Do you need to buy a present for a new-born baby? What about buying a sustainable present?
contradictory… being ecological and having kids (having kids has the worse
carbon footprint…), but we
discussed this already.
But some people (like me) did the “eco-mindset” switch after having children. You want them to be as healthy as possible, to not expose them to chemicals, and you want to try to preserve the earth for them,…
However, your life gets sometimes so exhausting and busy with small kids… So here again, I would encourage you to take it easy.
Honestly, the “eco baby” is my worse ecological achievement, but never mind, I’ll share with you my experience so that you can see that I’m also just a normal human being :-). I’m sure (and hope) that many of you do/did better than me.
Here is my
1) Reusable baby wipes
This is for sure the number one for me!!!
I discovered reusable baby wipes (NL: billendoekjes; FR: lingettes) with the birth of my first daughter. We received “Cheeky wipes”.
They have 2 sets: white wipes which are meant to clean buttocks of babies (and why not adults; I tried it and it feels amazing!); and the colored ones which can are meant as moisten napkins (dries much faster than washcloth!!!). I gave “cheeky wipes” to some friends who got babies and they told me that it was the best present they got (not being on their wish list).
How to use them:
moist them (eventually in container with water and some essential oil of lavender; I have them dry in the cupboard and I moist one with tap water before use)
clean the buttock
then throw them in an appropriate container (they recommend a container with essential oil of lemon for disinfection; but we throw them in a dedicated garbage bin (I take the bucket inside the garbage and drop the content in the washing machine without touching it).
Pros: you save thousands of baby wipes and you don’t
smear any chemicals on your child.
I usually do a short rinse program (15 min) with the reusable diapers and reusable wipes before adding all the rest for the warm laundry (towels, underwear,…) at 60°C or 90°C.
2) Reusable diapers (NL: luiers;
FR: couche culottes ou pampers)
First of all: of course you don’t put diapers full of shit in your washing machine! You add thin layer of paper in it, which you can wash if it only contains urine, and you throw away if it’s dark and smelly 😉
I must admit that this one was not really a success at the beginning. I thought I was a super-mother and bought diapers which were not so easy to tie up and which were leaking at least once a day… so I only used it once in a while because it was too much work…
Once my daughters only needed a diaper during the night; I discovered them again!
Here the one I like best (and use(d)): “TotsBots Bamboozle stretch” and the water-proof layer from “Lulu nature Boxer”. This one has fleece instead of an elastic band at the thighs opening. Those with elastic (I tried many brands) were leaving painful red stripes on their thighs…
Toothpaste (baking soda; but it tastes very
cut flowers longer beautiful: one teaspoon in water
pipes (1 cup (+/_ 2 cup vinegar) and afterwards very hot water)
is a surfactant and is used for white laundry as it is described to fade
colored textiles. Don’t worry, not as bleach does; I’m using crystal soda for
all my laundry, and I didn’t see the effect of crystal soda (yet). It has a
cleaning effect, remove grease, neutralize acids.
It has similar action as
baking soda except that it cannot be used in food.
It is an excellent stain remover (even difficult ones such as coffee, red wine, grass, fruit,
perspiration, blood) or to clean your
oven, or greasy and dirty kitchen instruments: 2 soup spoon in 500ml warm water (don’t make too much, it loses
efficacy with time)
in many plants (lemon juice contains 5% of citric acid) and can be extracted
from plants. You probably eat it without knowing it (flavoring and preservative
in food and beverage: E330). It also remove limescale and improve the
effectiveness of soap and detergents.
There are many types that
you can use. The most important is that the soap you choose doesn’t contains
glycerin (as it has the tendency to stay sticky in the water evacuation
the most common you can buy in Europe:
Aleppo soap is made in Syria, in the region of the city of Aleppo, from olive oil and laurel berry oil (added at the end of the process).
Marseille soap is made in France, in the region of the city of …. (do i really have to say it?), from olive oil and palm oil or copra oil (extracted from coconut). Beware of imitation using animal fat instead…
Black soap is sometime use as unique soap or mixed with another one. It exist in liquid form or creamy (2 tablespoon liquid = 1 teaspoon creamy black soap).
How to choose?
