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, March 31, 2009

Do It Yourself!

Need a gift for a special someone? How about making one yourself? Making a gift instead of buying new reduces wastes, pollution and greenhouse gases. Your gift is not covered in plastic packaging (which is polluting to make and then sits in a landfill where it does not decompose) and your item is not coming all the way over from China, using fossil fuels and contributing to global climate change. Plus, it can save you money! And what better way to show you are thinking of someone than to make something with your own hands!
So, it's time to get crafty! The picture above is a baby blanket that I just finished for my cousin's baby shower!
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Tap VS Bottled

Marketing ploys have led us to believe that our water is not safe to drink and that bottled water is the safe choice we can make for ourselves and our families. I am here to tell you that these ploys are exactly that: ploys. Bottled water is not safer for our health and it is definitely not safer for the earth that we are leaving to our children
First off, your tap water is highly regulated and needs to pass somewhat strict drinking water regulations set by the EPA. Now, I am not saying that every municipality has fresh untouched spring water coming out of the faucets, but, in general, your water should be safe for you to drink. However, if you have lead pipes or other problems in the interior of your home that is affecting your drinking water, that is a different story. You should have your water tested for lead, especially if you have young children in your home. Children are particularly sensitive to lead inputs and it can lead to problems with brain development and mental retardation. Also, if you get your water from a well, the EPA does not regulate your water either, and you are responsible for testing it and making sure that it is safe for you to drink. This may also mean being aware of what is going on upslope from your well! But, for the majority of us who have city water, our water is heavily regulated.
Bottled water, however, is not heavily regulated. Bottled water companies have the same standards set as tap water, but there is little to no enforcement of these standards. Furthermore, the bottled water companies are responsible for self-reporting anytime they go over the limit, and that would lead me to believe that tainted bottled water is much under-reported. Some bottled water comes from springs or groundwater, but much of it comes from someone else's faucet. Yes, you could be paying $1.50 to drink a bottle of someone else's tap water. Worse yet, you could possibly be drinking bottled water that came from someone's unregulated well water. Plus, the chemicals found in the plastic that the water is bottled in could potentially lead to harmful heath effects. More research about that still needs to be done.
Now let's look at the environmental impact. It takes almost 7 times as much water as is in a bottle of water to make the bottle. This is a major waste of water! Also, for every bottle of water consumed, it takes about 1/4 of that bottle full of oil to make and transport it. And, for each bottle of water, approximately 1.2 pounds of greenhouse gases (gases that contribute to global warming) are produced. This is per bottle people!
All of the bottles of water that are sold are one-use bottles, not to be used again. Only 1/6- 1/4 of these bottles are even recycled, and the rest end up in landfills. Plastic is very resistent and will take thousands of years to break down in a landfill. With the huge numbers of bottled water being sold in the US, these bottles in landfill start to add up very quickly! 28 billion bottles per year in the US alone! Yikes! A good source to share this information with your children can be found at:
or look at: for a more adult version!
Then there is also a cost to the communities that this water is coming from. Big bottled water companies go into communities and basically purchase water rights for next to nothing, extract huge quantities of water from an area, and leave. This depletes drinking water sources for many people, changes the flow of rivers for farmers, fishers and for recreation, and ends up disrupting the entire ecosystem. Yet these huge corporations leave nothing behind to benefit the towns they destroyed.... except maybe some local bottled water on the grocery store shelves which they can purchase for $1.50 each.
If this topic at all interests you, please watch the movie FLOW: For Love of Water. It does a wonderful job discussing many of the issues surrounding water use in the 21st century.
So, what to do? Drink your tap water! First, get your water checked for lead. Many cities will do this for free if you have children in the home (Portland does!), so get on google or ask around. Next, get a water filter that goes right on the tap. We use the New Wave Enviro filter and have loved it so far. You can find them at:
Lastly, get a reusable stainless steel bottle (not plastic!) and carry it with you so that you dont ever have a need for bottled water! My choice in reusable bottles is Sigg. They are a little pricey (about $20), but well worth the investment. Think of all of the money you will save not buying those bottles of water! And you will be saving the environment and communities as well!
Take Back the Tap!
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's In Your Personal Care Products?

