Happy Earth Day 2009! Rosie and I have several natural crafts planned for today. We are going to make a bird feeder out of a milk jug, and take some rocks and paint them like ladybugs, and I think we might plant some lettuce seeds in the garden too…
In honor of Earth Day today, I wanted to write a post about my mainstream hippie lifestyle. In the last few years, as I got older and especially as I became a mother, I noticed that I really started to embrace my old hippie past. In the wake of global warming, and as we start to realize how harmful plastic and household chemicals are for our health and for the planet, and now with the financial crisis, the old-school “hippie” movement seems more critical and necessary as ever. In the spirit of all the “how crunchy are you” quizzes, I wanted to come up with a list of the ways I have fit the old hippie way of doing things into my new modern life. Especially with this economy, a lot of these things are HUGE cost savers along with being better for the environment and everyone as a whole.
Those who know me from WAY back, know that I grew up on 33 acres in Northern California and my parents owned a “bug farm” where we raised biological pest control. We primarily raised fly parasites, the natural enemy of the fly. We would sell these parasites to cattle ranchers, and they could get rid of their fly problem without using chemicals or pesticides. Along with the fly parasites, we had a bunch of animals (a rotating group consisting of pigs, chickens, 2 horses, some sheep, several rabbits, and a cow named Maynard for a while), and we also had a huge garden. It was the 1970’s - early 80’s and we were, for lack of a better word, hippies. We didn’t wear exclusively tie-dye and follow the Grateful Dead around, but we did try to live consciously and sustainably, growing and raising a lot of our own food. My sister and I didn’t really eat any sugar until we were old enough to go to our friends houses and get it from them. I remember a period where my mom actually would grind her own wheat to make bread.
So, considering my childhood - a lot of the old school “hippie” things just seemed familiar and natural to me…
1. Home Birth
When we first found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to have a home birth. This idea was completely natural for me, as my mom had a homebirth with my sister and I was present for the event when I was just 2 years old (we have the whole birth on audio tape, but that’s a story for another day). The thought of me giving birth at our house was a little “out there” for Joe, because he just assumed everyone had their babies at the hospital. After finding an awesome midwife, and coming to a compromise on a Birth Center, Joe actually started to get really comfortable with the idea of a home birth, and he was the one who decided to have the midwife come to us, instead of vice versa, when the time came. Rosemary was born peacefully at home in our bathtub on a July afternoon after only 4.5 hours of labor. We crawled in bed afterwards and just rested for the remainder of the afternoon and evening while the midwives cleaned everything up. It was the best thing ever. Sammy followed almost exactly 2 years later, and even with a minor hitch at the end, he was born after only 5.5 hours of labor. I know homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely the best decision for us. Aside from the comfort and safety of a home birth (for an average, healthy, low-risk mother, home birth has been deemed as safe or safer than delivering at a hospital) the cost of a home birth is way less. Even with insurance paying most hospital costs, many new parents find themselves with a hospital bill in the thousands of dollars. My midwife costs were around $3000 each time, and we were able to submit our claims to our insurance company and were re-imbursed 80% of those costs (after our deductible) as it was considered an out-of-network provider.
2. Cloth Diapers
It is estimated that 10,000 tons of disposable diapers are tossed in landfills every day! These diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose. Disposable diaper manufacturers use over 1 million metric tons of wood pulp and 75,000 metric tons of plastic every year. source Along with being a contributor to huge amounts of waste, they have harsh chemicals in them - dyes, perfumes and other things that I don’t want up against my baby’s most sensitive areas.
Most people associate cloth diapers with touching poop and dunking in toilets and messy, stinky gross stuff all over, and poking babies with diaper pins, and that is SO not the cloth diapers of today. Cloth diapers can be so cute and easy and stylish. I experimented with a lot of different diapers at first. I thought Kissaluvs fitteds with Bummis covers worked best for newborn messy poos - then we switched to All-In-One’s (AIO’s) - because they were easiest and worked just like disposables, with velcro closures, and then you just throw them in the wash. We went with Bumkins and Kushies for our AIO’s mostly. Then, when I got pregnant with Sammy, I experimented with BumGenius One Size pockets, so Rosie could wear them for a while, and then they would work for a newborn too. Now, we use a mix of AIO’s, pockets and a few old school cloth diapers (chinese pre-folds - or CPF’s) with covers. I mean, come on - did you see how cute some of these diapers are?? I bought a lot of my initial diaper stash used from other mommies (until I knew what I really liked) and I would estimate I spent probably about $500-600 total on cloth diapers and wipes for both kids. That’s as much as some parents spend on a month or two of disposable diapers for a couple kids. For wipes, I just use cheap washcloths and I make my own wipe solution with a few drops of lavender and tea tree essential oils in water and keep it in a wipes warmer. It works WAY better than those cold, thin, disposable wipes. All the cloth diapers and wipes go in a huge garbage can I use as a diaper pail and I have a few re-usable, washable liners I use with that. I don’t soak, I sometimes do scrape or wipe off the more solid poos into the toilet before tossing them in the diaper pail. Then, about 2x a week, I take the liner out of the pail, with all diapers and wipes inside, and empty it out in the washer, throw the liner in too - and wash in my sanitary cycle with a pre-wash and extra rinse. Then I dry in the dryer, or sometimes dry in the sun outside to remove stains. It’s really pretty easy.
