Environmental News In Houston

Archived in the category: Environment
Posted by jmanty on 20 Jun 13 - Comments Off

Read an interesting blog post today about how Houston’s ozone levels are down. The website is pretty interesting. I always thought Houston had pretty bad pollution based on what I hear in the news. But this site claims that Houston’s air pollution is actually low compared to other big cities. It’s an interesting site to look at. Click here to see it:

http://houstonairquality.com

What do you think? Do you think Houston has better air quality than other big cities in the US?

My latest Gypsy Mama wrap

Archived in the category: Baby Wearing, Natural Product Review
Posted by lking on 08 Feb 07 - 2 Comments

Okay, I wrote earlier about the Gypsy Mama Bali Baby Breeze that I had, and how I wasn’t all that crazy about it. Well, I bought a Bali Baby Stretch a couple of months ago, and I have to say that it’s an entirely different carrier. I really, really like it. First of all, it’s absolutely beautiful. Secondly, it’s extremely comfortable. I never thought that I would find a carrier that I thought was more comfortable than my Kozy, but this definitely is. Wrapping your baby with a comfortable fabric like this makes it feel like the baby is just an additional part of your body – you don’t feel their weight in any particular place. Plus, it’s very versatile, so it can be used in a lot of ways.

The downside is that it has a much higher learning curve than the other carriers I own; it definitely takes a while to get the hang of it. I’ve gotten pretty good with the front carries (even managed to nurse in it, which was a first for me – I’ve never managed to do that with another carrier), but I’m still not great with the back carries. It definitely takes a lot longer to put on than any of the other carriers I own. Also, you’re wrapping a lot of fabric around the two of you. Right now, in the winter, that’s not a problem at all, and is actually kind of nice and cozy. We’ll see what I think about it in the middle of the summer, when it’s 110 degrees again.
So, it just reaffirms the idea that there is no one perfect carrier. At the moment, this one seems to be the most useful for me when I am planning on wearing my baby for a long period of time, and don’t mind wearing them on my front. Once I get better with back carries that may change, but for now I still find myself picking up my Kozy for those. I’m definitely glad to have it though, and would recommend it to anyone who thinks that wearing your baby in a carrier is just too uncomfortable. And hey, they’re on sale right now .

Deodorants

Archived in the category: Deodorants, Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 06 Dec 06 - 0 Comments

Having now found a dishwashing detergent I’m happy with, I’ll be moving on to the subject of deodorants. If you’ve tried any of the natural deodorants on the market, you know that they vary greatly. I have to say deodorants are a difficult product to review because deodorants work differently for different people. I’ve also found that they have a tendency to become less effective over time, so you may be best off finding two that you like and alternating between the two. Also, most natural deodorants are deodorants, not anti-perspirants. So, if you’re interested in not sweating, you’ll have to find some other alternative. Check back in the upcoming weeks for reviews of natural deodarant products.

Debra’s List

Archived in the category: Natural Product Review, Websites
Posted by jmanty on 28 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

Debra’s List is a great resource for green living. Written by Debra Lynn Dadd, the website contains recommendations for green living, a blog answering questions, recommendations for recovering from multiple chemical sensitivies and more. The site has been around for a while and has extensive listings of products that are environmentally friendly.

I like the fact that you can search by a wide variety of categories. Let’s say you have a problem with indoor air quality. Simply click on the category, and you can find links to sites, such as the American Lung Association’s Health House or products, such as air filters, carbon monoxide alarms and items for helping you rule out emf contamination. The categories on the site range from art supplies to pest control to weddings.

I also like the fact that being listed on the site is by invitation only. You can’t simply pay $100 and get listed. Even those sites that are sponsors are only accepted from sites that have already been chosen to appear on the site.

The final thing that I like about the site is her legend for identifying products. You can tell just by looking at the symbol next to a product, whether it is natural, a fair trade product or one of several other categories.

Overall, I think the site is just fantastic. My only complaint would be that once you start looking there, you may find that it’s several hours later before you’re done. So, you might want to make sure that the children are taken care of, pets are walked and you have a snack nearby before you visit.

Is your “green” product natural?

