My “DIY” Home Birth!

So for all of you who have been wondering what I’ve been up to for the past nine months, well – I’ve been growing a baby ;).  And I just had the most fantastic home birth, unassisted by a licensed practioner.  That’s right, no doctor, no registered midwife.  Tell on?  I shall!

My most recent birth story really begins at my first birth, which was an emergency cesarean that likely could have been avoided.  I went through a typical “pit-to-distress” scenario where the doctors rushed my labour after my waters had broken (likely due to an unnecessary membrane sweep the day prior on my EDD).  After I “failed to progress” in the timeline the doctors would have wanted, I was given an epidural and pitocin, both of which inhibited any feeling of the urge to push – so I proceeded to push in a guided fashion for more than five hours before they decided he was “stuck” and took me to surgery.

After he was delivered, I spent two hours separated from him while my husband struggled to figure out where I was or what was happening that was preventing my connection with my newest family member.  I remember crying for my baby and receiving zero sympathy from my attending nurse, all the while being threatened with my baby receiving formula if I “didn’t recover from the anesthetic soon enough.”  I was denied the initial moments of what would have been extremely beneficial skin to skin contact, which I feel impaired my breastfeeding relationship and bonding with my newborn son.  I will never forget the grief that was our separation during this time.

[My first kiddo after the surgeon took him out.]

After this traumatic birth, I was determined to become more informed on birth in general, and not to ever experience unnecessary trauma like this again.  I researched and researched, and soon found that the hospital policy of keeping mom and babe separated, along with all the unnecessary interventions I had experienced, were not evidence based practice at best, and unethical and borderline abusive at worst.  

So I went seeking registered midwives to attend my birth, as I hoped the experience with them would be less medicalized and more conducive to natural childbirth, with less interventions and more direct support for our family.  Like, say emotional coaching and support for both myself and my husband that would leave us feeling more confident in trusting the natural process of birth and coping with the physical sensations and experiences involved.

My experience with the midwives seemed to be going well, but I was disappointed to learn that most registered midwives in the province would not do an out of hospital VBAC as they found it too risky due to increased chance of uterine rupture at the scar site, and a repeat of whatever conditions had necessitated my cesarean in the first place.  This made me slightly uncomfortable, but my midwives agreed to attending the birth at a hospital that had more up to date practices that would allow mom and baby to recover together after a cesarean, should that become necessary again.  I also looked into my legal rights and had put together a substantial birth plan that would leave me with the confidence to refuse and unnecessary interventions anyone tried to push my way.

However, at 36 weeks, my midwifery team abruptly informed me that they would not be able to stretch their resources to attend my birth at my chosen hospital, and should I wish to continue with my birth plan, I would have to transfer my care to a different midwifery with seven midwives on staff.  My trust was broken, as I felt that my midwives should have forseen this difficulty in their practice prior to offering my this option for my birth.  I felt, if they are going to back out of this, what other issues am I going to have when it comes time for my birth? And how am I going to connect to an entire new team of seven midwives with only a month before my due date?

I also was unhappy to hear them applying the term “high risk” to my delivery, as from my research, I was actually a very good candidate for a VBAC considering it had been almost three years from my last delivery to my conception date, and that I had gone to full dilation and pushed during my first birth.  All of these conditions allowed for a much smaller risk in uterine rupture (which is already a very small risk to begin with), and post cesarean related complications.  Furthermore, given that I was basically induced due to the membrane sweep prior to my first birth, I likely had not gone into labour at the right time, which had opened the door for complications in the first place, which had then been exasperated by all the interventions applied. Thousands of women have had perfectly natural, successful VBACs with similar histories to mine.  Yet I was “high risk”?  This was another red flag for me, as it seemed their classification of me as such was not based in sound evidence, andwould  likely lead to more fear based unnecessary interventions.

I left looking for other options, and my immediate thoughts were to contact a private “traditional birth attendant” who would attend an HBAC and approach my birth with evidence based information based in instinctual birth and traditional methods.  We had considered this path to begin with, as it was recommended highly from a few acquaintances, but had balked initially at the cost – a traditional birth attendant is not covered by MSP as they are not a registered medical practitioner.  A birth supported by such a professional is considered “unattended” in our province.