Both need to be imported from
another continent (either the soap itself; or its ingredients). But with the
actual fuss about palm oil (deforestation to plant intensive culture of palm
trees), Aleppo seems the more sustainable (eco, fair,…). However, you have to
see what you can easily get.
I’ve been disappointed
by the “soap flakes” from
“la droguerie ecologique” which are apparently made of coco and palm
oil only…so now I use Marseille soap flakes (that I buy without packaging at
the packaging free shop).
just need the cheapest type of vinegar: white vinegar.
First check close by home: bio shop, drugstore, bio supermarket
or ask them what they can order for you. Otherwise, go online; but try to buy
in your own country. In Europe the French brand ‘la droguerie ecologique” is quite known and they offer everything you
need. It can be a good start, until you turn into an “eco-zero waste expert”.
If you live in the
surrounding of Antwerp/Mortsel, I can combine orders to reduce transport and
transport cost ( I can also make you a starter-pack) and deliver it at home by
bike. If you are interested, write me via the contact form or follow me the EcoWithKids Facebook page (I’ll let everyone know before placing a new
I’m not going to try to convince you to become a vegetarian (I’m not
vegetarian neither). But yes… we all heard that eating meat is not so good for
the earth; and most of us are not ready to give up meat completely. Either
because you (or your partner) like it too much, or because don’t know how to
compensate for the vitamins and components that you find mostly in meat, or
just because you don’t know how to cook without meat/fish.
Going vegetarian asks for a lot of changes and knowledge, but why not
just reduce meat? Or to train to cook
once in a while a vegetarian dish? I’m definitely not a cooking princess,
and I can’t cook very well vegetarian dishes (my man does). But it exists very good cooking books. We love the “lekker
ecologish” (in Dutch).
About fish, why not ask at the
fish-shop what is the most ecological (local, way of production, impact on sea
population,…) fish in your region. You can go to a specialized fish shop and
buy for few month (freeze it) so you don’t spent too much time.
Eating season fruits and
vegetables is also very important if you want to eat more ecological (and
much cheaper). I know this one is also not easy. I’m also not so good at it
(yet) . We have a “fruit and vegetable calendar” on our fridge (for Belgium; check
the one from VELT) which I look at before going shopping.
… I know, I can hear you… it gets boring after a while. Here again you
need to find good inspiration, not using always the same herbs and spices, roast,
bake of steam. And if you make it an exception instead of a routine to buy/cook
non-seasonal fruits and vegetables, you can already be proud of yourself!
Of course, eating food with a eco
labelling is better (eco labelling: cares for environment: bio labelling ensures
that no pesticides have been used); or just buy local at a farmer not using pesticides but who did not ask
(yet) the eco or bio labelling. If it is local and seasonal fruits/vegetables,
you might reduce the effect on your wallet. Or start growing your own vegetables! (I’m preparing a post for it; taking
into account that some of you don’t have a garden).
If you have an excellent cooking book for “ecological recipes”, feel free to share it! (comment, mail or on the FB page); so I can update this post and let everyone enjoy from it. Please send only the book that you would put in your suitcase if you have 10 min to leave your house forever (otherwise the list will be too long).
By ecological recipes, I mean recipes taking into account seasons vegetables, easy ingredients (no fancy ingredients that you use once a year and have to throw the rest away because it is expired), cooking with weed out of your garden, promoting using the “not looking bad” part of the vegetables (e.g. soup with green of the leek, or the stalk of the broccoli).
For personal hygiene, there are many changes possible; you can test them one by one 😉
What do I use? I use palmarosa essential oil for deodorant, washable pad cloth, baking soda for toothpaste (since few days), hard soap for hands and body and refill of liquid shampoo at the zero waste shop, and papier-cotton ear sticks. New bamboo toothbrush are ordered to be tested.
Picture (from left to right, up to bottom): menstrual cups, bamboo toothbrush and baking soda, peppermint-like hard toothpaste, cotton-paper ear stick, palmarosa essential oil, hard soap (with a condom drawn on it… receive at a AIDS conference many years ago, hihihi), and washable pad cloth.