Archived in the category: Household cleaners, Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 27 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

Recently, I raved about Planet, Inc’s Dishwashing Detergent. I contacted them to let them know how pleased I am and received a very nice email back. Their Consumer Affairs department also sent me some definitions of words used in “green” products. I found it very interesting and, with their permission, I’m forwarding along sections of that email:

Chemists and government bodies (for example the USDA, as expressed in the Organic Foods Production Act) define “natural” as “free from extensive chemical processing”. Any cleaning product which uses one or more detergents in its formulation does not meet that standard. All detergents are what chemists define as “synthetic” in that they undergo extensive chemical processing as they are being manufactured. To put it plainly “detergents do not occur in nature”! The only cleaning agents which are not considered to be synthetic are those based on soap. Such cleaners have a variety of shortcomings in performance, which limits their acceptability in the marketplace.

So what do green cleaner companies mean when they use the term “natural”? Mostly, they mean “free of petroleum or petroleum byproducts”. Instead, their products are largely or wholly based on vegetable ingredients such as coconut or corn. This is a somewhat unusual application of the word “natural”, since both coconuts and oil are naturally occurring substances.

Even if you accept “petroleum-free” as being the definition of “natural”, there are problems in the way many companies apply the concept. While their products make use of vegetable-based ingredients, they generally do make SOME use of petroleum-derived ingredients. For example, most “natural” detergent formulations contain at least one of a class of cleaning agents known as ethoxylated alcohols. These cleaning agents are very beneficial, because they are very effective, biodegrade quickly, and are reasonable in cost. Ethoxylated alcohols can be based on vegetable ingredients (usually coconut or corn oil), but one of the steps in manufacturing them involves adding ethylene oxide (the source of the term “Ethoxylated”). Unfortunately, ethylene oxide is only manufactured from petroleum.

Planet believes that companies selling environmentally friendly products should use claims which are readily understood and defined. Such terms as “biodegradable”, “hypoallergenic” and even “vegetable-based” have commonly understood meanings, and standards which can be used to measure performance.

So, I hope you all find that information informative and helpful when you’re making decisions about what products to buy. Thanks, Planet, Inc., for that lesson on the vocabulary of green products.

Planet, Inc. Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Archived in the category: Household cleaners, Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 21 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

I think I’ve found in a winner in my search for an automatic dishwasher detergent that cleans and is still environmentally friendly. The other day at my local grocery store, I saw a box of automatic dishwashing detergent with a big planet Earth on the front. I thought, “Hmm. That looks natural.” So, I picked up the box. Sure enough, it claimed all those lovely things that we look for in a natural cleaner– phosphate free, biodegradable, not tested on animals, etc. But would it clean?

I used it for the first time with some trepidation. I’ve been burned by natural cleaners before, remember. All that lovely promise of ecological friendliness, only to be disappointed by powdery, icky results. So, I filled my dishwasher, put in the detergent and, already, I was concerned. The detergent looks like it has grated lemon rinds in it. It’s chunky, instead of granular. I’m just not sure this is going to work, which means I’m stuck with a rather large box of useless dishwasher detergent to use up before I can move on to my next brand.

After my dishwasher ran, I opened the door not expecting what I found– Clean dishes! No powdery residue, no little bits of gunk… just sparkling, clean dishes!

So, now I needed to check out Planet, Inc. I was convinced I was going to find out that they were really dumping nuclear waste in my backyard. After all, a truly environmentally friendly company couldn’t possibly have made a product that produced these results– could they?

What I learned impressed me. Planet, Inc has been around since 1989. They are dedicated to creating environmentally-friendly cleaning products that actually work. They are one of the few “green” companies that have third-party certified their products. I was very pleased with all of the information that I found on their site. Not only did they have great information about their products, but they also had interesting essays on other topics, as well. They will soon be selling their products on their website, so if they’re not available near you yet, don’t despair! Soon, you too can have clean dishes AND a green detergent.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner– Planet, Inc. is now my official choice for use in my dishwasher! Next, I’m off to find a toilet bowl cleaner that doesn’t smell like cedar.

Gypsy Mama Bali Baby Breeze

Archived in the category: Baby Wearing, Natural Product Review
Posted by lking on 17 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

It’s a mouthful, I know, but it is in fact the name of the last carrier that I currently own. Gypsy Mama makes several different types of carriers; the Bali Baby Breeze (BBB) is a woven wraparound carrier that comes in various lengths. Wraparound carriers are simply a long piece of cloth that can be tied in different ways depending on the carry you want to do. They are extremely versatile and easy to stuff in a diaper bag. However, they also have a steeper learning curve than most other carriers. You can in fact, make your own by getting approximately 5 yards of 60 inch wide fabric and cutting it in half width wise. Now you’ve got a carrier for yourself and one to share with a friend!

