Archive for the ‘shopping’ Category

Furnishing a Nursery, My Way   1 comment

Preparations for Baby’s birth are slooooowly happening. I hope that I don’t regret the balance that I have right now between experiencing the pregnancy now and preparing for the baby. Of course one of the big tasks is getting the nursery ready. If you walk in our house, though, I have to confess that it doesn’t look like we’ve gotten anywhere on that task. But looks can be deceiving. I hope.

Decor is a third of the way done: The room was painted a year and a half ago, with no-VOC paint for the top half and very low-VOC high gloss cabinet paint on the bottom half (hopefully easy to clean). The carpet isn’t installed but I’m working with the contractor and trying with some success to not get too frustrated at the slow pace (we’re installing the same carpet as in the other two bedrooms). The curtain rod is sitting on the floor (hopefully to be installed this weekend), and I’ll order the same organic black sateen as in our room to make the back curtain. The decorative front curtain can wait; we might as well see what the kid’s personality is first. The ceiling light installation will have to wait until the highs are no longer triple digits so we can hire someone to go into the crawlspace (yes, even always-cold me is ready for temps to drop from the 90’s and 100’s). We’ll get some black construction paper and make a fun black shape mobile, eventually to be replaced by a fun colorful one in a couple months. I plan on taking the “full length” mirror that I bought in grad school, flipping it sideways and installing it somewhere on the lower wall. And I have an adorable old calendar that I’ve been keeping so I could mount the pictures and put them on the walls to make it fun for me while we wait for kid personality to rise.

Furniture is two thirds of the way done. Rocking chair? Check, I have the one my parent’s bought when we lived in Costa Rica. Comfy chair? Check, we have the love seat from the old sofa set that has a few more years in it. Dresser? Sort-of-check. We’re not going to get a dresser right away. I have a hanging sweater rack that seems like it would be really convenient for storing the “clothing that fits right now”. And we’re going to move our old TV cabinet into the nursery to provide additional storage. Changing table? Sort-of-check. We have an office table that we were using as our dining room table when we moved into this house. I’m going to cover it with organic cotton batting (which I have), and a fabric cover (which I need to order still). It’s big enough to be able to fit a changing pad and have room to lay out the diapers and stuff.

The only big-ticket items that we don’t yet have are the crib and bassinet. The crib has been ordered but there’s a three-month lead time. We’re getting a solid maple wood crib, handmade in Oregon, with a low-VOC finish. In a week or two the mattress should be here: an organic cotton and wool mattress. The wool puddle pad and fitted sheets (Fair Trade organic cotton with natural dyes and no formaldehyde or other problem finishes) have already arrived.

The bassinet has been a sticking point. I have found some absolutely adorable Amish-made wooden ones, but they cost the same as a full-size crib. I’m really struggling with spending almost a thousand dollars on something that’ll only be used for a few months. I have looked into the Arms Reach bedside sleeper, and I’m thinking that we might go that route if I can see one in the bedside sleeper configuration first. It is plastic, but according to their FAQ it is nylon and polyester, not vinyl. I just need to confirm that I can get an organic and untreated mattress for it. It’s a trade off. I’d rather not be buying something plastic and probably-not-low-VOC paint, but it doesn’t really look like there’s a really practical alternative. And our bed is a conventional mattress anyway, which I’ve been sleeping on throughout the pregnancy, so I think this is a choice I can live with as one that doesn’t make a situation worse but only maintains the status quo.

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Posted October 3, 2012 by mayakey in fair trade, home, organic, pregnancy, shopping, simple living

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Safety First, Without Compromising Other Values   Leave a comment

This is one of my procrastinations out of fear right now: there are a number of purchases/tasks when preparing for a baby that are safety related, but for some of them I’ve been afraid that I would have to compromise other values that are equally important to me. The biggest one hanging over my head is the issue of car seat. In order to keep my baby safe in the car, I have to accept the health and developmental risks of exposure to fire retardants, stain repellents, and possibly carcinogenic volatile organic compounds? Based on all of the car seats that I’ve seen in people’s cars, I have no reason to think that I’ll find one that is both safe and healthy. I’ve been afraid to find out. Until today, that is, for this post when I finally did a search online and found that it is correct that I cannot have my cake and eat it too. Healthy Child Healthy World had posted about a press release from Graco that they are phasing out toxic flame retardants, and mentioned that a couple of other manufacturers have already committed to doing so by the end of 2012. (So does that mean I’ll be able to buy one before Baby comes?) But there’s no mention about the stain repellants, or the VOCs that may be offgassing from the foam (this is my biggest concern). Not that a car isn’t already a low air quality air space, but I’m really irritated that I have no choice to put something that may be offgassing something objectionable inches from my baby’s mouth. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Aargh.

