Itty Bitty Greenie

eco-fabulous finds for kids

Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ 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.

______________________

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.

 

My new, green, ‘lady cave’

BEFORE

AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well it certainly has been a busy (and exciting!) few months. New house, new baby, and a brand-spankin’ new office and warehouse space for Itty Bitty Greenie – oh happy day!

I’m often curious about my customers’ impressions of my business and what they might think if they knew I have been running it on my own from my kitchen table – or sometimes the sofa, or yes, my bed too, with a laptop for the past couple of years. I have long dreamed of having a ‘proper’ office space to call my own – you know, like with an actual desk and a place to store and organize all those bits and bobs needed to run a business from home. Alas, the time has come.

One of the reasons we chose to buy the home that we did is there was this very promising space out in the back yard. An empty and old garage that I envisioned could be my work-at-home solution. And so the Pinterest boards started. Filled with inspirational images for how I envisioned I could transform this dusty old space into a sparkling new studio/warehouse. Let’s be honest: I was fantasizing about a sun-filled lady cave, complete with sustainable carpet, reclaimed woodwork and low VOC paint.

A few days after Hazel Mae was born, construction began. Like all new challenges in business, there was a learning curve and there was a budget. I stuck to it as best I could, and I’m happy to say I managed to do this while making the space eco-friendly and inspiring at the same time.

Best of all, I have been able to re-locate our warehouse to my home (after a very disappointing and frustrating experience with outsourcing), and I’m able to manage things here while still being around for my children, which was one of my goals when starting IBG in the first place.

I look forward to the Christmas rush and all the late nights to come where I can retreat to my green lady cave, fill orders and gift wrap, design and blog and bring a personal touch to all that I do for Itty Bitty Greenie and my customers. It’s my passion, and having a new home to nurture it has made all the difference.

Handy Manny’s Green Team DVD Giveaway

I’m all for supporting educational initiatives that get the itty bitties in our life thinking about ways to protect the environment, so when I was approached by Disney Junior about reviewing their latest Handy Manny DVD that focuses on ways families can “go green”, I thought it was an interesting idea.

After all, I do have a tool and building-obsessed three-year-old at home who I knew would delight in taking up the task with me.

For those who may not know this character, Handy Manny is kind of like the Spanish-speaking cousin of Bob the Builder, or perhaps a relation of Dora the Explorer – with adventures focused on building and fixing things. He has a cast of talking tools that help him with the handyman jobs he sets out to do in each episode. (We like Stretch, the talking tape measure, the best).

This “go green” themed DVD has six episodes, each with its own inspiring story about facing challenges associated with preserving nature and building new things with eco alternatives.

Manny and his team learn about protecting wildlife and saving baby turtles, and discover the advantages of solar power and ways to conserve energy, among other things.

Aidan definitely loves the episode about saving the baby turtles the best, but I was delighted that he scored really well at the “Livin la Vida Verde” bonus feature game as well, which involves a quiz on recycling and living green. I guess he really has picked up some useful green living information along the way.

Itty Bitty Greenie is delighted to be giving away two copies of the Handy Manny: Manny’s Green Team DVD. To enter, just comment below on how you and your family have tried to live green lately. Whether its installing eco light bulbs or solar power, growing your own veggies or switching to green cleaners, we’d love to hear your tips!

Winners will be announced on June 17.

How Does my Garden Grow? (part 1)

This week we will be moving into our new house, and I will have the privilege of inheriting a *dream* garden complete with fruit trees, veggie patches and every herb under the sun. I’ve always wanted to grow my own food and am so excited about the possibilities, but the scary part is, I know very little about gardening and am terrified I might just kill off everything in record time.

While I try to be a good greenie in general terms, I must confess that up until recently, I’ve had little interest in gardening. And moving to the other side of the world only made the idea more intimidating, since the difference in climate, seasons, etc. still feel foreign to me and I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I’ve always loved the idea of growing my own food – not to mention the health benefits and cost savings – and now that I have children, I know this is something we can do together and it can be an educational and rewarding experience for our family.

