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!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Some More on BPA

A few weeks ago I gave a quick run-down on the dangers of BPA. Today I came across an interesting video about BPA that looks into the government's involvement in the regulation of BPA and safety concerns over the chemical. You can watch the video here. Pin It Now!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quick n' Easy Pants!

Here are a couple of quick pairs of pants that I made for my little guy. Some of the material was leftover from a baby blanket I had made, and the other print I found on sale. I didn't use a pattern, but just used a pair of store-bought baby pants as an example, and sort of fudged my way through it.
This is a great way to use up some extra material you may have laying around. Or, you may find clothes that you or your significant other no longer wear, but the fabric might be perfect to be re-worked into some baby gear! Goodwill and garage sales are other great places to look for bargains on adult clothes that can be turned into fabric for baby clothes.
For any future pant-makers, one word of advice is to remember that diapers take up more room than you think, especially if you use cloth diapers! My first pair came out a little bit too tight in the diaper region, but than I overcompensated on the second pair and they are a little bit "gansta" in the bottom. I think that the third time will be a charm! I will keep you all posted! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Homemade Baby Food

Those little jars of baby food are awfully convenient, but may not give you the biggest bang for your buck-- monetarily or nutritionally speaking. Jarred baby food is MUCH more expensive per ounce than fresh food or food prepared for adult consumption. And while it is nice to have the pre-sized portions of well-blended baby meals, it can unnecessarily increase your grocery bill. Furthermore, jarred baby food loses nutrients as it has to be cooked at high temperatures to kill off any possible bacteria.
Making homemade organic baby food is easy, not too time consuming, and will save you some much needed cash, especially in these economic times..... When I was making baby food (now my guy is big enough to eat whatever we are eating!), I would devote a couple of hours once every other week and make large batches of baby food that I froze. I read the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It was well worth the read and gave me some great tips on making your own baby food, as well as when and how to introduce new foods. I will share some of her tips with you here!
The easiest way to make baby food is, as I have already said, in large batches. When you go to the grocery store, buy a couple of weeks worth of a few different organic fruits and veggies. I always looked for what was on sale, which would sometimes determine what my little guy was going to eat for the next couple of weeks. If you buy large amounts of on-sale produce, you can make your own organic food for pretty cheap. Once you are ready to process the food, you will need ice cube trays and freezer bags, as well as something to mash the food with (a fork can work fine, but a baby food mill can help get the food even smoother-- some babies really prefer a smooth texture!).
I preferred do cook all of the food at once, and be really busy in the kitchen but get it over with. Cook, steam, or boil each of your fruits/veggies. You want to cook them enough so that they are soft and cooked through, but the more you overcook, the more nutrients will be lost. So, cook only until they are done. After each food is cook, mash well until you get the texture you want. Make sure to remove seeds and skins, particularly for the very young ones! As soon as you are done mashing, fill your ice cube trays with the mashed food, cover well with tin foil, and put into the freezer immediately. Freezing right away will keep more nutrients and prevent bacteria from growing on the food. If you time this right, you can be putting one veggie into the freezer just as the next is ready to be mashed.
After your food is frozen (a couple of hours) crack the veggie cubes into a freezer bag and make sure to get ALL of the air out. Then, double bag into another freezer bag. Trust me; if you don't get all of the air out and double bag it, you will get freezer burn. It is worth the extra minute or two! Also, don't forget your cubes in the trays overnight. The longer they sit there after freezing, the better chance of them accumulating some freezer burn!
Now, label your bags with what is in there and the date you froze it on, and now you have baby food all ready to go. When baby is hungry, just throw a couple of cubes into a saucepan and heat on low, making sure to stir frequently in order to heat evenly (as it is easy to get VERY hot parts in with still frozen parts). Before feeding to your little one, make sure that there are NO frozen or hot parts. You could probably use a microwave as well, but we are microwave-free at our house, so I am not sure how long it would heat up for.
Freezing the food will cause it to lose some nutrients; making your babe fresh food each meal would be ideal, however, none of us busy moms have time to do that. Plus you would end up wasting quite a bit of food. Freezing will preserve more nutrients than jarring, and will save you much needed time and sanity.
Now you know exactly what you are putting into your baby's tummy and you know exactly how that food was handled. If you buy food that is in-season, you can buy your produce locally and even know exactly where it was grown! You will be saving money, providing more nutritious food for your babe, and you will be reducing your environmental impact! You will no longer have multiple glass jars every day that need to be recycled after only 1 use! Plus, you will be avoiding all of the fossil fuels used to transport produce to the factory where the baby food is made, and then transport the finished product to stores. I am not saying that jarred baby food is evil- it is great for traveling, for babysitters, and for those days when you just can't muster the courage to face the kitchen after a day from hell. But, if you rely on homemade food for the majority of your little ones' meals, you will find that it is not that much extra work, and well worth the extra nutrition and extra savings! Pin It Now!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Coconut Carrot Quick Bread

This is a great quick bread recipe that has no processed sugar or dairy, and hides some veggies into a treat that your kids will eat!