Well, contact her I did, and what a magical journey we began after doing so!  My birth attendant came directly to my home for my pre-natal visits, checked up on baby and I with traditional, non-invasive methods (for example, checking baby’s heart rate with a stethoscope instead of utilizing the possibly damaging ultrasound based audio doppler, and avoiding unnecesssary vaginal exams).  We discussed how a hospital birth actually can actually increase health risk and mortality for women and babies, due to the unnecessary and escalating scale of interventions that are applied and encouraged there – induction when going past your due date, treatment with drugs and painkillers that reduce your natural connection to your sensations and your instinctual urges (not to mention crossing the placenta and affecting baby), discouragement from eating or drinking normally when your body may in fact need such nourishment to promote your strength and wellbeing – among many others.  Not to mention the fact that you are naturally more comfortable in your own home environment, which psychologically leads to an increased ability to “open” into your birth and push that baby out.

We decided on having a water birth in a home birthing pool with zero interventions unless one became necessary for emergency purposes – in which case i would be transported by ambulance to hospital.  I had hired a doula months earlier who would continue to support me for my home birth – trained in hypnotherapy and energy work on many levels, my doula would be there to support me emotionally through painful sensations, helping me to feel safe in the physical experience of labour – we discussed how she would be there to help me psychologically open myself to trusting the natural birth experience and avoiding the urge to seek interventions that my body did not need.

We also discussed how important it was for me to have my husband more involved and empowered at this birth.  The hospital birth was such a helpless experience for him, feeling powerless to do anything when constantly ordered around and interfered with by nurses and doctors – and then being left alone with our newborn while I “recovered” elsewhere.  I wanted him to feel like he was doing something to make a difference in the process – like he was supporting his family and having some control in the experience.  Our birth attendant was happy to support us in this way by coaching my husband on what he could do for us during the birth.

My baby “cooked” for a week past my EDD, which was perfectly natural and not a cause for concern for my traditional birth attendant.  It is not natural for all babies to spontaneously emerge at exactly 40 weeks – some babies need more time in the womb, and ovulation dates are rarely exactly determined in the first place.  So we happily proceeded to wait until she was ready, which was a beautiful, clear spring morning on a Saturday.

I woke at 6 am with mild crampy contractions, and knew it was the day.  I made french toast for myself, hubby, and my three and a half year old son, woke my husband up leisurely and told him it was time.  Boy, were we excited for this brand new experience!  After breakfast, we headed to a local park and spent some time enjoying the outdoors.  My friend, our birth photographer, happily met us at the park and snapped some shots.


[Calling my doula]

[Watching my son play happily on the playground]

I called my doula and birth attendant and around lunch time I was feeling like it was time to get home.  I ate a small delicious meal on the couch.  My sensations were getting stronger, closer together and very regular.  Another friend who is also a doula came by to be with us also – my doula, friend and I laboured together in my living room while my husband busied himself tidying and taking care of us.  My friend and doula did a beautiful traditional aboriginal smudge with me using sage and cedar, which I felt truly helped me release many of my remaining tensions and fears.  

[Smudging]

My son played with his Nana outside while my labour continued progressing.  It was so important having my son there for us, as we felt that he would learn so much, and feel more comfortable being there amidst all the action, rather than spending the night away at another house feeling curious about the goings on.  I also felt strongly that seeing a peaceful, lovely, natural birth would help him heal on some level from the trauma of his own birth.  We had prepared him for it by talking a lot about what birth was like, watching birth videos, and very much normalizing the process rather than allowing fear to permeate.  He was calm and curious during the whole process, and my doula would help connect him to the birth and to me and Daddy throughtout.

