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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Charleston Fun

Posted by eemilla on October 20, 2013

For every vacation (aside from oblications) we work out an itinerary which is often overly ambitious, and for Charleston I continued the tradition.  I scaled it back to allow for nap-times (which didn’t occur for the most part), but I still failed to get down to the Battery to spend more time than our trip a few years back.  We did, however, enjoy a quick stroll through Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art along with a stroll around King and Meeting Sts.

The Children’s Museum of the Low Country was the best value with all of the great things for LB to do; admission is $10 per person, and if your little one isn’t walking or is toddling I would wait as there is a huge castle exhibit and a boat that are difficult to navigate as an adult.  However, there is a huge water table and an area with blocks that a could be fun for a less mobile baby.

The South Carolina Aquarium was less enjoyable as it pretty small, but it charges the same admission as much larger and much better aquariums (Vancouver Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences).  The touch tanks were fun albeit crowded, and the boat play area was a crowd pleaser for the toddlers.

We also took the drive down to John’s Island for the Angel Oak Park.  It was a bit sad to see the beams supporting the tree (although it was more sad to see people ignoring the signs about not climbing on the tree), but I was quite happy to be able to get so close to such an awesome living thing.

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Of course we loved being so close to the beach.   I took a morning run, and we had multiple beach days with sand castles and boogie boarding.

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Victory Garden flop

Posted by eemilla on September 18, 2013

We started the year looking forward to another productive victory garden, but we were undone with the rain and the slugs.  Below are the photos before we gave up after green tomatoes sporting rot before ripening.  One out of four our basil plants survived, and we’ve harvested a dozen leaves once.

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Tybee Island

Posted by eemilla on December 18, 2012

In order to mix it up, we had planned on taking our second day in Savannah to hit the beach at Tybee Island.  We were blessed with warm and clear weather for late September, and LB got to build sand castles and play in the ocean.  The ocean wasn’t a hit, but building sand castles rocked.  Parking is fairly pricey, and the beach infrastructure is spartan (we didn’t even see the rinse station on our first day).  Compared to Sullivans’s Island, the beach had a large amount of candy bar wrappers and bottle caps and dead fish.

I also wanted to check out the Tybee Island Marine and Science Center; the $4 admission is pretty steep considering the space is so small; however, everyone enjoyed their time.  When LB is older, it might be nice to come and do a beach trek as well as take a visit to the lighthouse.

turtles turtle gator starfish unknown footprint Tybee Island beach

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Reedy River Park and the Greenville Zoo

Posted by eemilla on November 3, 2012

I’ve wanted to visit the Falls Park in Greenville for a while after hearing so much about it from various friends over the years so I talked my mom into joining LB and I for a day trip a few months back.  I was surprised to learn that the trail is over seventeen miles long connecting Travelers Rest to Furman to downtown Greenville to Greenville Tech.  It makes me really sad that Asheville and Buncombe County cannot get their acts together and create some substantive greenways, especially when so much of our economy is based on tourism and enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us.  Also what a better way to move away from fossil fuels than to have pleasant walking and biking trails and paths.  My husband and I live less than two miles from our jobs, but the commute would be neither pleasant nor safe as it involves a five lane highway for at least a quarter of the route.

We arrived around mid morning so there were still a number of joggers and cyclists getting their exercise in for the day.  Shops along the trail were just opening, and no one was playing in the water feature.

water feature

The pathway took us on a small bridge across the river before we arrived at the iconic Liberty Bridge.

bridge over the falls

Liberty Bridge

Liberty Bridge again

The gardens were pretty with lots of lawn for picnics or benches for relaxing

amphitheater

We ambled along the trail by the river chatting, and when I saw that the Greenville Zoo was only a mile or two away I convinced my mom we should go.

We stopped seeing the zoo on the informational signs along the trail so we ended up making a huge loop around it (which meant we walked around Cleveland Park and on the Eagle Trail).  However, there wasn’t a line to enter the zoo, and the admission was the same as the WNC Nature Center; I could have gotten free admission as the zoo is a reciprocal facility with the Nature Center.  The zoo was small and easy to see in an hour or less although we skipped the flamingos, alligator, farm animals, and the playground.

elephant

toucan

leopard

By this time everyone was tired and hungry so we made our back, and after we had returned to downtown LB was more than ready to be off my sweaty back which led us to eat at a smoothie bar because it was quick and filled with people in workout attire.  It was relatively cheap and served decent food, but it I doubt I would go back unless urged by convenience.

