Conveniently Green: The Quick Cycle

Here’s a quick Conveniently Green tip for you–the Quick Cycle on your washing machine. Take a look at your machine–do you have one? Here’s the difference on mine.

Regular cycle:

Quick cycle:

Yep, the regular cycle take almost twice as much time as the quick cycle. More time = more energy = more water. And then it occurred to me one day–not everything in the laundry basket needs to be washed on the full cycle. Sure, some of our clothes need the heavy hitting, but we also have clothes that are very lightly soiled or worn for a short period of time or just need a quick little wash. I started collecting those clothes in a pile and now put them on quick cycle instead of the regular cycle. If I’m mixing darks and lights, I sometimes throw in a Shout Color Catcher (they really work!). I’ve never pulled a garmet out of a quick cycle and thought “oh man, this should have gone for another half hour.” So next time you are throwing your clothes in the machine, take a second to think about clothes that are only lightly soiled and consider putting them on a shorter cycle. Conveniently Green: Just a Little Bit Less!

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WFMW: Detangling Playground Hair

Ah, Fall…the leaves are turning, the wind is blowing, warm hats and hoods are pulled on and off and on and off, and long hair gets mind-blowingly tangled.

Unless you live in Southern California, where it’s still quite nice but hair gets tangled on the playground anyway.

Nice

When I was little I used to scream when my mother came at me with a comb or brush. Tired of the battles, my mother told me I could either endure the hair grooming or they would cut it all off and I’d have to sport the Dorothy Hamill bowl cut that was all the rage. Despite the fact that it made me look like a boy, and that my hair wasn’t anything near Dorothy Hamill’s, I got stuck with it up until I hit the spiral perm craze.

At any rate, if you love someone who has long hair that gets tangled, and you don’t want them to end up looking like the unfortunate person in the picture, our good friend The Hair Guru has a video tutorial on how you can comb out tangled playground hair with just a comb and some hair oil (you can even use olive oil!). The oil the Hair Guru talks about in the video can be purchased here.

Easy detangling–Works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

WFMW: Remembering Reusable Shopping Bags

Everyone knows that reusable shopping bags are an easy way to go Conveniently Green, right? The problem is, how do I remember to bring and use those bags? I have a big collection of various types of bags–canvas ones, free ones, ones I got gifts in, and so on, but I was consistently forgetting to 1) bring them back to the car, and 2) bring them into the store from the car. More than once I’ve had to abandon my shopping cart to run back and get my bags, and I will admit that quite a few times I’ve just gotten plastic bags even when my reusable bags were sitting in the car because I had Mouse with me or it was too big of a hassle to go back and get them (or too embarrassing!).

This is my tiny purse that fits into my diaper bag

I know a lot of people like the little nylon bags that turn themselves into tiny little capsules you fit in your purse, but I already have such a collection of various other bags I just don’t want to buy more. So I finally figured out a way to remember my bags, both out of the house and out of the car.

I simply place my purse and keys inside the bags after I empty them in the kitchen. I never leave the house without my purse and keys, and if they’re inside the bags, I never leave the house without the bags too! I leave my purse in there if I’m going to the store, I leave my purse in there (or place it in there at home) and again, never forget it going into the store either.

A reusable shopping bag tip for a scatterbrain like me? Works for me!
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Sting-Free Disposable Baby Wipes

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A couple of months ago I had a cold and my poor nose was raw from sneezing. I was changing Mouse and I thought “wow, a nice, cool, moist baby wipe would feel great!” I grabbed one, used it, and holy moley, nearly hit the roof it stung so badly. I was surprised as heck because they were scent-free, sensitive skin wipes, but boy, not so sensitive on my sensitive skin. It really made me think of how it must feel on Mouse’s little bottom, especially during a diaper rash. Ouch!

So I set out to find a sting-free wipe experience. Now I already have a stack of cloth wipes and bottles of wipe solution made from “bits” (little cubes that you melt and mix with water), but sometimes the cloth wipes don’t clean all that well and sometimes you just want a wipe you know you’re going to throw away after a massive poo-splosion.

I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Kickboxing. Sport of the future.” Or, “Disposable wipes? That’s hardly Conveniently Green, Scriv.” Hey, remember what I said a while back about non-negotiables? Well this is one. I dispose and then use cloth.

Kickboxing. Sport of the future.

Following instructions all over the internet, I tried making my own wipes out of paper towels, but I hated them. They were difficult to get off the roll or to separate when I folded them individually. Plus, Train Guy hated them, and he’s such an active parent I need to take his preferences into account too.