Did you know that the FDA does not have the authority to require pre-market testing for personal care products? Only 11% of care-product chemicals in use in the US have actually been tested and evaluated for negative health effects! Many of the chemicals in cosmetics, lotions and hair care have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems AND they can also cause negative effects to the environment. Once they go down your drain, many of them can persist in the environment and end up in our streams and rivers. Then these chemicals can get into the aquatic plants and fish, and eventually end up back on your plate. Yuck.
Did you know that lead is commonly found in lipstick? Phthalates (which are endocrine disrupters, cause liver, kidney and lung damage, and potentially can lead to many other problems) are commonly found in lotions and shampoos targeted for infants. While Europe has banned over 1,100 personal care products due to safety concern, the US has only banned 100. So, choose care products for you and your family with caution. Children are most susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals because they are still developing, so be especially cautious when choosing shampoos, lotions and diaper cream for your little ones. Labels can be tricky and deceiving (something that is "natural" does not mean it is chemical free), so ask your local health food store for guidance if you are unsure. Or check out this website to check on the care products you already use:
While you are there, sign the petition to get the government to start testing these chemicals before they go on the market!!
Thanks to the Oregon Center for Environmental Health for much of the above information!
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Reduce, Reuse and Reuse Some More

Everyone has heard of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", right? I would first like to point out that the 3 R's are in that particular order for a particular reason..... because that is the order in which they should be done. For example, recycling the packaging from that online order you got is fabulous! But, wouldn't it even be better if you had no packaging to recycle?
We obviously all need things (and need to buy things) and we can't always get (or want to get) what we need secondhand. But, before you make a purchase, try and ask yourself:
1. Does my family really need this?
2. Can I find the item used or make it myself?
3. Can I find a version that is more environmentally friendly?
I have found that baby clothes, shoes and books are great things to buy used. Babies and kids grow so fast that you can often find used items that have barely been worn (see this past weekend's score: Finn's new-to-him used sneakers shown above). Portland has some great used baby stores. If your town doesn't, search on craigslist or try and start a baby-item swap with other parents in your area. Also, summertime is a great time to hit up garage sales for kid's stuff. Last summer I had great luck by searching "baby garage sale" on craigslist. This is not only kinder on the environment (you reduce the pollution of making and transporting new goods and keep old stuff out of landfills) but, it is also kinder on your wallet!
For all you crafty (or potentially crafty) mamas out there- babies are a great place to try out your skills. For one, they don't care what they are dressed in, so if you didn't do such a great job, well, they will still love you. Second, they are small, and small means less materials and less work! I am trying to learn how to knit a hat for my son, and at the rate I am going, I am happy that he is still a little guy!
When you do decide to buy something new, the best choice for the environment is to buy things that are high quality that will last for a long time. These items often cost more upfront, but end up being more bang for your buck because you can use them longer and you can sell them when you are done.
And, when you do buy something new, don't forget to recycle that packaging!
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Spring Pear & Arugula Salad

1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
4 cups arugula
1-2 pears, thinly sliced
1/8 pound of manchego cheese, thinly sliced

Toast pumpkin seeds in 1 tbl of olive oil for 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from oil with slotted spoon and let drain.
Top arugula with pumpkin seeds, pears and manchego.

For the dressing whisk together:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbl sherry vinegar
1 tsp local honey
2 tsp stone ground mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4. Yum!!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Where does YOUR food come from?

Today was the first day of this season's Farmer's Market in Portland. Joy! As I was walking around with my mama friend Amy and thoroughly enjoying the bounty of local Portland produce, I realized that this was the perfect topic to blog about.
As parents, we are responsible for what our child eats. And, as you are what you eat, what a parent feeds their child should be carefully selected. The eating habits and choices you teach your child as a toddler will likely be choices that remain with them for your child's entire life. So, if you want the best for your child, feed them healthy foods. At least most of the time!
Today I want to talk about the importance of eating locally. I realize that depending on where you live, your options for eating local may vary throughout the year, but everyone can manage to eat locally at some time during the year. Eating local has many advantages for the environment and for the health of you and your family:
1. Your food does not have to travel thousands of miles to get to you and so large quantities of fossil fuels (contributing to climate change, people) will not be used to get your food from where it was grown to your plate (the average food travels between 1,000 and 1,500 miles to get to you! Yikes!)
2. Also, because of less travel distance, local food is fresher, and has more nutrients. Better for you!
3. You keep your money local, which improves where YOU live!
4. You have a chance to actually meet the people who grow your food. You can find out how it is grown (is it organic? pasture-raised?) and you can now be more connected to what you eat.

