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!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Green Your Font!

Looking for a way to decrease your impact on the environment in less than 3 minutes? Download Ecofont which is a free font that uses 20% less ink when you print! The letters are studded with small holes that are undetected at fonts less than 12 point (although the words look more gray than black).
To get this free font, go to You first need to download the font file and save it to your hard drive. I found it was easiest to save it under the Windows file in the C drive. Once you have the file saved, click on the instructions on how to install a font. It looks overwhelming at first, but is really quite simple once you get started.
Happy typing! Pin It Now!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Swim Diapers

Summertime is time to hit the pool or the beach, which also means time to get swim diapers for little ones that are not potty trained. From my previous blogs, you may already know that I am a fan of cloth diapers. Although disposable diapers do have a time and place (hello air travel), cloth diapers have less impact on the environment and are gentler for baby and for our Earth. The idea behind swim diapers is exactly the same as regular diapers: cloth is the way to go. Why pay money for each diaper you use and create waste each time your baby swims? You can purchase a reusable swim diaper for anywhere from about $5 up to $15 or so, and it can last you the entire swim season (and then you can pass it on to another baby when you are done). That one diaper can cover tushies for many seasons of swimming, as opposed to packages and packages of the disposable plastic ones that serve the same purpose. Those disposable diapers just cost you more money and only add to the ridiculous amount of diapers found in our landfills today.
Cloth swim diapers are easy to use and can be thrown in with any load of laundry and do not need to specially washed (unless the specific instructions on your swim diaper say otherwise). I have always just thrown my son's swim diaper in with my suit, pool towels, and any other laundry from a day at the pool..
And if you are worried that those cloth diapers may not keep in a poop as well as a disposable... well, no need to fear! A recent study has shown that even brand name disposable diapers do not keep out diarrhea or watery stolls which can carry harmful bacteria. Check out this story on cbs for more details. The moral of this story is: if your baby is sick or shows any signs of watery stools.... keep them out of the pool and prevent the transmission of disease! Any swim diaper is only designed to keep in, well, turds. Anything more runny that that could potentially leak out of the diaper (talk about embarrassing!). So, yes, cloth works just as well as disposable and it won't weigh down your baby either! They are even slim enough to fit under a bathing suit or cute enough to wear alone! Happy swimming!
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all you great dads out there! Thanks for all of the hard work you do! Pin It Now!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is your paint toxic?

New baby on the way? Can't wait to paint the nursery?
Before you do any painting in your home, especially those of you with children or some on the way, make sure the paints you use are safe for you and your family. Most paints contain something called VOCs, otherwise known as Volatile Organic Compounds. These are the chemicals in the paint that help hold the color pigments and resins into the solution so that the paint, and the color, will stick to the walls. Then, since they are volatile (meaning that they want to be in a gaseous state and not in a liquid form) they begin to evaporate as soon as they are applied, allowing the paint to dry quickly.
VOCs are problematic because they are toxic. If you have ever painted before, you know the strong odor that paints give off, and hence, the need to ventilate an area well during painting to prevent headaches and a general feeling of "bleh". VOCs are released in the highest concentrations during and immediately following application, but continue to emit from the paint for months or even YEARS after you apply it. VOCs can cause eye irritation, respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, damage to the kidneys, liver and central nervous system and have (like everything else) been linked to cancer.
If you have recently painted with a paint containing VOCs, the best thing to do is to keep the room well ventilated and try to avoid spending long periods of time in the room for at least several weeks. Keep all children (and pregnant women) out of the room for at least several weeks. Also, make sure that you always dispose of paint properly-- the high amount of chemicals make it harmful to the environment, and it can cause groundwater contamination if it seeps through the earth (this is the water you drink from, people). So, NEVER throw paint into the trash. Either recycle it or bring it to a hazardous waste facility. Portland has a great program where they collect old paints, separate them into general color categories and then mix them all together and resell them. These paints are not VOC-free, but they are recycled and they are super cheap. If you can't afford to buy VOC-free, see if your town has a similar paint recycling program.
If you haven't painted recently (but want to) then make sure to choose a low-VOC or no-VOC paint if your budget can afford it. These paints tend to be a bit pricier, but are made from natural ingredients with no or less harmful side effects. Click here for some names and ingredients of earth-friendly (and health-friendly) paints. You should be able to find low/no VOC paints wherever paint is sold, however, for a larger selection, you may want to go to a specialty home improvement store. Portland, which prides itself on being a green building city, has a multitude of green building suppliers. Depending on where you live however, your selection may be more limited. If you are looking for a bargain, sometimes stores have accidentally mixed a gallon of the wrong color paint. If you are not particular about a color, you can often get paints (even no/low VOC ones) at a much lower price!
We used a VOC-free paint to paint our son's nursery before he was born. It did not brush on as smoothly as "normal" paint, but had no bad odor and has a wonderful finish and texture to it. I was 100% happy with that paint, and can say that I will never go back to paint full of toxins.
I know that when you are expecting, there comes a time when you want to paint the nursery and get it ready for your new arrival. Painting with regular, VOC-containing paint, is not a healthy choice for your baby (or for you!), as the chemicals will be breathed in by the mother while the fetus is in-utero and will remain for your new, sensitive baby to breathe in after they are born. If you MUST paint while expecting and can't afford VOC-free paint, then 1) paint as early as possible so that most of the fumes will have disappeared before baby arrives 2) let dad or a friend do all of the painting and keep the baby-carrying women out of the room and 3) keep windows open and fans on (blowing air out of the windows, not in). Many a family has painted their baby's room in eager anticipation of their arrival, and if you are one of them, do not feel guilty or worried. This is relatively new knowledge, and with knowledge comes power. We all make the best choices we can, but our choices can not truly be the "best" when we do not have all of the information! Pin It Now!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Need something to keep your kids entertained for a bit? How about some flubber? Flubber oozes like a liquid, but can be torn like a solid. It is sort of like play-doh, but not really. Not a good description? Give this recipe a try and find out for yourself. Cookie cutters make a great flubber accompaniment.
You can find this original recipe, along with others, from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.


