Green School Supplies Letter to Teacher

by Tiffany in Children, Eco Tips

blackboard at schoolWhen I wrote about a Green Back to School I received a question about how to handle supply lists you get from the school with specific product requests that are not so green. I am all too familiar with these lists and yes many do request specific products or brands that are not so great for green people. So I have written a sample letter you can send along with your student to explain why you have deviated from their recommendations. Feel free to use it, edit at will,  and it pass it along to others who might appreciate it. This is just a sample with a few of the products I remember on these lists. Others can obviously be added. Tell me, does it sound okay? Not too preachy?

Dear (Inserts Teacher’s Name),

My son/daughter (insert name here) is happy to be a part of your class this year. To help us get prepared we shopped for the necessary school supplies together and used the list you and the school provided to guide us. I wanted to write a quick note to you to explain why there are some deviations from the specific products you recommended.

In our household we have “green” values and we strive to live our lives with as little environmental impact as we possibly can. This no doubt effects some of the choices we make in our every day lives and the type of products we buy. We believe that every consumer choice we make is essentially a vote for the type of world we want to live in and we want a clean and beautiful earth for generations to come. To that end we have made the following deviations from your original list. I hope you understand why we have done this and will support our efforts for a cleaner planet.

Big Name Hand Sanitizer – This product has some unsavory chemicals that can be potentially dangerous for children so instead we have purchased a bottle of Clean Well hand sanitizer. In lieu of harsh chemicals, it uses essential oils from plants to kill bacteria. While it may not be the specific brand or type of sanitizer you had requested I hope you can see that it has the same function and it is a product I am comfortable with as well.

Big Brand Paper Towels – I have purchased a package of Seventh Generation paper towels for this requirement. While we generally do not use disposable products such as this in our own home but I recognize the need in a school setting where clean up resources are limited. To that end we are positive that these unbleached paper towels made from 80% post-consumer waste paper will work well.

Ziploc Plastic Bags – We do not use plastic bags in our home as they have many negative environmental impacts and recycling facilities for these are hard to come by. I would appreciate a quick note or phone call (insert number) to let me know what these bags would be used for so I can find an appropriate alternative that will work for us both.

Thank you for your time. I know I will enjoy working with you this year. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

The Nut-job Parent

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008



Scrapping Green

by Tiffany in Crafts, Eco Tips

Scrapbooking has become a huge pastime and hobby for moms everywhere. I have some friends thatBird Watercolors scrapbook each of their children’s lives almost daily! I am not so into scrapbooking myself but I did make one once, for a childhood girlfriend that was getting married and it WAS a lot of fun I must admit. I didn’t want to give it to her when it was done!

One of the drawbacks of scrapbooking is that it requires a lot of materials, especially paper. Each scrapbook page requires a piece of fancy paper or card stock for the background, and then of course more paper is used for die cuts, frames and other embellishments. Then there are the non-paper embellishments, and let's not forget the scrapbook cover. The finished product is priceless really, but this hobby can have an impact on the environment. 

Lucky for us there are environmentally conscientious scrapbook materials on the market. Read on for some ideas on how to incorporate some earth friendly practices into your scrapping adventures.

Recycled Paper of Course!

When we think of environmentally responsible scrapbook supplies, the first thing that should come to mind is recycled paper. Buying post consumer recycled paper is a step in the right direction. Buying recycled paper cuts down on the demand for new and this saves trees. But when you purchase recycled paper products, it's essential to know what you're buying.

For instance, how much of it is actually recycled? Is it a substantial amount or is it just a marketing gimmick? Each package of paper should list the percentage of recycled materials that were used in manufacturing. The higher the percentage, the better. It is also important to identify the percentage of post-consumer waste used. Post consumer waste paper has been recycled after it has hit the market and been used, as opposed to pre-consumer waste, which is just scraps created when cutting the paper during the manufacturing process. Pre-consumer waste is not really recycling in the traditional sense because manufacturers almost always recycle their own scraps anyway…it is just good business. So touting the word “recycled” for pre-consumer paper scraps is selling something…literally.

Another important factor is the type of ink is used to print on the paper and most scrapbooking papers do have elaborate printing and design. Many of the inks used can be damaging to the environment. Always look for vegetable or soy-based inks, which are environmentally nontoxic. Your local craft store representative should be able to point you in the right direction and if they don’t carry these items, ask if they will start ordering them. You can always buy plain recycled paper and use non-toxic ink stamps or have your children paint the backgrounds with watercolors.

Recycle Your Own

Using recycled paper is a great start when you're trying to be environmentally conscious in your scrapbooking. But it would be even better to use items that you would have otherwise thrown away. This can also help you save some money. It takes some imagination and creativity, but there are lots of things you can reuse in your scrapbooks. These include:

* Old Children’s Books – Have you ever been to a yard sale where they are selling old children’s books that are falling apart? I know I have…many times. Instead of passing them by because they aren’t very readable buy them up for pennies and cut them up to use in your scrapbooks. The old early readers like the Dick and Jane classics make wonderful scrapbook additions.

* Maps – Maps are great for matting and backgrounds. You can also cut out the states or countries you recently went on vacation and incorporate them into memory pages. Fun!

* Old calendars – These are wonderful to use because you can cut out dates and use the high quality pictures.

* Wrapping paper – You can make all sorts of nice embellishments or backgrounds out of wrapping paper or tissue paper. Ribbons can also be used so save your gift wrapping materials after someone gives you a gift or raid some one's party garbage (with their permission of course) to get some raw materials.

* Greeting cards – Not only can you cut out the handwritten notes and add them to a page for a personal touch, you can also cut out pretty illustrations and verses to use like die cuts. Instead of letting sit in a box or tossing them…use them!