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Carl Sandburg visit

Posted by eemilla on October 30, 2012

One of my cousins mentioned that the Carl Sandburg Home was free to visit the grounds and the goats, and her girls had a nice time there.  As her youngest daughter is several months older than LB, I thought we might give it a visit.  We took my mom along as I figured she would enjoy a visit to the house (being the history lover that she is).  The day was warm but overcast, and the our tour of the grounds and the goats took longer than I had planned which meant the LB was pretty horribly grumpy near the end of our trip.  The trek from the parking lot afforded a nice view of the lake and the house, and it was shaded with benches for pondering the sights.

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Carl Sandburg home

stump

I had read about the Glassy Mountain trail on the website, but I hadn’t really thought about making taking the hike.  After we walked to the barn and checked out the goats and the garden, we decided to continue our adventure.  The trail is pretty smooth, but it does climb.  Once it widens out and becomes gravelled, there was a respite bench or two.  As I was wearing LB (and we were both sweaty) we took the opportunity to pause at one of the benches.  Mom and I were a bit worried that we had overestimated our vigor, but then again we hated to turn back before enjoying the overlook.  While the cloudy day wasn’t the best day to view the overlook, it was still a refreshing stop.

Glassy Mtn overlook

Glassy Mountain overlook

We wrapped up our day at West First Wood Fired Pizza.

West First Wood Fired Pizza's oven

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Victory Garden week two

Posted by eemilla on June 13, 2012

My honey is handling all of the water so that we don’t over do it, and LB and I have been watching for bugs and weeds.

 

Week two was ten days ago.

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Cloth Diaper costs

Posted by eemilla on January 9, 2012

I couldn’t put off doing the math any longer on how much we have invested in cloth diapering.

Diapers and wipes: $388

Essential oils for wipe solution (I estimated how much we’ll use in 13 months based on current usage):  $111

Increased cost of water and electricity: $455 (about $15 per month in higher water bills and $20 per month in higher electric bills for our electric water heater and dryer)

Total estimated costs of cloth diapering at 13 months: $954

Based on GoodGuide’s rating alone, I did the math on disposables assuming we’d use Huggies Pure and Natural from Target.  I assumed LB would use ten diapers daily for 90 days at size one, 120 days at size two, and 180 days at size three.  For the wipes, I kept it easy by only using one wipe per diaper change.  I didn’t go any further because at 13 months the cloth diapers are the cheaper option by several hundred dollars.

Three months of size one: $238

Four months of size two: $352

Six months of size three: $542

Thirteen months of wipes: $268

Total Estimated Cost of Disposable Diapers for 13 months: $1400

As long as the one size diapers continue to work until she’s potty trained, we should plan a fat vacation.  As a note I did look at using generic wipes and diapers, and our route was more costly for the first 13 months.  By nineteen months, the savings with cloth (again assuming we don’t have to purchase any additional diapers) would be about $500.  I also assumed that neither brand of disposable diapers or wipes would cause diaper rashes.

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cloth diapering thoughts

Posted by eemilla on January 8, 2012

We’re over six months in with the cloth diapering, and we’ve taken two two night plus road trips without using disposables (we’re so proud of ourselves!)  Here are my thoughts about what has worked for us.

I’ll start with the least expensive option, which is also the most familiar to anyone who diapered before disposables were available, the prefold.  The prefold is a large piece of cotton, cotton/hemp blend, or other absorbent fabric that has been pre-folded to create a thicker section in the middle; these must be used with a cover.  I purchased six infant (for 7-20 lbs) prefolds and six newborn (4-9 lbs) prefolds in case we had a tiny one.  LB was a good sized baby so we used the newborn sized prefolds as burp cloths although they probably would have been better to use as doublers.

Below from back left to right are a stack of inserts for pocket diapers, wipes, some Bummis baby sized prefolds with a Kawaii Baby prefold (one size), and Bummis infant prefold.  I purchased the baby sized prefolds in preparation for our first road trip where I knew we wouldn’t have access to a washer or dryer, and they worked fine with the covers moved to a larger setting.

prefolds with inserts and wipes

This is an infant sized Bummis prefold in a one size Kawaii baby cover.  Kawaii Baby seems to have some of the least expensive options, but they so far they have been good quality products.

prefold in a cover

Below is a picture of a Gerber prefold that we purchased to be used as a burp cloth; it has never been used as a diaper which means we have washed it much less frequently than our diapers (if the forecast is for sun to dry them on the line we wash daily, but if there is rain forecast we wash every other day).  However, it has not worn nearly as well as the Bummi prefold that follows.