[Big brother staying amused in the earlier stages]

I moved to the bathtub on suggestion of my doula when sensations were getting harder to cope with and impossible to talk through.  This helped ease the intensity somewhat, and we had the lights dimmed.  I felt an intense pressure in my head, and my doula guided me through a visualization that involved sending light up and out the top of my head, and back in again to swirl around in my belly.  This eased the intensity of this pressure immensely!  At this time I started also feeling quite nauseous and threw up a couple times.  In hospital, this had been a cause for concern which had me hooked up to fluids immediately.  At home, we moved past this right away as just a natural part of the process.

[My son stopping in while I was in the bath]

My birth attendant had arrived, and I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed by my sensations, although still coping very well through my doula’s amazingly intuitive coaching and the support of my husband who I now had holding my hand through each sensation.  He felt happy and confident to be there for me when I needed him close.  My doula described later how he was seemingly thrilled that I needed him to be there for support.  At the hospital, I had felt so paralyzed in fear and pain that I hadn’t wanted him touching my body at all.  At home, if he let go of my hand, I felt like I immediately lost stability.

We moved with some difficulty to my bed where I felt I could labour more in comfort, as I was feeling increasingly exhausted with sitting up in the bath.  The sensations were almost one on top of the other at this point and so intense I found myself longing for painkillers!  I was however very thankful that they weren’t available to me, as I knew I didn’t “really” need them, it was just old conditioning peeking through.  I was glad to be home where I could be in the comfort zone I needed to push through without drugs.

As an aside, I want to speak to the incredible benefit that is having a doula present that you are in tune with.  My doula knew just what I needed on a deep, spiritual level, and spoke to it or brought it for me without question, allowing for as peaceful and uninterrupted a labour as possible.  All I needed to do was connect with my sensations and focus on being strong in the moment.  She was there to suggest to my husband what he might do to assist me, and to support him as well if he needed a break.  I can’t say enough how valuable a well chosen doula is for a healthy, natural birth, at home or in hospital.

Just as I felt I couldn’t handle a single other sensation, and while I was wondering what pushing would be like and when I would know it was time, my body just transitioned immediately into pushing – I pushed without thinking, and my mucous plug loosened and my waters broke on the bed.  I knew it was time to push and didn’t even have to choose to do so – my body just did it on it’s own without any conscious input, and it felt amazing!  I knew it was time to push my baby out!  We had progressed so quickly that we hadn’t had time to set up the birth pool – however, I didn’t feel I could have maneuvered myself in it at this point anyway and was happy staying where I was.

Not once was I checked for dilation – a practice which has proven largely unnecessary and invasive.  Not only can you introduce pathogens to the mom and baby if you do so, but you can disturb the natural peace and progression of things without any proven benefit. The only thing a dilation check can do is really promote a questioning of an “appropriate” timeline for your birth, which raises anxieties and creates unnecessary expectations.  Not to mention creating a great deal of discomfort.

I immediately felt the need to be on all fours, but was also quite exhausted at this point.  We found a solution which had me supporting my upper body on the rocking ottoman from my nursing chair, which was the absolute perfect tool for my experience!  I could rock myself gently between pushing, easing tension on my lower back, and keep myself in an all fours position without using much arm strength.  My doula put a lovely cool cloth on my forehead which helped ease the heat and preasure I was continuing to feel there.



At this point my husband recalls that he was surprised at the strength in my hand, finding he had to squeeze back so I wouldn’t crush his fingers – all those sitcom births with moms crushing hands had actually found a bit of truth there amidst the ridiculousness of dramatized births.  I found myself going into a loud, guttural roar during my pushes and thought “Wow, my throat is going to be wrecked after this,” but not caring at all.  I needed to growl!  My doula encouraged my son to “make the sounds with mommy”, and he was happy to growl along with me as I pushed his sister out. I truly believe it was a beautifully illuminating and powerful learning experience for my first child.