The BBB is made of a nicely batiked gauze type fabric, which I chose for a couple of reasons. First, I thought that it would be cooler in the hot Texas weather. Second, I had heard that a woven fabric would be more supportive, especially for back carries. However, what I have found is that this type of fabric is not that comfortable for me. It seems to cut into me a bit when I try to do things like the rucksack carry. Also, while the tightness of the fabric is very supportive, it makes it more difficult to get the baby in and out of the front wrap cross carry, which is what I have used it for the most thus far. I think that I may try to sell this wrap and try out the Bali Baby Stretch instead.

I’ve heard really good things about this company, which is why I went with them, but I will tell you that I have one small complaint about their products. The fabrics are all lovely, but they give them all names of mythical gods, which I’m not crazy about. Other than that, they seem to offer a nice selection of wraps at a reasonable price.

Ring slings

Archived in the category: Baby Wearing, Natural Product Review
Posted by lking on 15 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

Continuing on in my ramblings about baby carriers, I’ll tell you a little about my ring slings today. The first carrier I ever got was a ring sling; it was an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder (OTSBH). It was recommended to me by another babywearing mama, so I thought I’d give it a try. It beat the heck out of the Baby Bjorn I had prior to that, and I was pretty happy with it and used it quite a bit with my oldest son. What I didn’t like about it was the heavy padding on the shoulder. I thought that the padding would make it more comfortable, but really all it did was make it bulky. I also found it difficult to get it adjusted as securely as I’d like.

With my second son, I decided to try a Maya Wrap, and that was a much better fit for me. Despite the fact that it had no padding, I found it much more comfortable than the OTSBH. Also, it has an open tail, as opposed to the closed tail of the OTSBH. What this means is the end of the fabric that hangs down out of the rings is left open rather than sewn together. Some people like a closed tail because it reduces the amount of adjusting you do – you just pull the one end and are done. But I prefer an open tail, as it does allow for greater adjustability. The top and bottom rails of the sling can be adjusted independently, which makes for a more secure fit in my opinion.

Ring slings in general are nice because they are fairly versatile; you can carry the baby/child in a number of different positions. The unpadded versions are trim enough to pack in a diaper bag pretty easily. And while they aren’t exactly one size fits all, each size will fit a pretty broad range of people, so there isn’t the sizing issue like there is with a pouch sling. My husband is a good 6 inches taller and about 80 pounds heavier than I am, and we can both use the same sling (though if I were going to buy one just for him, I would get him a bigger size).

I can’t even remember the last time I wore my OTSBH, but my Maya Wrap is still in circulation. Prior to my Hotsling purchase, it was my carrier of choice for errand running or any time the baby was going to be in and out a lot, and it’s still good for that purpose. I have also found that I can do something with it that I haven’t been able to do with any other carrier: get the baby not only tummy to tummy as a newborn, but almost up on my shoulder. A couple of my kids have far preferred to be up on my shoulder over any other position, and the Maya comes the closet to being able to duplicate that hands free. I definitely find it to be a useful weapon in my babywearing arsenal.

Kozy Carrier

Archived in the category: Baby Wearing, Natural Product Review
Posted by lking on 14 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

Okay, as long as I’m talking about baby carriers, I’ll share my thoughts on a few others this week as well. Of all the different carriers I’ve tried, so far my all time favorite is my Kozy Carrier. It’s a mei tai, or Asian baby carrier – essentially a rectangle of fabric with straps coming out of the four corners. The Kozy comes a wide range of fabrics, from pretty to funky and even camo for dad. The straps have just the right amount of padding at the shoulders – enough to be comfy, but not so much that they are bulky. The canvas is sturdy and holds up well, but isn’t stiff or rough. For a little extra money you can get one with a pocket to carry stuff in, or get extra long straps if you’re really tall.

