eco-friendly living

Prepping for Baby

Listen up all you new parents and parents-to-be!

As I'm sure you've realized by now, there’s a lot that goes into getting ready for a newborn and so I am here to make stocking and creating an eco-friendly and toxic-free nursery a little easier for you.

Make sure the paints and stains you use are eco-friendly
and non-toxic, too! Photo source: KidSpace Stuff
Having a green nursery and natural baby products contribute to the health and wellness of your growing family; consumption, disposal and reuse of these products is far less harmful to your baby in both the short- and long-term. Plus, as eco-friendly products become increasingly available, you can decorate and stock your nursery with so many fun and colorful items! 

Most of us know about The Honest Company, the baby-care company dedicated to bringing parents effective yet safe and eco-friendly products. Even though I do not have little ones running around, I am a true believer in some of their natural products, namely the stain remover and multi-surface cleaner. They work and I don't feel like I've filled the air in my tiny apartment with chemicals.

Parents like Honest for so many reasons; diapers are made using plant-based materials without latex or fragrance additives, bottles are completely BPA- and BPS-free and are made with medical-grade silicone and swaddles are made with certified organic cotton. And if you care about waste diversion like I do, you’ll be glad to know that all items are shipped in recyclable packaging. Additionally, the company puts a portion of every purchase towards child development research, improved nutrition at childcare centers and education funds. What’s not to like about that?

While The Honest Company may currently be the best-known eco-friendly baby store, there are plenty of others! I’ve done a little digging for you, but if you find a different item you like, be sure to read all the information the website provides about where the materials come from and how the items are made. If this information isn’t easily disclosed or found, you may want to call the company or keep looking for something else. 

Fortunately, there is a lot of great stuff out there these days. Just see for yourself:

Spiral Bee Dress & Bodysuit Set: Color - Blossom
I want Burt's Bees Baby clothing for myself!
Photo Source: Burt's Bees Baby
Burt’s Bees launched Burt’s Bees Baby in 2012. We all know Burt's Bees as the natural skin-care company that started with the simplest idea: "what you put on your body should be made from the best nature has to offer". Given this, you can only assume that the baby collection meets the same standards. Besides the well-known washes, ointments and sun care, you can find an extensive collection of natural (pesticide- and chemical-free), 100% organic cotton, adorable clothing and other cloth items for babies and kids. They even make teethers purely out of cornstarch. How cool is that?

The Land of Nod, Crate&Barrel’s baby store, has a large collection of nursery chairs, ottomans and rugs that are made from recycled metals and other materials, sustainably grown wood and plant-based foam. The best part? Some of these items are quite chic! Just note that The Land of Nod does not solely sell these types of items; so find out as much as you can about the products before purchasing!

Last but certainly not least, Etsy is actually a great place to find non-toxic, eco-friendly nursery items. Some people have entire stores dedicated to things like wood items, toys, wool items, and more. Etsy is endless and if you’re unsure about an item, many store owners will list exact materials used in each item and take questions from potential customers.

What’s your favorite eco-friendly purchase for your newborn or nursery?

Greening the Holidays

Where did 2015 go? Your guess is as good as mine, but the holidays are, in fact, upon us and there are a few things we can do to be more eco-friendly over the next few weeks.

Decorating for the holidays is always a must and for those of you who love to put on a good light show, make sure you invest in LED lights. They’ll last much longer than traditional lights and they won’t cause your holiday electricity bills to be as sky high as usual. Because who doesn’t love to find savings this time of year? To maximize these savings, use a timer on the lights or simply put a reminder on your phone so you can unplug them before you go to bed each night.
When decorating inside the house, nix the streamers and balloons; items that can only be used once are highly wasteful. Opt for items like gourds, fruits, pinecones, soy or beeswax candles and glass or pottery votives and ornaments. They are lasting and, in my opinion, so much more beautiful and seasonal.
Now that your home looks holiday-ready, it’s time to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Many of you likely took advantage of those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and are done with the holiday shopping. Congratulations! You are not the terrible procrastinator that I am (sorry family and friends, I’ll get to it soon). If you are dilly-dallying like I am, follow these rules when you shop: bring your reusable bags and look for items that meet the criteria I laid out in my green shopping post back in July. Or, take a big family or friend trip instead of giving gifts – thank you to my sister-in-law-to-be for this great idea!
Once you’re ready to wrap the gifts, save your money and don’t buy wrapping paper. The wrapping paper will be used only once and it’ll immediately be thrown away. Yes, it’s pretty, but think about all the money- and waste-saving alternatives!
Look around your home for old newspapers, packing or kraft paper, and maps. Newspaper and maps make great already-decorated wrapping paper and you can always decorate plain kraft paper in whatever designs you like! Don’t be afraid to get creative! Fabric scraps is another great alternative; it may be a little more challenging to tack down (try fabric glue or a hot glue gun), but it’ll give your gifts an awesome texture and look!
You can always use junk mail as wrapping paper, too. More than likely, you currently have a lot of it because this is prime time junk mail season. We almost never look at it and, whether or not it’s used as wrapping paper, it ends up in the trash. If you’d rather use the previously mentioned items for wrapping your gifts, try to stop the junk mail deliveries immediately. As soon as you get mail from an unwanted store, find the 1-800 number on the back of the advertisement and request you be removed from the mailing list.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure your holiday eats are as sustainable as possible. We on the west coast are lucky and have access to farmers markets year round, but everyone can enjoy seasonal produce. This chart is a great resource for finding vegetables in season. Eating locally and seasonally is one of the best ways to cut down on emissions and be eco-friendly during the holidays. When it comes to storing your leftovers from the big feasts, use reusable storage containers like these or these; they’re great for freezing and are dishwasher safe! You can always have your guests bring their own reusable containers to take home any leftovers, too.
I hope you make this your greenest season yet. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Do you have any other holiday-greening ideas?