this article does a great job of explaining the financial, chemical, and environmental benefits of cloth diapering
Now, I do use disposables occasionally, Rosie would always wear Seventh Generation disposables at night (un-bleached, no dyes or fragrances) and when we are traveling or out of the house - we use disposables occasionally for convenience. Everytime I would put my kids in Huggies or Pampers, I found they leaked, and they gave my kids bad diaper rashes, and I just hate that fake baby powder smell that most disposables have.
I think a lot of moms would totally use cloth diapers if they knew how easy (and cute!) they really are. If you are really grossed out by washing them yourself, you can use a diaper service (with CPF’s and covers). Also, in addition to the numerous advantages above, kids that are cloth diapered usually potty-train earlier (they are more aware of the wetness sensation). Yay for cloth diapers!
Duh! It’s what breasts are for. There is really no argument that it is the best and healthiest for baby and mama, not to mention it is easier (most of the time) and cheaper than formula. I also believe in child-led weaning, but had to gently encourage Rosie to stop nursing when I was pregnant with Sam because it was SOOO painful, and I had to set limits recently with Sammy because he was just wanting unlimited access and I was starting to resent our nursing relationship. If he is still going strong after his 2nd birthday, I might have to re-evaluate my stance on CLW - but I would really like it to be his decision to stop, so it is not something I am taking away from him. The AAP recommends “Exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond for optimum health of mothers and babies. I think one of the hugest hurdles to breastfeeding is the lack of support for mothers and adequate maternity leave and childcare options. Why is the US one of the only industrialized nations that doesn’t provide at least 6 months of PAID maternity leave? But again, that’s a topic for another day… There has been a lot of press and discussion recently because of a badly researched article that stirred up a lot of controversy - here is a great response to that article and says a lot of the things that I think….
I used slings and wraps and various other carriers with Rosie, but didn’t really see the full benefits until I had Sammy. I think babywearing is an absolute necessity for anyone with more than one child. I don’t think I could have gone grocery shopping, or run any errands, or done much of anything with a new baby and a toddler to chase around, had I not been able to wear Sammy. I have several different pouches, ring-slings, wraps, mei-tei style carriers, and my ergo, and I make and sell my own stylish stretchy Sea-Green Baby Wraps now. I still wear Sammy occasionally, but he gets antsy and wants to get down and run around a lot more now. Babywearing is especially handy when traveling, I always bring a sling with me when getting on a plane, and I wore Rosie and Sammy both all through Europe, so much easier than toting a stroller up and down stairs. Babywearing allows you to stay connected to your baby, holding them close to you (which is where they want to be anyway), they stay happier, your arms and back get a break when the weight of the baby is spread out, and babies learn more when they are up at eye level and can experience and see the world better.
5. Wooden toys
We tried to do a lot of wood and natural toys for the kids, but we definitely weren’t purists about it. We have a LOT of plastic stuff. Plastic stuff is fun and colorful, but I have noticed (in addition to the negative environmental impact) that plastic toys break easier and don’t last as long as the wooden stuff.
6. Natural health/beauty products and cleaning products
We try to use exclusively natural stuff on the kids. Burts Bee’s diaper cream, California Baby body wash and shampoo, Rainbow kids bubble bath and other similar products. I just think that there are so many new chemicals out there, and we don’t know what kind of lasting effect they will have on us in the future. Plus, I have sensitive skin and I know I prefer natural stuff for me (I use Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castile soap) and I try to use natural deodorants too, sometimes just a little rubbing alcohol works, sometimes I use a liquid rock type thing, but I do have some heavy duty Secret for those really stinky days….
And I try to not buy any household cleaners with harsh chemicals. I use baking soda a lot for scouring sinks and toilets, I use seventh generation dishwashing liquid and carpet cleaner, biokleen multi-purpose cleaner and ecos laundry detergent.