After about an hour of pushing, we could tell it was close – my birth attendant encouraged me to push gently to avoid tearing.  As I felt I barely had any strength left in my body, everyone hoisted me up onto a special birth stool that my attendant brings to all her births.  I pushed my little girl’s head out on the stool and my attendant told hubby to “get ready to catch your baby!”  Her shoulders came out easily and she slipped gently through husband’s hands onto the towels on the floor – we weren’t prepared for how wriggly and slippery she was!  He quickly scooped her up and passed her to me – I almost dropped the slippery little love also but was supported by all the lovely ladies around me.  She almost immediately wanted to check out my breast, and she was so lovely to behold.  I enjoyed holding her for some moments, and then my birth team hoisted me up to recover and birth my placenta on my bed.

[Hubby watching baby girl crowning!]

[My lovely slippery baby girl!]

The placenta came out without issue, and we delayed clamping her cord until an hour later.  It was so wonderful to snuggle up right in my own bedroom with my lovely baby and not to have to worry about anybody poking or prodding us with unnecessary procedures.  I was brought beautiful nourishing food, along with a piece of my placenta to swallow.  I was so well taken care of that all I had to do was savour snuggling up to my newest little munchkin.  A friend came shortly after the birth to encapsulate my placenta right in my home.  



I can’t express enough how empowering it was for my husband and I to have our HBAC.  My husband continually expresses his amazement with how my body just knew what to do, and how incredible it was to just be supported in trusting the natural birth process.  I birthed my lovely 9 pound 6 ounce baby girl with no interventions – only love, emotional support, and very gentle coaching during the last stages of pushing, and my baby was here!  She was lovely and pink and wonderfully healthy and alert.  Breastfeeding started easily and quickly.  A night and day experience from the hospital.  My birth attendant stayed with us overnight to make sure my bleeding slowed and that we were comfortable.  We were so well supported and loved, and continued to be for the weeks following – having meals and other things delivered and being checked on regularly.

I am so thankful for my beautiful natural birth, which has allowed me to heal from much of the emotional trauma of my first.  I strongly recommend home birth to everyone – it is such a wonderfully empowering and healthy experience that I wish every family could have in their lifetime.  If it wasn’t for my wonderful traditional birth attendant, this natural birth may not have been possible for me, due to the unreasonable restrictions and unsubstantiated fears of the medical profession.  I am eternally grateful for her knowledge and experience which allowed me to have faith and confidence that traditional birth, as nature intended, is possible for most women, and in actuality the healthiest way to have your baby – despite what the medical community may try to tell you.  You CAN trust your body to do what it needs to do to grow and birth your baby, and you may just have an enlightening experience if you do so!



Pictures by the lovely Mitra Suri Bullock 

Some additional reading:

The Evidence for Doulas

Traditional Midwifery & the VBAC

Educational Articles on Natural Childbirth

Disinfecting Naturally

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When I wrote my last post on lathering action, I felt compelled to write another piece on disinfecting your home. Many critics of natural cleaning methods always seem to come back to one point – “So how do you make sure you kill bacteria and viruses in your home?” Well, the solutions are, in keeping with tradition here, pretty darn simple.

First of all, I want to start off with a bit of a plea to the public. Can we give up on the idea that our homes need to be 100% “free of germs”? I really think we need to let go of that one. Yes, I know, we have endured years of advertising that claims we need to eliminate “99.9%” of the bacteria on our household surfaces. But you know what? Modern science is telling us that this may NOT, in fact, be a wise decision. We need to be more realistic, and look at the facts more closely.

You may have heard about “superbugs”, and antibiotic resistance. This has been a pretty hot topic over the last few years. Explained simply, this basically means that, through years and years of persistent and excessive antibiotic use, many bacteria have become tolerant of them and have been surviving better despite antibiotic treatment. The “germs” are getting stronger, and resisting the tough methods we are using to eliminate them. Why is that?

Well, when you treat bacteria with an antibiotic, it does not necessarily kill off every organism. And the ones that remain are generally the strongest, most resilient ones. Eventually, more and more of these resilient strains start to reproduce, and you are left with tougher and tougher bacteria that require stronger and stronger methods of elimination.

And guess what – medical professionals are running out of options faster than these superbugs are growing. It is a definite area of concern, especially within hospital environments where sterilization is necessary and mandatory for successful surgeries and invasive procedures.