Warm water
2 cups Elmers White Glue*
Liquid Water Color (do not use food coloring)
Glitter (optional)
2 tsp. Borax (20 Mule Team Borax, available in any grocery store laundry section)


  • In a small container, combine:
    1 and 1/3 cup very warm water
    2 tsp. Borax
  • Stir until Borax is completely dissolved.
  • Set aside.
  • In a large container, combine:
    1 and 1/2 cup very warm water
    2 cups Elmer's White Glue
    Liquid Water Color
    Glitter (optional)
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the contents of the small container into the large container.
  • Mix well using your hands.
  • Lift and turn the mixture until it is fully combined.


If flubber sticks on hair, clothes or carpet, use white vinegar to clean it. The vinegar completely dissolves the flubber.
This recipe yields enough for 6 children.
If stored in an airtight container, the flubber will last for up to two weeks. Pin It Now!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Reading!

The lazy days of summer are here, which means that summer reading time has begun! Reading to (and with) your children is one of the best ways to develop language skills, narrative skills, and a lifelong love for reading! The first few years of your child's life are the most crucial for making these important connections, so read to your baby and keep on reading to them and with them as they grow up!
Many libraries offer summer reading programs for children, often with incentives (read: prizes!) for reading a certain amount of books or hours. Portland's summer reading program begins TODAY, so get to your local branch and sign up!
Reading is one of my little guy's favorite activities. We have kid-proof board books all over the house where he can reach them and pick them out by himself. We also have them in the car and I ALWAYS have some with me if we are going to dinner or anywhere else where we may have to spend some time waiting. Books are a great distraction, don't take up much space and (most of them) don't make loud annoying noises-- what more could you want in a toy?
Toddlers get a huge kick out of going to the library and getting to choose some books to borrow. This not only teaches our children to love to read, but also teaches them that we don't need to buy everything new-- oftentimes we can borrow what we need and then return it when we are done. Feed the brain, save the planet! Let's Read! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Paper or Plastic?

I think most of us have had it ingrained into our brains by now.... paper or plastic? Neither! (but if you have to choose, choose paper!). Plastic bags are made from oil (which is being depleted and pollution from using oil is contributing to global warming). Plus they don't degrade, so they either fill up our landfills, or more likely they end up in the ocean, and can harm birds and aquatic life. Paper bags, although easier on the Earth than plastic, are made from trees, which are our friends, so why cut them down if we don't need to?
Reusable shopping bags are becoming more and more mainstream, which is a fabulous thing! Try to keep reusable bags in your car (or in your bike or stroller) so you have them with you each time you go shopping. If I forget my bags, I do my best to only buy what I can fit in my purse and/or carry.
You already use reusable bags you say? Great! So, the next step is to re-use your produce bags. You know, the plastic bags you pull off the roll to protect your lettuce, peppers and tomatoes? I have started to rinse out the bags after they are empty, let them dry, and stick them into my reusable shopping bags for my next trip to the market. I also do this with bulk bags as well. That way I don't have to use new plastic bags each time I shop! Pin It Now!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Garden with your Children

Although gardening with your child may not be the easiest task in the world (try explaining the difference between weeds and plants to an 18 month old!).... it is a wonderful opportunity for you to spend time with your child outdoors, to teach them about plants, and to show them where food comes from. My son gets a kick out of picking strawberries from the yard and eating them. Herb gardens that have a variety of smells are also great for kids. It develops their senses with different smells, textures, and colors.
If your child is old enough, and you have the space, give them their own area to garden. Let them plant whatever they want and watch it grow! Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Natural Cleaning Miracle?

