Zico Coconut Water Review

by Tiffany in Fitness, Healthy Eating

The folks at Zico sent me a case of their coconut water a few weeks back. I was excited to try some coconut water pre and post workout because it seems to be all the rage right now. Fitness bloggers are talking about it and pics of celebrities leaving the gym with a bottle or sippy box in their hand are everywhere. The protein bar thing didn’t work out so well when I decided to get in THAT fad but this seemed relatively harmless. Coconut water as it appears in these products is just the water found inside young coconuts and we love young coconuts here.

So why coconut water anyway? Well, it hydrates you amazingly well just like water but it has some flavor. It is low in calories, fat free, has as much potassium as a banana, and also has electrolytes like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. There is no added sugar either, which is awesome. In actually it is isn’t some miracle drink, just a good source of nutrients and hydration. Although coconut water can be used intravenously which is rather cool.

It is MUCH better IMO than a lot of sports drinks that are marketed to fitness enthusiasts. But is it better than water? My answer would have to be maybe. If you want the extra nutrients and you like the flavor then sure why not? My husband and I both decided, after working through our case, that we prefer water. The coconut water was tasty but it just didn’t satiate our thirst like good old fashioned water. My husband liked them a bit more than I did. In fact I really only liked the “plain” coconut water and would not drink the flavored ones. Of course that is when I was drinking them straight up.

I found that I MUCH prefer to put coconut water in green smoothies where that extra bit of sweetness is appreciated more. In fact I LOVED adding them to my daily smoothies, even the flavored ones. My smoothies are not very sweet. I can taste all the greens and veggies and most other family members do not much appreciate the smoothies I make for myself but adding the coconut water gave it an extra little kick that we all liked. I also liked that it upped the calorie content because sometimes it can be hard to get enough calories in when you are eating/drinking high raw AND exercising a lot.

The smoothie in the picture above is one quart of a two quart blender… 3 cups of collard greens, a banana, some frozen mango, two scoops of Vita Mineral Green, a couple teaspoons of chia seeds, and lime flavored coconut water. It is served as all my smoothies are, in wide mouth Ball jar with a glass straw. Yum!

So the million dollar question is… will we buy more? The answer is maybe. You can get them at Amazon for about $2.00 a bottle and that is a bit expensive when we prefer water. They also come in either non-recyclable boxes or recyclable plastic bottles. Yes, the bottles can be sent out for third party recycling but that is not a sure thing. I think if I got a good deal on them I would buy them now and again… as a treat for my green smoothies. :)


Green Back to School Ideas

by Tiffany in Children

Getting ready to go back to school can bring a lot of mixed emotions; grief over the loss of summer, relief for the parents, dread for the kids, and it can have some green-minded parents shaking their head over the sheer amount of items (clothes, shoes, school supplies) that their kids seem to need to buy – and re-buy, each and every year.  Even when you homeschool you typically still buy some new stuff around this time because this is when it is readily available and on sale. Is there a way to green the return to the school scene? You betcha!

Luckily for us treehugger parents, there are several ways that you can turn a green eye on your back-to-school shopping and actually feel good about your reduced carbon footprint, and several have been included here.

The Green Scene for Back to School Clothes

Kids seem to grow a mile a minute, and sometimes it seems nearly impossible to keep them clothed without spending a fortune; add to that their insistence on being ‘hip’ or fashionable, and it can seem that trying to hopeless project go any shade of green.

For the seriously green-minded parent, there are a growing number of green-minded children’s clothing stores that are cropping up all across the US. From stores that use all organic cotton or hemp to stores that remake vintage clothing for today’s kids, there are plenty of choices available. I watched group deal places like Zulily and MamaSource all summer for deals on organic clothing. Those items work well for the limited amount of “new” stuff I buy each year and it is not so much a need for new as it is a need to help support companies making greener options so they stick around.

If you want to get your kids really “into” the greening of their closets, try taking them to a thrift store; some of the upscale thrift stores have styles and brands that even picky teenagers can’t complain about, and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief that you are helping planet earth as much as possible. We went on our annual back to school thrift store trip this past week. I got so many adorable clothing items that my 7 year old daughter is happy to spend hours in her room trying them all on and figuring out all of the combinations she can make. The most we spent on anything was $5.99 and that was for a brand new with tags 3 piece outfit (shirt, skirt, and alternating pants). Most of the clothing we bought was $1.99 a piece and we only bought nice stuff. Then we came home and freecycled their clothing that doesn’t fit anymore so that we can help other families keep it green too.

For shoes I recommend Simple Shoes. They have some very nice, eco friendly choices for kids.