I decided to take my disposable wipes (the ones I’d bought in the 10,000 pack at Costco) and turn them into sting-free wipes. This involved two parts: one, rinse out the chemicals from the existing wipes, and two, using an all-natural wipe solution that wouldn’t hurt sore bottoms (or noses).  So here’s my process:

  1. Open the container of wipes (or in the Costco situation, cut open the bag)
  2. Take a really close whiff of the wipes. You’ll smell a chemical smell or some scent to cover the chemical smell. This is your baseline.
  3. Break the stack in half. This is important and something I only figured out like the fourth time I did it.
  4. Without separating the wipes from its chunk, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse the wipes. If you saved clean water from your shower, this is the perfect opportunity to use it.
  5. Rinse until you don’t smell whatever it is you smelled in Step 2 anymore.
  6. Squeeze out the moisture. I do this by carefully rolling them in a towel. They don’t have to be completely dry, but if you’re anal, set them out to dry for a few days.
  7. Place them back into the container and cover with the wipe solution of your choice. I find that 1 cup of solution is usually the perfect amount, and I always use distilled water to keep the solution from going funky.

Et voilà! You’ve got all-natural, sting-free wipes! Now I don’t know if it’s possible to completely rid the wipes of the original chemicals, but I get as close as I can and then do a test-run on my nose.

Now what about wipe solution? Well, the meltable bits got irritating and too high-maintenance, so I tried different recipes I found online and none of them made me happy. Wipe solution needs oil, and the main natural oil we have hanging around is olive oil, and that felt gross on my hands afterwards. I started looking up different oils I could buy (sweet almond oil, etc.) and then it got really complicated and I thought “Why don’t I just buy some solution concentrate from a work-at-home Mom!” My extensive searching then led me to Buddha Bunz Soy Wipe Wash Concentrate.

I can’t even tell you how much I love Buddha Bunz, but I’m going to try. It’s awesome. It’s soy-based for all the vegans in the audience and I can actually pronounce all of the ingredients. It’s heavy-duty but gentle, and doesn’t leave a residue on my hands or my cloth diapers. At one teaspoon per one cup of water, a single bottle has lasted me nearly two months and it looks like I barely made a dent. And on top of all that, you even get to choose your luscious scent.

The great part about Buddha Bunz wipe concentrate is that it’s not just for baby wipes! Whip up some solution for your, ahem, personal feminine needs. Or pour some solution over a couple of baby washcloths and take them along in your purse for gentle, non-drying hand wipes.  I don’t know about you, but I hate instant hand sanitizer because it just smears the dirt around and is gross (and I believe it’s bad for our immune systems). So when you just need to wipe off your hands, Buddah Bunz and washcloths are perfect, or you can use them before or after instant sanitizer to leave your hands soft and nice-smelling.

Melinda at Buddha Bunz offered a free bottle of wipe solution to one of our Gen X Moms readers! Thanks Melinda!

The Scrivener

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Conveniently Green–Reusable Swim Diapers

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Swim season is upon us (or nearly upon us if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a sunny locale), and for moms of babies, that means it’s time to think of swim diapers. Yay.

When I first saw disposable swim diapers, my thought was, “Wait, how does that hold anything in?” Even as a first-time mom I knew that “S/M” size is not going to fit everyone in the range of small to medium. The disposable diapers don’t absorb anything, and are ostensibly just to hold in poop, should that occur. Except have you ever seen a bunch of toddlers walking around in disposable swim diapers? You see more buttcracks than a plumbing convention. And an exposed baby buttcrack is just a ticking time bomb.

When we enrolled Mouse in his first swimming lessons at 4 months, I saw the disposables and saw that you can buy another cute swimsuit to go over the disposable. But I thought, “Surely someone makes a swim diaper that’s reusable.” Guess what? They do! In fact, reusable swim diapers are required in public pools in 27 states (but not California).

Mouse at 4 months in his iPlay swim diaper

What makes them different? Well, the resuable diapers have a soft layer against the baby’s skin, an inner absorbent layer, a waterproof outer layer, and then a cute swimsuit-pattern layer on top of that. But do they work? We bought an iPlay Ultimate Swim Diaper, and let me tell you–they work.

The iPlay diaper is tight-fitting which can make it a little difficult to tug on and off, but once in the water it’s practically bomb-proof. In fact, when we first get Mouse into the water, the air in the suit expands and he’s got a bubble-butt because the suit is so snug, the air can’t escape. And if air can’t escape, you know what else can’t escape? Exactly!