Digital scrapbooking is also an option and quickly gaining popularity. You may want to try it. Few (if any) physical supplies are required for this type of scrapping.

Reusing items and buying recycled and non-toxic scrapbook materials will greatly reduce your scrapbooking hobby's impact on the environment. Doing some of these things might require a little more time and effort, but Mother Earth will thank you.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008



Eco Tip: A Smart Showerhead

by Tiffany in A Green Home, Eco Tips

Hotel shower head

Looking for a new showerhead? Why not pick one that is green/smart and helps you save on water AND energy.

I recently got a 1.6 GPM Energy and Water Saving Showerhead and it is a great product for a green home. It addresses a common habit…leaving the water running while it heats up. Of course no one wants to step into frigid water but it is all to easy to turn it on and then leave to do other things. I know I am guilty of that and my kids can be to. We end up wasting hot water and energy many times when we do this. But with this showerhead it is no biggie if you need to go run to the laundry room to get a clean towel because this showerhead is SMART.

It has a built-in ShowerStart technology sensor that senses when the water is warm enough. It senses when the water reaches normal bathing and showering temperature (95 degrees) then “pauses” the flow of water, retaining instead of wasting your hot water. When hear the water stop running and know your shower is ready to go. When you are ready to get in, jump in and turn the valve to resume water flow. Easy!

You save water by not wasting it and you save energy by not heating up water that just goes down the drain..your shower waits for you. It is also a low flow showerhead, and will save about 8 gallons or water for every 5 minutes you shower and according to their web site that should save you around $230 on utility bills and more than 7,600 gallons of water per year. It pays for itself after 3 months.

Here is a video to show you how it works. The only difference between the one in the video and ours is that ours has a cord attached to it so even the kids can pull it and re-start the water….very cool.



Other Eco Shower Heads I Like:

The Evolve Rain Showerhead – At 2.5 gallons per minute, you can enjoy a luxurious shower knowing you are saving money with ShowerStart technology. Adding to its ShowerStart technology, the Panda features and offset ball for maximum extension from the shower arm which creates ideal balance and great flow through its powerful rain spray pattern.

Waterpik Eco Flow Hand Held Shower – Water saving head saves up to one gallon of water a minute, fingertip pause control. Pays for itself in 6 months!


Photo Credit: mikemacadaan

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008



Eco Wrap – Cancer Free, Summer Kitchens, and Yard Sales

by Tiffany in Eco Tips

friday wrap upTGIF! Have an awesome weekend everyone!

I have some personal news I find rather exciting. This month marks two years since my cancer diagnosis. Can you believe it has been that long! Well, I am 1.5 years cancer free at the moment. I hope I am not getting too cocky posting that! I still think about all the great people I met during treatment and of course I have gnarly scars to remind me everyday that life is a precious thing. Well, as I got to thinking about this today I decided that my kids and I are going to do something for children affected by cancer. I am directing my efforts at kids so I can involve my own and get them excited about it. But of course adults are also victims of this horrible disease. So I will also be volunteering to provide “Chemo Rides” for those who may be alone and need a lift to their weekly chemo sessions.

For the children I was thinking about sewing crayon rolls and then giving them to children at The James, a cancer hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I need to speak with them about it but I soooo hope they will agree to let us do this. And oooh, if I could get soy crayons at wholesale rates…hmmmm.  Anyway that will be my little project to work on. I am just looking for a more reliable sewing machine and I will be set.

Other interesting things:

My good friend Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radio has a great post up about eating cooler in the summer. Cooking in the summer and heating up an already hot kitchen presents a problem for many folk but her post has lots of great suggestions.

No Impact Man is talking about how religion and faith in God can’t be used as an excuse for being environmentally lax. Awesome post!

Re-purposing marbles to make lovely marble suncatchers. Which reminds me that I am now using Flickr to document our family adventures. Check it out if you have a moment!

It is yard sale season!!! I have been yard sale hopping 3 weekends in a row now and have scored some great things. Just today I found 3 handmade costumes for a little girl. They were worn in school plays and are so adorable. Now my daughter can be a renaissance lady, a pilgrim, and wear an Asian Kimono. My son also got a pair of roller blades for a $1….they just need new wheels. It got me thinking about some of my posts here about yards sales. See budget and style on a cheapskate budget.

Well, I am off to enjoy my weekend! See you later!

Friday, June 13th, 2008



7 Tips for Greener Shopping

by Tiffany in Eco Tips, Tidbits

I was interviewed recently by the mom shopping expert Chele at Moms Love ShoppingMoms Loves Shopping and it is now available for listening here. We talked about the plastics habit, inverse quarantine and the book Shopping Our Way to Safety, and I shared the 7 questions you need to ask yourself in order to shop green. You MUST go and listen to the interview but here is the cliff notes version of my seven tips:

1. Do I really need and want this – can I get by without it? Sometimes the answer might be to STOP shopping.

2. Is it made from renewable, or nonrenewable resources? We are always going to want to choose renewable resources where we can. Also, no renewable resource are used to ship items around the world so shopping locally is VERY helpful and it supports your local economy.

3. Is it made of recycled materials and is it recyclable? Buy products that come in containers you know you will be able to recycle later on.

4. Can it be maintained and repaired? Or is it one of those products that once it breaks you pretty much have to throw it out and buy new.

5. Could I borrow, rent or buy it secondhand?

6. Is it overpackaged? It is wrapped in plastic and then wrapped again a cardboard box?

7. Can it be reused?

I hope you enjoy the interview…thanks Chele for asking me to come and chat with you!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008