastic film in this country to shrink-wrap Texas? Or that Americans discard 38 billion plastic water bottles every year? While plastic offers the advantages of being flexible and lightweight, manufacturing it consumes fossil resources and contributes waste to our environment. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle plastics is that cleanliness is essential. One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics.
I found that I am actually over-recycling. I need to be better about rinsing all food waste from containers prior to recycling. I didn’t know that a single piece of contaminated recyclable material can ruin an entire bail of recyclables! I would hate to be the cause of that! I also need to check the number better on my plastic containers. I love to recycle! And I love that my recycling bin fills up more quickly than my garbage bin! Happy Green Recycling!
Lighten UP
Did you know that the average American household has 45 light bulbs? If each of these were replaced by CFL Energy Star bulbs each household would save $180 a year!
Did you know if every home in America replaced one light bulb with a an Energy Star bulb, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars?
 Energy Star is a label that he US Environmental Protection Agency awards products that meet their strict energy efficient guidelines. Each bulb saves approximately $6 a year and $40 over its lifetime in electricity costs. This is done by using 75% less energy and by lasting 6 times longer than an old fashion incandescent light bulb. They also produce 75% less heat which can help cut down on your home cooling bill. Incandescent bulbs contain mercury which make them too toxic to throw in the trash, CFL Energy Star bulbs are required to be toxin free.
So why wait, replace some today! Take your house holds five most frequently used light fixtures and replace them or the bulbs and you can save more than $65 each year! You can use your old bulbs in places that aren’t used a lot like a closet (CLF bulbs will provide you with the most savings I places where the lights are on at least two hours a day). If you aren’t ready to make the switch try changing your bulbs to a lower wattage, you wont reap the financial benefits but you will save energy.
 When you decide to make the switch, check out Energystar.com to find stores that carry energy efficient light bulbs. If you are planning on getting rid of your old light bulbs visit EARTH911.org and type in “CFL” to find a local recycling center that will take your bulbs or head over to your local Ikea, the retailer will take your old bulbs (you can also find 3 packs of energy efficient bulbs for just $3.99).  Replacing your light bulbs is a great start in making your household green. It helps the planet and will help save you money!!

The hazards of non-natural laundry detergent
Have you ever wondered what ingredients are used in your laundry detergents? If you haven’t you should, just think at least 95% of your day your body and the bodies of your family members are in contact with clothing and linens that have been soaked in detergent. So what is in laundry detergents? If you are using non-natural laundry detergents the ingredients contain carcinogenic, hormone disruptors, and other hazardous air pollutants.  
In a recent study by the University of Washington, researchers found that 25 organic compounds including seven hazardous air pollutants were released from laundry that was washed in non-natural detergent. Two of the chemicals are listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of cancer causing chemicals. If you are like me who runs at least 7 loads of laundry a week you are freaking out! How does this happen? Well, laundry companies are not required by law to list their ingredients. They also aren’t regulated like other products because they are not applied directly to human skin-even though we all know they are directly touching human skin constantly.
“Optical Brighteners” are used in non-natural laundry detergents. These are synthetic chemicals that are used to make your clothes “glow” under ultraviolet light. Your clothes look bright, but they are really deteriorating. These brighteners are built to stay on your clothes; they build up and prevent your cloth diapers from absorbing and your military uniforms glow like the sun when looked at with night vision.  They also rub off onto your skin causing a rash that looks like a sun burn, and seep into waterways and build up inside fish.
Phosphates are often found in non-natural detergents.  These phosphates work as a super-charged fertilizer for algae in your washing machine-ever have stinky towels? Chances are it is due to algae growing in your washer. If you use these products they can build up in your washer in your tubes, in the pump, in the door seal! Just about everywhere! If it isn’t cleaned up your stinking clothing will have to be tossed and so will your washer.
All of these chemicals find their way into the environment and end up in the water that we drink, the soil where our veggies are growing and into the animals that we eat. They are also constantly being released into the air from your dryer vents and finding their way into our atmosphere.
So now that we know how bad laundry products can be what do we do? First, check your detergents ingredients. If it contains benzene and acetaldehyde dispose of it with your other hazardous materials, these two chemicals are cancer causing.  If it contains optical brighteners or phosphates give it the old heave-ho! If you can’t find a list of ingredients for your laundry detergent that should be a red flag, they have a reason for not showing you what it is made of. The easiest solution is to find yourself a natural laundry detergent, specifically one that isn’t afraid to tell you what it is made of. The University of Washington recommends that you don’t use more detergent than you need. Most of the time you are just washing sweat and fragrance out of your clothes, this shouldn’t require a ton of detergent. They also say to, “Wash only full loads of laundry and with cold water. Making the switch to the cold cycle will save about $60 a year on your power bill because you'll be giving the hot water heater a break."