We love our iPlay swim diapers, and my only complaint is that if you leave them in the sun too long, they do fade. But other than that, I give the iPlay diaper 5 stars!

And guess what? Reusable swim diapers are Coveniently Green! Sure, you may end up washing the occasional poop (hasn’t happened to us yet and we swim once a week), but think of all of the disposable swim diapers you’re not buying and not throwing away, and if you wore a swim suit over the disposable in the first place, then you’re already washing.

You can purchase iPlay swim diapers and other brands of swim diapers many places. I recommend My Swim Baby and have had many great transactions there.

The reusable swim diaper–it’s cute, it’s better than the disposables, and it saves the planet. Works for me!

The Scrivener

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Conveniently Green–Reusable Swiffer Duster

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Do you love your Swiffer Duster? I do! I’ve got the duster with the extendable, telescoping handle, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a long, plastic stick. The Swiffer Duster requires, of course, the Swiffer Refill, which is a disposable fluffy doo-dad that sucks up all of the dust and pet hair (in our house, emphasis on pet hair) and then you toss it in the trash.

And you know how much I love tossing things in the trash, right?

But I like the idea of a disposable duster, because the thought of using a feather duster and then having all that crap sitting around, or taking it outside and beating it on the porch and setting off my allergies and whatnot really grosses me out. Still, disposable? Are you serious? Surely there’s a better way.

I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

I suppose I could easily sew my own reusable duster, but I have no idea where my sewing machine is (somewhere in the garage, I think, or maybe we accidentally left it in the storage unit in San Jose). Thank God for Etsy.com. If you haven’t been there already, Etsy is a wonderful site of different sellers offering thousands of handmade items–everything from art to, well, dusters. Many Etsy sellers are moms, and if there’s one thing I love more than replacing a disposable item, it’s helping out another mom. I fell in love with the adorable fleece dusters at Mom and My Crafts. Sarah and her mom make all kinds of eco-friendly products, and I happen to know from personal experience that fleece is excellent at picking up all kinds of dust and hair. Excellent. Especially when you’re wearing it.

Well believe it or not, I really love dusting with my Swiffer Duster now. And trust me, I’m a person who hates to clean. The reusable duster performs like nobody’s business. In fact, I think it attracts and traps dust and hair even better than the disposables. And the fleece eliminates one of my biggest pet peeves with the disposables–getting snagged on corners or rough surfaces. It’s fun and cute, and I don’t have to wonder what kind of vegetation died to create it. I love it.

Yesterday I went on a dusting spree just to give you photographic evidence of how much I love these dusters. I tackled my problem areas: underneath the living room furniture, on top of the fan blades, along the baseboards, and of course, on the furniture itself. Not in that order. Check it out.

Before:

It's green! And pink! And adorable!

After:

Wow, that's gross!

The best part is that I just drop that bad boy in the laundry and I’m good to go for my next dusting spree.

The Scrivener

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Conveniently Green Presents…Cloth Diapers: A Beginning Guide for Beginning Beginners Part 1

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When I mentioned the words “cloth diapers,” my mother gave me this look that said, “Are you out of your mind?” Well, actually her look said, “I love you, you’re my daughter, I’m not going to tell you how to parent, and you have some kooky ideas sometimes, but ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR EFFING MIND???”

I know, it’s a lot from one look, but I’m telling you, it was there.

And no, I’m not out of my mind. We use cloth diapers. And you may be surprised to learn that cloth diapers are nothing like what our moms used. Now I know a lot of you in the audience are familiar with cloth diapering, but many of you are beginners. And the world of cloth diapering can be very confusing and intimidating, so I am creating a Beginning Guide for Beginning Beginners. If you don’t consider yourself a Beginning Beginner, then go ahead and forward this link to a friend who is!

So I can hear you from here–where’s the Convenient part of this Conveniently Green, Scriv? Because cloth diapers seem like a whole lotta work. Well, they are and they aren’t, but here’s some food for thought. First, take a look at how much you’re spending per diaper for your disposable diapers. For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re paying 25 cents per diaper. Now, you can buy a single one-size diaper (which is just like it sounds–one size and it grows with your baby)–just ONE diaper, and use it every night. Say you purchased one of the popular brands like the BumGenius one-size diaper for $17.95. Using one disposable diaper at 25 cents per diaper every night for a year will cost you $91.25. Now subtract the cost of one (that’s right, ONE!) cloth diaper for use at night, and you have a net total of  $73.30. Yes–you can save $73.30 by using ONE cloth diaper a day! Hot Damn!