The Kozy has a slight learning curve to it, as you have to figure out how to tie the straps for different positions, but it’s not hard to do. It is primarily used as a front/back carrier, but it can be worn on your hip as well. Newborns ride with their legs folded up inside the carrier, while bigger kids ride with their legs out. The top of the carrier is curved up a bit to make a headrest for sleeping children or young babies without much head control, but it can be folded down for better visibility for the child as well. The length of the body of the carrier can be shortened for small babies by folding it as well. This really is a carrier that will go the long haul, from newborn to toddlerhood and beyond. I have even carried a tired 3 year old on my back for an hour or so during a long day of shopping.
For me, the best thing about the Kozy is the back carry. It has really been a life saver for me! I feel like I have more freedom of movement of both of my arms this way, so it’s easier for me to go about my housework or chasing the bigger kids at the park. It’s the only carrier I really feel comfortable cooking with a child in, as they can’t reach out and touch things that could hurt them. And I can wear it for hours and hours comfortably; a day at the zoo with a toddler on my back is no problem. I haven’t even used a stroller at all with my last two children since I got my Kozy.

The Kozy is not the cheapest carrier around, but it is definitely worth the price. I highly recommend it for anyone, but especially for those who are active outdoors or busy with other small children.

Seventh Generation– Dish liquid

Archived in the category: Household cleaners, Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 13 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

I know that I already panned Seventh Generation’s automatic dishwasher detergent. But that’s not to say that I think that none of their products are good. I really like their natural dish liquid, for example. I buy the lavender scented variety, but it is also available in free and clear and citrus scented, as well.

I think that the natural dish liquid cleans well. If I run a bit of water in something that is dried on and leave it sitting while I load the rest of the dishwasher, it generally cleans out quite easily. There is plenty of foam, too, when I use Seventh Generation’s product. And it’s easily available at my grocery store which, let’s face it, is always a plus.

Side note– did you know that you can use dish liquid to clear a clogged toilet? For a while, we had to call a plumber on a semi-regular basis for our toilets (small children learning not to use a whole roll of toilet paper at one sitting being one of our largest problems). Then I read a suggestion that for really clogged toilets you first put a generous squirt (and I do mean generous) of liquid dish soap into your toilet, wait a bit, THEN plunge. You know what? It works!! I’ve used Seventh Generation for this purpose and not only did it get rid of the clog, but my bathroom smelled like lavender :) Do be careful if the water is near the top, as the plunging of water containing dish soap will result in lots of suds.

From a natural point of view, what does Seventh Generation have to offer? Their dish liquid is non-toxic, biodegradable, hypo-allergenic, contains no petroleum-based cleaners, no phosphates, it is safe for septic and greywater systems and is not tested on animals. My bottle is also certified kosher and says that it contains no animal ingredients.

So, what difference does using a natural dish soap make? Really, it’s not tremendously more expensive, considering how long a bottle lasts. Even if you wash everything by hand, it couldn’t cost more than a couple dollars more per month. And this is what you get for your money:

If every household in the U.S. replaced just one 25 oz. bottle of petroleum based dishwashing liquid with a vegetable based product, we could save 118,700 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 6,800 U.S. homes for a year!

Not to mention, less demand for petroleum products brings down the price of oil, which brings down the cost of gas at the pump. So, see, you could actually save money in the long run by spending a bit extra on your dishwashing liquid. Plus, less dependence on foreign oil can’t help but be a good thing, all around.

Overall, I think Seventh Generation’s dish liquid is a good way to lessen your impact on the natural world, while still using a product that is effective.

Hooray for Hotslings!

Archived in the category: Baby Wearing, Natural Product Review
Posted by lking on 13 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

I first discovered babywearing when my oldest son was about 3 months old, and have been on a quest for the perfect baby carrier ever since. The main thing I have learned along the way is that there is no “perfect” carrier; some are definitely better than others, and each style has its advantages and disadvantages. I have a few different ones now, and like each one for different reasons. One can never have too many carriers in my opinion, so….
I recently purchased a Hotsling, as I had never tried out a pouch style carrier. I love it! Hotslings come in a variety of fairly chic fabrics, with the option of being reversible. I went with one of their everyday fabrics, because cash is in short supply these days, and I thought it was every bit as pretty as some of the designer fabrics. Pouch slings generally require you to pick a size, because most of them aren’t adjustable. I was concerned about whether or not I would be able to choose correctly, but the sizing chart they provide is really helpful, and customer service is happy to assist if you’re still having problems. When my sling arrived it was a great fit, and extremely easy to use.

