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 29, 2010

Quick Tips: Handwashing

 Tis the season for germ spreading and hand washing, right? Here are a couple of quick tips from Mindy Pennybackers Do One Green Thing that will help you make some more informed choices when choosing what to wash your hands with.

When possible, avoid regular handwashing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan because this chemical spreads antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which means that when we actually ARE sick and really do need those antibiotics, they may no longer work!). Also, washing with antibiotic soap is no more effective than soap and water at killing germs anyways, so it is really unnecessary. Lastly, the production of triclosan (to put in the soap) releases dioxins into the environment, which can cause cancer. Yuck.

One last quick tip: when choosing between bar and liquid soap, choose the bar version. Bar soap has less ingredients AND less packaging than liquid soap, making it better for the environment, and probably better for your health as well.

Wash well! Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Hike!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

 So many times my Thanksgiving is so filled with preparations, travel, and last-minute errands that I tend to forget the true focus behind the holiday, which is being thankful for what we have. This year I feel so lucky to have a healthy and (usually) happy 3 year old, a new bean in my belly, and a husband who has been there by my side even when I am a grump. I also feel lucky that even though my family is currently not in the best financial situation, we have managed to make it through each month and we both still have jobs. I am trying to take time to appreciate all of the little things that happen in my day to day life and to try and be thankful for them, even when they seem stressful or mundane at the time. I know that these years when my little guy is still little will pass much too quickly, and when I look back upon them, I want to be able to remember every moment that I can.
Wishing you all a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Portland doesn't often get snow, so folks who live here often appreciate even the smallest dustings like we woke up to this morning... In my opinion, nothing beats a cold, sunny morning with fresh snow on the ground!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Hand Turkeys!

At our house, Thanksgiving decorations always seem to be minimal, as Halloween, Finn's birthday and Christmas always steal the show, not leaving much time to display Thanksgiving art. However, today, in celebration of one of my favorite holidays, Finn and I made our yearly hand turkeys. We made a couple "fancy" ones out of construction paper, googly eyes, glitter, feathers, felt and pipe cleaners and I transformed some felt hands that we hung on our holiday tree for fall into some hand turkeys to hang on the holiday tree. So there. Thanksgiving decorations, check. I am feeling much more festive now (especially since I got all of my Thanksgiving grocery shopping done today! And I have vowed not to step back into a grocery store until Friday!) Pin It Now!

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 
Inspired by Soulemama 
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Handmade Home: A Review

A few weeks ago I finally got to borrow a copy of Amanda Blake Soule's Handmade Home.  I had to wait for that book for months, so I know that most of you have already heard of it. Amanda is the blogger who writes at, and she is one crafty lady. I am always impressed by how thrifty she is and how much crafting she is able to get done while taking care of 4 children. Anyways, this book is another great one that inspires creativity and is full of good ideas... I was just sad that it took this long to get through the library waitlist because I now need to putting any crafting for myself on hold until after the holidays.
A few that I can't wait to try are paper mache bowls, home-sewn cloth diapers, and a baby sling! If you are looking for some inspiration or a little craft know-how, this book or Amanda's first book, The Creative Family, are both great resources! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Busy Crafting....

This year I have decided that I am going to make most (or at least a really good portion) of my holiday gifts myself. I decided this for many reasons, one being that since we don't have a ton of money to spend of gifts this year (who does?), something handmade is much more meaningful than something store bought. But, even more importantly (to me), is the fact that my handmade gifts are much more sustainable and much less of a burden on this earth. Homemade is packaging free, child labor free, and has a much lower carbon footprint because things are not being shipped back and forth across the country to be assembled. I do realize that the yarn or fabric that I purchase does have issues along its own life path, but at least the path stops there.
So, the past few weeks I have been trying to tackle the job of coming up with and creating gifts for the important people in my life. The fact that November, December and January are filled with baby showers, and birthdays of Finn's friends and relatives has made this task a little more daunting, and I am slowly realizing that I should have started my crafting months ago. But, I will do my best to make what I can and try to buy local and/or sustainable gifts for the rest. And in the meantime, I will be crafting my nights away (at least as long as my pregnant self can stay awake).
Unfortunately, I won't be able to share many of my creations here until after the holidays (as I dont want to spoil any surprises), but below are a few pictures of the baby shower gifts and birthday presents  I have recently completed.
I hope that you all are finding ways to make your holiday special (and maybe slightly more eco-friendly) this year. I am still trying to come up with some ideas for holiday gifts, so if anyone has any great ones they are willing to share, let me know. And, I will now vow that one of my New Years resolutions will be to start my holiday craft making earlier next year (yeah, right).