Gerber prefold

Bummis prefold

I’ve only purchased the Bummis and one Kawaii Baby prefold (ignoring the Gerber diapers that we have always used for burp cloths), but based on that sample of two the Bummis are super thick.  While it hasn’t ever leaked due to being soaked, the Kawaii Baby prefold was much thinner even after the three prewash and dry cycles, which has put me off from trying the generic prefolds.  Even though I’d like to have a deeper stash so we could do less laundry, we’re not sure that we will have anymore bums to cloth diaper, and part of the reason we are cloth diapering is to save money.

Prefolds do require covers; below is our collection of covers.  The Kawaii Baby covers cost about a $1.50 more than the used Flip cover (not pictured) we purchased from a local baby store.  Even when LB was gaining height faster than weight, we didn’t have a problem with blowouts or leaking with the Kawaii baby covers.  The Flip and the two generic gusseted covers all leaked with the Flip being at the scene of at least three blowouts.

Kawaii Baby cover flat

front of Kawaii Baby cover

Kawaii Baby cover with a prefold

generic cover with gussets

gusset close up

I did two diaper trials with Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique (which has super awesome customer service plus free shipping) to help reduce our investment in case certain diapers didn’t work for us.  For the first trial I selected a Bottombumpers All in One, a BumGenius Elemental One  Size, and a Thirsties Duo Snap Wrap with a Thirsties Duo diaper.  We had our first ever leak in the BumGenius, and it took forever to dry as it is literally all in one with no removable pieces.  The Thirsties functioned well, but we didn’t like how the double gussets made it difficult to check the status without opening the diaper, plus this was a pretty pricey product ($18 for the diaper and $13 for the cover).  The Bottombumper functioned well, but it is probably the least user friendly diaper we own.  Even on the lowest rise setting, it was too high and covered LB’s stump; they also function like a prefold with very little wicking away of moisture.  Of our diaper supply, these are the worse to deal with when poop is involved, and for the price, it seems a shame the wicking function isn’t any better.  However, it has always fit, even during her tall and skinny phase, which led me to buy another one.

Bottombumpers rise settings

Bottombumpers 2nd smallest rise setting

Bottombumpers snap in insert

Bottombumpers side view

The easiest and most familiar for disposable diaper users are the pocket diapers.  We use these as our over night and road trip diapers as they do a good job of wicking away moisture and are heavy duty.  On the downside, much like the Bottombumpers, pockets are messier to deal with when there is poop involved as the insert does need to be removed for washing.  Pockets generally run about the same cost wise as all in ones, but with their overnight functionality and user ease, they are good diapers to have.  Please note that not all pockets and inserts are created equally.

During the course of my pregnancy, I couldn’t resist buying some locally produced diapers available at the Coop; these are not one sized diapers (all of our other diapers are one size diapers), and they cost about the same as many of the higher end one sized pocket diapers.  They come in cute color combos, but after LB went through her tall and skinny phase we had to stop using the Roly Polys due to consistent leaking.  Finally as she was just growing out of the small size, in a moment of desperation (all of the covers were dirty), I pulled out the inserts that came with the RolyPoly pocket and used a prefold in its place.  This worked fine several times (I just hated to not use these cute and soft diapers), but now LB is too big for the small size (8-18lbs), and we only have one medium (15-35 lbs) and one large (22-45 lbs).  The inside of the diaper does a great job with the wicking, but even after multiple wash and dry cycles, the inserts just didn’t seem to work even when doubled and changed within an hour (they have now been repurposed as wipes).

Roly Poly interiors

Roly Poly exteriors (medium on the left and small on the right)

During the tall and skinny phase, we did another diaper trial to find a good fit as basically only the Kawaii Baby diapers were fitting (barely).  Based on the recommendations from Sweetbottoms Baby, I opted for a FuzziBunz because of the adjustable elastic around the legs.  While it is pain to change the setting, it is a great feature.  Additionally, this diaper is just so soft from the outside to the inserts.