Toothbrush: There are now many brands (and “fake copies”) of bamboo toothbrushes. I tried the “humble brush” and the “hydrophil”. Unfortunately, I’ve switched back to a classical (plastic) toothbrush. The ‘hairs” of the toothbrush are a little but too hard for my gums and they suffer of it. I want to give another try with the “toothbrush Bam Boo”. They propose “soft” toothbrushes. (Update Oct 2019: Bam Boo is as hard as the other ones…)
For the Dutch speaking, you can read the excellent blog of “Ma vie en
vert” (she has two post on toothbrushes: 1stpost and update).
again, there are many options and I’ve tried some of them. Many DIY toothpaste
require some preparation time (just what we want to avoid, he?) and some
“exotic products” as coconut oil (not so ecological at the end…).
We bought the “lolly
toothpaste”: you just have to go over it with your wet
toothbrush. It is not foamy, so you have to get used to it. There are different
taste. The one I tried, were not tasting very good…I was literally feeling sick
of it. We also tried the “candy toothpaste”: it
looks like a small mint and you have to bite on it until it gets a paste. Then
you can brush your teeth. I’m not fan of this neither (and I came in a tick
plastic packaging…). But if you travel a lot it is very easy! You might find it
without packaging at a zero waste shop.
For the purpose of the blog post, I decided to start using baking soda (commercial toothpaste have been proven better than toothpaste not containing baking soda by scientifics). It feels you are emptying completely your salivary glands in 2 seconds 😉 It cleans theeth very well (my theeth feels so smooth!); but you might want to try it for few weeks if you have sensitive gums. You can use it as it is; or add some peppermint extract or peppermint essential oil (if you limit the amount of essential oil, your toothpaste will be cheaper than a regular toothpaste). It is quite salty… but you get used to it. An if you prefer a paste, add little by little some water and mix well.
Deodorant: I only
use a drop of palmarosa oil. I wrote on it here.
Reusable pad cloth: I love
it! I use those from “Eco Femme”. Why?
Because it is a social project for women empowerment in India, it saves a lot
of waste… and the push button (to keep it in place in your uderware) is very
thin (… if you bike every day it might be more comfortable). The cons: it comes
from India… but yes… one makes choices… I’ve about 12 pieces (3eur per piece).
But the quality is excellent.
Menstrual cup: there
you also have a lot of choice. Big of small (according to your flow). And with
different end… up to you… I like better the one with the small “button” end
(blue one on the picture). The longer end felt uncomfortable to me.
I also read about menstrual
underwear: a underwear keeping the menstruation without
leaking or stinking…I didn’t try it, but find it a cool idea 😉
Ear stick: you can
find quite easily bamboo or paper ear sticks with cotton at the end. Check at a
bio/zero waste shops. I guess it will arrive (if not yet) in supermarket sooner
or later. You can also use reusable sticks from inox or bamboo (e.g. oriculi). It
looks like a mini spoon. But if you need time to changes your habits, as I do,
you can start with the paper/cotton ear stick (it is more expensive in the long
Washable face scrub: yes, it
does exist too. Either from cotton, Hemp or bamboo. Or if you can sew, just
make some with old towels.
Soap and shampoo: I started with refilling my old bottles at the bio shop. But when I heard that the plastic packaging was not reused (OK, 1 big container of 20L is still better than 30 small bottles), I promised myself to look for an alternative. So I switched to hard soap…. Great. You can probably even promote local fabrication (Belgium: check one of my old flatmate new hobby/job). For Shampoo, I tried hard shampoo (2 different brands)… but I don’t like it. With long hair, I don’t get it everywhere and I don’t like the feeling of it in my hair. So I’m still refilling my bottle once in a while. I read about people using eggs, vinegar, not washing at all… But I’m not so far yet. Bu I succeeded to train my scalp to be less greasy (washing now every 3 or 4 days instead of every other day! When the become greasy, I rinse my hair with water only).
Beginning of September is busy in Belgium… everyone is back from
holidays and school starts… So Belgium is living and working again 😉
I’ve been searching for some eco and fair smartphones and apps; and I decided to share it with you. When I find new “treasures” in the future, I’ll add them to this post. If you know good apps, don’t hesitate to write it in the comments here below!