But before I march out the back door in my gumboots and gardening gloves – this greenie has some research to do. Luckily, in my travels online, at the local library and in talking to the few green thumbs that I know, I’ve come across some great resources for the novice gardener. I’ve also been letting my three-year-old watch “Dirt Girl World” in the hope that something will sink in :)

Here are a few tips and tricks I thought might be worth sharing if, like me, you haven’t done much gardening but would like to. If you’re a seasoned pro on the subject, feel free to share some advice as well. I need it!

THE LITTLE VEGGIE PATCH COMPANY
If you’re in Melbourne, these guys can be a godsend in your garden by taking the guesswork out of what to plant, when, where and so many other questions. They will come to your house and assess the aspect of your garden, give advice on soil, build your own custom veggie patch, etc. Bless! They’ve published a guide book, or their website is a great resource too.

THE ORGANIC NURSERY AT CERES
If gardening organically is important to you, then finding folks who know the ins and outs is key. I used to traipse through the organic nursery at Ceres and buy my organic fruit and veg from the farmers market located on the other side. Now I’m going no further than the nursery itself in the hope that I’ll be growing my own. Again, this is intimidating. There are so many choices, and one can spend a good chunk of money… and these guys can help.

BOOKS BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS
One trip to my local library and I had a new stack of reading that on everything from organic gardening to managing pests and more.

PINTEREST
Oh, how I love that you can type anything into the search field of Pinterest and then proceed to burn hours of time sifting through the magical results. Check out my board on organic gardening to find some of the gold I’ve found on everything from growing tomatoes, starting seeds and other great tips for beginners.

ONLINE
Here are a few great websites I’ve found with helpful information to get you started:
Urban Farming Oz
Sustainable Gardening Australia
Environment Society of Australia‘s guide on checking your soil

Now I guess I just have to decide what to plant this winter. To be continued…

Earth Day: Then and Now

While I like to think that every day is Earth Day in our house, I know that when the internationally recognized Earth Day pops up on the calendar, it’s a chance to get others thinking about things they can do to show their consideration for this great big planet of ours.

Earth Day started in San Francisco in 1970 to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. Why San Francisco? Well it’s the city named after Saint Francis, the patron saint of ecology. That, and there was a senator there who decided to hold a “teach-in” on April 22, 1970 to educate and mobilize people on environmental issues. To everyone’s surprise, 20 million Americans participated in colleges and universities, while environmental groups also came together recognizing they shared common values.

Now lead by the Earth Day Network, 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities on April 22 each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The network works year round to broaden the environmental movement through education, programs and partnerships that affect change at the local, national and international level.

And for little ol’ you and me, Earth Day is a chance to reflect – ideally with the whole family – on ways to help preserve and protect our environment, and more importantly, act. Whether you have a discussion at the dinner table, get the kids involved in some garden activities or crafts, or simply pledge your act of green along with millions of others on the Earth Day website, no gesture is too small.

Tell us your act of green right here and you have a chance to win a $100 gift voucher from Itty Bitty Greenie. Add your comment below – and one lucky greenie will be chosen and notified on April 23.

For more information, visit the Earth Day Network, which has a variety of tools to help you plan your own Earth Day event, or simply pledge your act of green, right along with millions of others across the globe.

Also, visit our “Earth Day” board on Pinterest, for more tips and activities to get your green on this year.

5 steps to a greener Easter

After Christmas, Easter is one of those kid-friendly holidays we all look forward to. Here are some easy tips to help you celebrate in a more eco-friendly way:

1)  CHOOSE FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE
One of the best things about Easter is the excuse to indulge in chocolate. It’s a $100-million industry in Australia alone, but unfortunately most of what you’ll find on store shelves is the result of cacao sourced unethically, including trafficked children, child slavery and hazardous labour. Take a moment this year to support fair trade brands. Here’s World Vision’s guide to buying fair trade chocolate in Australia.