Now let’s apply this same theory to your home. When you bleach or apply alcohol or sanitizing, antibacterial wipes, and other very potent disinfectants to your surfaces, guess which bacteria remain behind? That stronger “0.01%” that your product is not killing off are the ones who are left to reproduce. And those are the ones that are least likely to be affected by your disinfecting solutions. See where this is going? By applying unnecessarily strong disinfectants in your home, you actually may be breeding stronger bacteria. At the very best, you are leaving the strongest behind.

Not to mention the fact that bleach and other antibacterial chemicals can be very dangerous for children and pets, and are generally disconcerting for me to have in my home at all. Fumes from bleach are harmful to the respiratory tract, and ingestion of it can be deadly. And these substances negatively impact the environment when they go into the groundwater (bleach especially so).

Furthermore, there are lots of bacteria and microorganisms that may be of benefit to our bodies and immune system that live in our environment (not to mention within and on our own bodies). We need a healthy amount of “gut flora”, and even our skin has a layer of protective microbes that are undesirably killed off by things such as hand sanitizer and cleaning with bleach.

All of that being said, it leads me to this. How do I eliminate ALL of the bacteria in our home? I don’t. That’s right, you heard me! I don’t. I clean my home to an acceptable standard that eliminates health concerns, but I don’t make it a personal goal to just kill off all of the microorganisms in my house. My goal is to keep my home healthy and disease free. Can you do that with natural cleaning methods? Absolutely. How do I do that? Read along!

First, hand washing is a must in my home. Whenever we come in from being out in the community, or from playing in the dirt, we wash our hands. With regular soap. Using soap has been widely demonstrated as the best method for eliminating harmful bacteria and viruses from your hands (and body). Why? Because you are scrubbing them and physically removing the germs rather than just ‘killing’ them. It is this physical, mechanical removal of microorganisms that is the most effective method of cleaning.

Second, when I want to do more of a disinfecting type job (cutting boards, countertops, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces), I use vinegar and tea tree oil. These two are my best germ busting buddies. The natural acids in vinegar actually cause about 80% of bacteria and viruses to become inert. And tea tree has natural antimicrobial properties. Plus, it smells nice. I also use baking / washing soda and borax to clean things like toilets and bathtubs. For further reading on these methods, check out my article and recipes HERE.

Do I kill off 100% of the bacteria with these? No. But the sodas and borax, being naturally abrasive, physically remove most anything of concern. And I use soap, get in a good scrub, and physically remove bacteria and viruses on the surfaces that really count, like dishes.

Should you eat lunch off of my toilet seat? Mix up a batch of chicken soup in my bathtub? Prrrobbbbably not. There might be a few stragglers on there, and I certainly don’t clean them after each use. And seriously, ew. But you aren’t going to die of a staph infection because you didn’t chemically destroy all of the bacteria on your toilet. As long as you aren’t scratching your bare butt and then eating a sandwich, you are probably good to go.

I am also a firm believer in the fact that our immune systems need practice to become effective. If you lived your whole life in a completely sterile environment, and then tried to function in the real world, your body would probably react incredibly negatively to even very mild strains of bacteria and viruses.

If you have items of concern that you really think need a thorough disinfecting, first, scrub them well with soap to physically remove microorganisms, and then allow them to soak in a sink full of full strength white vinegar, or just spray them down with it and let sit. Hydrogen peroxide is also a beneficial disinfectant – I don’t use it much because I am satisfied with my vinegar, but I have researched that wiping with vinegar, and then following with hydrogen peroxide (NOT both together), kills off most microorganisms of concern. If you own a dishwasher, it also likely has a setting to sterilize – using your detergent and super hot water as active agents. You can also boil things that are heat tolerant (do NOT boil plastics).

