Itty Bitty Greenie

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Archive for the ‘Green Parenting’ Category

Top 5 tips for a spring clean – the greenie way

blog-springcleanSpring has to be one of my favourite times of the year. After a long grey winter, those first rays of sunshine and buds of green popping up in the garden somehow inspires me to freshen up our living spaces, indoors and out. Here are some of my top tips for greening up while you’re cleaning up.

1) REDUCE: The quickest way to do your spring cleaning is to have less to clean… so take this opportunity to clear out closets, toy boxes, shelves, the pantry and get rid of all that stuff you don’t use.

2) TURN UP THE SHINE: It doesn’t take more than a little vinegar and water to get rid of the grime on your windows, a little lemon and bi-carb to scrub the bathroom and a little eucalyptus oil and water to clean and disinfect floors and benchtops. Think natural and you’ll save on harmful chemical exposures found in most conventional cleaners as well as saving money.

3) CLEAR THE AIR: add some freshness indoors and out with a few potted plants. They act as a natural air filter indoors and can add some colour and cheer to outdoor spaces.

4) SHARE THE LOAD: Pick a day and have a family cleaning bee. It’s great to get the kids involved in de-cluttering their own things and sharing responsibilities at home. Choose some kid-sized chores (like cleaning out the cubby house, weeding or washing down patio furniture), and you can reward yourselves later for a job well done.

5) CHECK IT OUT: Spring is a good time to check your major appliances to ensure they are running efficiently. Dust off the ceiling fans, clean the seals on your refrigerator, and clean out your washing machine and dishwasher to ensure they are running efficiently.

We are currently testing  some amazing new eco-friendly products; an alternative solution to laundry detergents and a probiotic all purpose cleaner. Stay Tuned!

 

10 EASY green parenting choices that will save you money

1) CHOOSE SECOND-HAND ITEMS: It’s tempting for parents to buy shiny new gear for their first born, but since baby items are only used for a short period, isn’t it wiser to cut your consumption and save cash? Graciously accept donations and visit garage sales and online shops specializing in second-hand goods like Petite Repeat. Supporting a sustainable future for our children is win-win for buyers and sellers.

2) NAPPIES: When you consider that the average family can save thousands of dollars by using cloth nappies instead of disposables, it really adds up. The good news is there are heaps of modern cloth nappies that are not only easy to use but gorgeous too. Some of our faves: TotsBots EasyFit cloth nappies and Designer Bums all in ones.

3) BABY WIPES: They are a nappy bag essential, but have you ever thought about the amount of waste they create and how much money they cost in the long run? One easy way save is to keep a stack of clean baby washers next to the change table and a spray bottle with nothing more than water and a few drops of essential oil – does the trick!

4) ECO CLEANING: Ever notice how much more laundry comes into your life when you have a child? If you are doing one or more loads of washing a day, that adds up to a lot of energy and water consumption. Invest in a good eco-efficient washing machine and it will pay for itself in no time. And for most household cleaning jobs, a little vinegar and baking soda can go a long way. And when you consider the health hazards associated with many commercial cleaning products, you’ll be doing your family a favour by cutting your exposure to harmful chemicals as well as saving money.

5) GROW YOUR OWN: Food prices in Australia are on the rise, and if you prefer to buy organic, it can quickly become unaffordable. The best way to manage both issues is to plant your own veggie patch. Even if gardening is not your thing, you can start small and experiment with a few seedlings. The kids will love digging in the garden, and there’s nothing more satisfying that eating food that you’ve grown yourself.

6) LUNCHES / SNACKS: There is so much money and unnecessary packaging that can be saved by using an eco-friendly lunchbox for your kids. Stop buying expensive pre-packaged snacks or using plastic wrap for sandwiches. Buy in bulk, and find reusable containers for packing lunches. Our favourite is the Goodbyn lunchbox, which is BPA free and has handy sections.

7) TOYS / BOOKS: When play is their primary job, it doesn’t take long for kids to get bored with their toys and books. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy more. Take a trip to the local library to find something new. Most communities have a toy library as well, so you can rotate things and the fun never ends. Save new toys (and your money) for birthday and Christmas gifts.

8 ) WALK / BIKE: to the grocery store, to the park, to the pool or post office. Stop using the car so much, support local businesses, get some exercise and teach your kids the value of this – not only for their health, but for the health of the environment too. Live local.