OK, so maybe I am the last person on earth to figure this out, but I thought I would share in case anyone else out that does not know this trick...
Last night I hunkered down to clean the bathtub. It was gross and had a caked on film that I didn't think would ever come off. I started doing what I normally do, which is pour on some baking soda and scrub with an abrasive sponge ( I like the nylon fiber scouring pads). I was having some success, but it just wasn't all coming off, and my arm was starting to hurt from all of the scrubbing. Being the scientist that I am, I decided to spray on some vinegar in addition to the baking soda. Baking soda and vinegar create a chemical reaction (causing a bubbling-foaming thing to happen) and I thought that MAYBE this reaction would react the scum off of my tub. And it DID! I mean, I still had to scrub pretty hard, but it was a whole lot easier than with just baking soda. My entire tub was sparkling white again!
So, if you want to try this at home:
Take an old clean spray bottle and fill it 1 part vinegar (distilled white) to about 5 parts water (but you don't have to measure, it doesn't really matter). I also added in a few drops of tea tree oil as a disinfectant and to cut the vinegar smell. Now, put a generous amount of baking soda onto your nylon scouring pad (I wouldn't use steel wool-- my guess is it would scratch although I have never tried) and rub the baking soda over a small area to be cleaned. Now spray the vinegar solution on the area you just scrubbed (and watch the bubbling magic happen). Scrub back over the area again, and you should notice that the grime comes off much easier!
This concoction is not only chemical-free and safe for you and your family, but it all comes from stuff you likely have sitting in your kitchen! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mini Muffins!

Here is a quick and easy recipe for mini-muffins that have no processed sugar and are a great treat for the kiddos. I like to make several batches at a time and freeze them so they last for a few weeks!

What you need:
1 3/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup milk (I use rice milk, but soy or dairy would work just as well)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup agave syrup (available at Trader Joe's or other health food stores)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of whatever you want! some of my favorites additives are: blueberries, chocolate chips, strawberry-rhubarb, and peaches but get creative and see what you can come up with!

What you do:
1. preheat overn to 400F
2. Mix eggs, milk, oil, agave syrup, vanilla and cinnamon
3. add flour and baking powder
4. fold in your choice of fruit (chocolate is a fruit, right?)
5. pour into pre-greased (I use olive oil spray) mini muffin pans
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes
7. remove from pan and cool on rack
8. If freezing, let cool completely (otherwise the heat will trap moisture into the freezer bags and the muffins will stick together). After cool, place into freezer bag, making sure all of the air is out before sealing.

Makes about 24 (one sheet) mini muffins Pin It Now!

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Choose a Sunscreen

It's that time of year when the weather is nice and we start (hopefully!) spending a lot of time outdoors. That means needing to lather on the sunscreen, especially for the wee ones, who have such sensitive skin.
Unfortunately, many sunscreens have potentially harmful ingredients in them, so you need to read the ingredients and pay attention to what you are buying. Pain in the butt? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. Sadly, the sunscreens that are not full of the bad stuff are often much pricier than your average brands. Watch for sales (but don't stock up as sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time) and make sure to keep sunscreen out of baby's way. A bottle of sunscreen in the wrong little hands could be a messy and expensive experience. Also, babies under 6 months should NOT use sunscreen, and should be covered and under shade instead.

Here is what to look out for:

1. Parabens- these act as a preservative and lengthen the lifespan of the sunscreen. In addition to lengthening shelf life, they can also irritate the skin and can release traces of formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Avoid products that contain:

Bronopol (often listed as 2-brono-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol)

Diazolidinyl urea

DMDM hydantion

Imidazo lidinyl urea

Quaternium 15

2. Glycols are used to lock in humidity. However, these chemicals can permeate the skin, and, in high doses, can lead to kidney, liver, and reproductive system damage, AND can cause birth defects, Avoid products that have "methyl" or EGPE, EGME, EGEE, DEGBE, PGME, DPGME.

3. Sodium Laurel Sulfate can actually chance the genetic information stored inside human cells, can break down proteins, and can lead to eye problems such as cataracts.

4. Petrolatum is a by-product of gasoline production. It clogs pores and can simulate sun damage. Not quite the additive you were hoping for in a sunscreen, right?

5. Artificial colors can contain heavy metals (think lead and arsenic) which are known carcinogens. Avoid sunscreen (and anything else for that matter!) that contains:

• FD&C Blue 1 (carcinogenic)

• FD&C Green 3 (carcinogenic)

• D&C Red 33 (shown to cause cancer)

• FD&C Yellow 5 (shown to cause cancer)

FC&C Yellow 6 (shown to cause cancer)

Thanks to for the great info!

If you want to check the safety of the products you already use, check out the cosmetics database that I talked about in my personal care products entry.

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