If you are interested in making the change to natural laundry detergent (and I think you should) check out http://www.ahappygreenlife.com/ and our new laundry wash line that is safe for your clothes and skin!

Carbon Footprint Update
It’s time to update you on my families progress in lowering our carbon footprint. Our family has been trying all kinds of new ways to save energy and lower our toxic output. One of my teachers introduced me to a great site http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/
This site allows you to not only input your gas and energy consumption but lets you list the foods that your household eats, where you get your food, how much your shop, what type of car you have and how often your drive.
So, our family is doing a little better but we are still making more of a footprint then we would like. We are currently releasing 32.6 tons of carbon per year!
Another cool aspect of this website is that they give you suggestions how to change your footprint. Our household eats a lot of meat so it suggests that we cut down our consumption by half. If every American did this they would save 645 million global acres of land (that is 484 million football fields!). It suggests that we use public transportation to get to work at least one day. If every American did this we would save over 352 million global acres! Another major contributor to our footprint is my husband commuting to work. If my husband were to carpool half of the month we would save $832 a year and save 1.517 pounds of co2. If everyone were to do this it would be a saving of $83,200,000,000 and 151,700,000 pounds of co2. WOW that is an amazing savings!
We are definitely going to implement these changes; I will update you guys on our progress after the new year!
**Update: After viewing this post Kristin asked, “Why would eating meat reduce your carbon footprint?” Such a great question!! Cattle are a huge producer of methane which is one of the top greenhouse gasses responsible for climate change. So, less meat consumption means less gas in the atmosphere. It is obviously a naturally occurring gas that has been around since the beginning of time. But the last hundred years or so as the demand for meat has increased the gas has too. Plus cattle are responsible for the increase of top soil loss and deforestation.  BUT, meat taste great and is a staple in many of our family’s diets. So if you don’t want to go vegetarian eat your meat responsibly. Try to cut one meat mean out of your weak and buy your meat locally.

Can Moving Be Green?
Moving is EXPENSIVE! There are so many costs associated with moving and they add up quick! We recently moved and I found a great way to save money and be more GREEN!

Moving boxes are one of the biggest costs of moving! At http://www.moving.com/moving-boxes/packing-calculator.asp you can enter in the size of your house, years lived there and the number of adults to calculate how many boxes you will need to move. I used this tool and it suggests that we will need approximately 35 boxes of various sizes. (Although it did not take into account the mass quantity of books we own which took about 35 small book boxes alone!) There are many places you can purchase boxes from including: home improvement stores, moving truck rental locations and even storage facilities. To purchase a moving box kit of 35 boxes from one of these sources it would cost between $75-$100! WOW that is a lot of money!

So, how can you save money and the environment but still pack your house? Find boxes for FREE! I was able to find enough boxes through a couple of different sources. I discovered that many people post boxes for free on www.craigslist.org (this is also what I did after we were all moved in). This is the BEST idea I found! Simply type ‘moving boxes’ into the search engine and you will find many results, most of which will be free to pickup! Another way of course is to save the boxes you receive packages in. (I found that the post office flat rate boxes I received from deliveries came in very handy for packing books which can get too heavy very quickly!) Also, many retail, grocery and restaurants receive TONS of boxes in daily. It is possible to contact these local places and ask for boxes. I didn’t spend ANY money on boxes during our move – which saved us about $100. And when we finished unpacking the house, I listed the boxes on craigslist again.

Happy Green Moving!


Energy Savers Booklet
I came across this link in one of my classes and thought that I would share it with everyone. It has some great advice for how to save energy and money at home! http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/pdfs/energy_savers.pdf

