Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cloth Diapering: Part 2- Cloth Wipes

Now that you are aware of the benefits of cloth diapers, why not take the next step and make your own cloth wipes instead of buying the disposables. This is not only better for the environment, but will save you quite a bit of cash. When we travel, we use the 7th Generation (chlorine-free) wipes, which run about $5 for 80 wipes. My kiddo often has what I like to refer to as a "4-wipe diaper change", which can run you through a pack of wipes in a week or so. Cloth wipes are super easy, and since you are already washing dirty diapers, it is not any extra work.
To make your own wipes, first find some soft material. I took an old flannel sheet and cut it into small squares. Then I quickly sewed around the edge of each square to prevent fraying. You can also purchase pre-made reusable wipes at your local cloth diaper store (I actually got some for free with our last cloth diaper purchase) or you can even buy some soft baby-size washrags. Anything that is soft for baby's bum and thick enough to withstand a good wipe will work.
Next, find a tupperware to dedicate to your wipes. I like to use the ones that are about 5in x 3 in, but use what suits your needs.
Now it is time to make your own wipe solution. You will need:
-warm water- about 2 cups
-baby wash/shampoo- a couple of tablespoons
-baby oil- a couple of tablespoons
Put all the ingredients into your tupperware and voila! You are ready to go! You can either leave the cloth wipes in the solution, or dip them in when ready. I prefer to have the wipe stack separate and I usually wet half in the solution and use the other dry half to dry baby's bottom afterwards. But, experiment with what works best for you!
My family still uses disposable wipes for on-the-go, as carrying a tupperware is bulky and has the potential to leak. If you are going on short trips (ie; to run errands) you can always wet a cloth wipe or two and put in a plastic bag to bring along with you (but only if you are going to reuse that plastic bag when you are done!).
One more note-- if you buy nice, thick wipes (like 7th Generation) you can throw the used ones right in with your load of diapers. Wash them and dry them, and I have found they are good for 3-4 uses.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cloth Diapering: Part 1-Cloth Versus Disposable