2 eggs
2/3 cup agave syrup or other sugar substitute
2/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 whole carrots, grated
1/3 cup coconut (or more, depending on how much you like it!)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Beat eggs, agave syrup and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add dry mixture to egg mixture.

Beat well. Add carrots and coconut.

Grease (I like to use olive oil spray) a 9x5 inch loaf pan and pour in batter. Or prepare 2 mini-size loafs for child-size pieces.

Bake one hour for regular loaf, 40 minutes for small loaves. Before removing from oven, pierce with a knife and make sure it comes out clean. Bread may need to bake slightly longer depending on your oven and carrot-moisture levels.

Place on cooling rack and eat! yum!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quick Tip #2: Use A Solar Dryer

We all know that going solar is the new rage, right? Well, how about using solar energy to dry your clothes! That's right, it's a brand new invention called the clothes line! You simply hang your clothes on it, and in a few hour, voila! They are dry!
But seriously... now that summer is approaching and days are getting warmer and sunnier, how about hanging a clothesline and at least drying some of your clothes that way. Even drying one load per week on the line as opposed to your dryer will not only save money on your electricity bill, but will also save greenhouse emissions from the source that produced your electricity. Plus, the sun will help to bleach out stains from garments and cloth diapers!
Happy drying! Pin It Now!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sailing the Seas of Plastic

We have already discussed BPA, it's use in plastic, and the problems it can cause. Plastics also cause pollution during manufacturing, and can have some pretty serious negative health effects. Today we are going to bypass all of that and learn about the problems with plastics polluting our environment and poisoning wildlife.
Plastics are everywhere. Seriously. Our society could not function the way it does without them. After World War 2, the role of women in the home changed as plastics were used to create a "throwaway" lifestyle where women could be freed of the jobs of washing dishes and such. Women were being encouraged to simplify their lives with disposable items (made of plastic), and unfortunately, that mind set has stuck.
The biggest problem with plastics is that they do not biodegrade. They can spend time in the sun and the water and they will become brittle and break into smaller pieces, but the quantity will not decrease. And, since only a small percentage of the plastic we produce get recycled, that means that most of it ends up in landfills, or in places where it should not be, like the ocean.
There are 5 gyres in oceans across the globe. These are basically areas where ocean currents circulate and they tend to be a magnet for improperly disposed of items. The North Pacific Gyre off the west coast of North America is commonly called a garbage patch. It is not a floating landfill, where a big collection of garbage amasses; however, it is an area where a whole lot of plastic is floating on the waves. It is estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square meter of ocean in this area.
The biggest problem with plastics in our oceans is that they break down into smaller pieces, are mistaken for food sources and are eaten by aquatic life and birds. Plastics act as a magnet for oily pollutants (such as pesticides) and end up concentrating toxins on their surface. So while the ocean water may not have high levels of chemicals in it, these pieces of plastic act as poison pills to animals. Once ingested, the high levels of toxins are now residing inside an organism. Over time, as fish and birds eat piece upon piece of plastic that they mistook for food, they accumulate higher and higher levels of toxins in their system. Not to mention the fact that since these plastics don't biodegrade, they just sit in the animals gut. Many a dead bird has been found with a belly full of plastic, which affects the health and reproduction of the organism.
Now let's see how this relates to humans. If you eat fish, as most of us do, there is a good chance that the fish you eat has also ingested some of this lovely ocean plastic, and the pollutants that have adhered to it as well. And, if that fish you ate ate smaller fish who have also ingested pieces of plastic, the levels of toxins in it's system will be even higher (this is a process called bioaccumulation).
So, plastics are wreaking havoc not only on our oceans and our wildlife, but also on our own health. Plastics are extremely useful and great for some purposes. The point is that we need to use less of it and re-use it over and over again, and when we are done with it, it needs to be recycled and kept far away from our rivers and oceans.
How can you help?
* Buy less items made of plastic. this is especially true of children's items. Yes, wooden items may cost a bit more, but they look nicer and our safer for our Earth and for our children.
* Refrain from buying things for one-time use. Do you need to have plastic cups and silverware for that birthday party, or can you deal with washing some extra dishes for one day? How about washing and reusing those plastic bags?
* When you do buy plastics, try and buy used first. Check, goodwill, or other re-use shops in your area. Often you can find the plastic you need for a fraction of the price, and your purchase don't contribute to degrading our Earth.
* When you are done with your plastic items, try to donate or resell what is still usable. Anything leftover should be recycled if possible. Try to dispose of as little plastic as possible!
For more information, check out the movie "Addicted to Plastic" by Bullfrog films. And if you want a heart-breaking story about the dangers of throwing away plastics, check out Mae West, a turtle who was caught in a plastic milk jug ring as a baby. Also, check out Life Less Plastic, a woman's blog about her journey in trying to be plastic-free. Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful mamas out there...including my own! Today, take some time to relax and thank yourself for all of the hard work that you do! Pin It Now!