While my Hotsling don’t have the versatility of a wrap, or quite the adjustability and security of ring sling, what it excels at is convenience. It is small and lightweight, which means that it is easy to stuff in a diaper bag or just leave on even when the baby isn’t in it. It’s not hard to figure out, so it’s pretty easy to start using right away. And it’s really easy to get the baby in and out of, so it’s great for running errands when you’re going to be getting in and out of the car several times. At the same time it’s also comfortable enough to wear for longer periods of time; I wore my baby at the park for a couple of hours last week with no problems. Today she’s been hanging out in it while I worked on the computer, and has been happily napping there while I blogged.
If you’re looking for an affordable, convenient, easy to wear baby carrier, I’d definitely recommend that you check out Hotslings.

Drain Opener from Earth Friendly Products

Archived in the category: Household cleaners, Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 09 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

I have a kitchen drain that accumulates smell. Sometimes it backs up, but the biggest problem is simply that it stinks. (I think this may still be a holdover from my Mother’s Day present when my husband and children made me a candle then poured the excess wax down the sink, but that’s another story altogether.)

Anyway, I decided to order Earth Friendly Products’ Natural Earth Enzymes Drain Opener. I have to say, I’ve pleased with the results. Not only does it get rid of the odor in my sink for quite some time, but I think my sink is even draining better. I hadn’t noticed that it was having a problem, but apparently it could have been working better. It’s easy to use. You simply mix it with water and pour it down the sink. I’ve only used the weekly maintenance amount, which is two teaspoons. If I were truly going to use it to open a clogged drain, the recommended amount is two cups diluted with two cups of warm water.

So, the next time you have an odor problem, give Earth Enzymes Drain Opener a try. The next time I have a clogged sink, I’ll let you know if it works for that. Or if you’ve had experience with using it for opening a clogged drain, let me know in the comment section.

I’m on a quest. A quest to find a natural, biodegradable automatic dishwashing detergent that actually cleans. I have a relatively new dishwasher that cleans well with popular “normal” dishwashing detergents, but I’ve yet to find a more conscientous product that does the job.

I started with Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Automatic Dishwashing Powder , but since I wasn’t planning to write about my search, I really don’t have a lot to say about them. I know that I didn’t find it to be an effective product, but I can’t remember what, specifically, I didn’t like about it. It’s also not the most natural product on the market, although they are making an effort to change that.

Currently, I’m using Earth Friendly Products’ High Performance Wave Auto Dishwasher Detergent. It claims “natural pH, chlorine free, caustic free, biodegradable, phosphate free and non-polluting”– everything I could possibly hope for in a dishwashing detergent. Oh yeah, except every time I wash my dishes (no matter what setting) the dishes come out with a fine dusting of detergent still on them. Yuck. Other than that, I think it does clean better than Seventh Generation’s powder. But it’s really not what I’m looking for. So, after my final eighth of a box, or so, I’ll be switching to a new detergent. To be fair, they do recommend using a rinse agent and running vinegar through your dishwasher if you’re having problems. But I do have a whole house water softener, and I really don’t want to use a rinse agent, so I’ll keep looking. Stay tuned for my results.

***addition to the review: I did end up running my dishwasher with vinegar. I do think that it improved the performance of Earth Friendly’s product, but I still think there’s a better product out there.

Introducing Natural Product Reviews

Archived in the category: Natural Product Review
Posted by jmanty on 05 Nov 06 - 0 Comments

Welcome to our blog. Many of you may have found us from our Natural Family News Blog. While we have enjoyed posting there and continue to post news of importance to families living natural lifestyles, we felt that the nature of that blog did not allow us to explore and post about some topics that we enjoy. I mean, is it really news when Laura gets a new baby wrap that she loves? Does my search for the perfect natural dishwashing detergent really qualify as newsworthy? So, we decided to piggyback with our site The Delightful Child (which will be going through serious renovations in the coming months, so keep checking back) and create this site where we can express our opinions on organic and natural products that we just love and our views on other organic and natural products that we may not quite love.

If you have an opinion on a product we review, feel free to leave it in the comments. If you have a product that you’d like us to review, please contact us at sales@delightfulchild.com. Enjoy the blog and let us know what you think.