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, November 30, 2009

Toy Safety for the Holidays

Looking for some great toys for the holiday season? Before you shop, check out Mothering Magazine's website that has links to several articles on the topics of toy safety, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), toxins in toys, as well as where to find safe, natural toys for your children. Now you can shop with peace of mind! Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Become a Locavore!

OK, OK. I know that I am touting the importance of local eating every chance I get, but I thought I would just remind you all once again. EAT LOCAL!
Eating local is good for so many reasons including:
1. keeping money in your own economy
2. eating food that is fresher (because it hasn't been traveling for days) and therefore more packed with nutrients
3. decreasing your carbon footprint by needing less fossil fuels to get your food from the farm to you.
4. keeping tabs on how your food is grown; if you are eating local you can visit the farms and talk to the farmers. Plus, it is much easier to influence your local growers to keep the ideals of the community in mind
5. eating seasonal will make your try new foods, vary your diet throughout the year, and appreciate what your local environment has to offer.

I know that eating local can be tough; sometimes it is more expensive (because it is not mass-produced) and some of us live in climates where we would starve in the winter if we did not eat food from other regions (unless we are very motivated food preservers!).
But, YOU CAN eat local more! Start reading produce labels and packages. If you have a choice between an apple from Washington or New Zealand, is there really even a question there? I would much prefer the apple that has not traveled across the world to get to me. When you have an option, choose the local one. When the item you want (need!), like coffee, cannot be grown in your region, make sure to choose a sustainable grower that supports it local community, and try to use less of the product to compensate for the long distance it has to travel.
Lastly, encourage your local eateries and favorite restaurants to support local foods. A company can make a much larger impact than an individual, so the more businesses that climb aboard the local train, the better off we will be.
To find a list of products grown in your community, as well as farmers markets, CSAs, and more goodies, check out: and Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to be thankful for everything you have, especially your family and your friends! Happy Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turn off that Faucet!

Did you know that approximately 1.1 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water? And we use our pristine groundwater for the inside of our toilet bowls. Make an effort to cut your water usage by taking shorter showers, doing larger (and fewer) loads of laundry and turning off the tap while you brush. Reuse your water. And check out the Water Use It Wisely website for a list of 100+ ways you can conserve water. Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some Words to Ponder.....

"One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards."

- Edward Abbey Pin It Now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Green Your Thanksgiving!

This year, how about trying to give thanks for everything you have, including your Mother Earth? Try to make your thanksgiving meal more sustainable by choosing locally raised turkeys that are free of antibiotics and hormones and by trying to choose foods that are in-season, and grown locally when possible. Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The World According to Monsanto

If you have read my last blog on genetically modified foods (GMOs), you can probably tell that I have pretty strong feelings on the subject. If you have any interest in GMOs, or the future of our food system in the United States, I urge you to watch a film entitled The World According to Monsanto. It discusses the history of the Monsanto company, from the creation of agent orange, to the pollution of drinking water in small towns, and talks quite a bit about GMOs, including rBGH (bovine growth hormone, which is found in many conventional milks on our supermarket shelves). This movie can be hard to get your hands on; netflix does not currently own it, and I have not seen it at any video stores. I have checked it out from my local library, but I did have to wait a few weeks to get my hands on it. One of my students did find a link to watch the video, in sections, online. This movie is worth the watch. I bet after viewing it, you will join my campaign to remove Monsanto from controlling our food!
Watch The World According to Monsanto here! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is REALLY in our food?