Apparently, 80% of the carbon footprint of a smartphone is the production… so having a smartphone is not ecological… but it is not possible to all go live in a cave hunting wild animals and eating berries, right? Would be cool for a while, tough 😉
I refused for a long time to have a smartphone, but since my daughter
started school 2 years ago, I ‘jumped into technology’…. I wanted to be in the
Whatsapp group from the parents from het classroom…
So I bought a “Fairphone”. No,
don’t laugh, it does exist. I searched the internet and didn’t find another phone
claiming itself a fair phone.
Yes, they try to make smartphones as eco and fair as they can. On their website, they describe their phone as follows: “We believe that care for the environment and people should be a natural part of doing business throughout our industry. With suppliers, local communities and the wider industry, we work for fairer materials and more responsible practices – one step at a time. Together we’re disrupting a short-term way of thinking that the world can no longer afford.”
the minerals in your phone come either from recycling or from mines where no children are working and where workers have relative good working conditions (to the point they can check it of course).
you can repair your phone if something is broken (very good explanation on their website). And the technical service is excellent and extremely friendly!
You know where your money goes: they show the cost breakdown of their phones. They earn 9 eur for each phone; which they use for unexpected cost or programs with social impact.
The Fairphone has a dual-SIM; so it can be convenient if you always walk around with 2 phones or travel a lot (for the foreign SIM-cards).
BUT, let’s be honest here, otherwise you’ll not believe me. Here are some
you have to pre-order it: so, by the times it arrives, it isn’t anymore the best of the market.
Sometimes orders are delayed. But they always explain you why.
The price! 450 eur (for the new fairphone 3) for a phone which is good but not excellent
My personal experience: the battery doesn’t last very long (after 1,5 year, it survives a day if you don’t use it too much). And my camera always has problems: I had to change my first phone because it was not possible to repair it…. But it was all free of cost! Now I’ve to screw tighter my camera once in a while otherwise it starts having problems again.
So, you get it… If you buy one, it’s not to have “the best phone of the world”,
but to make a statement hoping to force bigger companies to take action
for “fairer phones”. And be ready to sometimes ask yourself “Why, oh why did I decided
to buy a Fairphone? Why not a better (cheaper) phone?”
So if you don’t want a Fairphone, don’t forget to check for the
following when buying a new phone:
Do I use a lot of memory? So yes, check if you can add an extra memory card.
App-world is infinite… but here is a list of the few I think are worth sharing:
For Good: it registers your transportation (bike, car,…), asks you questions about your habits (food, drinks, shopping, transportation) and gives you tips (“why do we ask this?”), you can also bring in your gas and electricity consumption… It calculates everything and give you a weekly estimates of your ecological footprint.I do not register all this anymore (privacy, and battery issues), but I really like the articles and tips they share regularly.
Environment Challenge: If you really don’t know how to start, this can help you. It gives you different types of challenges that you can do in few days. But if you are already “advanced” in water saving, waste reduction and ecology-minded, then this app might be to basic for you.
Good on You: an App to check if the clothing brand you want to buy is ethical (workers conditions,… but no indication on ecology though). It works for big companies. It only give an indication; for the brands I tried with friends, we did not always agree with them. We came to the conclusion that you can trust the app for the brands scoring excellent or very bad.
Geocaching: Do you like to find treasure? If yes, this is for you! Everywhere in the world, many people hided “treasures”. The app works with GPS location. You can try to find them (without that strangers see you of course) and register that you found it. Pro: they are everywhere, so even on holiday you can try to find one; it will brings you to places you would never go. And it motivates kids to walk. Cons: don’t get disappointed; the “treasure” is often just the reward of having found it 😉. Usually it is a very small piece of paper where you have to write your name for the register. And always check in the comments that the “geocache” still exists (that some people found it not too long ago).
And to conclude, I would like to mention the browser “Ecosia”: instead of searching with google, you can use Ecosia. The money they win with the publicity (if many people use Ecosia, companies pay to post publicities) is used to plan trees.
less children comes first… but if there are there (or the desire of it), it’s too late.
Afterwards comes transportation: having a car and flying.
Yes, traveling… I know, we all need a break once in a while.