At least I can be a little bit more hopeful about a stroller. After explaining my rant to a coworker the other day, she got curious and did a search and found several purportedly environmentally-friendly stroller options. I haven’t studied the list she sent me, but I have hope. At a glance it looks like there may actually be strollers on the market that are made from fabrics that haven’t been coated in known or potentially toxic chemicals, and that aren’t 100% unrecycleable plastic.

One warning that we were planning to ignore was that of not using a secondhand crib. We had an offer to use the crib from someone that I trust to not put their baby in something unsafe. But then they got pregnant again before we did. Then a few weeks ago a coworker offered me a secondhand crib from his family. I did express some skepticism based on the ages of his children, but didn’t rule it out offhand. He crawled up into the attic and measured slats and got a description of it for me, and then I went to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The conflict that I have with this issue is the idea that a piece of furniture has to be disposable and can’t be reused. I went back and forth a bit as I read the information on the CPSC website. It has a drop side, but that can be immobilized; the slat separation is fine; it doesn’t have cutouts or fancy carvings. BUT it has been sitting in an attic for 10 years. That’s what ruled it out actually, the idea that after 10 years of summer attic heat and winter moisture the expansion and contraction of the wood has almost certainly reduced the structural integrity of the crib with no realistic way to fix it. Eh, so we’ll buy new and use it for both kids. I can wait several years before becoming conflicted about what to do with it when we don’t need it any more.

The most recent safety vs. health issue to be clarified is sleepwear for children. I’d previously seen mention that kids sleepwear is required by federal regulation to be treated by fire retardants. I’m sorry but if there is flame close enough to a baby that fire retardants might make a difference, the problem is already hugely out of control; and I’m skeptical that they would really make a difference if there is flame that close anyway. Back to the CPSC website for me. Turns out that under age 9 months there is no requirement for treatment with fire retardants, and after that they just have to meet a performance standard. So snug fitting sleepwear, or fabrics that don’t easily catch fire may not be treated, and can be labeled as such. Or we can just not buy anything marketed as sleepwear after 9 months and make sure that whatever it is is snug fitting and poses no strangulation hazard. Easy workaround.

Posted August 20, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, mission, pregnancy, shopping

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Figuring Out How Important Organic Fabric Is For Baby   3 comments

One of our first decisions to make in the preparations for Baby is our(my) fabric type preference. It’s an interesting decision because it’s the first where I have to make a decision for my child that is separate from the decision I made long ago for myself. For myself I insist on organic natural fabrics. Natural fabrics are plant/animal: cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk, and to some degree fabrics derived from bamboo or trees. Organic means grown without pesticides. A small amount of synthetic fibers is ok when stretchiness is needed/useful. It’s been almost a decade since I bought anything that was not made of organic natural fibers with the exception of running gear and secondhand clothing. It’s interesting suddenly finding myself in lots of synthetic fabric secondhand maternity clothes. So itchy! I am committed to organic natural fibers or secondhand for myself due primarily to my desire to reduce pesticide usage and impacts on workers and the environment.

But what about Baby’s wardrobe? The situation is different. We need a “full” wardrobe immediately and don’t have years to transition a wardrobe piece by piece from conventional to organic. And while I’m not growing and can plan on wearing any given piece of clothing for 10 years or so, Baby’s clothing will last weeks or months before needing to be replaced. We need to balance financial cost and environmental cost for baby clothes, and other fabric baby stuff. I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks now and here’s what I’ve decided.

Natural fabrics are a must; synthetic fabrics are to be avoided whenever possible. In my own experience natural fabrics are just SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE, and I really don’t need to clothe my baby in plastic. This should be easy for clothing, blankets, and such. However, things could get a little more complicated when we get to car seats and strollers. Stay tuned.