Friday, May 8, 2009

No More Fleas Please?

Kids love pets. We have 7 of them (yes, I did type that correctly, 7); 4 dogs and 3 cats. So, fleas are a fairly significant issue at our house. We have never used actual flea collars for our pets, but today I read some alarming news about the dangers of using them, particularly with children in the home. In short, residues can come off of the collars onto the animals fur. When children (or adults!) pet the animals, they can come into contact with this toxic residue, posing a risk for both neurological disorders and cancer.
You can read more information about the study here.
For a list of non-invasive and kid-friendly ways to combat fleas, check out green paws.
And, to sign a NRDC petition to the EPA to prohibit the use of these toxic chemicals in products used on our pets and near our children, click here.
We have been using Advantage flea control on our pets, although we only use it a few times a year instead of the recommended dose each month (in hopes to reduce the amount of chemicals entering our home). Although the vet said that these products are perfectly safe for both animals and humans, I still have my doubts. That said, I have not had much luck finding any reliable sources of information on the dangers posed by Advantage, frontline, etc. If anyone knows of a good source of information on these flea products, I would love some insight. Until then. I will keep searching.
And, as for the fleas..... after reading this most recent information, I think that I may try and forgo the flea meds for awhile and start a strict regiment of brushing, bathing, and laundering dog beds. We do all these things, but not every 2 weeks (especially the bathing part.... 7 animals.... ugg.) I thought about adopting a flea-eating animal, but apparently nothing eats fleas. Go figure. Pin It Now!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Asparagus & Sweet Potato Curry

Spring means time for fresh asparagus! This is a recipe for a great curry that includes fresh asparagus. It is packed full of vitamins and even my toddler enjoys it. And, when asparagus season is over, you can substitute any other combination of vegetables in it's place. I have tried numerous combinations and have found them all to be delightful. I serve this over brown rice, but could also be served over pasta or quinoa.

You will need:
Tbl coconut oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp ginger (fresh or dried both work fine)
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp
garam masala (common Indian spice. if you don't use this, your dish will be missing an essential ingredient. available in the bulk section of most health stores)
1.5 tsp
2 bay leaves
1 14.5 oz. can of diced
tomatoes or substitute fresh tomatoes (if you use canned, remember that Eden Organics are the only BPA-free canned tomatoes available)
1 14.5 oz. can of coconut milk
1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1-2 bunches asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
cilantro as a garnish

coconut oil in large pan and saute over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook until they pop (don't go far because when they do start to pop, it can sure get messy if you are not there to stir them... and keep little ones away from the stove at this point; sometimes the mustard seeds can pop right out of the pan and could cause a slight burn). Add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add all spices and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Next add the
tomatoes and the coconut milk. For a thinner sauce, you can fill the coconut milk can up with water and add to the mix. For a thicker sauce, leave as is.
Add sweet potatoes and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, making sure potatoes are tender. Add asparagus, cover, and continue to simmer under just tender (about 5 minutes).
Pour over rice and garnish with cilantro! Bon apetit! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Scoop on BPA

