Itty Bitty Greenie

eco-fabulous finds for kids

Archive for the ‘Greenie’ 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.

 

grow, build, eat, thrive, nurture, connect… yes please!

Since I have a background in graphics and print design, I love exploring other forms of design, from interior spaces to gardens and all things in between. But one thing that universally grabs my attention is when design – whether it be a small object or a grand-scale project – not only looks fabulous and functions well, but contributes to the community and has ecological benefits. So I’ve been giving some thought to permaculture lately. For those who don’t know what that’s about, here’s simple definition, courtesy of wikipedia:

“Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.”

Considering our climate in Australia and our potential for drought, the permaculture industry has enormous potential, and it’s growing indeed. Once you delve into some of it’s applications – from edible gardens to rooftop green spaces in urban areas, the benefits really are amazing.

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My interest was piqued when a friend told me she was studying permaculture and sustainable architechture in Melbourne. She’s originally from Mexico City, another place in the world that can surely benefit from eco design and agriculture systems. And then I came across Pip Magazine – a beautiful Australian publication that celebrates and informs on all things permaculture related.

Pip explores unique projects happening in Australia and around the world – and not only those at an organized level, but the kinds of things we can do in our own backyards, with our families and in our local communities. It’s an inspiration for eco and ethical living, and uncovers examples of social enterprise at its best.

Pip_magazine Issue #2 has a feature on Joost Bakker, an Australian entrepreneur and a powerful advocate of waste-free living whom I admire immensely. His vertical plant wall system he developed for his pop-up restaurants can now be seen at many restaurants and houses across the country.

Pip’s motto is “grow, build, eat, thrive, nurture, connect,” which to me reads like a perscription for building a stronger, more fulfilling connection with nature and our communities. It earns extra points in my book for being printed in full colour on 100% recycled paper too. But if you’re not into print products, the Pip website has a great selection of seasonal gardening tips, recipes, how-to guides and more.

Visit the Pip Magazine website for more information on permaculture, and subscription options.

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.

Hess-Spielzeug: Child-friendly and Earth-friendly Toys

Hess Spielzeug

When it comes to wooden toys, German toy makers seem to have an unsurpassed reputation for being world leaders. Hess-Spielzeug is one of the top brands, and we love their designs because not only do they offer quality hand-made craftsmanship, the materials used are also carefully selected from renewable resources and are 100% non-toxic.

The company was founded in 1990 by Claudia Hess in the small village of Olbernhau, Germany. Hess was inspired by watching her own two children at play, and created the first wooden pacifier holders and pram toys. The range now includes rattles, baby gyms, puzzles and games, mobiles and much more.

In the years since its launch, Hess-Spielzeug has earned industry accolades for its colourful collection of innovative, safe and child-friendly designs. Our favourites include the wooden baby rattles, especially the Rainbow Rattle and Heart Rattle, that are suitable from birth. Equipped with colourful beads, bendy parts and small bells, they promote sensory development for babies at play.

They also provide safe and natural teething relief and, as with the case of the toy bear and elephant designs, they’re easy to grasp, which makes for a lovely first toy for babies.

Hess SpielzeugFor those who are a little older, the teddy bear stacker helps children learn about size, colour and hand-eye co-ordination. And new to the range are some very fun toys on wheels, including the pony, turtle and car, that are great eco-friendly toddler toys as they encourage movement and promote the development of gross motor skills.

It’s worth mentioning that all paints and stains are water-based, non-toxic and saliva-resistant. All other materials used such as strings, elastics and glues are also non-toxic and child-safe. Any metal part such as clips and bells are nickel free, and Hess-Spielzeug toys fully comply with European and Australian safety standards for toys.

View the whole range of Hess-Spielzeug toys 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.

 

An eco-fabulous Easter gift guide

If you’re looking for some sweet Easter treats that don’t involve chocolate and that are eco-fabulous too, here’s our Easter gift guide for the Itty Bitties in your life.

1) Organic cotton “Birds nest” baby onesie $27.95

2) Dandelion Organic Duck squeaker baby toy, with a squeaky pudgy belly and happy hands that crinkle! $16.95

3) Jack N Jill Organic Toothpaste, in 5 fruity flavours $6.95 (no added colour, sugar or preservatives)

4) Jack N Jill Biodegradable Toothbrush $5.95, made from 100% corn starch that can be added to your compost

5) The Yolk Folk recycled paper animals $12.95, a very sweet set of chicks and an eco-friendly toy

6) Makedo Cup Critters $5.95. Upcycle a plain coffee cup into a fun Easter bunny!

7) Pink Bunny Organic Teething Blanket $26.95. Helps support organizations dedicated to Breast Cancer Research

8)  Organic Plush Duck $34.95, made from organic velour with textured toes, tuggable wings and a rattle, too

9) Kids Konserve Nesting Trio of Stainless Steel containers $32.95. Three sizes perfect for storing Easter treats!

10) Daisy Chain Babygrow $24.95. Ethically made from organic cotton. Check out the matching muslin blankets

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.

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.

My new, green, ‘lady cave’

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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.