There are also other components of fashion beyond clothing, especially for girls. My daughter usually starts out the year with some new piggy paints, non toxic nail polish and some natural lip gloss or balm (no lipstick yet!). She gets jewelry such as beaded necklaces at yard sales and garage sales and pretty soon earrings too since she will start this year with pierced ears.

For backpacks we use the same one from year to year. My youngest son will be going on year two for his Crocodile Creek Pack for his speech therapy sessions. My daughter decided to freecycle her backpack of 2 years for a new one this year. I didn’t complain because it was an iCarly backpack (which I objected to with no success) and this year she wanted an unbranded horse/pony backback. I still consider it a success.

Green Lunches for Green Kids

Lunches are a big part of your child’s school day, so why not focus on creating lunches for them that are based on organic and local grown foods? Local bakeries for the breads, farmers markets for the fruits and vegetables, or at the very least organic products from your local grocery store. I like to stock up on Apple Butter during the Fall days of our Farmer’s Market and it makes an appearance in lunches quite often. Local apples are another favorite as well as pumpkin soup (served cold) made from local pumpkins.

As you pack lunches use recyclable lunch bags or lunch boxes instead of paper bags. Even the pickiest kid can’t complain about the new metal water bottles with the awesome designs that can be used to send their drinks to school. You can even send green smoothies in them for a powerhouse of nutrition. For the best lunchboxes I recommend LunchBots, Tiffins, or The Laptop Lunchbox. I love that the laptop lunchbox has lids that can be used on some compartments so you can send pumpkin soup or chia seed pudding and not have it make a mess.

If you have teens that don’t want a lunch box you can give them a stylish reusable bag and some Planet Wise sandwich wraps. They can be used for more than just sandwiches and they are an eco friendly way to wrap foods. Plus the wrap can be unfolded and used as a placemat. Cool! Teens also like Built NY bags. They are funky and stylish while still be functional.

For more eco lunch ideas check out Bento Lunchbox.

An Eye on Green School Supplies

School supplies are perhaps the hardest thing to consider going green with when it comes to back-to-school shopping, but making wise choices can actually make a difference in the long run. When shopping for filler paper, notebooks and pencils, don’t settle for the cheapest products available, but choose instead items made from recycled paper and wood. An alternative paper notebook I like is the Writersblok Bamboo Notebook made from bamboo pulp. Also conventional stores usually have a greener notebook available it just costs more than the virgin paper notebooks for some reason.

You can buy eco pencils or dispense with standard wood pencils altogether and opt for a mechanical pencil where the only thing you have to worry about are the graphite refills. The same holds true with pens. While the solid case pens may be the cheapest, try choosing some refillable retractable pens instead. We have some Smens Scented pens made from newspaper and recycled plastic that my kids will be using this year. EcoPencils makes colored pencils too. This Terracycle pencil bag made from recycled juice bags would be an awesome way to carry them. ;)

And whatever you do, try to keep track of your mainstays from year to year. Re-using things like rulers, calculators, protractors the like may seem time consuming, it can make a decided difference, not just in the cost of your back-to-school supply shopping, but in how much it saves the planet to not have to deal with one more plastic calculator or ruler or protractor in the landfills. Throughout the year you can find these items at yard sales too.

For more info check out my main green school supplies page and this letter to the teacher.


The Case for Once a Month Cleaning

by Tiffany in Green Cleaning

The Case for Once a Month CleaningHouse Cleaning has got to be one of the most repetitive and thankless jobs on the planet; it has to be done, but who wants to do it? What’s more, who has the time?

Our schedules are so hectic these days that it seems we hardly have time for the important stuff; let alone daily housecleaning chores. So is there a solution? A few months back I heard someone taking about once a month cleaning and it was a light bulb moment. We HAD to try and see if this helped us in our home. I actually don’t dislike cleaning but with 3 messy kidlets and a husband who works long hours outside the home I was getting burnt out. Plus I work to, I just do it at home. That cutesy saying about rocking your babies instead of sweeping your floors isn’t so cute when your kids are getting older. Also my aversion to having company when the house is untidy was being challenged with the arrival of new neighbors who are always over at our place it seems. Thankfully there is a way that you can reduce your housecleaning to just once a month; mind you it is going to take a little advance planning, but it can be done.

Steps to Once-a-Month House Cleaning

Reducing your housecleaning to just once a month entails a good deal of organization and advance preparation, you are also going to have to enlist the cooperation of the rest of the people in your house, because it really will take everyone working together to make it work. It goes much easier if you come prepared to make it worth their while in the allowance department. I know some don’t like the idea of allowance but we use it primarily to teach money management and they know that helping out is required whether there is payment or not. Everyone who lives in our house has to contribute to its management.