There has been a long-lasting debate about whether cloth or disposable diapers have a greater impact on the environment. I have had my wee one in cloth since birth, and I am a firm believer that cloth diapers are much better for the environment, your babe and your pocketbook! I will say, however, that cloth diapers are not as absorbent as disposable, and my family has decided to use 7th Generation disposable diapers at night so that we are not awakened by middle-of-the-night leaks (sleep is very, very precious in our house). We also use disposable if we are traveling out of town by airplane, or by car for more than a few days. So, I do love having the option of disposables when I need them.
Advocates for disposable diapers say that the energy and water used to wash the diapers is more of a burden on our planet than using disposable diapers. Producing disposable diapers uses 82,000 tons of plastic and more than 200,000 trees each year in the US ALONE! The manufacturing process also uses 3.5 BILLION gallons of oil, a whole lot of water (although I was unable to find an exact amount) and produces pollution in the process. Sure, cloth diapers need to be manufactured as well, but those diapers will be used 100+ times each, as opposed to only once.
Plus, we need to look into the packaging and delivery impacts of those diapers. Each package of diapers is wrapped in plastic which must be produced (using water, oil, and producing pollution) and then must be disposed of (which means it will sit for a VERY long time in a landfill as plastics do not break down, even under perfect conditions). Then, each package of diapers must be shipped somewhere (using oil and creating pollution). Cloth diapers are normally not packaged in plastic and they are only shipped once. Then they sit at your home where they do not contribute to global warming.
But what about all of the water and detergent used to wash cloth diapers? We have a good supply of cloth (enough to last about 1 week). That means we do one load of diapers each week, using hot water, with biodegradable detergent. So, we use about 50-75 gallons of water a week to wash the diapers plus the energy used to heat the water. Some sources say the water used for laundering cloth diapers at home is the same as flushing the toilet 5-6 times per day. No one has said that we should start peeing in the trash can to save water, so why should our kiddos? When compared to the water, oil, and materials needed to manufacture, package and ship enough diapers for one week, the cloth diaper footprint is much lower.
Then there is the issue of the disposal.....18 billion disposable s are thrown into landfills each year (the 3rd largest source of waste in US landfills). Diapers don't really decompose, and just end up sitting in those landfills potentially indefinitely. Some diapers are advertised as being "biodegradable". Unfortunately, things (even biodegradable ones) just don't decompose in landfills. The lack of water and oxygen creates an environment that preserves things, even ones that would break down very quickly if exposed to the elements. For example, newspapers that have sat in landfill for 50+ years can still be as readable as on the day they were printed! So, that means those dirty diapers will just sit and be preserved in our landfills. Yummm. A present for our future generations. Technically, human waste is not legally allowed to be disposed of in municipal trash (so, yes, you are supposed to dump out that poopy diaper before you trash it). But, who actually does this? Probably very few people. So what that means is that all of those dirty diapers have a chance at contaminating groundwater supplies if the landfill they are in ever begins to leak. Human waste can carry pathogens and viruses, which can than make entire communities sick. With cloth diapers, solid wastes get treated with the sewage water and don't run the risk of contaminating groundwater and drinking water supplies!
Plus, the stuff in those disposables can be not so great for your babe. If you use regular diapers that are bleached with chlorine, they can contain dioxin, which is a known carcinogen with the potential to cause liver damage and other problems. Also, the gel stuff that makes diapers super absorbent is the same chemical that was linked to toxic shock syndrome (from tampons) in women. And for some reason, it is OK to let your baby sit in these chemicals for the first 2+ years of their life? Crazy. 7th Generation and other more eco-friendly diapers do not come with these problems, but despite the fact they are gentler on baby's health, they are still harder on the environment.
I have had friends worry that using cloth would be a hassle or messy, but once you get used to it, it is (normally) just as easy as disposables. It really is not that bad to wipe off some poop and dump it in the toilet before throwing your diaper into your diaper pail-- you have already had to clean it off baby's bum, so this is just sort of an extension of that. Plus, cloth diapers make your baby's butt look super cute, it pads them when they fall, and they say it helps to get the potty trained earlier. Finn is 17.5 months old and uses the potty several times each day!
So, if the facts are so clear, you might ask why this debate ever started in the first place. Politics my friend, politics. Corporations rule America, and this is just one more example. After Earth Day 1990, Proctor and Gamble started to see losses in disposable diaper sales (due to rising environmental awareness) and funded a study that just happened to find that cloth diapers were worse for the environment. And yes, we as consumers believed them.
To read more information on this topic check out:
or google your own search!
We have been clothing-it for almost 18months now, and although I am not a cloth diaper authority, I have spent some time figuring out some tricks of the trade. Sites like this are a great place to exchange helpful hints and troubleshoot your cloth diaper problems before you give up! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today, on Earth Day, take some time to explore the magic of nature with your child. Take a walk, dig for worms, plant some flowers or listen to birds. Teach your child to love the planet we call home. Pin It Now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Review

I recently finished the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. This book is amazing and is a must read for anyone interested in gardening and eating local. Kingsolver, who is well known for her works of fiction (Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorites!) provides a wonderful account of a year that she spent eating VERY local- almost everything she ate was grown or raised on her own farm.
I do realize that most of us do not have the space or the time (or the skill!) to provide entirely for ourselves. However, reading this book seriously motivated me. Not only to have an awesome garden this summer, but to just be very aware of where everything I eat is coming from. I have already blogged about the importance of eating local, and this book touches on many of the points I made... with much more sophistication.
The book is interlaced with environmental factoids (from Genetically Modified Foods to carbon footprints) and has some fabulous website references for more detailed information. To top it off, this book comes with recipes for in-season cooking. I can't wait to try some of them out.
So, do yourself a favor and get your hands onto this one. You will be happy you did! For more info on the book, or to check out some of her recipes go to:
You will be on the road to eating local in no time!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventures in Natural Egg Dyes