2)  ECO-FRIENDLY EGGS
Most commercial egg dying kits are made with petroleum or coal tar-based artificial colours that can pose a risk to health, including allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. There are many natural options for dying eggs that are just as colourful and fun to do with your children. Here are some great natural egg-dying recipes.

3)   SKIP THE PLASTIC
If the traditional Easter egg is a symbol of birth, resurrection, or a more paganesque celebration of fertility, then what does a plastic Easter egg signify? This year, why not skip the garish plastic eggs, baskets and grass for natural alternatives? Even better, get your children involved with some eco-friendly craft ideas that are sure to make the occasion more fun and memorable.

4)  GET OUTSIDE AND ENJOY NATURE
An Easter egg hunt is a perfect chance for kids to explore all the nooks and crannies of the garden, so get outside and make it fun for everyone. Studies have shown that people who spend time outside are healthier, both physically and mentally. Take a deep breath, touch the grass, climb a tree, and run around with your kids – what better way to start a holiday?

5)   ENJOY A MEAL THAT’S LOCAL AND SEASONAL
Most families have their own traditions for Easter lunch or dinner, and why not create new ones by enjoying some seasonal dishes sourced from locally and organically grown produce? In Australia we are blessed with an abundance of pumpkin, sweet corn, figs, pears and apples this time of year (to name a few). Eating seasonally encourages you to buy local produce, which will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also save you the labour costs of transport and storage, as well as supporting your local economy. For information, visit the seasonal food guide.

 

Fine dining in a world without waste

Ever since the Greenhouse restaurant in Sydney was featured in an episode of Australian MasterChef last year, I have been waiting with anticipation for Joost Bakker, the brainchild of the pop-up sustainable restaurant concept, to bring a similar event to Melbourne. This year during the food and wine festival, I had my chance.

Last night some girlfriends and I popped in to this city’s first pop-up restaurant, which is built using only recycled or sustainable materials. The floor is made from old conveyor belting, the chairs from disused irrigation pipes, recycled bottles and jars are the drinking glasses of choice, and terracotta-potted strawberry plants line the façade of the structure, which is mostly timber and old shipping containers stacked four-high.

Bakker is a Dutch-born florist, artist, builder and environmentalist who has inspired people across Australia with his visionary concept of “no waste” dining, and everyone at our table last night had to admit it was impressive.

The dinner was a four-course French-inspired feast created by Auckland chef Simon Wright (The French Café) and Melbourne’s Nicolas Poelart (Embrasse), which celebrated fresh, local and seasonal food in some most unexpected ways.

The standout dishes were Wright’s first course of marinated kingfish, spanner crab, apple jelly, verjus, shaved fennel and crème fraiche – which awakened the palette and made us all hungry for more. This was followed by a dish of Australian marron, then another of roast pheasant and finally, the piece de resistance, was Poelart’s dessert called “forest floor”.

Served on a piece of plywood covered in chocolate “dirt” were chocolate and meringue “mushrooms” along with fresh mint and sorrel granita. It looks like something straight out of a fairytale and it disappeared in record time.

In addition to the wonderful food was a jovial atmosphere and quirkiness that made the entire experience unique. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Rod Barbey, Australia’s only certified organic chef, from Organic Matters Food & Wine Store in Hawthorn East, who like me, wanted to experience the Greenhouse above all else at the festival.

Even a trip to the loo was educational, as diners were told in a note on the bathroom wall that their “wee” was going to be used to help grow mustard plants. From the light fixtures made from vintage tins to the herb gardens planted outside in old metal barrels, the resourcefulness and attention to detail was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

There is only a week left to experience the Greenhouse in Melbourne, as Bakker’s masterpiece will be taken down from the banks of the Yarra after the festival, which closes on March 21. I hope I can get back there just to have a drink at the rooftop bar!