7. Gardening and composting
I have had a small garden in my backyard for the last few years. I love growing my own food. There is something so satisfying about picking food out of your yard, making a meal out of it, and eating what you grew just minutes after plucking it off the vine. Plus, there is no tomato in the world that tastes as good as one picked fresh off the vine, warm from the sun, and popped right into your mouth. This year is my first attempt at composting. I am hoping to keep the neighborhood dogs out of the pile of coffee grounds, apple cores, eggshells and etc. I love the idea of turning my food waste into nutrients that will go right back into the garden, and into our food.
8. Farm co-op, raw milk, farmers markets, eating locally, etc.
We belonged to a CSA a couple years ago, but found that too much of the food we received each week went to waste (we didn’t eat a lot of radishes) so we have not joined another, and instead I want to make a commitment to the local farmers and farmers markets around me. Trying to get my fresh veggies and produce exclusively from them this summer (aside from what we grow) and only rely on the supermarket for the staples and pantry goods. We get our meat and eggs and milk from a farm co-op that delivers near us every 2 weeks. The eggs are free-range, the meat is grass-fed and the milk is raw. I think it is really important to know exactly where our food is coming from, especially as the whole “organic” movement has now gone mainstream (and now many so called “organic” things are made by Kraft and mass produced and marketed with no real adherence to the true spirit of the organic movement). Supporting local farmers is good for our community, good for our health, and good for the environment.
On top of putting our glass, plastic and cardboard in the recycle bin for trash day every week (sometimes we are not so good about the cardboard) I try to recycle other things. I recycle clothes by selling gently used things at consignment or resale shops. I buy a lot of the kids stuff at these same consignment stores, or mom to mom sales, or the salvation army. I give away a lot of things we don’t use anymore to the salvation army, or other charities. I have been known to occasionally re-purpose somebody else’s trash as something new for me (aka dumpster diving). And most recently, I used some discarded old realtor sign posts to build my raised beds in the backyard for gardening.
10. I rarely shave my legs and/or underarms
I think this is a laziness thing more than a “save the planet” move - but it definitely qualifies me as a “hippie”. I usually let my leg and underarm hair grow all during the winter - maybe shaving on New Year’s Eve or another special occasion - and I shave only occasionally in the summer. I prefer to wax, but that can be costly too, so I end up with a kind of combination of waxing a couple of times, and shaving a few times so it doesn’t look too unkempt. Luckily, my leg hair is mostly blonde, so I can get away with longer leg hair without looking like a gorilla.
11. I don’t use shampoo
I have been using the “curly girl” method for several years, which basically eliminates shampoo and has you scrub your scalp with conditioner instead. I would only use shampoo once every few months, when my scalp was feeling especially oily or dirty. Lately, I have been washing my hair with baking soda mixed with a little water and I rinse it with apple cider vinegar. I still occasionally use a little organic or chemical-free conditioner on the ends to help get the tangles out. But, for the most part, I am happy with my new routine, chemical-free, and only costs pennies per wash. Speaking of hair, I am pretty much as low maintenance as you can get, I let my hair air dry after the shower, occasionally with some leave-in conditioner. I don’t remember the last time I used a blow dryer.
12. Diva cup
For my monthly feminine needs, I have found the Diva Cup. I have only had a couple occasions to use this since Sammy was born (yay for lactational amenorrhea), but I am really loving it so far. It is easy and I have had no leaks. I never liked the way pads or tampons felt - and after having children and being so much more in touch with my cycles and female parts, and the miracle of creating human life, I feel that menstrual blood is really kind of sacred. It seemed wrong to have it soaking up in disposable paper products to then throw away. In fact, I have a hard time even dumping it in the toilet - I really wish there was a way to put it to use or dispose if it in a more sacred way.