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quick Tips: Laundry

 I recently finished reading Do One Green Thing by Mindy Pennybacker (you can find my review here). I promised that I would share some of Mindy's quick tips on how to live a more sustainable life in future blog posts, and since I am feeling too lazy and pregnant to write about anything creative today, here it goes....
Today's focus will be on how to live more sustainably in the world of doing laundry. The first thing you can do to make your laundering have less of an impact is to hang as much of your laundry to dry outside, letting the sun do the drying instead of your energy-hungry dryer. However, if you live somewhere like I do, and the sun is not out for most of the year, this is sadly a short-term option. I do hang as much laundry outside on non-rainy days as possible, and I also have a drying rack for inside so that I can let small loads air dry. But, in the winter months, I rely pretty heavily on my dryer. To make it more efficient, use your dryer on the sensor setting (if you have one) instead of the timed dry setting.
Another easy way to ease the environmental burden of your laundry is to wash as much of your laundry in cold water as possible. According to Pennybacker, if every house in the US washed 4 out of every 5 loads in cold water (instead of hot) we would prevent 50 M tons of carbon emission per year (that's the same as taking 10 MILLION cars off the road! Wow!) So, save your hot washes for the really nasty washing.
The last quick tip for laundry is to make sure you are using a plant-based, biodegradable detergent. According to Do One Green Thing, if every home replaced one bottle of petroleum based detergent with a plant based one, we could save enough oil to heat 8500 homes for a year. Think how much oil we could save if everyone switched to plant-based detergents permanently! Or, follow my recipe for home made laundry soap and make your own eco-friendly detergent. Pin It Now!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Toxic Toys!

Did you know that PVC, a type of plastic, is called the "poison plastic"? It is linked to asthma,  obesity, learning disabilities and cancer. The worst part is, PVC is found everywhere, including toys we give to our children.

Toys R Us has committed to reducing toxins in toys, yet continues to sell toys made form PVC. Check out toxictoysrus to see how you can help get PVC removed from Toys R Us shelves and our children's lives. Pin It Now!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sometimes Being A Mama Is Hard.....

I have been struggling a lot these past few weeks trying to figure out my son and his changing mind. As he has shifted from the end of his 2's into his 3's, his emotions have started to go haywire and it is throwing me for a loop. I am not exactly what anyone would describe as "incredibly patient" and so dealing with a screaming, whining toddler is not my forte. But I have always managed with some sort of semblance of peace and order. Until now.
Finn has started to only want his daddy. I thought it was just a little phase, but a month later it is still going strong. This is the sort of wanting daddy where he sees me, and starts crying because I am not him. He tells me (a lot) that he doesn't love me and only loves his daddy. I know that coming from a just-3-year-old this shouldn't mean much, but trust me.... if you hear this over and over again for weeks, you start to believe it may have some truth.
So lately, anything for us is a struggle. If we are out and about and having fun, things are great. But as soon as we are home and following any sort of routine (meal time, snack time, nap time, etc.), everything turns into a huge traumatic event. Finn only wants his daddy and will scream and whine incessantly until he is either distracted or falls asleep. And that whole process just takes it out of me. Literally, I go from having a great day and being motivated and inspired to feeling run-down, exhausted and not motivated to do anything. Tuesday and Wednesday this week I thought I was getting the flu, but after feeling fine on Thursday, I am pretty sure that Finn just ran me into the ground emotionally.
So, I am thinking that this isn't a phase and that there is something going on with Finn. Could it be me being pregnant? I would expect misbehavior and strong emotions AFTER the baby is born, but not yet. He has been working a lot on writing letters and numbers and I wonder if this is a phase before he reaches a milestone (those of you with older children may remember the emotional stresses that came shortly before your child began to walk or talk)? Is there something else going on that I am not figuring out? Is this just how my child will be for the rest of our lives?
It has been really hard for me because this new (crazy) behavior makes me feel like I have done something wrong or I am just not good at parenting. What happened to my sweet sweet boy? When will he be back? Pin It Now!

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 
Inspired by Soulemama 

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do One Green Thing: A Review