So, how does one eat locally? Summertime, is a wonderful time for local foods. Farmers markets abound in many cities throughout the country. If your city does not have a Farmer's Market, why not try to start one? Contact the city and local farmers and see if you can put one together! Or, many CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farms exist. For a CSA, you pay a fee to get a weekly box of fresh produce from a local farm. You create a relationship between you and the people who grow your food, and you get fresh and local produce every week during the growing season. Google CSAs in your area!
Or even better yet-- GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!! All you need is a little outdoor space, some seeds and some love. I won't get into gardening today, but everyone can grow at least something that they can eat. If you live in an apartment without any outdoor space, try a window box of herbs or rent a space at a community gardens in your city. Portland has wonderful community gardens where you pay a small fee to rent a garden plot. It is a wonderful way to grow food, meet others in your community and to improve your neighborhood. Many towns have community gardens. If your does not, try and start one! There is nothing more local than something grown with your own hands!
And, during the off-season, just try to be more aware of the food choices you make. Look at produce labels at the grocery store and just start to realize how far your food has traveled. Do you really need to eat asparagus from South America in the winter, or can you wait until the summer when you can eat it fresh? Ask your local grocery store to buy local when possible. Request signs on the produce clearly stating where it came from. Portland's local chain, New Seasons, is wonderful about this, and makes choosing local foods much easier.
And lastly, realize that you can only do so much.... you may not be able to eat only or even mostly locally, but every time that you choose local over non-local, you are benefiting your family, your community and the environment! Sometimes eating local can be more expensive for your pocketbook, but in my mind, the benefits are clearly worth it.
And, with this, I have to highly recommend reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. I know most of you parents out there probably don't have a lot of time for extracurricular reading, but this one is worth it. Really.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Hello Hello Hello!

Hello eco-mamas and eco-papas! Today is the first day of my new blog, Mama Gone Green. This blog is dedicated to sharing ideas about raising children who value nature and the world around them, and raising them in a way that reduces the impact on our Mother Earth. We all want our children to have a wonderful world in which to raise their own families, but in order to leave them a world that is still wonderful, we need to take action now.
I am the mother of a wonderful 16 month old son. Everyday I learn from him as he explores the world around him, free from expectations. Everyday I am faced with new challenges as a mother, as well as new challenges as an environmentalist. Parenting can be taxing on us as individuals (hello, lack of sleep), but it can also be taxing on our environment as well. Babies need lots of things, they make lots of messes, and when you are already exhausted and sleep deprived, it can be hard to make environmentally conscious and healthy decisions for you and your family. Trust me, I have been there.
As an environmental science instructor at a community college here in Portland, Oregon, I spend a lot of my time focused on sustainability and my part in the balance of our Earth. The more I teach others about the impact of their actions on the environment, the more aware I become of how my choices affect my world and the people that I share it with, both now and in the future. And so I have made (and am still making) a big effort to reduce my impact on the Earth, and to instill these values in my son. My students actually (unknowingly) inspired me to write this blog; many of them have thanked me for helping them learn about the impacts of their actions and for helping them to make more informed choices. I started to realize that most people are not out to harm the planet, they just have very little idea of how large of an impact their lifestyle has. So, if I can reach out and inform others (you!) and help other families make informed decisions, then maybe I can make a tiny contribution to saving our Earth.
I feel very lucky to live in Portland where eco-friendly is a way of life. Well, sort of. Much more than most other places I have been. Portland has many options for buying local, buying organic, and embracing a less harmful way of life. But, if you don't live in Portland, have no fear! You too can have these options-- it just takes people like you to start a movement.
With that, I begin my blogging. Mama Gone Green hopes to share with you the wisdom I have learned along my journey of life and of motherhood and to gain more wisdom from the parents out there who have their own experiences to share. Knowledge is empowerment. Let's empower each other!
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