FuzziBunz outside

FuzziBunz leg elastic

FuzziBunz insert

The most cost effective has been the Kawaii Baby pockets (although at this point I don’t think it is worth paying extra for their overnight as their standard insert doubled seems to work great for us).  They also seem to fly off the shelves as they seem to be constantly out of stock.  We have never had a fit problem with these, and they seem to have worn well even with all the washing and drying (my husband has run them through the dryer on high heat on multiple occasions against their instructions).

KaWaii Baby pocket outside

KaWaii Baby pocket outside

Finally, our wipes are BabyKicks plus a handful of homemade flannel ones that I sloppily stitched together and a few Roly Poly ones from the grocery store.

Roly Poly wipes, homemade flannel wipes, and BabyKicks wipes

 For the wipe solution, we fill my peri bottle with water then add 25 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 drops of tea tree.  Whether this helps with having avoiding diaper rash or not we don’t know, but it smells better than any the wipes we used while in the NICU.

At some point I will get around to doing the math to see how we’ve done financially, but we feel good about keeping all that plastic from the landfill.  Plus cloth diapers are just so cute!

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Eating Crow

Posted by eemilla on August 24, 2011

Of the things I promised not to do as a parent, my scorecard is already a mixed bag.  I knew we wouldn’t meet all of the goals, but I did expect that it would take longer for us to fall off the wagon.
My goal of using cloth diapers exclusively ended minutes after LB’s birth as she was wheeled off to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).   We started using cloth as soon as we got home.  However we plan on resuming our spring tradition of attending The French Broad River Festival, and I might bow to the convenience of disposables (plus I’m not certain we’ll have enough to do without laundry facilities).  Thankfully our childcare provider is supportive of cloth diapering.
I would like to note that our electricity and water bills have increased nominally, and with this heat wave the a/c likely accounts for most of the increased electricity consumption; we also have been slacking on hanging her laundry out on the line to dry.  Even with the increased consumption, our rate plan is about even with the standard plan so we will be sticking with it and working harder to reduce on-peak consumption.  Once I return to work this should be easier.
As for limiting screen time, my husband & I watch TV or surf the internet while holding her.  Even if I turn her away she will turn back towards the screen.  We have not yet used the screen as a babysitter, but as I said before I understand that will become harder as she gets older.
It took about three weeks before I realized that we hadn’t read to her once since her birth, and even though I am reading to her it is far from daily in frequency.
Although I am still breastfeeding, I am looking forward to her weaning.  While I haven’t had any issues, aside from thrush, nursing is a chore.  I love the time she spends cuddled against me and most of the noises she makes, but I hate my sore nipples.  I hate that my other breast leaks while she nurses because it makes public nursing that much harder, and selfish as it is I miss my beer, liquor, and wine.  Due to my knowledge of the benefits of breastmilk, my distrust of food processors and their regulators, and my frugality I cannot see myself discontinuing breastfeeding until LB is eating food, and I hope returning to work will help me appreciate our nursing relationship more.
LB has recently outgrown her 0-3 month clothes without even wearing all of them; of those I believe I purchased only three.  My pack rat tendencies want to put everything in storage containers, but hopefully common sense will prevail and I’ll be able to trade them for larger clothes.
I’m optimistic about making her food and keeping the birthdays within reason, and I am hopeful about the breastfeeding.

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Our kid won’t . . .

Posted by eemilla on May 30, 2011

It is possible that I could give birth to this kid any day now, and as I am officially over the forty-week mark I’m certainly ready.  In talking with experienced parents from friends to family to co-workers my husband and I have said more than once that we will not be doing this or that or allowing our kid to do this or that, so I thought that it might be interesting to post some of them here as a reference and check back over the years to see how our opinions changed.

Cloth Diapers

Before I got pregnant or really even thought seriously about having children, I always knew that I would use cloth diapers.  Most striking is the explicit cost to diaper a child; I checked with Ingles and EarthFare for the Seventh Generation brand diapers, and they run about $12 plus tax for 44 diapers in the infant size.  Based on what I’ve read a breast feed baby will go through about eight diapers a day, which means about 5.5 days for one pack of diapers (Pampers at Ingles were only a bit less at $10 plus tax of $50, and I didn’t write down Target’s prices).  An organic cotton pre-fold cloth diaper costs about $3.25 plus the $13 waterproof cover; this diaper can be used until the kid outgrows it, and then it could be used as a doubler for a pocket diaper or a cleaning rag even later.  The pocket diapers resemble disposable diapers more than the pre-folds which are what my mom thinks of as a cloth diaper, and they are a bit more expensive (about $18); however, since our kid will be in day care we’ll have to use them.  While we have spent a good bit of money on getting our stash set up, in the end we’ll come out on top.