9) WATER: Water restrictions may not be as severe as a few years ago, but we should all remain conscious of wasting water and doing our part to conserve. Installing rain water tanks and recycling bath water for the garden, etc. will save money and this valuable resource.

10) SOLAR – The Australian government has offered homeowners incentives for installing solar panels, and depending on the size of your home, you can even sell solar credits back to the grid. A great way to reduce energy bills and your impact on the environment. For more information, visit the Australian government website on solar rebates and assistance.

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SPECIAL OFFER

Itty Bitty Greenie readers can enjoy a further 15% off the already low prices of second-hand baby clothing at Petite Repeat until the end of the year by including the coupon code: ittybitty at checkout (unlimited)! Click here to start shopping.

 

Sunscreen – is it safe?

sunscreenIt’s tough to argue against using sunscreen as an important method of protection against sun damage to our skin. But what many consumers don’t realize is that some popular products (used religiously by us sun-loving Australians) also contain an array of chemicals that could make applying sunscreen to your skin more hazardous than sun exposure itself.

As the demand for sunscreen with higher sun protection factors (SPF) has increased over the years, the skin care industry has had to increase the level of chemical compounds found in these products.

Of particular concern are sunscreens that are specially developed for children. While as well-meaning parents slather our bubs with those “kid-friendly” lotions (look! It’s purple – what fun!), we also might want to take a closer look at the ingredient list.

In Australia most sunscreens are regulated as medicines under the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA). However, products containing sunscreen ingredients classified as cosmetic are not regulated by the TGA and are not required to be tested for photocarcinogenic effects.

Here are some things to look out for:

Benzophenone (benzophenone-3), homosalate, and octy-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate): These chemicals are bad news because they have shown estrogenic activity in lab tests. Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone and it is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A study by the Center for Disease Control in the US found that 97 per cent of the 2,500 people tested aged six years and up had oxybenzone in their urine.

Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-): Parabens are common in sunscreens so avoiding them may prove difficult. They are preservatives that have estrogenic qualities. They have produced abnormal hormonal effects following on laboratory rodents, particularly male, resulting in decreased testosterone levels and other abnormalities. They have also been found to accumulate in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer.

Padimate-O and Parsol 1789 (Avobenzone): While on the surface of the skin these chemicals appear to prevent UV damage but when absorbed into the skin they can actually damage DNA. There is evidence that the sun’s light may cause these chemicals to become reactive and cause free-radical damage when they’re absorbed.

If you are looking for safer sunscreen options there are some great products out there, and here are a few that I love:
Little Innoscents Sunscreen (SPF 30+)
The unique sunscreen formula from this Australian brand provides skin with essential UVA and UVB broad spectrum protection. It’s also free from nanoparticles or chemical absorbers, and contains aloe vera, vitamin E and calendula as a safe and natural alternative for sensitive skin

WotNot SPF 30+ Sunscreen
Made in Australia and provides broad spectrum protection against UV-B rays as well as UV-A.

California Baby SPF 30+ no-fragrance sunscreen
It’s also the WebMD Expert’s Choice Winner

And for more on the subject, click here for a paper from Dr Peter Dingle, an Australian environmental and nutritional toxicolgist.

10 Things you’ll probably find in a Greenie Mum’s pantry

If there’s one thing eco-conscious mums have in common it’s a desire to find alternatives to big brand, overly processed foods and a keen interest in keeping the family healthy. That means seeking out local and organic food producers, growing our own and spending lots of time reading ingredient labels. Here are some of the staples you’ll find in our cupboards:

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1) Coconut Oil

Incredibly versatile, organic virgin coconut oil is wonderful for cooking, moisturizing, boosting immunity and metabolism, treating skin conditions and so much more. Coconut oil is made up of healthy fats lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid, which contain antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

2) Natural sweeteners

Agave syrup, rice malt syrup, maple syrup, organic honey, organic molasses, stevia, Medjool dates – these handy sugar substitutes help when a recipe calls for the “evil” white stuff (sugar). There is definitely a war on sugar these days, with three major health organizations in Australia alone calling for a sugar tax to curb consumption as it is blamed for everything from cancer to rising childhood obesity.

3) Non-dairy milk

Many of us grew up drinking cow’s milk and were lead to believe it was a health food, but there is plenty of recent evidence to dispute this. Since the rise of factory farming, with hormones and environmental carcinogens entering our food chain, many now question whether the benefits of cow’s milk (and dairy products in general) outweigh the risks. This month a British scientist and six-time cancer survivor urged Western nations to curb consumption of dairy and animal products because of links to hormonal cancers. In the meantime rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk or soy are excellent dairy substitutes for your morning cereal, baking or smoothies.