Happy Green Diaper
So you are thinking about cloth diapers. Hooray! That means you are one step closer to saving money and the environment!
If you are thinking about cloth diapers than one thing is probably at the forefront of your mind – POOP. I remember being so worried about this part of cloth diapers. What do you do with the poop? Do I have to touch it? How messy is this going to be? Well, it really is not as bad as you are thinking. If this is one of your hang ups, here is something to try. The next time your little one has a poopy diaper, after you are done with the diaper change, take the poopy diaper into the bathroom and shake the poop into the toilet (make sure that you are close to the water when you try this you don’t want any splashing!). As you will see, most of it comes off really easy and then you can simply flush it away; and that is off of a disposable paper diaper, it is even easier off of cloth! What happens when it is mushy, and sticks to the diaper?? Well then you can just ‘swish’ it in the bowl, or get a diaper sprayer that you can really easily attach to the back of the toilet and spray it off. After a couple of times it is really easy and just like changing a disposable diaper has become second nature, so too will this.
The second thing you must be thinking and worrying about is WASHING! Well, really it is too easy! All you need is a ‘dry pail’, which simply means you don’t soak them in water. A pail liner is nice (something waterproof that will keep your pail from growing an odor) but not essential, you can wash with bleach and spray with Lysol between uses without one! It is best to wash the diapers every 2-3 days, depending on your ‘stash’ size. When it is time to wash, simply take the pail or liner to the washing machine and dump it in. As for the detergent – there are a lot of really great natural brands out there (Crunchy Clean, Clean B, Ruby Moon and many others), or you can use an unscented gentle detergent like All free and clear. The rest is just like a normal wash and dry! Make sure to read the specific instructions for the brand that of diapers that you are trying to avoid any shrinking or damaging of them. Sometimes the diapers need to be stripped (if they have built up detergent residues and seem less absorbent than usual), and that is really easy too. If this is the case – you can just wash the clean diapers with NO detergent 2-3 times on HOT. If you do not have a HE washer, you can add a squirt of Dawn to one load which will help strip them – do not try this in an HE washer it is not low sudsing!
Now you will need to decide how you are going to store the wet diapers between washes. There are a couple of different options: dry pail, wet pail or wet bag. A dry pail is the easiest way to store them and is what I use. All you need is a pail (a trash can will work) and a pail liner. You simply put the wet diapers in the pail and when it is time to wash you can take the liner and dump the whole thing into the washing machine. A wet pail is more messy and does pose a drowning risk to your child (make sure to have a secure lid on the pail if you choose to use this method). To use a wet pail you fill the pail with water and let the diapers soak before washing. Then you dump the water and diapers into the washing machine to wash them. A wet bag is a bag with a waterproof interior that you can store the diapers in. These are perfect for when you are out and about and also a good idea to keep one by the changing table. You can use the wet bag in lieu of a diaper pail if that is more convenient for you. When it is time to wash them you can simply throw the contents of the bag and the bag itself into the wash

Cloth Diapers vs. Landfill Diapers
First, I want am not AGAINST landfill diapers. I simply prefer to use cloth because it is gentler to my baby, saves money, and well, they are just so darn cute! There are some things to consider about landfill diapers. The whole reason that they work is because of the chemicals it is just that simple! If you don’t like the idea of chemicals being close to your baby’s skin, then cloth diapers are a better solution!

Will I really SAVE MONEY?
When I started looking into cloth diapers it seemed so expensive to get started. It is a larger upfront cost to buy the cloth diapers and you do have to consider washing costs too.
The breakdown:
On average a child is potty trained between 2 and 3 years old – we will use 2 ½ as a framework for determining costs. For my costs I am going to use Huggies Snug and Dry purchased at warehouse stores for the prices.

On average disposable diapers cost over $2200 per child! Cloth diapering is not cheap initially; it seems so expensive because it is an upfront cost. With disposable diapers the cost is spread out over 2 ½ years, so it does not seem like it could add up to that much!! When you are using cloth, it is a larger upfront investment – but then you are done (unless, like me you keep finding cute prints/styles that you have to have!!).
Starting a stash early is the best way to get going with cloth! Register for cloth diapers instead of disposies! People buying you diapers will be paying the same amount to buy you a box of disposies or a couple of cloth diapers!!

How many cloth diapers do I need?
This all depends on you and your baby! How many diapers do you change in a day? I usually recommend taking that number and doubling it and that is the least amount that you should have in your stash. You should also take into account how often you want to wash them. You can become an every night washer, and then you would need fewer. If, like me, you have enough other laundry to wash, you may want to wash them ever 2-3 days and should have enough to accommodate this schedule.
With diapeze the cover can be used for a couple of diaper changes so you will need 10-12 covers to get started. You will need more diapeze inserts, usually about 15-20 depending on the number of diaper changes that you go through. The good thing is that the insert is the same size for all size covers! So once you invest in these, they will last you a really long time! They also become more absorbent with each wash, so they actually wear-in instead of wear-out! The covers do come in sizes, but most you can purchase them as your baby grows, so it is not a huge upfront investment.

