Making your house eco-friendly – baby

This is the biggest one, the one where changes seem the hardest to make. So many products are set up for quick convenience – and with good reason. Time becomes your most precious commodity and you are just. so. tired. Yet the impact on the environment should still be considered.

  1. Biodegradable disposable nappies

One of the big things that people always suggest are cloth nappies. We are not using those for two reasons. Firstly, all my experiences with them with godchildren and friends’ children are negative – leaky nightmares. Secondly, I am not convinced the extra laundry generated means their eco-credentials are all they are cracked up to be. I have the ultimate non-ecofriendly appliance, a tumble dryer, and would have to use it frequently because line-drying in the sun is a rare treat here in Scotland and drying on a clothes horse inside often takes several days (thanks, humidity). That being said, we have tried to go for as eco-friendly an option as we can with disposables. A friend recommended Eco by Naty and we’ve used them since the baby was about 3 weeks old. They are far more breathable than any “normal” nappies we’ve ever used and he has not once had nappy rash with them – this was a Godsend on our holiday in Germany with 35 degrees Celsius. The design is cute and I like the papery feel of them. I have had a few packs where there was a manufacturing error with the sticky tab being the wrong way round, but their customer service has always been stellar.

2. Washable baby wipes

Surprisingly, unlike the nappies, reusable wipes had me sold straight away. They can easily go into our usual wash (no need for “stripping” them, for example), they can be used later on for mucky faces etc and they mean no additives on baby’s bum. It was the same friend who recommended the nappies who recommended Cheeky Wipes and we have never looked back. Now when I am out and about and only happen to have some disposable wipes with me I am always disappointed at how little they actually clean compared to the flannel wipes. Their small size means they dry really quickly, too, so I can take advantage of line drying outside or in with them easily. We have yet to see how they hold up with real food poo, of course, but I have high hopes.

3. Stainless steel water bottle

Only tangentially related, but I bought this to stay rehydrated while breastfeeding and to take on walks with me when we are out and about! I got a purple one of these and it just looks sleek and lovely. Supposedly it also keeps drinks hot for a good while – I’ve yet to try that, but it sure will come in handy in winter!

In future:

  • Limit the amount of plastic toys and toys in general – he already has so much!
  • Continue to use hand-me-down clothes and toys and pass them on to the next friend who has a baby

 

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Making your house eco-friendly – bathroom

The saga continues! The bathroom is another area where there is lots of potential for improvement when it comes to eco-friendly alternatives. It mostly comes down to eliminating unnecessary plastic waste. Here are the things we’ve done:

  1. Recycled toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap?

Not only is the paper 100% recycled and comes packaged in paper rather than plastic, the company also donates 50% of its profits to WaterAid AND they deliver to your door. What more can you ask for? Look how pretty this is!

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2. Soap bars instead of liquid soap

I like liquid soap. I like the convenience and it’s usually less harsh on my hands. But the eternal plastic waste of the bottles plus going through it really quickly made me rethink the downsides. We’ve got some unscented soap bars from Faith in Nature, which has the added advantage of being UK made, and in future I might make our own handsoap.

3. Bamboo toothbrushes

I had never considered just how much plastic waste we produce via toothbrushes, but if you think about it becomes fairly obvious! We’ve moved to bamboo-handled brushes for now, although I am looking into ones that also have boar bristle heads rather than nylon. Cost is unfortunately a stumbling block there.

4. Mooncup

I got one of these a few years ago when I read about it online. I obviously haven’t used it in about a year, but it has been a faithful companion and eliminated the need for costly, polluting feminine hygiene products. To go with it, I have

5. Cloth liners

At first I was repulsed by the thought of these. But then I figured: if cloth nappies and wipes can work, why wouldn’t these? I just use them as a back up to the above mentioned Mooncup and they work fine – plus they come in many fun designs! There are lots of companies online – I have these.

 

Future goals:

  • Unscented organic shampoo and conditioner, ideally UK-produced and bulk-buyable
  • Switch from unscented regular shower gel to organic, ideally UK-produced and bulk-buyable

 

 

 

Making your household eco-friendly – kitchen

It sounds like such a cliche – once you have a child you start caring more about the future. But I’ve found it to be true! I’ve always been quite passionate about recycling and eco-friendly alternatives thanks to growing up in Germany, where these things are quite big. But I have really upped my efforts in the last few months. I spoke about it briefly here, but I want to go into some more detail about the changes we have made. I’ll start with the kitchen!

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  1. Laundry detergent

I’ve been using the EcoEgg Laundry Egg for six weeks now instead of detergent and I love it! I chose the scent-free option and clothes come out clean – that’s it. No smell, nothing. Stubborn stains need some extra stain remover treatment beforehand, but that’s the same as it was with detergent. Extra bonus: because there is no detergent, I don’t need a rinse cycle, shortening the wash significantly! I’ll be getting the EcoEgg stain remover in my next order too, to try and phase out my Vanish (although that stuff works wonders on baby poo stains…)

2. Bamboo kitchen roll

Instead of one-use paper towels I ordered these bamboo towels, also from EcoEgg. They can be washed and re-used. They have been really useful; the only downside is storing them once you’ve ripped them off the roll. We just have them in a pile at the moment, but I might have to devise a box of some sorts

3. Glass food containers

This was a change I made while I was still pregnant – I was getting fed up with how stained plastic containers got and without a dishwasher there was no chance of getting them properly clean. The glass containers are great and fridge-, oven- and microwave safe. What more could you want?