A fresh start: there’s nothing like homemade for baby’s first foods

By Janelle Fowler

Are you planning to start your baby on solid foods?  It can be very difficult to decide what food is suitable for such a young baby. I worried that my child wouldn’t be able to digest the food properly or might be allergic to something I chose. It worried me so much that I decided to do some research before making a change.

The best book of guidance I found was a book called “Breast, Bottle, Bowl” by Anne Hillis and Penelope Stone.  It gave me some great hints and tips on how to progress through stages, what foods to feed and when. One of the best suggestions was to make your own baby food.

As a mum who is conscious of what I feed my child, I preferred not to give her jarred or pre-packaged food at every meal. The thought of processed food or food containing ingredients I didn’t know really concerned me. Instead I took the active role of making my own baby food.

I knew that steaming some veggies would be easy and beneficial to bubs. I gathered a few other new mums and we had a ‘puree party’ to steam 5 different foods for our kids to try for the next few weeks. Like most new mums, we were tired and didn’t want to have to think about meals for the bubs as well as for the adults while still managing the rest of our lives. Having pre-steamed veggies ready to warm up and serve was a major time saver.

One of the best gifts I was given was individual food freezing trays. At our ‘puree party’ we each brought our trays and spooned in the sweet potato, apples, potato, pear and carrot to take home and put in our freezers. The next day we were able to take out a cube or two out, pop it in the microwave (or put in a bowl inside a bowl of bowling water for non microwave users) slip a bib onto our babies and we were ready to serve our new solid food eaters!

As the kids grew older, the puree parties stopped but I kept on using the containers and making my own baby food. I have moved on from puree and instead steam some different veggies and put them in the freezer container cut into finger food size for later use. I can also use the containers for rice, pasta and even cooked mince (with sauce if you want!) which can save on even more cooking on the nights when my child is not able to eat what we are eating.

Healthy eating starts from habits learned when young and that nothing is better than the love and care a mum can produce in a meal.  I enjoy knowing that I am feeding my daughter healthy, pure, homemade food and that I have been able to give her best start to life.

Janell Fowler is a SAHM to her 2 year old daughter Addison while running her company BabyButton.com.au. BabyButton specializes in Breastfeeding Covers for mums, bibs, gift packs and more.

Makedo your own toy masterpiece this Christmas

For many of us with children, there’s a familiar scene on Christmas morning after all the presents have been opened and the kids are happily playing with their new treasures: a mass of packaging carnage littered across the lounge room floor. And while it used to be that this “waste” was discarded or recycled and forgotten, there’s a better way to engage kids in the process, and even get them making their own new toys and Christmas masterpieces by upcycling.

Makedo is a connector system that enables everyday materials including cardboard, plastic and fabric to easily join together to form new objects or structures. It has been hailed as the “Lego of the next generation” by media around the world, and has won some very impressive toy and design awards. But did you know that it was conceived by a Melbourne-based company?

I love the brand because not only does it inspire children to use their creativity and change their perspective on what might otherwise be thought of as rubbish, it also has no boundaries, it celebrates sustainability and aims to foster social change and sharing.

The makedo system started with the Freeplay Kit that includes their clever “re-clips” (reusable nylon connectors), “lock hinges” for creating corners, and “safe saw” for cutting cardboard or plastic as needed. Recently they’ve added new products to the line, including a “Find & Make Robot” “Find and Make Car” “Find and Make Dollhouse” and “Find and Make Flowers”, which are all based on the same concept of using found materials to inspire new creations.

And of course, coffee lovers will adore their newest addition to the makedo family: Makedo Cup Critters, which allow you to take an ordinary coffee cup and turn it into a cute creature, from silly monkeys and cheeky chicken, to happy hippos and waddling penguins.

Best of all, the parts are reusable, and the possibilities are endless. The makedo website has instructional videos, teacher resources and a photo gallery where you can upload your own creations and connect with others.

Discover the makedo range this Christmas at Itty Bitty Greenie, and share your creations with us too – we’d love to see them!