Carbon Footprint
I ran the calculations for my household’s carbon footprint and I am very ashamed. It is bad. Before I tell you what it is, I will make you a promise that we will change it. We will make the changes necessary to cut our co2 emissions because if we don’t we are contributing greatly to the destruction of our earth. Ok here goes, my household carbon footprint is 49 tons of co2 a year. According to the EPA that is equivalent to 115 barrels of oil.
What the heck am I taking about? Let me explain. Scientist have been keeping detailed records of the climate since the 1860’s with that data they are able to see that in the last 100 years the world temperature has raised by .6 degrees Celsius. Paeoclimatologists (scientist who study climate change though out the ages) can look at ice and trees to see what the climate was like in the past before we were keeping a record of it. Scientist look at all of this information and can make predictions about what will happen to our planet. So what does this have to do with co2 and a carbon footprint? In the past 100 years when scientist noted a raise in worldwide temperatures they also noted an increase in co2 emissions, the two are connected. The more carbon dioxide that we produce the more the climate can rise which can cause heat waves, a raise in sea level, the destruction of habitats. The Environmental Defense Organization estimates that climate change puts 20 % to 30% of our world species at risk of extinction. We are already seeing species being affected, like polar bears, who were added to the Endangered Species Act list in 2008. It doesn’t just affect plants and animals, the raise in temperature can affect humans health, the spread of disease, even our air quality. The list of potential impacts that the rise in climate can have is large and scary.
So what can we do? Lower our carbon footprint. Look at the things in your life that produce carbon dioxide and stop using them, if that isn’t possible try using them less. Here are a few suggestions:
Use and electric mower instead of gas, start a compost pile, plant a tree, buy locally grown produce, only use your dishwasher when it is totally full, plant a tree, stop using plastic water bottles, take a direct flight when flying, pack lighter when flying, buy seasonal food, eat one less serving of meat a week, read your newspaper and magazines online, bring your own mug to starbucks, use a slow cooker or crock pot to make food, only boil one cup of water at a time instead of a full pot, only heat the room you are in, drive below the speed limit, re use ziplock bags, and collect rain water to water your garden.
To see what your household’s carbon footprint is check out the Marion Institutes Carbon Calculator at http://www.marioninstitute.org/programs/gaviotas-carbon-offset-initiative/carbon-calculator
I will keep everyone updated on our family’s efforts in lowering our carbon footprint. I hope that a year from now our footprint with be below the national average!!

Party Time
It is birthday season here at A Happy Green Life, in the next month we will be celebrating both of our husband’s birthdays and three of our kids’. While planning my family’s parties I realized that while I am an expert at planning a rockin’ party I have no idea how to throw one that is ecofriendly. In our family we have three birthdays within two weeks so we are strapped for cash. I needed to figure out how to go green without spending too much money, so I turned to the internet. Instead of ordering invitations like I usually do I sent our guests all e-vites from Punchbowl.com. For my hubby’s party we created a Facebook event and had all of our friends reply online. I love invitations, I am always looking for the cutest ones that I can use for my kids’ parties but I am pretty sure I am the only person at the party who pays attention to them. Think about how much paper is wasted from the invitation, envelope, and stamps; by using online invitations you can cut out all the waste.
I found a great site called Green Party Goods that sells everything from party decorations to forks and plates all of which are ecofriendly. They have great biodegradable plates made from bamboo and utensils made from potatoes or corn! I decided to look for paper products that were made from 100% recycled products, these use 97% less carbon dioxide and 95% less water (try Seventh Generation products, their napkins are made from at least 50% post-consumer products).  For my husband’s party we decided to cut our paper all together and plan on using our cloth napkins and our regular dinner plates!
When it came to decorations I was a bit stumped. My three year old loves balloons but everyone knows they aren’t ecofriendly, right? Wrong! I found out that latex is a natural product made from rubber tree sap. It actually breaks down, they are 100% biodegradable!! What about streamers and banners? Why not use fabric! Having a best friend who makes cloth diapers comes in handy sometimes, we can just cut out streamers and banners from the excess fabric we have. We can even select fabrics with patterns to match our party theme! If you aren’t creative check out the felt banners at Green Party Goods. You can use them again every year!!
Last but not least were the goody bags. How many plastic bags jammed full of candy and cheap plastic toys have my kids taken home over the years? Tons!! The toys are used for approximately one hour and then everything ends up in the trash can, they aren’t very ecofriendly. There are tons of ideas online for great ecofriendly goody bags. My daughter decided that she wants a Popsicle party this year so we are giving each of her guests Tovolo Ice Pop Molds (they are reusable, nontoxic and very cute!). My sons says he is too old for goody bags but came up with a ton of great ideas: reusable bags (made from fabric), recycled crayons melted down into cool shapes, homemade bubbles, homemade chalk, little plants or even seeds!
I will be honest with you, when we set out to make our parties ecofriendly we were a little apprehensive (my husband actually rolled his eyes at me) but it didn’t end up being that hard. There was a recyclable, biodegradable option for all of the products that I needed to buy. I spent more time making my decorations but it will be worth it next year when I have stuff already made to use!!
We will be having these parties soon so wish us luck! And send any ecofriendly party ideas you have our way!!