13. We don’t vaccinate
I know I am really opening myself up for harassment and debate with this one. To vaccinate or not vaccinate is another one of the really sensitive parenting issues (along with breastfeeding) that incites the “mommy wars” the media is so fond of reporting. Joe and I did a lot of research on this subject before coming to a decision, and we consulted with our doctor, whom we respect and respects us in turn. For me, it basically comes down to this: If my kids get the measles, or chicken pox, or whooping cough or anything we routinely vaccinate for, yes - it will suck - but if we know what it is, and know how to treat it, there is only a very minuscule chance that it could result in any lasting effects or (god-forbid) death. On the other hand, there are a lot of adverse effects reported from vaccinations every day, including autism and death (often mis-reported as SIDS). IF (I know it is a big if) my kids were to react badly to a vaccine - we wouldn’t know what it was, how long it would last, or what do to about it. So, I am more comfortable with the evil that is known, than the evil that is unknown - so to speak. I don’t believe vaccines *cause* autism, per se - but I DO believe that it can trigger the onset of autism for some kids. I am not against the actual vaccine and I understand the benefits of using a vaccine for building immunity to a disease, and if I could separate the vaccine from the chemicals and preservatives in the shots, I might give that to our kids - but if you look at the ingredients list of the vaccines - it is astonishing the amount of harmful chemicals and formaldehyde and other nonsense that we feel comfortable injecting into our small children repeatedly. Our kids have immune systems that are not fully developed yet, and it is reasonable to assume that interfering with that development (via the vaccines and chemicals) could do damage to the kids in the future. How many kids had to get vaccinated before they (the govt. and pharma companies) finally admitted that Thimerasol was harmful? What’s to say that there won’t be another study next year that says “oh, yeah - sorry about that, the stuff we have been injecting into your kids is really bad for them and will cause numerous problems later in life”. And on top of all this, the fact that vaccines (like Gardasil) are rushed onto the market and big Pharma is reporting HUGE profits - I don’t think they are necessarily acting on our best interest. Doesn’t it seem crazy that there were only about 7 doses of vaccines required when I was a child, and now the current schedule has (by my count) 27 shots before they are 2 years old? With as many as 5 shots given at once (several times)! And on top of all that, kids are - in general - way LESS healthy than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Childhood diabetes, asthma, life-threatening allergies (nobody could die from smelling a peanut when I was a kid) autism and ADHD are at record levels. There is something (or a lot of somethings) going on here that is harming our kids. Unless someone can guarantee me that the vaccines won’t harm my kids - I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. I am not saying I am never going to do it, we might selectively vaccinate in a few years, once I feel comfortable that my kids immune systems are fully developed and the chance of harm goes way down… It is obviously a very emotional and personal decision, and I think moms just have to go with their gut and instinct and do what they feel is best.
*edited to add - just saw this post by Jim Carrey that has a very well thought out viewpoint on the whole vaccine safety thing - it’s a good read.
There are a lot of things I am doing - but I need to be better about it - such as:
*We have re-usable grocery bags, but I frequently forget to bring them to the grocery store, or forget to bring them in the store until we are getting ready to check out - so I have to use the paper or plastic ones and then I feel bad.
*I lost my Sigg bottle, and need to get a new one so that I can make sure to have water with me so I don’t have to buy bottled water when we are out and about. The kids have a couple different kinds of non-plastic re-usable drinking vessels, and I am usually pretty good about at least bringing water for them when we go places.
*We still use a lot more plastic than I would like - We have plastic for the kids cups, bowls, plates and tupperware and plastic bags for bringing snacks with us places. I am going to try to get more glass food storage containers, and more eco-friendly kids dishes and re-usable snack containers for when we are out and about.
Then, there are the things I would like to, maybe in the future:
*family cloth - since we are cloth diapering, it seems like a natural transition/addition, but I don’t see me convincing Joe to wipe with a washcloth and then throw it in the laundry and wash it. He is pretty accepting of most of my hippie stuff and ideas, but I am pretty sure this is where he would draw the line. We do go through an awful lot of toilet paper though….
*solar power - not sure how financially feasible this is - but I would love to eventually get our house powered by an alternate energy source.
*have chickens - I would LOVE to have a few chickens in my backyard, and a little chicken coop. I have such fond memories of going out to collect eggs when I was a child. I would love for our kids to get to experience that. I don’t see the neighbors being too cool with this idea though. Maybe in the future if I can get a little more land, maybe an acre or so, and have more space for it.
*have a hybrid car - we are actually in the market for a new car as our Escape has 260,000 miles and is on its last leg. We will probably get another Escape, as it fits our life and I like having one 4 wheel drive car in the family for the winter. I would LOVE the Escape Hybrid - but it is around $10,000 more than the standard Escape, and it probably just isn’t in our budget right now, even if it is better for the environment.
*walk or bike more places - we almost bought a new house in a downtown area, that would have allowed me to walk to the grocery store, and the library and park with the kids, but we couldn’t get an answer from the bank in the time we needed. Our new house is great, and I do love it, but I wish it was in an area that would have a made it easier to walk or bike more places.
Some of the above things I do primarily because I believe they are better for my family, some things are done because they are better for us financially, some things I do because it is easier, and some things I do even if they take more time and money. A lot of the reasoning is a combination of things. I think everyone has to come to a balance and do whatever they can to help preserve our natural resources and keep the earth healthy for our kids and all the kids to come. Hopefully - my list might inspire someone to try something new or encourage others to come up with their own ideas of ways they can fit the “hippie” stuff into their lifestyle.