Untreated fabrics are an absolute must. I’m not so worried about dyes here, but treatments like urea-formaldehyde, fire retardants, and any of the other multitude of treatments applied to fabrics in our world. So that means no pajamas, since my understanding is that all clothing marketed as pajamas for babies in the US must be treated with fire retardants. That means no permanent press (treated with urea-formaldehyde). Anything else that might have some kind of treatment can be washed several times before use to try to remove it.  Again, though, things could get a little more complicated when we get to car seats and strollers, so stay tuned.

But what about organic? As near as I can tell there isn’t a concern with pesticide residue on the cotton fibers since the pesticides partition into the oil in the cottonseed instead of the fibers. But there’s just so much at stake that at first I don’t want to take any chances. Newborn babies are still doing so much developing that could be affected by any trace exposure. So I’m thinking that for the “newborn” phase I’ll play it safe with organic cotton, but then relax a little and get secondhand clothes for a while. My preference is organic, but I just don’t see the point of buying new clothes that will be worn for a month or two and then replaced. As long as it’s not permanent press, several washings should be good enough. After the first year I’ll have to figure this out again, I guess. I didn’t like hand-me-downs as a kid. But as an adult I just can’t actually bring myself to walk into a conventional retail store and buy conventional retail clothing for anyone at all, let alone my family.

Posted August 9, 2012 by mayakey in organic, personal care, shopping

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My Cheater Green Onions   Leave a comment

Starting my herb garden has been very slow going, mostly because much of it requires infrastructure: a dividing fence on the property line and removal of the current lawn. But we do have a good start on our alium planter, which is really a planter with rose bushes that will eventually have a carpet of onions and chives underneath (and maybe garlic). I planted chive transplants last year, and they survived to sprout again this spring. This year I’ve also planted chives from seed, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully eventually my alliums can crowd out the weeds. My focus has been on chives since I can’t get them readily from the farmer’s market and I feel horribly deprived without a constant source of chives. But we do have some green onions, too, although they are the result of “cheating”.

GreenOnionsSproutingFromBulbs

The main cluster of onion bulbs.

I think this was Mike’s idea, although I don’t really remember. Year before last, I think, he asked if you could grow a sprouting onion bulb to get more green onions. I didn’t think it would root, but we decided to try it to find out. I dug a couple of holes in the soil in a pot whose previous resident had passed on, and we planted the sprouting onion bulbs that had inspired the question. And what do you know? They rooted and kept growing. We were able to harvest green onions (the leaves) for quite a while. Then again this winter we had a week or two in which all of our onions started to sprout, and since we like having a ready supply of green onions we tossed them out into the allium planter. It was midweek, so I literally tossed them in the planter to really plant later. And now I know that onions only have to be contact with dirt to root. By the time I made it outside with my trowel, half the onions (that had landed with the roots down-ish) had rooted right there on the surface, so I just half buried the rest and let them be.

GreenOnionsSproutingFromBulb

Green onion sprouts from a single bulb.

They won’t grow another bulb (at least the first batch didn’t), but I’m not at this time growing them for the bulb. We’re primarily growing them for the greens, and I’ll consider it a major bonus if I can get a flower. But whatever we get I consider it a bonus since onion bulbs at the farmers market are pretty cheap, but now we’re saving money by not having to buy green onions (of which part of the bunch usually goes bad before we can finish it anyway. You can see from the picture of the single bulb that you end up getting multiple sprouts from each bulb.

I didn’t snap a picture of it, but I’m experimenting with cheater garlic, too. Again, it’s just a couple cloves of garlic that had started sprouting, so I decided to plant it and see if I can start growing my own garlic. We’ll pass on the green garlic since I predict the farmers market will soon be inundated with it, and see if we can get a bulb.

Posted March 12, 2012 by mayakey in gardening, photos, shopping

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Shame on Whole Foods For Selling “Natural” Turkeys   1 comment

Ordering a turkey for Thanksgiving is an interesting process. The choices! I mean, really, it’s just a turkey! But one of my greenwashing pet peeves is being highlighted all over the place, and that is the use of the word “natural”. The Whole Foods holiday catalogue listed “natural” turkeys, organic turkeys, and “heirloom” turkeys. I confess that I don’t know enough about turkeys to know if heirloom actually means anything. But I’m well aware that natural is a meaningless term. What’s an unnatural turkey? Other than tofurkey, anyway. All it is is marketing, greenwashing. It is tricky, too, since when in a hurry a natural turkey sounds like a good choice. I almost got caught, even, until I paused for a moment to ask why there were so many options and realized that it boiled down to organic and not-organic. Unfortunately, we actually have one of those not-organic “natural” turkeys, but that’s because they don’t have pre-brined organic turkeys.