For Easter this year, I decided to experiment with some natural plant-based dyes. Traditional egg dye is considered to be safe, but can be made from petroleum and/or other things you probably wouldn't want to get in your body. Plus, all of the packaging that is used to wrap the dye and the pollution during production and transportation- seems like a high environmental cost to have some nice looking hardboiled eggs. I thought that there had to be a better way.
Well, let's just say that my natural egg-dying skills are still in the development stage... I did not do any internet research on natural dyes before I started, I just jumped in with some advice from a friend and my previous eating experiences!
I got some red beets thinking they would turn my eggs a wonderful magenta. It was only after letting them soak all night that I finally did a google search and found that red beets turn eggs BROWN. Who would have guessed? My tumeric experience was quite a bit better. I put a few tablespoons of tumeric, along with a few tablespoons of white vinegar in a pot of water and boiled the eggs in it. They came out a pretty fabulous yellow.
I have further heard that blueberries make a nice blue dye, red can be created by LOTS of red onion skins or red wine, LOTS of spinach make a light green and red cabbage makes a nice purple. But, I have not experimented with these myself, so don't hold me to it!
I did learn that you need a lot more of your dye- material than you think to get the color that you are probably after. Also, allow plenty of time to dry, as these natural colors will pretty much jst wipe away if you rub them while wet.
Next year I will continue the experiment, and will probably leave out the red beet inspired brown dye!
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Home-Sewn Spring Dress

This is a spring dress that I sewed for my niece, Harper, out of some material that I had at my house. I didn't use a pattern, but just cut out simple shapes to sew together. If I can make this, so can you!
As I have already mentioned, making things yourself greatly reduces your environmental impact... you reduce packaging and pollution AND you get the satisfaction of having created something yourself! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Comfort Soup

All of the ingredients for this wonderful soup should be available now (many of them will have been stored throughout the winter) at your local farmer's market. I have adapted this recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook, where you can find loads of wonderful soups.

1 cup chopped leek
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp tarragon
2 bay leaves
3 cups peeled and chopped potatoes
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cored peeled, cored and diced apple
4 cups water
1 cup rice milk or any other dairy or non-dairy milk
2 tbl soft goat cheese

saute leeks in the oil on low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add celery, tarragon and bay leaves and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add water, potatoes, carrots, and apple. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, making sure veggies are soft before removing from heat. Add milk and goat cheese and puree soup in a blender until smooth. Enjoy!
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Springtime Baby Sign

Ever thought about teaching your infant/toddler how to use sign language to communicate? We have been using sign language with our son since he was about 6 months old, and now, at 17 months, he is signing up a storm. The benefits are many, but for our family, being able to understand what is making him excited, upset, or otherwise emotional has simply been a lifesaver. If you want more information on the benefits of baby sign, a quick google search will bring up a whole host of pages for your browsing pleasure.
One of the best aspects of teaching my guy to sign has been his excitement signing in nature. Teaching him some basic outside signs, such as bird, tree and flower has made him squeal with joy when he sees these things on our walks. He gets so excited for our walks each day and I can already see him bonding with the natural world. I believe that young children that love spending time in nature will develop into older children and adults that respect the Earth they live upon.
If you and you babe want to start signing, you don't even need a book- there are plenty of websites where you can watch videos to learn signs all for free! One of my favorite sites is: but there are plenty more.
So, teach your infant or toddler a few signs, get outside and start exploring! Happy Spring! Pin It Now!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April Fettuccine

1/2 cup french green lentils
2 cups vegetable broth (low-sodium)
olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of kale
1 pound fresh fettuccine (or about 3/4 pound dried)
salt and pepper to taste

- simmer lentils in vegetable broth, uncovered, until tender (about 20-25 minutes). If necessary add more water to the pot to make sure the lentils are always covered
- Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high. When hot, saute onion with salt and pepper for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook onions until soft and golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, remove cover, increase heat to medium, and cook 5-10 minutes more, stirring frequently. The onions should be a golden brown.
- Remove center ribs from kale, discard, ,and chop remaining portion of kale leaves. Cook kale, uncovered, in a pot of boiling water until just tender (5-8 minutes). Using tongs, remove kale and drain, keeping the kale water covered and boiling (to use later). for a few minutes.
- Add drained kale and lentils to onions and simmer.
- Add pasta to boiling kale water and cook according to directions on your pasta.
- Remove about 1 cup of pasta water and drain remaining cooked pasta. Add pasta and 1/3 cup of the reserved water to the lentils, kale and onions and cook over high heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add more of the reserved water if needed.