The explicit costs are important, but the health and environmental costs should weigh even heavier.  Dioxin is a known carcinogen, but it is used in diapers, maxi pads, and tampons to bleach the cotton or paper bright white.  Then you have the polymers that are used in the soaking layer to be concerned about; how long did we use plastic before it was discovered that some plastics leach endocrine disrupters and hormone mimics?  Finally the environmental cost is staggering.  Not only will the diapers far out live their users, they require lots of water and oil to produce.  The water is a double whammy because most diapers wind up in the landfill with the poop in place rather than having the poop emptied into the toilet for sanitary processing.

Anytime I bring this up, I hear about what an onerous choir laundry is for any baby much less a baby soiling cloth diapers.  I can always safely counter with the example my mom set.  She worked full time outside the home and used cloth diapers with all three of us, and my dad was absolutely no help.  Although I could be mistaken based on our ages she most likely had two of us in diapers at all times.  My husband is an absolute foil of my father so between the two of us I know we can make it work, and really the economic incentive is just too tantalizing to forgo.

Electricity Rate Plan

About a year ago we decided to change our electricity rate plan to time of use which encourages one to use energy on off peak times.  This has easily lowered our electricity bill by about $10 a month without creating any undue hardship.  We were really concerned about adding the air conditioner, but after its first month we haven’t seen an increase, even though when it was being installed the contractors were using huge lights to see in the crawl space during peak energy time.  The challenge with the peak energy use is going to be the laundry because we only use our major appliances (aside from the air conditioner and furnace) during off peak hours, which are currently from 9pm to 10am Monday through Friday and excluding major holidays (they change from September to March to 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm), but I am determined to at least try it for a few months.  We can continue to do the bulk of the laundry over the weekend, and as long as the weather cooperates we’ll continue to dry most of the laundry on the clothesline.

Exclusive Breast Feeding and Making our own Baby Food

We’ve decided to breast feed for many of the same reasons that we are going to cloth diaper, and although I’ll be returning to work about three months postpartum, I plan on exclusively breast feeding for at least six months then allowing self weaning as the kid expresses interest in what we eat with the expectation that I’ll still be nursing at least once a day for at least a year.  In conjunction with this resolution, we’ll be making our own baby food.  Again the explicit costs of buying baby food just don’t jive with the time savings, and being the dedicated environmentalists that we are, why should the baby eat food with more miles on it than we do?  Also all those little jars and containers would be one more thing to find new uses for or to recycle.  Of course, we will continue to limit the amount of processed foods that enter our house.  I grew up in a house free of fruit roll ups and soda, and the tradition will continue.

Screen Time

Neither of us were allowed to spend all day inside watching TV or playing video games, and we plan on continuing that tradition with our little one.  We don’t want to ever use the TV or computer or iPod as a babysitter, and we would like to limit daily exposure to the less than two hours a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  We both realize what a challenge this might become, especially on long road trips and as the kid spends more and more time outside of the home.

Daily Reading

By reading each and every day to the little one, we hope to make it easier to limit the screen time as well as foster imagination and diction.  Reading and books were so important to me growing up, and I still love them (although I don’t prioritize reading as much as I should).

Wretched Excess

We are both relatively frugal when it comes to material purchases, although we make up for it with our epicurean expenditures, and this is something we want to continue with the kid.  Again we recognize that we won’t be able to completely stop family and friends, but there are strategies around the excesses of others.  In the line of regifting, I’ve heard of parents going through gifts sent by family who refuse to stop going overboard and culling the keepers and donating the rest.  Of the keepers, some go into storage to be gifted at a later time.  We’ll try to give experiences over stuff, and with the stuff we’ll try to be pragmatic with some and fun with others (here’s a great idea to help).  Besides our tiny little house is almost busting at the seams already with baby stuff, dog stuff, cat stuff, and our stuff.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated!

 

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