BumGenius 3.0 One-Size AIO

But what about the washing? Isn’t that disgusting? Well, if your child is more than 6 hours old, you have already learned new and exciting definitions of disgusting. Is washing a single cloth diaper really more gross than that poo-splosion you had that one time where you had to change your shorts AND your shirt AND your underwear because ew, that was liquid? Or that other time when the projectile vomiting made you just throw that bra away and step directly into the shower? Trust me, Mom. You’ve washed worse.

Cloth diapers these days are not what your mother used. They’re actually easy, convenient, and believe it or not–cute. Let me take you through it.

Diapers need three essential parts: an absorbent layer, a waterproof layer, and something to hold it all together. A disposable diaper is, of course, all of these in one. But did you know that there are cloth diapers that are also all of these in one? And that they’re cleverly called “All In Ones”?

That’s our first category. An All In One (AIO) diaper is just like it sounds–a sewn-in absorbent layer, a waterproof layer, and either velcro or snaps to hold it all together. Many AIO’s also have a pocket where you can add additional absorbent inserts if you like.  It’s basically the same as a disposable diaper, except you throw it in the laundry instead of throwing it in the trash. These are the easiest diapers to use, and the easiest way to convince other caregivers to use as well. AIO’s sound great, don’t they? They are! But they can also suffer from two problems: one, because there’s a very absorbent layer sewn in, they can take forever to dry (and I mean for.ev.er.), and two, sometimes they are hard to customize to your absorbency needs and can get bulky. They’re also on this high end, price-wise.

Our second category is All In Twos (AI2). I know you’re saying, “Scriv, I just got the hang of AIO’s–what’s this 2 thing about?” Well, an AI2 is just like an AIO, except instead of a built-in absorbent layer, that layer is snapped in. This helps with the for.ev.er. washing part, because once you separate the absorbent layer from the rest of the diaper, the whole thing dries a lot faster. However, you can still have that absorbency problem (there are exceptions, but we’re keeping it basic here).

FuzziBunz Perfect Size Pocket Diapers (click image for larger view)

Is there an easy diaper with truly versatile absorbency? Where you can put exactly as much or as little as you need? Why yes! Yes there is! Meet your new friend, Pocket Diapers. No, this is not a diaper that fits in your coat pocket (har har har). It’s a diaper that has a waterproof layer and an inner layer, and in between you can stuff an absorbent insert. You can customize your inserts to be light or heavy, so you can double-up at night and slim down during the day, or whatever. Again, like the AI2 they are quicker to dry than the AIO. If you pre-stuff your pocket diapers, then anyone can use them like an AIO, and by “anyone” I mean Dad, Grandma/Grandpa, Day Care Worker, and, you know, YOU. Lots of people love pocket diapers, including me!

Once you move past the diaper that has it all together, you have the diapers and covers category. This is where the absorbent diaper and the waterproof cover are two separate things. I’m going to start with the diaper.

Kissaluvs V2 Fitted Diaper (click image for larger view)

One style is a Fitted Diaper. A fitted diaper is an absorbent diaper that is already shaped like a diaper (you know, that familiar hourglass shape) and attaches with either snaps or velcro. Fitted diapers often come with a snap-in insert for extra absorbency. Another style is a contour diaper which is just like a fitted except it requires fastening, like with a pins or a Snappi. More on the Snappi in a second.

On the end here, there are the traditional flat and prefold diapers. These are the ones your mother will recognize. They’re either square or rectangular and require some folding and fastening to attach them to the baby. Once attached, they also require a cover. Now I know this sounds very Inconveniently Green, but they are your least expensive option and many people really love them. These are also the diapers you get from a diaper service. We used a diaper service for several months after Mouse was born, and loved it. And guess what? You don’t need pins anymore! Some incredibly smart person invented this thingy called a Snappi. It’s an elastic doo-dad shaped like a T with plastic claws on all 3 ends. You hook the claws across the diaper and it holds it all in place. It’s pretty much the handiest thing ever to happen to cloth diapering. You can also use a Snappi to fasten a contour diaper.

Snappi Diaper Fastener

So that’s pretty much your intro to the different types of cloth diapers. Within these categories, there are many brands and varieties to choose from. In subsequent posts on this topic, I’ll take you through more aspects of the joyful world of cloth diapering. Happy diapering!

The Scrivener

Please also see our Conveniently Green–A Word About Energy and Water Consumption post.