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4) Apple cider vinegar

Hardcore health enthusiasts will tout the stuff as a miracle elixir, but greenies tend to like it because it’s all natural and can be used for everything from detoxing to house cleaning to treating sunburn and making your hair shine. Raw, organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, apple cider vinegar is so much more than a salad dressing.

5) Quinoa

Surely by now you have heard of this superfood AND know how to pronounce it? It’s one of the most protein-rich foods out there, which, if you’re looking to cut down on meat consumption, can come in handy. It also has twice as much fiber as most other grains, is high in iron, magnesium, lysine and riboflavin. We love it because of its versatility too: serve it warm in porridge or as a substitute for rice, or cold (in salads) and pretty soon you might understand why the Incas believed it increased the stamina of their warriors.

6) Chia Seeds

Another food that’s been around for centuries (it was an important crop for Aztecs), Chia has re-emerged as a modern day superfood. Why do we like it? It’s a great source of calcium and fibre, protein and healthy omega-3 fats (which can improve brain function, sleep patterns and behaviour in children). It’s also flavourless, making it easy to add to just about everything. We regularly top our muesli, baked goods, smoothies and yogurt/fruit bowls with a sprinkle.

7) Kale

Starting to see a pattern here? It’s true, greenie mums love superfoods, and Kale is also a biggie because it’s high in iron, antioxidants, vitamins and calcium. Shhh… my kids don’t know I sneak it into everything from soups, lasagne, risotto, smoothies and more.

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8) Lemons

We have a lemon tree in our yard, so I’m always looking for new and helpful ways to use them. Besides the obvious benefits of boosting Vitamin C intake and using lemons to clean and whiten, they are great to have in the greenie mum’s arsenal of home remedies. Lemon and honey can soothe a sore throat and fever, lemon can ease the itch of bug bites and help acne. more on the health secrets of lemons here.

9) Muesli

Greenies are often labelled as granola-munching hippies and I say what’s wrong with that? I love making my own muesli, packed with oats, seeds, grains, spices and dried fruit. When the kids get home from school and you’re suddenly faced with that dreaded refrain of “I’m hungry” you’ll be thankful it’s in the cupboard as a go-to snack any time of the day. And it’s good for you.

10) Organic Fair Trade Chocolate

It’s a greenie mum’s favourite treat. I only read the studies that say it’s beneficial (dark chocolate is best), and always look for fair trade brands. My favourite Australian organic chocolate makers are Pana Chocolate and Loving Earth.

Holding out for a school lunch hero?

goodbyn hero

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that parents (in general) don’t enjoy packing school lunches day after day. I’m no exception. Keeping things interesting, organized and fresh can be challenging for us time-poor caregivers, which is why I appreciate products that make things that little bit easier.

I’ve long been a fan of the Goodbyn lunchboxes – mostly because they offer an attractive and toxin-free solution to packing a healthy, waste-free lunch. My son has been using a Goodbyn Bynto for three years and I can honestly say we both love it because it’s sturdy, easy to use (and clean), and it can store a surprising amount of food without being too bulky to carry in his schoolbag.

goodbyn lunchboxRecently Goodbyn introduced it’s newest lunchbox – the Hero. What’s different? There is one large bento-style container with three handy compartments for keeping food separated. In addition, the set comes with two extra smaller containers that are leak-proof and perfect for packing things like yogurt and dips. These also fit inside the larger container to keep the whole set neat and tidy. Easy, versatile and very practical.

Now, if all you need is a little inspiration for what to put in your trusty Hero lunchbox, the Goodbyn website has some handy hints and recipe inspiration. Yay!

It’s also worth noting that Goodbyn lunchboxes are completely recyclable. All of the pieces are made of #5 polypropylene and #2 high-density polyethylene, and can be placed in your municipality’s recycling container. That is, if you ever want to part with it – and I can’t see that happening in our house…

View our complete range of Goodbyn lunchboxes and other eco-friendly products for helping you pack a waste-free lunch at Itty Bitty Greenie.

The Big One – Top Eco Toys for your Baby’s first Birthday

Of all the milestones your child reaches in the first year, the big one – the big ONE – that first birthday is so special. And while it’s true most children at this age can’t tell much difference between all those brightly coloured toys, before you know it they’ll master every one of them and even choose some favourites.