This is one of my pet peeves because I find deceptive advertising to be a horrible practice. The only reason to say that it is a “natural” turkey rather than just a turkey is to make people think they’re getting something healthier. But since it’s not a regulated term, natural can mean fed ground up cows and injected with some fancy saline solution (just as an example, I know nothing about raising turkeys).

Posted November 24, 2011 by mayakey in food, musings, shopping, Uncategorized

Marketing In Social Media/Blogosphere   Leave a comment

This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately for some reason. Generally speaking, I ignore advertisements. In fact, I’m a perverse person who is more likely to avoid a product that I have seen advertised on TV than go out and buy it. This started early, with my subscription to Consumer Reports for Kids back when I was a kid. One of the major foci of the magazine was teaching kids to be critical observers of ads, and not snookered by every slick saying. I took the lesson to heart. Plus I seem to remember my parents discouraging logo t-shirts as just free advertising for a company. So something has to be really important to me before I’m willing to tout a shirt/bag/whatever with a logo. Looking in my closet and drawers I see logos for my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and that’s it. (Although some of them have small sponsorship logos on them). As of last week, however, there’s a new one. Calvert has started a new campaign called the “Too Big To Fail” campaign, and I was immediately captivated. So I was willing to take a photo, have it uploaded to Facebook with me tagged, and liked Calvert on Facebook for the t-shirt saying “Too Big To Fail” under a giant graphic of the earth.

This makes Calvert only the second company to make it into my “interests” on Facebook. Now I’m not sure what I want to do about it. I do like Calvert, which is a good thing since my IRA is with them and we plan to open a Washington DC 529 plan since that’s the one they manage. Social investing is really important to me. But am I willing to be free advertising for them? Not sure. On my website I have a short list of online retailers that I like. I put it there because I used to get asked a lot where I go to buy organic clothing, etc. I had forgotten about the list but now I think I’m going to take it down because, again, I’m not sure I’m willing to be free advertising for them.

On the other hand, is it really a compromise of my values to promote companies that align with my values? I can walk around in jeans all day every day without anyone realizing that they are organic cotton and entirely made-in-America, so just buying the jeans doesn’t help expand the LOHAS market base much. But, adding a third hand here, promoting a company doesn’t necessarily improve awareness of an issue, which in the  case of the jeans would be intense pesticide use on cotton and sweatshop labor. That’s theoretically what this blog is for (among the hundreds of similar blogs out there).

All this just to decide if I should “like” the companies that I purchase from on Facebook. I think I think too much! What do you think? 🙂

Posted November 18, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, money, musings, shopping

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This Is The Year Fair Trade Halloween Chocolates Make a Break   2 comments

For the last several years, around this time, I have had the frustrating experience of searching for fair trade mini-chocolates to give to trick-or-treaters. But no more. I followed a link GreenAmerica sent in one of their emails, and found that they had updated their chocolate scorecard to include whether a company has bite-sized candies. There are now several companies selling mini-bars or bite-sized foil wrapped chocolates, and some other more expensive halloween-themed chocolate candies. Plus, in acknowledgement of the large percentage of people who dislike dark chocolates, there are now fair trade mini milk chocolate candies. There are also of course several places from which to buy reverse trick-or-treat kits. So for the first time I think I can encourage people to consider buying fair trade for some of their halloween candy and/or reverse trick-or-treat. (Reverse trick-or-treat is where the kids give a piece of chocolate glued to a postcard about fair trade back to the people giving them candy.)

Check out the chocolate scorecard and GreenAmerica’s website for more info on fair trade. I tend to have a big issue with advertising or product plugging, but fair trade is important enough that I’ll encourage you to check out websites for Divine Chocolates, Equal Exchange, Coco-Zen, Sjaak’s, and Sweet Earth Chocolates. They are still a bit more expensive than what you get at the grocery store, but that’s for better candy, a better economy, and a better world.

Posted October 11, 2011 by mayakey in advocacy, fair trade, shopping

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