You have probably heard about BPA, but there is a good chance that you don't really know what it is or what it does. Today I will give a run-down on the basics of BPA so that you and your family can be more informed.
BPA, aka Bisphenol A, is a chemical that is used to harden plastic and it seems to be found everywhere; sippy cups, coffee mugs, baby bottles, linings for the inside of food cans (including infant formula), and more. 2.3 billion pounds of this stuff are manufactured each year in the US alone!! Unfortunately, like almost everything else we read about lately, BPA has been linked to several health problems.
It was discovered in 1936 that BPA mimics estrogen, and binds to the same receptors as female hormones. This allows BPA to disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with cell functioning. This chemical has also been linked with obesity, diabetes, liver problems, cancer, heart disease and is a possible neurotoxin. The amounts of BPA that leach from baby bottles during normal use have caused harm to animals during laboratory tests. Yet it is still allowed to be used in plasctis that we give to our developing children. Yikes.
BPA ingestion can cause problems at very low levels, only 2-5 ppb (parts per billion), and seems to be a normal part of the everyday American diet. Yuck. Over 93% of participants in a scientific study were found to have BPA in their urine. BPA breaks down quickly within the body; however, the fact that so many of the sampled individuals had BPA in their system means that most of us are exposed to it on a frequent basis. It is likely that the majority of the BPA we are ingesting is coming from polluted water; plastics that are improperly disposed of into lakes and rivers can leach into the water and pollute drinking water sources as well as aquatic life. Plastics that are put into landfills de not decompose which means that if the landfill's seal ever breaks, BPA (and plenty of other nasty stuff) can easily leach into the groundwater and pollute underground water sources.
The chemical companies who make BPA and products containing BPA would like us to believe that these products are safe and argue that until is it proved (without a doubt) that BPA exposure results in harmful health effects, it should be continued to be used. I, however, as most other parents and sane individuals I know, would argue that if something has been linked to health problems, it should be pulled off the shelves and not allowed back on until it has been proved (without a doubt) to be 100% safe. In the meantime, I have made the choice to not use bottles, sippy cups, or food storage containers that contain BPA, particularly when I am giving it to my toddler. Many companies are switching to BPA-free alternatives and BPA-bans are on the rise. Until our government protects all of our health and bans the manufacturing of BPA, protect yourself and your family and chose safer alternatives.
For a good review on the history of BPA, check out:
So, how can you reduce you and your family's intake of BPA?
*First off, try and replace beverage and food containers that contain BPA with ones that do not contain BPA. Born-Free makes a wonderful BPA-free bottle (that is what we use at my home) as does Green-to-Grow. As BPA is such a hot topic lately, there are likely more brands on the market already, as well as more on the way. Glass bottles are another great option, although maybe not as great for the toddler times. There are plenty of options for BPA-free sippy cups, food storage containers, baby spoons, bowls, etc. out there. Munchkin is a brand that is available at most major grocery stores that is now BPA-free.
* Purchase a stainless steel coffee mug and stainless steel water bottles for the family. They will keep your beverages cold/hot, are durable, and won't leach harmful chemicals into your beverages! Sigg is my favorite stainless steel water bottle. They make a variety of sizes and designs, and even have ones made specifically for little ones. They are a little bit pricey, but worth every penny.
* Do not put hot food or beverages in containers that contain BPA and do not put plastics with BPA in the microwave or in the dishwasher. The heat can more easily leach the chemical from the plastic and into your food (hot liquids and foods can cause BPA to leach out 55 times faster than unheated foods and beverages).
* Focus on eating fresher! Fresh foods don't come in cans and don't come into contact with BPA. When fresh is not an option, favor dried or frozen over canned. Side note: Eden organic foods come in BPA-free cans (the only manufactured in the US)!
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Quick Craft: Art Books from Waste Paper!

How about reusing that paper before you recycle it? Recycling is great, but reusing is even better! I take paper with writing/printing on one side and make it into kid-size art books for my little guy. If your child is old enough, creating these books would be a great project to do together! Here's how:
Just cut your paper into whatever size you want your art pad to be. I like to cut 8.5X11 size paper in half. Then, use a hole punch to put at least 3 holes through your stack of paper, along the side where you want your "binding" to be. Make sure all of the pages have the blank side facing the same direction. Find some yarn and tie the pages together. I like to double knot my bows to make it sturdy. Then you can decorate the front with stickers, stamps or whatever your creative mind can think of.
Once your child has filled up the book, any pages that are not keepers can then be recycled. Now you can reuse your paper before recycling, and get some free art books in the process! Happy book-making!
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