Finding toys that are fun AND safe can be a bit of a challenge. Since most toddlers put absolutely everything in their mouths, it’s best to be mindful of the materials used. Always check safety standards and try to consider environmental impacts by choosing items made from natural and eco-friendly materials.

Here my top five eco-friendly, non-toxic toys perfect for a first birthday:

Pull Along Toys

1) Pull-along toys

They’re great for little ones who are just learning how to walk because they encourage movement and toddlers love watching the toy follow them as they walk or cruise along. Each pull-along toy in the award-winning Plan Toys collection has a different movement that’s captivating. The zebra bobs its head, the snake slithers side to side, the alligator dances and clatters … see the whole range here.

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2) Musical Toys

Drums, shakers, xylophones – any musical instrument is a good way to develop hand-eye co-ordination and reinforce a natural sense of rhythm that all children have. My favourite is the colourful Plan Toys wooden xylophone.

beginner-puzzle-safari-animal-babies-pieces-2_1800xPC_wst_rabbit_whitebg-LR           GT.greentoys_shapesorter3             br.bananasplitz.boat

 

 

 

 

 

3) Stacking toys and puzzles

It might seem early to start puzzles at age one, but simple puzzles, stacking toys,  and shape sorters are wonderful for developing hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and language. They’re also a great rainy day activity.

 

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4) Honeysticks

By age one most children are still learning to grasp and manipulate objects, and Honeysticks beeswax crayons are great because they are chubby and easy to grip. They’re also handmade in New Zealand from beeswax and non-toxic pigments so they are natural and safe for children.

 

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5) Green Toys Vehicles

Whether it’s the recycling truck, the tugboat or one of the race cars, these not only incorporate super-cool design (made from 100% recycled plastic) they’re also BPA, phthalate and lead free, amazingly durable and wonderful for encouraging imaginative play. Take them to the beach, the bath, the garden – wherever your itty bitty likes to play!

View our entire range of eco-friendly toys in the Itty Bitty Greenie shop.

 

School lunch adventures

My little guy is starting kinder this year, which means I’m about to embark on an adventure that involves packing school lunches and snacks a few times a week. I’m not sure if any parent really enjoys this, but I know that given a few tricks and tools, the process can be easier than we might think. As with most things, I look for eco-friendly and toxin-free options for both the food we prepare and the containers in which we store it.

Goodbyn lunchboxA while ago we tried the Goodbyn Bynto lunchbox, and it has been brilliant for packing food while on road trips, visits to the zoo and all pit stops in between. I love the separate compartments and easy-open lid. Not to mention its drink bottle and the fact it’s made from toxin-free, recyclable plastic that’s also dishwasher safe. Yippee!

Until recently, a Goodbyn would have been my top recommendation for an eco-friendly lunch option for kids. But just as I was going to re-stock for Itty Bitty Greenie this year, I found out Goodbyn has discontinued their line of large lunchboxes, and the smaller bynto ones are now sold without the drink bottles and stickers. I’m not sure why Goodbyn made the switch, but I was disappointed, and so starting looking for alternatives.

That’s when I discovered the Keep Leaf range. Designed by a mum (from my hometown of Toronto, no less), Keep Leaf insulated lunch bags (pictured above) are made from 100% organic cotton canvas, and not only are they beautiful and ethically made, they’re the perfect size to hold a variety of lunch items and snacks. There are also matching reusable food wrappers perfect for packing up sandwiches, etc. I’d have to say these are my new favourite eco lunch bags.

Also handy are the stainless steel food containers by Kids Konserve, including the nesting trio and thermos, great for packing hot soup on a chilly day. They make it easy to buy your kids’ favourite snacks in bulk so you can dispense them on a daily basis, rather than giving in to the less eco-friendly option of individually wrapped items. When you think about the waste this could save in one year alone, it really adds up.

To accompany the lunchbox, they’ll need a drink bottle – and if your kids are like mine, you’ll need a sturdy option, as these get tossed around like nobody’s business. I love the Australian brand Onya’s stainless steel drink bottles, which are strong and ergonomically designed for little hands. We’ve had ours for almost 3 years now, and my son has graduated from a sippy lid to a flip-n-flow spout lid that’s easy to use. The Safe Sippy2 bottles are also great as they convert from a sippy bottle to a straw bottle when your child is ready. Always a better option to have one product that adapts, than having to buy new bottles every year or so.