In the last
6 years, I’ve been flying once to Austria for work (motivation: my best friends
live there too…). The 4 years before, I’ve been flying a (too) much for work… To
be honest, I don’t have the feeling that I’m missing something by not flying
anymore. We have always nice holidays. We often book last minute so that we can
have an idea of the weather (bad weather => lots of museum in the area; good
weather =>place for outdoors activities).
You can learn a lot by traveling or living abroad about others and yourself. So, I’m not blaming or judging here. Just thoughts 😉 and numbers. But do you have any idea to what could you compare your CO2 footprint of flying?
believe my husband when he told me that flying back and forth to New York would
produce as much energy as to warm our house for an entire year (we put the
heater on only in the living/kitchen and during bath time for the girls in the
bathroom). I was chocked!
… I know… you want to check it yourself… I also did it. I found an user friendly CO2 footprint calculator (“Carbon Footprint”). You can calculate the CO2 footprint from transport, heating, traveling…. My husband was right: we produce 0,85 metric tons of CO2 to warm up our house for a YEAR… it equals flying ONCE to New York and back produce 0,87 metric tons of CO2. Crazy, he?
I know, in
many countries, train is more expensive than taking the car. Hopefully
governments will follow the example of other European cities/countries to make
public transportation free of charge like Luxemburg (country) is planning for
2020 and 2 other cities are doing: Tallinn since 2013 (Estonia) and Dunkirk
since 2018 (France).
about plastic reduction (zero waste)?
I’ve just post about buying food unpacked. Now I’m showing
you a drawing where buying without packaging doesn’t even appear as an
efficient way to slow down climate change due to CO2 production… In the
article, plastic was not very much discussed. So, I’ve done my homework 😉.
In his report, the Center for International and Environmental Law (CIEL), explains that “Emissions from plastic emerge not only from the production and manufacture of plastic itself, but from every stage in the plastic life-cycle – from the extraction and transport of the fossil fuels that are the primary feed-stocks for plastic, to refining and manufacturing, to waste management, to the plastic that enters the environment.” Their estimation for 2019 was that the production and incineration of plastic will produce 860 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.
As we are
7,7 billion people on earth, this is 0,11 tonnes of CO2 per person per year.
But you’ll help reduce the natural disaster of the ocean getting filled by
plastic and we will eat less plastic (scientist calculated (report from WWF) that we are eating the equivalent
of 1 credit card of plastic per week…).
me to buy food wrapped in bioplastic… but this is maybe an alternative
for example for food which conserve longer when wrapped (to avoid waste), but it
is definitely not the solution. The production (and its destruction which is
not always so simple) stays an issue (if you want to read more, I found a well
written and interesting article).
from the app For Good: “Driving more slowly = driving more
eco-friendly. By reducing your speed on the motorway by 10 to 15 km/h you will
save yourself 1 litre of fuel per 100 km. The time you save by driving faster
is usually negligible whereas the energy consumption increases quadratically
with the increasing speed. In other words, doubling your speed quadruples your
How much does it cost (or save) to become less/zero waste?
Of course, I also want to know it! Therefore, I decided to calculate it
for you 😉
How much does it cost (or save) to become less/zero waste?
Of course, I also want to know it! Therefore, I decided to calculate it
for you 😉
For cleaning products, I’ve been
calculating the cost of each of the product I’m using and compared to a similar
product. Of course, I did not compare the cheapest brand from the supermarket;
but took the price from a well-known ecological brand here in Europe.
I’ll guide you through the table.
If you buy one kg or litre of each ingredient, you’ll pay about 42 euro
for all of it (GREEN).
In the uncolored part of the table, I’ve calculated the quantity of each ingredient I needed for each of my cleaning product and calculated the final price per cleaning product (ORANGE). I compared it to the price of the ecological brand I used to buy.
In conclusion, I saved 3x more money for the
same amount of cleaning product. And I still have enough ingredients to make
another batch of product!!!
book (I didn’t find the tables on internet), the “famille zero dechet” also
compared the cost of cosmetics and cleaning products before and after they
became zero waste. They found a factor 2 (saving 2x more money).
I realized that the zero-waste concept, is often coupled to healthier food, fair-trade and ecology. We all have our “specialty” or our motivation to live more ecologically, e.g. one eats less meat, another cares about water and energy waste, do not fly, or reduce plastics and waste volume.