This dinner is slightly labor intensive, but if you can find fresh pasta to use (we get ours from a wonderful Italian deli right down the street, Pastaworks) it is delicious! Even my meat-loving husband doesn't mind that it is vegetarian. To up your vegetable intake, chop some carrots and put into a pan with olive oil and thyme. Roast on 350 for 30 minutes or until tender to have an easy healthy side! Enjoy with a good loaf of bread and a glass of wine!
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Quick Tip #1: No More Paper Towels

Today's quick tip is about reducing (or even eliminating) your paper towel use. Paper towels are used only once, and then thrown away. They are not able to be recycled, and therefore end up in landfills where they don't biodegrade because landfill conditions have minimal oxygen and minimal water-- the wrong conditions for degrading materials. In order to make paper towels, companies cut down trees (which reduces climate regulation, habitat, storm protection, and all of the other functions that forests do for us-- for free!). Cutting down trees also requires fossil fuels (to power the machines and to transport the cut trees to the factory) and pollutes our air. Further fossil fuels are required to actually make the paper towels, and more air and water pollution results from the factory level. THEN, the paper towels have to be wrapped in plastic (which is non-biodegradable and polluting to make) and then the paper towels are transported to wherever they are going, using more fossil fuels and producing more pollution along the way.
Instead, how about using old bathroom or kitchen towels that have become too worn to use for their intended purpose. Turn your towels into paper-towel replacements. If you only have nice,
un-worn towels at your home, check out your nearest goodwill store. Someone else's old towels will work just as well.
Sure, you do have to launder these towels. But, if you
accumulate a good amount of rags, you should only have to wash them every week or so. Wash in cold water with biodegradable detergent, and if you live where the climate will allow, you can even hang outside to dry. The environmental impact of this is considerably less then continual use of paper towels.
We don't even buy paper towels anymore. Old towels are used for cleaning, dog accidents, muddy boots, you name it. We just keep an old kitty-litter bucket in the garage, and store the dirty ones there until it is wash day.
So, go ahead. Re-
purpose your old towels and save money and the environment!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Say no to hormones in your dairy!

BGH is short for Bovine Growth Hormone-- a genetically engineered hormone injected into dairy cattle to increase milk production. This hormone was developed by Monsanto (an evil, evil company). We won't get into the details of Monsanto today, but will save them for a blog all of their own. That's how bad they are.
BGH has been banned in Canada and Europe, but it has been in use here since 1994. It was hastily approved by the FDA without much research to test the safety of the product on humans, the environment or the cattle! First off, since this hormone increases milk production (by 10-15%), it makes the cattle get huge with milk. This can lead to mastitis-- many of your breastfeeding mamas may have experienced this yourself. It is inflammation of the breasts caused by blocked milk ducts or excess milk. It causes engorgement, is VERY painful, and can lead to an infection. Not much fun for us, or for cows. But, when cows have mastitis, it is not so good for the milk either..... infected breasts can lead to puss in the milk (ewww.) and create a need for antibiotic for the cow. Antibiotics given to the cow will end up in the cow's milk, which your baby then drinks. This can lead to antibiotic resistance in your child over time! Also, some of the antibiotics leach out with the cow's urine, get into our streams and rivers, affect aquatic life, and eventually end up back in humans through our food and drinking water supply. So, antibiotics for livestock = no good for people.
As for the effects of drinking milk from cows given BGH: this milk has increased levels of IGF-1, which is a hormone that regulates cell production and causes cells to divide, particularly in children. The use of this hormone in cattle has been linked to cancer in humans. Scary that it is sitting on almost every grocery store shelf in America.
What to do? Food laws prohibit the labeling of genetically altered foods (cows injected with BGH included), so dairy products from BGH treated cows will NOT be labeled as such. However, many dairy products are labeled as coming from cows NOT treated with BGH (aka rBGH). Look for BGH-free dairy products at your local grocery store. Trader Joe's has clearly-labeled BGJ-free dairy, as will any health store. Also, products labeled as organic can not contain genetically modified foods, so organic dairy products are A-OK as well. And remember that this doesn't affect just milk, but also cheese, yogurt, infant formula, any other cow dairy products and some beef. So buy BGH-free or organic whenever possible. (Also- imported european cheese are safe as BGH is prohibited there!).
Additionally, look for alternatives to cow's milk, like sheep or goat. We give our son goat milk. It is not only healthier and easier to digest, but it is the closest to human milk. Check out this website:
Furthermore, goats are less of a strain on the environment- they take up less space and don't produce methane (because of their specialized digestive system, that works without oxygen, cows do produce methane which contributes to global warming). So, go goat!
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