So, long story short, I think it is time to rethink what “disinfecting” means in your home. We really don’t need to kill everything off – we can live in harmony with a few microorganisms and be perfectly healthy (in my opinion, more so). Here’s to hoping we can collectively reach a new level of comfort with what constitutes “clean enough” 🙂

For further reading on the topic, check out these links:
Does vinegar kill germs? – David Suzuki Foundation
Non-toxic Disinfecting – David Suzuki’s Queen of Green
Does vinegar really kill household germs? – ABC Health & Wellbeing
What is bleach and why is it dangerous? – Sustainable Baby Steps

Have a Natural, Eco-Friendly Easter!

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So I have been looking around at the Easter stuff in the stores these days out if curiosity’s sake, and I’ve gotta say – yikes! Landfill bound, much? I mean, it’s been this way for years, but holy cow – when did Easter become a time for eating crap and throwing plastic in the landfill?

We are not a Christian family – BUT we still celebrate Easter in the kid-centred, egg hunt-y sort of sense, while also still recognizing and appreciating the traditional meaning from a perspective of maintaining knowledge. So while we are not really celebrating Easter in terms of Christ, we are certainly working at developing an understanding that the holiday should NOT in our family become a tradition of waste and junk food.

I have always enjoyed the Easter egg hunt – my mother was particularly creative with hers every year and I sometimes had to look pretty hard to spot all the treats. With my child, though, I really don’t want to lay on the chocolate as thick. I noticed some behavioural and physical consequences of OD-ing on chocolate this Christmas time with my toddler (read: hyperactivity, irritability, frequent urination, cravings), and am definitely going to strive not to allow that to happen this Easter. So what are my alternatives?

Have an egg hunt without the candy.. Chances are, if you start your kids on a tradition of the scavenger hunt for eggs WITHOUT any candy inside, they will find the hunt itself to be rewarding and fun, and won’t expect any chocolate at all. Let’s start traditions that are about events, and not about candy! One fun tradition I have seen emerging along with the egg hunt is making “Easter Bunny tracks” out of flour.

But what should I use as the eggs? You have lots of options here. You can paint egg shaped rocks and hide them in the garden or your favourite forested area. You can also buy and paint wooden eggs that you find at craft stores, or make 2D eggs out of felt and fabric paint, and re-use them year after year. Hide them away as you would your other holiday decorations! Another idea is finding some of those plastic eggs second hand through thrift stores or places like craigslist. If you need something new, there’s a great company called Eco Eggs that make vegetable based, compostable “plastic” type eggs that are more eco-friendly than others. You can also dye and hide real eggs using natural food colourings or onion skins. There are plenty of ideas for this on Pinterest (see below for the link to my board) and just through googling! Hehe. I still like saying googling.

“I really want to fill the eggs with something.” Okay, I get it! Your kids are expecting something to be inside. Consider putting some change inside each egg that the kids can use to buy something later. Have kids that like marbles or fancy rocks? Consider putting these in your eggs. Put pieces to a new puzzle inside each egg. For older kids, and for those involved in Christian celebrations, consider writing parts of the story of Jesus’ resurrection in each egg to read together. Or, if you really want treats, try making some mini cookies and putting these inside eggs. You can also “trade-in” non-fillable eggs for items that you keep in a special basket, or for home baked healthier treats.

One thing I really enjoy about Easter is getting back into nature. The easter egg hunt is one way to get outside during your celebrations. You may also want to consider planting some flowers or vegetables as part of your celebrations. If you start your seeds now, you should have some sprouts ready for transplanting by Easter weekend. For an extra Easter-ish feel, consider sprouting some seeds in empty, decorated egg shell halves!. Think about skipping the egg hunt altogether and do a flower hunt in your local park or forested area – try to spot as many different colours and varieties of spring blooms as you can! Or do a bird search, talking about and spying (with binoculars, even) as many species of birds as you can. Bring some birdseed along to scatter! Take along a notebook to do some sketches and write down your finds.

Buying some bouquets for family members? Consider picking fresh wildflowers, or buying flowers individually and tying your bouquet with twine instead of all of that horrid cellophane. Think about buying some nice bulbs that can be transplanted to the garden, in an eco-friendly, biodegradable pot. And definitely consider buying locally grown flowers when possible. Many communities have flower festivals in spring that you might consider attending.