Ideally, we should tackle ecology from all angles… but I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to claim that I don’t have any ecological footprint. So, let’s do what we can/want without culpability feelings. 😉
Let’s go back to the price. Packaging-free shops offers often biological
food. If possible, they propose food produced locally. This implicates also
that most of fruits and vegetables are seasonal and not flying of sailing
oceans and seas to arrive to your plate. Sorry, strawberries are not growing in
I’ve compared prices of few ingredients, between “my packaging-free shop”, buying
bio in a regular supermarket, or in a bio-supermarket.
If you buy food with packaging, someone will pay the packaging you get…
and it will probably not be the big multinational.
If we look at the comparison here above, buying bio is IN NOT MORE EXPENSIVE in specialized shops (packaging-free or bio-supermarket). As everywhere, supermarket offers more choice, and therefore different price range. However, if we all only go to the supermarket, small shops will disappear…
AND, if you go to a zero-waste shop, you will not be tempted by offers and
you might save money by not buying plenty of other things which were not on
your shopping list but taste so good 😉. If so, don’t
forget your (home-made)
reusable shopping bags!
If you want to save money, try the dishwasher and laundry powder. Both
will be done in 10 min!
Finding inspiration for zero waste activities is not always so easy.
Craft seems always nicer with glitters and stickers. I would like to do more zero-waste
craft with my kids and therefore decided to do some search and write this post.
Why not make “salty dough” instead of buying play-do (plasticine)? You can make it together and paint it the week afterwards (you need to let it dry first).
Oh, by the way, if
your play-doh is turning hard and dry, it only needs you to put some water in
it. Just sit next to your children and do as if you were playing with them
while you make a ball; than a hole with your finger; few drops of water; and
knead (it can be a bit messy).
Look, I even found the “official” explanation on their website: “To restore the softness to PLAY-DOH compound, try adding water one drop at a time and working it in to moisten the PLAY-DOH compound. You can also try wrapping the PLAY-DOH compound in a damp paper towel, returning it to the container and replacing the cover. Let it sit overnight.”
Collect garbage on the street. In many
cities, they have “waste picker” and all the material you need that you can use
for a day for free. We have been doing it this summer with 15 children 3-5
years old (not in the street of course, but a nature reserve). They loved it!
It is also the good time of the year to check their
clothes and sort their toys. Look for a flea market/garage sale close by
your home. They might be motivated by the idea of receiving some of the profit
to buy new toys 😉
Go on a “nature treasure hunt” outside to collect leaves, branches, pine cones, stones, shells,… you can craft so many different types of animals with it. I discovered the books from Fiona Hayes. They are great. If you google her (+ for example craft, you’ll already find plenty of ideas). No, I’m not paid by her to make publicity 😉 but I’m so happy to find some ideas with material that I always have in house! And I like it as much as the girls.
Take the time (and the patience) to cook with
the kids. They usually like it (if not motivate them by making something sweet
such as baking
cookies. Or ask them to help too cook for the family: I’ve
made soup with the girls this week, they were very proud to tell their
father that they made it themselves and ate it with appetite!
most difficult is to ask it for the first time.
I didn’t dear from the first time neither. But
now that I’m not afraid to ask, I usually get comments from the clients behind
me “oh, that’s a good idea!”.
Do you know that shops have hundreds of euro
cost for packaging per month? So, most of them will be happy if some clients
help them save money… and they sometimes compensate with giving something extra
In Belgium, the food safety organism doesn’t like it… but let’s make them adapt to more environment friendly laws! the Food safety agency allows using you own packaging (at your own risk) for ecological reasons, if those are clean, and adapted to contain food (update Nov 2019; link here).
I know, you’ll tell me that you don’t have
time to stop at the butcher, zero waste, bio and fish shop. Going once a
week to the supermarket for few hours is mentally (and for the planning) easier.
But those small shops, they might be next to school or work…. If so, you could
spring in just before school, or quickly after school, or during lunch break.
It is just another way of filling in those “lost time”; otherwise you would
probably quickly go on Facebook or internet because you have to wait… But if
this doesn’t work for you, find another challenge.
Or you can also ask at the supermarket (if they
have a counter for cheese and meet), some of them accept to use containers from