Before you start your once-a-month housecleaning there are a few preparations that you are going to need to make. The first is making a list of the housecleaning chores that you normally do on a daily or weekly basis. Once you have made this list, split it up into chores that HAVE to be done on a daily basis (such as washing dishes, picking up toys, feeding the pets, etc. ) and chores that do not have to be done on a daily basis.

If you look at the list, chances are that you are going to find things like “cleaning the bathroom” and “mopping the kitchen floor” and things of that type. Let’s use cleaning the bathroom as an example: it is quite feasible to clean the bathrooms just once per month PROVIDED that the rest of the individuals in the house are willing to take steps to keep the bathroom from getting messed up before the month is up.

This means that towels will need to be hung up; that everyone who uses the sink will need to wipe it out with a sponge when they are finished (which will be under the sink) and that the last person to use the shower in the mornings needs to wipe it down. Clothing removed before showering needs to be tossed in the hamper (which is in the corner) and anyone who accidentally sprays the mirror needs to clean up their mess (rags are under the sink too).

As you can see, while it will take cooperation, there are also some things (such as having the right equipment in the right places) that will make the job much easier. Go through each of the housecleaning chores on your list like this and find ways that you can keep the chore from NEEDING to be done more than once a month. For things that need to be done daily or weekly we have the back bone of our cleaning system which is our 15 clean-up that every member in the house does daily. We do it together, turning on some music, and then assigning sections of the house. This means that main rooms are picked up and swept daily, dishes are done, plants and garden are watered, laundry is brought down to the basement, etc. Due to the once a month cleaning schedule we don’t assign bathrooms anymore with the exception of once weekly when the trash is collected and the toilet is cleaned in both bathrooms. We also don’t require any mopping unless the floors are really dirty. We actually have gotten lax on these cleanups since we moved into this house last September but part of our once a month cleaning plan was reinstating those sessions and making a chart to keep track of jobs more specifically.

Once you have made the necessary preparations to prevent the need of the chore being required more than once a month (and made sure that everyone is aware of what they need to do) you then need to make a housecleaning list of the chores that you can do once a month and estimate how much time will be required to do each one. Chances are that if you can complete all of your household chores in 1-2 days depending on the size of your house and the number of people in your household. Our once monthly jobs are mopping all hard floors, shampooing our carpeted areas with Dr. Bronner’s soap, cleaning and organizing closets and dressers, cleaning garage and basement, finishing laundry, washing windows, sweeping the porch and deck, cleaning walls and baseboards, scrubbing the kitchen and bathrooms, and all the bigger jobs that you don’t need to do weekly or that are much more manageable due to everyone being required to keep things cleaner on a daily basis.

Now, choose one weekend a month that you can devote to cleaning. Start early on Saturday morning and simply clean your way down the list, top to bottom. Now you have three weekends at your disposal – not to mention all your free evenings (minus 15 minutes for us); time you can use for the important things in life!

Now your turn. What cleaning method works best for your family?


The Low Down on Antibacterial Cleaners

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Liquid and hand-made soaps on beige backgroundFor many families antibacterial cleaners are a fixture in the home, whether they are in the form of hand soap or cleaners for your kitchen and bathroom. We are bombarded by marketing hype about the need for these products in sterilizing our homes and protecting them from harmful germs. But are these cleaners actually doing more harm than good?

Why Do We Need to Kill Bacteria?

No one likes the idea of bacteria and germs laying in wait around our homes. We’ve been conditioned to think they are bad and that we must get rid of them to maintain health. It is true that some bacteria can cause disease, illness and food poisoning. And with that in mind it is easy to see why we gravitate towards a product, like antibacterial cleaners, that promise to kill around 99% of bacteria. After all, we all want to protect ourselves and our family from getting sick.

So Why Are Antibacterial Cleaners Bad for Our Health?

Many bad things happen when we try to get around nature’s design. Just look at how whole foods become unhealthy when we process and fragment them. Look at how a natural substance found in the earth can wreak havoc on the planet when processed as fuels and used to the extreme by the population. Antibacterial cleaners are not as good for us as they may initially seem. In the short term, their ingredients are known to irritate or even damage the skin (this is more of a problem with those that have been developed for cleaning purposes).