Of course the variety of eco lunch options has expanded greatly in recent years and this is just a selection of a few of my favourites. For a more extensive list, visit our back-to-school sale on Itty Bitty Greenie, where right now you can save 20% to 40% on our entire range.

5 steps to a Greener Christmas

For the past few years we’ve been trying to make our holidays a little more “green”. Here are some of the things we are doing in our family – and I hope you’ll share with us your tips for an eco Christmas too.

1) SEND ELECTRONIC CARDS INSTEAD OF PAPER: I started doing this a few years ago when I discovered Paperless Post. You can customize amazing designs with everything from family portraits to personalized verses and fonts. It proves you don’t have to compromise on sending lovely greetings by going online. Plus you save the carbon footprint of mailing paper cards.

2) THINK OUTSIDE THE TREE: Perhaps it’s the tree hugger in me, but the thought of chopping one down so it can stand in the corner of my living room for a few weeks drying out, seems wasteful. And don’t get me started on the artificial ones… There are so many interesting options that can be just as much fun for the family to decorate. I love this collection of found sticks (pictured right). It’s beautiful, unique, and something fun and memorable for the children to create. Think of the possibilities when every year they can come up with a new tree.

3) GET CREATIVE WITH WRAPPING: Use Santa sacs or recycled paper. Up-cycle greeting cards to use as gift tags. Use your children’s artwork as gift wrap. The more personal your wrapping, the more memorable the gift.

4) CONNECT WITH NATURE: In our family we have a tradition of a pre-Christmas picnic, where we can enjoy time outside together in a peaceful setting before the inevitable madness and overindulgence of Christmas Day. We also like to plant something as a way of giving back to the earth, and to help foster values of sustainability with the kids.

5) BUY LESS STUFF: To me, the best gifts are ones that are either hand-made or that offer an “experience” instead of a thing. Tickets to a show, a spa voucher or a special hand-made item can create a beautiful memory, and to me that’s more valuable than something that is mass produced. For those on your list that have everything, think of alternatives, like Oxfam’s unwrapped gifts that help fight poverty worldwide.

SHARE AND WIN: Tell us in the comments below how you and your family try to celebrate a greener Christmas and you can WIN A $100 GIFT VOUCHER and a copy of our eco book “Santa Claus is Green” which includes fun tips and ideas on how kids and families can celebrate a merry green holiday, and over 20 stickers.

*entrants must be a resident of Australia. Winner will be announced and contacted via email on Dec. 15

 

Tools for Natural Teething Relief

Most of us don’t remember what it feels like, but when you think about what’s going on during the teething process, it’s understandable that babies can be fussy or in need of extra comfort during this time. As a parent, it’s never easy to see your child in pain, and it can be difficult to know what will offer relief when their needs change from day to day. Sometimes they need hard surfaces to help the teeth move closer to the gumline. Sometimes they need something cool or soft to ease sore, swollen gums.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned are good options from teething trials with my own children, as well as speaking with other parents about their experiences, while aiming to find the most natural teething relief options possible.

1) SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE: There’s a reason this cheerful giraffe is the most popular teething toy in the world. Babies love the texture of the natural, eco-friendly rubber it’s made from, and best of all, Sophie’s long legs offer relief that a teething ring cannot when those back teeth come in. Her gentle squeak provides extra stimulation and parents can rest assured they’re not exposing their babies to toxins like BPA or phthalates.

2) GREEN TOYS TWIST TEETHER: made from recycled plastic, this lightweight, three-dimensional teether toy has uniquely shaped and colorful charms with distinct textures to stimulate visual and tactile senses.

3) NATURSUTTEN TEETHING RING: The starfish shape of this natural rubber toy is easy for babies to get into their mouth, but large enough as to not cause a choking hazard. It also features different textures that babies love to feel with their mouths.

4) RiNGLEY organic teething toys: The natural maple wood ring provides great relief when babies are in need of a hard texture while teething, and the organic terrycloth is great comfort when they need something softer. Dip the terrycloth in cold water or freeze it, and the RiNGLEY also provides comfort when your child prefers something cold.

5) JACK N’ JILL SILICONE TOOTHBRUSH: made from 100% medical-grade silicone with rounded dimples to massage teething gums and soft bristles for gentle cleaning. Pair with Jack N’ Jill organic toothpaste for safe cleaning from the time they cut their first tooth.