Make sure your family members know, well in advance, how you feel about candy and junk. Grandparents love to spoil, so if you don’t want your kid to eat a huge chocolate rabbit, tell them in advance not to buy him one. Consider planning your event with your extended family’s involvement so that they know they can celebrate in other meaningful ways other than buying your kid a bunch of garbage. Maybe someone wants to knit him an Easter sweater? Or DIY him a fun set of homemade bunny ears? Or consider asking relatives to buy Easter themed books instead of treats.

If you plan on attending community events, make sure you find out what kinds of practices you will be supporting if you do. Is there going to be a balloon release? Stay far away or protest it and suggest alternatives (bubble blowing, seed scattering, visit Balloons Blow.org for options) if so, these are incredibly devastating to our ecosystems. If there is an egg hunt, are there volunteers available to ensure that there are no stragglers left in the forest or park to pollute the area? If not, consider offering to organize a team to do so! Are there appropriate facilities set up for recycling? Do what you can to ensure you are taking part in a sustainable celebration, and not a waste creating one.

Take a look at my Pinterest Easter Board for some specific Easter themed, sustainable, crafty DIY ideas!

I hope you all have a wonderful, happy Easter, with lots of time with family and friends. What are your ideas for a sustainable Easter celebration?

Greening your Home: Reduce Waste!

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Due to some recent health complications, and some time constraints due to moving, I have unfortunately had to bow out of the Queen of Green’s springtime volunteer green coaching project. I am super bummed to not be able to contribute to the level that I wanted to, but I thought I would blog on my personal journey with waste reduction this week, to complement the module the current green coaches are taking their families through.

Let’s take a journey through my ideas for waste reduction in the home, as well as some of my future aspirations!

Ways I currently reduce waste in my home:

Ahem….this first one is obvious: I DIY my household cleaning and body products, reducing and eliminating a LOT of plastic waste.
I do not use paper towel or other disposable cleaning products. I use washcloths, towels, and a microfiber mop.
I used cloth diapers for my son.
I use washable menstrual pads.
I use cloth napkins at the dinner table.
I bring my own cloth bags to the store, and I do not put my produce in plastic bags. I have reusable plastic bags at home that I store my produce in. I have had the same bags for many, many years now. If I don’t remember to bring my own bags to the store, I ask for paper bags, fill them right up, and use them to line my under the sink compost container.
I use compostable bags for any of the garbage I DO put out to the curb. Yes, I buy them. No, they aren’t cheap. But I do it!
I try when I can remember to bring my own containers for leftovers to restaurants.
I do not use plastic wrap, and I wash my plastic bags when I do use them. You can wash plastic bags hundreds of times over if you are careful! I store most food in reusable containers.
I do not buy bottled water, instead I have a wonderful countertop filtration system from Aquasmart which I LOVE. Only problem with this is the disposal of the filters after they are done. I could work on this….
When I can find what I need, I buy clothing and household items secondhand. I am a huge fan of thrift stores and craigslist!
I buy clothing only when I need it. Read: a current item is breaking apart and un-mendable, or I have changed size drastically. I do not shop for fashion, unless I REALLY have to attend a fancy dress event (most of my wardrobe is casual and practical). I try to buy mostly cotton or other natural fibers.
I donate used household / baby items and clothing or sell them on craigslist.
I tell others about my aversion to plastic and buying everything new to discourage them from buying me anything in that vein!
I carefully consider the packaging whenever I am shopping for a new item, or when buying groceries. Anita’s Organic packages most of their products in paper. I love their flours, grains and popcorn!
I buy durable, quality items, instead of cheaping out. I make sure I am buying something that will last, and at the very least is made out of biodegradable, sustainable materials when possible. No use sending something for recycling or to the trash sooner than it needs to go.
I do not rush out to buy the latest electronic gadget. I use my cell phones, cameras, and the like until they are DONE (ie. broken, or unusable due to software requirements). I was the longest of any of my friends to convert to a touchscreen phone, and I only did so when mine was garbage. This was after several large mishaps that I managed to salvage it from.
I recycle as much as possible from the items I do buy with packaging. I wash ALL of my food containers and recycle them, no matter how nasty the contents. No trashing just because I don’t feel like dealing with spoiled food. I seek out options for recycling items my curbside collection won’t take.
I have had to momentarily stop personally composting, but for the time being am adding 100% of my food waste to my municipal yard waste bin. Find out if your city will take your food scraps! Most are on board with this now.
I grow many of my own vegetables seasonally, reducing the packaging required to ship / deliver them to the store.
I bake a lot of take along snacks, to reduce the need to grab for a wrapped granola bar or the like.
I do not giftwrap, and choose to buy green gifts when I can. If I absolutely need to wrap something, I will use one of my coveted gift bags that I have collected from gifts from others, or I will drape some sort of cloth or blanket over it that I take home with me afterwards. This works great for kids.
Some of you may groan at the next one, but I maintain the belief that it’s okay to let it mellow if it’s yellow, and flush it down when it’s brown. Why do I need to flush away every pee? Especially my hubby’s or son’s that don’t even accompany any TP? I really think that folks should get on board with this, to save a TON of water.