I recently finished reading Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices by Mindy Pennybacker. This book is presented as a manual of sorts and broken into sections like Food & Drink, Personal Care, Transportation, etc. For each section, Pennybacker provides easy tips for ways to make your purchases and choices in each of these areas more sustainable (as well as the options you should avoid altogether as they are the most environmentally damaging). Some examples are which plastics are OK and ones to avoid, which labels actually mean something (for example, something labeled "all natural" means absolutely nothing), and the best fabric choices for you and the environment.
One of my biggest problems with this book is that most of the green option it discusses are the more expensive options that your average person can't afford. Sure, I wish I could wear only recycled organic cotton, but it is definitely not in my budget. Pennybacker doesn't do much encouraging of reducing or reusing. For example, in my opinion, not buying any clothes and simply wearing what you have would be the 'greenest' option. When you do need clothes, heading to resale shops or garage sales are more sustainable choices that even the greenest new fabric. So, while I do agree that we should support these green-minded companies whenever we do make a new purchase (if we can afford to do so), I also think that encouraging reducing our consumption and buying used goods are so much more important, and affordable for everyone. I also completely disagree with her on her statement about cloth versus disposable diapers. She claims that both have an equal impact on the environment as cloth requires washing while disposable fills up landfills. She completely ignores the fact that both take raw material and water to make and transport, however, with the cloth diaper they will be used many many times (and last through several children) so that the impact of their fabrication is MUCH less for the cloth. My son wore mostly cloth diapers (one disposable at night) and so his 30 or so diapers were the same from age 1 to 2.5. Those diapers were only made and transported once!
However, Pennybacker does give some  good tips, like how to make your own cleaning supplies (cheaply) from non-toxic ingredients, how to choose a sunblock, and ways to cut back on your personal water consumption. She gives lots of great factoids and comparisons (like how much carbon you emit flying cross country versus driving) and some great information and resources. This isn't a book that you would want to sit down and read cover-to-cover, but it would be a great one to have handy to consult when you make everyday decisions.
I do feel like this read was worthwhile, and I hope to share some of Pennybacker's tips with you in future posts. Pin It Now!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A More Sustainable Birthday Party?

My little man turned 3 yesterday. I can't believe it has been that long since I gave birth to him. Obviously, he has changed immensely during this time, but I also feel like it has gone by in the blink of an eye. Before I know it, he will be moving out!
Finn had a big rocket ship themed party yesterday and man, planning a kid's birthday party is a little bit like planning a wedding... figuring out the decorations, cake, snacks, gift bags takes a lot of work, even for a simple party and then I spend most of the party running around instead of talking to the guests. But, the party was a success. No major injuries,  nothing broke, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves (as much as you can with 15 kids running around). Plus, the weather was spectacular, allowing us to extend our 800 square foot house onto our back porch.
So back to the planning part..... I always feel a bit guilty having big parties because I feel like so much gets wasted or used once and tossed. And since I teach about sustainability for a living, I decided I wanted to try and make Finn's party more sustainable than your typical toddler gathering. I wasn't striving for perfection, but at least an improvement. And it was hard! So many choices, none of which are completely sustainable, and having to choose between the lesser of 2 evils. For example, plates. We definitely did not have enough plates for the 30-plus people who came over yesterday, so I knew I needed to purchase more. But should I go with paper, which would just get tossed after one use but at least were made from trees and not oil, or go with the plastic alternative? I finally decided on sturdy plastic plates and washed them and will use them again at our next party. I know those plates were made from non-renewable fossil fuels, but they didnt go into the landfill and we won't have to use any new materials next time we have a party. But was this the best choice? I can reason with myself, but I still don't really know....

 I found some rocket-themed cookie cutters and made sugar cookies. Boy, these sure did come in handy to cover up some of my decorating disasters on the cake!

 They're from a recipe my grandmother used to make. I debated not putting on the sprinkles because of the food coloring, but I figured a birthday only comes once a year, and decided to splurge.

For party attire, I took an old plain tee that Finn was about to outgrow, and some scrap felt, and using my handy-dandy cookie cutter made a quick felt applique tee. Nothing special, but definitely fit the theme!

I wanted to give out goody bags to the guests, but didn't want to buy plastic bags. So, I took a trip to the fabric store for some affordable space-themed cotton and whipped up some easy bags. It only cost about $4 to make 15 bags, so price wasn't an issue. The bags did take about 30 minutes or so to make all 15, but hopefully instead of being a one-time use, the guests will fins ways to reuse their bags (or re-gift them!) and nothing will be wasted.

 I wanted to also fill the bags with more sustainable choices so I made some recycled crayons from used crayons I found at SCRAP, Portland's goodwill for art supplies. I also made some home-made playdough, but then ended up having to wrap it in plastic so it wouldnt dry out. So even though I wasn't purchasing anything packaged in plastic, I was still essentially packaging it myself. And lastly a few space stickers. Not really sustainable, but I had to throw in something cute!

 For decorations I made Finn a birthday banner out of felt, ribbon and fabric. I figured that I can switch the 3 flags out in future years and have a reusable birthday banner!

 Hanging up....

 Finn and I also made cutouts for the holiday tree (thanks again to those handy multi-purpose cookie cutters!). This picture is terrible quality, but it ended up looking pretty cute.

 I also used construction paper and made some rocket ship cutouts to decorate the walls. I am guessing they will be up until I bust out the holiday decorations!

 The cake. It was hard to make, but at least its over with. I hated to use so much food coloring, and thought about trying to figure out a natural alternative, but in the end, the mom-side won and I wanted Finn to have an awesome looking cake. I'm not exactly sure that's what I made, but at least it resembled a rocket ship.
And here is Finn on the big day next to the rocket ship he painted for the party (ok, I helped him with the tail pipes and the number 3).