4. Reuseable beeswax food wraps

I love these wraps from Abeego – I ordered the variety pack just to see and will definitely be getting more! They smell divine and are a fantastic alternative to cling film.

5. Bulk-buying washing up liquid

We’ve used Ecover Washing up Liquid for a while, but I couldn’t find anywhere close that would do refills. Luckily I could order 15l of refill online! Poor postman…

6. Reusable shopping bags

Scotland introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags in shops in , following Wales’ example. It has been hugely successful and almost everyone now brings their own bags to the shops. It can be annoying to forget, but I do my best to keep some in the car.

7. Local veg box

We have been getting a weekly box of locally grown vegetables for a while now. It can be a challenge to cook with things you are unfamiliar with and, the box being seasonal, in winter in Scotland you get a *lot* of Kale (which I don’t like…), but it has really reduced the amount of over-packaged, hot-housed veggies from all over the world we eat.

 

In the future:

  • biodegradable bin liners – for the next order of stuff online
  • recycled aluminium foil – as above
  • try to find a bulk shop for grains etc – Locavore is opening a new, bigger store soon and I am hoping to see the opportunity to buy packaging-free grains and pasta there!

 

When things aren’t like you thought they would be

Our beautiful son graced us with his presence on the 28th of March under much more dramatic circumstances than we would have liked. He was an undiagnosed breech and I had to have an emergency caesarean.

The longest lasting impact was the fact he was born with DDH – developmental dysplasia of the hip. This means his hip sockets were too shallow and the joint would easily become dislocated. This is a common complication of breech babies, but it meant we had to go to the children’s hospital when he was only a week old to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed that his hips were far too shallow and he got a Pavlik harness, which looks like this:

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When they put it on my little boy, I cried. Of course that seems ridiculous in context; after all it’s only some cotton and velcro, he wasn’t in pain and it was only for 12 weeks. But it meant weekly hospital visits, not being able to bathe our baby at home, a lot of his clothes not fitting him, difficult nappy changes and most of all we lost the ability to snuggle skin to skin and hold our soft little squishy boy. I won’t say it wasn’t tough. the staff at the Royal Hospital for Children were amazing though and very supportive and I eventually began looking forward to our weekly visit with these wonderful nurses. We had to shorten our planned holiday in Germany so we’d only miss one appointment, we had to go to hospital once to get a new harness due to a nappy explosion and Frank spent a lot of time being too warm when we had glorious summer days, but on the 21st of June the harness was finally taken off! It took a few nights for him to get used to his new freedom of movement and a few days for us to get to grips (literally!) with how wriggly and soft our little boy now is. We’re thankful we live in a time and a place where a problem like this, which would cause immense suffering if untreated, can be easily and swiftly remedied without surgery. But I’m happy I now have a harness-free child!

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The first and last harness

Garden things

There is only so much time with a baby around, but I am still trying to do things around the house to make it nicer. At the moment we’re growing some tomatoes inside and we got a herb bed for the back garden. My grandmother brought the herbs over from Germany and we bought the bed at a discount price in a garden centre – they gave us 25% off because one of the boards was loose! When we first planted the herbs they were still recovering from their trip overseas:

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But six weeks of sunshine and rain have really helped them flourish!

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The back garden is currently totally overgrown, which needs to be addressed, but means I can get flowers for my own bouquet easily:

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We got this cute little bench from friends who are moving away to New Zealand. I love it in our hallway!

 

I am starting to plan a makeover of the front garden. It’s functional and boring at the moment – I want more of a cottage garden feel. Sadly I have zero gardening experience, so this will be an adventure! Any ideas? This is the current look:

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The garden faces South and has sun from about 5am until 5pm at least during the summer, so plants have to love the sun! I don’t yet know what kind of soil we’ve got. We’re also at the top of a hill, so it’s often windy.

Baby impact!

Having a child really takes up all your time! It doesn’t help our computer’s hard drive packed it in too…

Frank’s first 13 weeks were quite eventful, as he needed a harness for his hip joints. More on that in a different post though.

Now that we have more of a routine I find myself re-evaluating a lot of the ways I’ve run this household. Don’t get me wrong, I did it well – but I did it for two working adults. Now I am home all the time and we have a baby. That means less time and more washing, among other things. Add to that the need to save money and a strong desire to leave a better world for my boy and I’ve ended up with my first major order from ethicalsuperstore.com. I initially just looked for ecover washing up  liquid refills and went a bit mad. The product I am most excited to try is the Ecoegg laundry egg. Apparently it’ll last me 210 washes, has no harsh chemicals and no fragrance! I’ll let you know how well it works (or not…)