Most of you have probably heard the words 'genetically modified food' before, but most of you may not understand the huge impact these plants are going to start having on our lives. Genetically modified foods (GMOs; also referred to as biotech or bioengineered foods) are plants that have actually been genetically altered to posses some trait that they normally would not have. For example, putting the genes from a bacterium into a corn plant to make it resistant to a certain disease or pest, or putting genes from a flounder into a tomato to help it withstand cold temperatures.
GMOs were created for a few reasons, and although the biggest push behind them has likely been money and power, in theory, they do posses some good qualities. Creating foods that are resistant to certain environmental factors (droughts, floods), creating food that contain higher amounts of vitamins (like golden rice which, unlike any other rice, contains vitamin A and can help prevent deficiencies in developing countries), and creating food that have a built-in resistance to pests so that less pesticide needs to be used. However, the evils of these GMOs far outweigh the goods in most scenarios. Let's discuss....
So, as previously mentioned, genetically altered foods have genes from a different organism implanted into them. If any of you have food allergies (like me) you can see what a potential nightmare this could become. For example, what if you are allergic to fish and unknowingly ate the flaversaver tomato (no longer being grown) which had flounder genes implanted into it? That could result in a potentially fatal tomato encounter. Well, you are probably thinking, just don’t buy the genetically modified tomatoes, right? Well, unfortunately, in the US, GMOs are not required to be labeled. That means that any non-organic food item that you buy could be or could contain GMOs. In fact, it is estimated that around 60% of all food in the typical American grocery store has been genetically modified in one way or another! A large part of this results from the fact that much of our corn and soy is genetically modified, and corn and soy are abundantly found in the multitude of processed foods most Americans put into their bodies every day.
Another issue of GMOs is the issue of safety. GMOs are relatively new on the food scene, having come into the mainstream beginning in the 1990s. Manipulative food laws of the FDA called GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) allowed these new food items to come directly onto grocery store shelves with little to no safety testing. So, in essence, neither the government nor you has any idea what these GMOs may start to do to our health over long time frames (although the test that do exist definitely show questionability of the safety of GMOs.)
So now that we know that GMOs could pose some serious health threats, what about the environment? Glad you asked. GMOs can affect populations of beneficial insects by killing these insects when they land on plants that have been genetically altered to kill pests. These also exists the potential for the creation of superweeds. Superweeds are weeds that have genetically crossed with crops genetically modified to be immune to herbicide. If these crops cross with weeds, it can create weeds that can no longer be killed with herbicides. Furthermore, the more and more fields we plant with GMOs, the more and more contamination of our non-GMO crops through crossbreeding. Creating huge GMO monocultures where every farmer is growing the same exact strain of a crop will essentially wipe out all diversity, and will lead to all of our food being genetically altered. Yuck.
Now we move on to the social issues. First off, Monsanto (the company who rules the game of GMOs) has introduced a terminator gene into their altered crops. This terminator gene makes the seeds from the next crop sterile, meaning that farmers who grow GMOs can no longer save seeds and need to purchase new seed each and every year. This not only gets pricey for the farmers (making our food costs go UP) but also give Monsanto a monopoly on the seed world. Not to mention that Monsanto has a patent for all of these GMO seeds that it creates. And, due to some crazy patent laws and some bad rulings by US judges, any farmer (or anyone for that mater) that is found to have Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds on their property without paying for it can be held liable. This means that if GMO seed accidentally blows from one field and contaminates another, even if that farmer doesn’t want that GMO seed in his field, that farmer can be sued by Monsanto for having their property in his field. Sounds ridiculous, right? It is, but sadly it is TRUE.
Everyone out there needs to watch The Future of Food. It is a wonderful documentary that gets more into depth about this subject than I can get here and explains the technology, the law and the effects behind GMOs.
So, what can you do to stop GMOS? First, educate yourself. Learn more about GMOS and watch The Future of Food. Second, find out where your food comes from! Organic food, by law, cannot be genetically altered (however, this may become problematic as our organic crop field become contaminated with GMO seed). So, buy organic. Shop at farmer’s markets and talk to the farmers. Shop at your local grocery (not the big chain stores) and tell them your concerns. Ask where they source their food from and make educated decisions. Lastly, get the word out! Tell your friends and neighbors about this GMO craziness that is happening. Write your local, state and federal representatives and tell them you DON’T want GMO food in your grocery stores. Call your children’s schools and urge them to not serve GMO food for school lunches. Network and see what you can do.
Seems like a lot of work, right? But this is the health and future of our environment, our agricultural system and our children. Europe has passed laws mandating the labeling of GMO food, so why cant we? I surely don’t want my son eating a food that is so toxic to pests that the food itself is registered as a pesticide, do you? If not, join me in this fight against GMOs and spread the word. Together we can make change happen. Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

BPA Research Update

I have previously blogged about the dangers of BPA, especially when used in items designed for children. For a link to articles that discuss these dangers, check out the Oregon Center for Environmental Health's webpage on current research on BPA. Pin It Now!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sustainble Shower

Getting ready to have a new baby? Most moms-to-be have a baby shower which is a wonderful time to share good food, connect with friends, and, of course, get all of the baby supplies that you will soon be needing.
Baby showers are great and I was lucky enough to have family throw one before my little guy was born (thanks family!). However, looking back, I wish that I would have requested a more sustainable shower. Most of the gifts that you get for your shower are items that could easily be purchased used. If you think about how much wear a baby will put into 0-3 month old clothes, it isn't much. Many of these items are given as gifts, used for a few months, and then become trash. However, a sustainable shower ask guests to try and find the items you need used (via used baby stores, goodwill, craigslist, garage sales). This reduces the number of new items that are purchased, gives old things a new home, and cuts back on waste from packaging. It also saves money meaning that your guests can spend less money or get more for the money they will spend. You can also encourage guest to use more sustainable forms of gift wrap (a reusable gift bag or for baby gifts I love to wrap the gifts in a baby blanket).
You may have trouble convincing all of your friends and relatives to buy your gifts used (those teeny tiny baby clothes in the stores are super adorable), but if you get the word out that you prefer used items, hopefully most of your guests will respect your wishes. And, some items may be better purchased new unless you know the original owner; for example, if a car seat has been in a wreck, it may not work properly. You would want to confirm that a used car seat is still in perfect working condition before you put your newborn baby into it!
And, sustainable shower or not, remember to pass along items that you no longer need to a friend or to a donation center so they can be used again (and again and again!). Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan (author of Omnvivore's Dilemma) has written a wonderful book entitled The Botany of Desire. PBS has made this book into a movie that follows the book quite closely (although emitting many of the details). You can watch the movie for free at Click here for the link.
The book and movie discuss 4 plants that have been important throughout the history of humans: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He talks about how these plants have evolved over time to meet human need and desires and questions us to ask if we are manipulating the plants, or if, in some sense, they manipulating us.
The book and movie discuss some interesting facts that anyone with an appreciation for nature or a love for food would enjoy. From the reproduction of apples (did you know that all apples we eat come from clones of trees and NOT from seed?), to the huge popularity of the tulip that resulted in outrageous prices for a single bloom, to the use of genetically modified potatoes and the effects that can have on ourselves and our environment. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those with an interest in gardening. And, if you can't get to the book, or have already read it, this movie does a great job of discussing Pollan's big ideas. Pin It Now!

Monday, November 9, 2009


For great tips on natural parenting, check out Mothering magazine. You can get an online subscription at for only $4.95 per year! Pin It Now!