Birthday party done, now I can move on towards preparing for the holidays! If anyone has any comments on things they do to throw a more sustainable party, I would love to hear them! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Finn!

Hard to believe my little man is 3 years old today! Where has the time gone?
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Friday, November 5, 2010

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 
Inspired by Soulemama 
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Handmade Dish Sponges

For as long as I remember I have felt  surge of guilt every time I have thrown away a dish sponge. I do sometimes wash my sponges with my kitchen towels, or throw them in the dishwasher when I run a load of dishes, but I still get a bit nervous that all of those nooks and crannies could be hanging on to dangerous bacteria. Now, I am not any sort of a germaphobe, mind you. We refrain from using antibacterial soaps and we believe in the 5-second rule (well, depending on how its been since I have cleaned the floors). But, I do get nervous about e-coli and the other really nasty bacterias that can make a child seriously sick, or, in some cases, even kill them.
So, I decided it was about time to make my own hand-knit dish sponges that I could safely wash and reuse time and time again. I ended up making 4, each one a little different, as I experimented with what worked best.
I used 100% cotton yarn (The orange skein I had in my stash and the pink was leftover yarn that I bought really cheap at the used art supply store, SCRAP). The pink is not my favorite color, but hey, I am just going to washing dishes with them. The cotton makes them easily machine-washable and dryable.
For all of the sponges I used a size 9 needle and cast on 14 stitches. For the first 2 sponges I decided to make them scrubby sponges. To do this, I cut netting from a sweet potato bag (you may also find oranges or other produce items that come in these). You can also buy this material new, but I figured this project was a great way to use those bags that otherwise don't have a great use. I cut the bag into a long strip by making a spiral about 1/2 inch wide, and you can attach multiple spirals together with a knot. Then, I just carried this strip of netting along with my yarn and wove it into the sponge. This does not feel good on your hands, as the netting is quite scratchy, so I found I could only knit these for about 15 minutes at a time. For these 2 scrubby sponges, I stopped when my sponge was a size I liked and then bound my stitches off. The next 2 sponges I did not use netting in the weave. Again I cast on 14 stitches and I just knit until my sponge was twice as wide as I wanted it to be. Then I bound off my stitches, filled the inside with some cut up netting to give it some bulk, and then sewed up the sides so I had a double-thick sponge.
I like the scrubbiness of the scrubby sponges, but they feel too thin for me. I think next time I would make them double thickness as well. I like the feel of the double-thick sponges, but since the netting is in the inside, they aren't good for scrubbing. But, I sort of consider this an experiment and next time I can make the perfect sponges!
I don't feel like these knit sponges hold the soap quite as well as a regular sponge, but I guess they aren't holding on to the bacteria either... I do find that I have to add smaller amounts of soap more often, but that is a small price to pay knowing that these sponges won't be getting tossed when I am finished. I have washed and dried them and was happy with the results. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

I made homemade laundry soap for the first time a few weeks ago. It was relatively easy, except for the part where you grate bar soap... that was definitely an arm workout! However, Finn though soap grating was a great pastime (with my help of course) and has repeatedly asked me to "do more soap grating". Regardless, I think it will be cheaper in the long run, and it is nice to know EXACTLY what is going into your laundry (and back into our water supply).
We used peppermint Dr. Bronners and so far I have been pretty pleased with the results!
We use about 1/8 cup per load. The recipe can be found below:

1 1/4 cup baking soda
3/4 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1.5 bars dr. bronners Pin It Now!

Monday, November 1, 2010

One Thing, One Month

So, at the end of September, I posted a challenge for myself to not buy anything new (except for craft supplies) for the month of October. And, I am here to report that my mission was a success. However, I don't exactly feel thrilled with my accomplishment....I feel like it was almost too easy. Sure, there were a couple of scrambles for last minute presents, and a few times I would have loved to run out and buy a new bra that fits my ever growing pregnant boobs, but holding off wasn't that hard. In part, our current budget and an upcoming new baby (along with my upcoming time off of work) doesn't really allow for any extra expenditures right now. Also, October was a fairly mellow month (birthday wise) and I also knew that my commitment was ending at the end of the month. If I were to have done this challenge in December, I think things would be a wee bit harder. I have joined handmade holiday 2010, in which I will try to make holiday gifts or buy them from local suppliers.... but this still allows me to actually purchase some gifts for those people who I am just not sure what I would make.
Anyways, I would like to take up another challenge soon, and hopefully make it one that will be more of a challenge and will make me feel more satisfied when I am through. In the meantime, I will be busy with my un-chosen challenge of trying to figure out how to stop the whining and tantrums that seem to have moved into my almost-3-year-old's body. Hmmm... Pin It Now!