Unpaper towels
Unpaper towels are a cloth alternative to paper towels. But do they really do as good of a job? Are they really better for the environment? Can they really save you money?
Paper towels have been around since 1931. And one of the main impacts they have on the environment is that they have to be disposed of, after just one use. Yes, there are many ‘more absorbent’ paper towels that make it so you can use less sheets to clean up a mess, but you are still posed with the problem of having to throw them away after each use. Yes, there are brands that use a significant amount of recycled paper to make them, but you are again stuck having to throw them in the garbage.
It is easy to grab a towel to dry wet hands, clean up a messy counter and even as a napkin at dinner. But how many towels does this add up to? Let’s calculate the amount of paper towels that the average household uses in one year. An average household uses approximately 4 rolls of paper towels in a week. That ends up being 208 rolls of paper towels in a year, or approximately 17,472 paper towels (84 2ply paper towels per roll). This adds up quick, not only in trash but also in money spent from your family’s budget. An average 2-ply roll of paper towels is $1.95 per roll, this equals $405.60 spent on paper towels in a year. WOW, there are a lot of other things that I could use an extra $400 for! It adds up quick if you multiply this across the country. It is estimated that over 2.5 million paper towels, or 29,762 rolls, or $58,036 worth of paper towels are thrown into our landfills in just one year!
Paper towels not only affect our budget and our landfills, but there are also manufacturing processes that make them hard on the environment. Most paper towels are made from paper pulp, which is extracted from wood or other fibrous crops. They are often bleached which has a very harmful bi-product, dioxin, which is linked to birth defects and cancer.
There are some non-paper alternatives to paper towels that can be just as easy and sanitary to use. In many public restrooms, hand blow-dryers are present which are easy to use and efficient at reducing the amount of paper towels used. But it is not easy to have one of these installed by every sink in your home, and they obviously wouldn’t work to clean the counters. The easiest solution for at home is unpaper towels. They are made from many different fabrics: cotton flannel, Sherpa, terry and other fabrics are both absorbent and great at cleaning messes. With an unpaper towel you can often rinse it out and use it for multiple cleanings before having to throw it in the wash. They work great for all of your household cleaning jobs from counters, to windows and mirrors!
This is how we do it in our house. I have a stash of about 40 unpaper towels (toweleze) and a kitchen wetbag that we use to store the dirty ones in until wash day. I have them all stacked up in the kitchen drawer next to the sink. When you have a mess, you simply grab one out of the drawer and clean it up and depending on how big the mess is you can rinse it out and use it again and again. We also keep a small stack of them in the bathroom next to the sink for hand drying. I use my toweleze to clean the counters – and they really do a great job! I am able to clean the entire kitchen with just one towel! Much easier than the 10 or so paper towels it might take to do the same job. They are also great for washing the dishes – I prefer using ones that have a terry cloth on one side for this type of job as it adds some extra scrubbing power! I use them for many other jobs around the house: dusting, cleaning mirrors and windows, cleaning dirty faces and hands, even in the bath as a washcloth!
After my kitchen wetbag gets full, usually about 3-4 days of towels, I simply add them to my regular load of dirty towels for the week. So I am not even doing an ‘extra’ load of laundry! When they come out of the dryer, I just stack them up (no folding) and put them back in their drawer. It is as simple as that!
If each family made the switch to unpaper towels think of how many we could save from our landfills! Making the switch one family at a time does make a significant impact. If you decided today to start using unpaper towels, you could save yourself over $400 each year! And you would be taking out over 17,000 towels from the landfill.
- Kristin