“Greening” Your Travels

As we embark on spring break season our post on eco-friendly vacation amenities couldn't come at a better time. Many of us, such as myself, book their airfare and then look for the most reasonable hotel when planning a trip. We do not look into what eco-friendly amenities might be offered, since we are only worried about a safe hotel and a clean room. 

If you have traveled recently you may have noticed a note in the room stating that the hotel is saving water and resources by reusing towels and etc., but that’s not the eco-friendly standard that I am referring to. I am referring to the hotels that go out of their way to eliminate waste, charge electric cars, power down rooms and replant forests. Sure most of these items that I am talking about are not offered at your run of the mill hotels, but they are a reality.

In our day to day lives we try to make conscious changes to our life and or environment, but when we travel we throw caution to the wind. We don't think about how we lodge on vacation can change weather patterns and or affect the Ozone layer. [i] I know this may sound dramatic and doom and gloom, but it is the truth. When we stay at hotels we are offered plastic water bottles and we do not think twice about leaving on a light.

Water bottles have become a modern staple in most hotel rooms, since it is convenient. But, those convenient items have a pretty big environmental impact once they are discarded. Statistics show that more than 4 billion bottles end up in landfills and less than 20% of those are actually recycled. [ii] So to be more green hotels today are starting to offer aluminum water bottles that can be refilled at water stations and others are even offering “hydration stations” for their hotel guests.

When leaving hotel rooms we seem to forget and leave every possible light on. But, when we come back and notice we do not feel guilty, since we don’t pay the electric bill. It’s true we don’t pay the electric bill, but we do pay the price of generating that electricity. One hotel in Syracuse, New York cuts the flow of energy to guests’ rooms once they leave, but in case someone stays behind in the room the hotel leaves two outlets powered. This event is triggered by a key card energy management system. One such system is called ENTERgize. In the words of the company this system works by, “guests inserting their key card into the door lock to gain access to the room, once inside the room they perform an operation similar to entering the room by inserting their room key card into the illuminated Entergize Master Control Switch (MCS). As soon as the card is inserted and left in the master switch, the system automatically places itself in the “Occupied” mode. This causes the HVAC system to shift from economy to comfort settings and to promptly begin to heat or cool the room according to the guest’s desires.”[iii] 

Though this article highlights features that might seem too far-fetched for most chain hotels, but it is a growing trend. Next time you plan or take a trip keep your eyes peeled for eco-friendly amenities.

[i] “A Hotelier’s Take on Edo-Friendly Rooms,”Mar., 5, 2015,
[iii] “Patented Entergize Key Card Technology,” Mar., 5, 2015,

Going Green Tips: 5 Easy Things You Can Do at Home

by Ellen Bell

Going green, also known as eco friendly living, is a growing trend around the world.

Now more than ever, people are beginning to realize the impact their actions and decisions have on the world around us. Every time we get in a car, ride on a plane, or make a purchase at the grocery store, we know that energy is consumed, greenhouse gasses are created, and landfills get a little fuller.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vastness of it all, but relax and take a step back. No one of us has to save the world alone. But what we can do is each take a few small steps every day. Small changes make a big difference in the grand scheme of things. With that in mind, we’re going to discuss a few easy things that you can do at home to make a big difference in the world around you.

1. Recycle. Experts agree that recycling is one of the best and easiest ways to make a difference. If every person on the planet recycled, we could reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gasses in a very significant way. Most communities have recycling programs in place already, making it easy to participate. If your city doesn’t, inquire with local officials about starting a program.

2. Don’t throw it away! We have a tendency not to think about items we throw away. They disappear from our sight, so they are out of our minds. But all those things that the garbage truck hauls away every week do have to go somewhere, and that place is a landfill. Landfills are a major cause of greenhouse gasses and ozone depletion. So next time you get ready to throw something away, ask yourself if you could possibly use the item in another way or donate it.

3. Turn off the water. U.S. households waste thousands of gallons of water every year. A significant amount of this water goes down the sink while we are brushing our teeth, washing our hair, or soaping up in the shower. Turning off the water during these activities can save a huge amount of water, which not only helps the environment, but also saves you money.

4. Ride your bicycle. For short trips around town, air up the tires and ride your bike. It will save you gas and give you some good exercise. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can walk, ride rollerblades, or even a skateboard.

5. Install low flush toilets and showerheads. This is another way to consume less water in the bathroom. Even better yet, if you’re getting ready to put in a new toilet fixture, look into composting toilets. These fixtures are clean and odorless, and will save you a significant amount of money in water and sewer costs.

While the suggestions above may seem like really small things, don’t underestimate the impact these changes can make. If every person in the United States made a conscious effort today to turn off the water while brushing their teeth or shampooing their hair, think how many millions of gallons of water would be saved!

Now multiply that over the course of 50 years, and the result is astronomical. So what are you waiting for? Now is a great time to jump on the going green bandwagon by recycling, saving some water and using less energy. The environment will benefit, and in many cases, your pocketbook will, too.

Ellen Bell is a freelance writer and part-owner of the Composting Toilet Store, an online retailer of compost toilets. For more information or to request a free catalog, please visit us at This is her first guest post for SJVCEO.