The FDA is currently looking into one of the major ingredients of antibacterial soaps: triclosan. Although the evidence isn’t cut and dry yet, it suggests it may have a harmful effect on humans  and especially children. In the past, the FDA has also stated that there are no extra health benefits to using antibacterial soaps over regular soap and water. If there is no added benefit and the ingredients are even slightly suspect then why the use them?

A long term result of using antibacterial products is that they make bacteria more resistant. This means that, over time, these antibacterial products will no longer be able to kill the germs they set out to kill in the first place. We are essentially taking normal strains of bacteria and and giving the the means to get more powerful and potentially more harmful.

You simply don’t need to make your home sterile to protect yourself and your family. Bacteria is all around us, and being exposed to small amounts of it is what our body needs in order to build up its defenses against stronger bacteria. Studies have shown that sterile environments in childhood can actually lead to more allergies and other problems later in life.

The American Medical Associated (AMA) has warned against extensive use of such antibacterial cleaners for these reasons. When it comes to killing germs, simple measures like washing your hands often with traditional soap, is the best way to protect against germs… and the safest.

Instead of having a bottle of antibacterial soap next to the sink try a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap. For cleaning household surfaces the liquid version is amazingly effective. Combine that with a homemade disinfectant with vinegar, water, and tea tree oil mix in a spray bottle and you will be set. If you need a quirt bottle for meeting the demands of school supplies lists try Clean Well All Natural Antibacterial soaps. They have no triclosan.

Easy, safe, and green.


Diaper Free Babies or Elimination Communication

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Elimination CommunicationWhen highlighting the green options for diapering our wee babes one of the front runners… if not the front runner is EC or elimination communication. We live in a society that is obsessed with convenience, which is probably why the idea of Elimination Communication (or EC) has met with such mixed emotions.

What Exactly is EC?

The term “elimination communication” was coined by Ingrid Bauer after she had traveled throughout both India and Africa where diaperless babies (who did not seem to be having potty accidents) were the norm and not the exception. As a result she raised her own children with a limited use of diapers and started to share her methods with others.
In a nutshell, elimination communication is a method of toilet training in which the person caring for the child uses a mix of signals (timing, body language etc.) as well as their intuition to potty train the child. In short, by anticipating when the baby has to eliminate their waste, they can take them to an appropriate place to take care of this and cut down on or eliminate altogether the need for diapers. Supposedly, the more attuned to the child the caregiver becomes, the easier it is for them to be able to anticipate the child’s toilet needs, which all sounds good, but may cause some raised eyebrows regarding its viability as an alternative to diapers.

Does EC Work?

One of the primary reasons that diaperless babies are the rule and not the exception in countries such as India and Africa is that the baby is with the mother almost continually from birth on. The mother becomes very much attuned to her child, and it is pointless to put them in diapers if you can tell when they need to use the toilet.

So yes, the theory behind the method is sound. Unfortunately, when it comes to western societies the idea of a parent or dedicated caregiver being with the infant 24/7 is not as common as it in these other societies. In western societies it is far more common for the mother to go back to work within six weeks of the baby’s birth, so unless a mother (or father) stays home to raise her child or there is a dedicated caregiver who is willing to use the EC method, that EC training may only be practical in the evenings and/or weekends which can seriously slow down or even impede the progress of the method. But if you can manage it, successful elimination communication can be significantly beneficial to both the parent and the baby.

The Benefits of Elimination Communication

EC offers a broad range of benefits. First and foremost is the reduction in the number of diapers that you will need to purchase; a significant savings to you. But fewer diapers also means and this means savings to the planet in the reduction of diapers being sent to the landfills.

Then of course there is the elimination of the whole “rash” of problems that can be caused by traditional diapering including (but not limited to) diaper rash, urinary tract infections, yeast infections as well as difficult or resistant potty training.

And finally, EC enables an even deeper connection to be made between the infant and their caregiver. By practicing EC you are, in effect, practicing awareness of your child and their needs, an action that can bring you even closer together.

Should You Practice EC?

The choice of practicing elimination communication will depend to a great extent on the choices you make as well as the practicality. For many, full time elimination communication will not be an option as they are not able (for whatever reason) to stay at home full time with their child and most day care providers are not willing to go to this great of lengths when it comes to toilet training.

One of the easiest ways to get started to is to read a few books about the subject, like Diaper Free Baby. They are filled with real life stories so you can see what others had success with and what didn’t work as well. Attachment parenting forums are usually a  good place to find EC moms online as well.

Even if you cannot practice full time EC, you can still take advantage of it whenever you are home with your child, and even though it may not be as effective as a potty training method when done part time, it can still provide an incredible bonding experience and reduce your reliance on diapers.

So what do you think? Worth a try?