Finally, when shopping, I consider “Do I really need this?” when making decisions, and try to curb the desire to buy for the sake of a deal, promotion, or novelty. I think about whether I can use something at home in a similar way, borrow something from a friend or family member, or just do away with the idea altogether.

The list likely could go on, but let’s call it a day there! Hopefully some of my habits have given you a few suggestions!

Some of the things I would like to improve upon:

I want to replace tissue with reusable hankies. I have been lazy in getting around to sewing up some hankies in appropriate, nose friendly fabric.
There are a select few things I cook wrapped in aluminum foil. I just have not found a way around it that I have found an acceptable alternative, especially for barbecuing! Still researching this! Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I would like to start cooking some meals in bulk to allow for quick, nutritious lunches on the go, to replace some of the canned soups and packaged burritos my son eats. Granted, it is very hard to switch him onto new foods, which has made this process doubly hard to be motivated for. Think: I just spent 8 hours cooking and my son won’t eat it, and I now have ten jars of it in the freezer. I generally cook slow, nutritious whole foods meals most of the time, but occasionally I need something quick. This is a tough one!
I need to find a better source for bulk foods in my area, that is affordable, and offers organics. I find it challenging to find a local source for certain bulk organic foods.
Oh, those yogurt containers! These make up a large portion of our plastic recycling. I have not found a bulk organic source, and I do not find it affordable to make organic yogurt from scratch. Hmmm….any suggestions?

How have you been successful or challenged in your waste reduction goals in your household? I would love to hear your stories!

Non-toxic Carpet Cleaner!

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As some of you may know, I recently moved into a new place. As we ALL know, new places usually need a good scrub when we move in! As this one has carpeting in the bedrooms that looked a bit on the older side, I thought they could do with a good shampoo. BUT i absolutely did not want to use some toxic carpet cleaner that would then off-gas into our bedrooms later, and transfer around on our feet. Yuck.

So, there began my experiment with DIY carpet cleaner for carpet shampoo machines like the Rug Doctor. I rented mine from Safeway for about $25, and was looking at the shampoos, which would cost me an extra $15-20 all said and done, even if I was comfortable using them. So not only does this recipe eliminate toxins from your carpets, it saves you QUITE a bit of cash as well.

There are two steps to this process, one being a carpet cleaner, and the other being a rinse. Please do NOT mix the two sets of ingredients hoping to save yourself time. They will cancel each other out, creating something about as good as water (which does an ok job too, but then, why are you bothering mixing anything up and spending the money?).

As always, please spot test if you have darker or coloured carpets. Although these ingredients ARE natural, they may indeed strip certain dyes to a small degree.

To clean:

First, mix in a large bucket about one part liquid castille soap to about 20 parts water. You could even use less if you are being super economical. Around there. Guesstimate, you don’t have to measure things out exactly! Fill up the cleaner reservoir, and go to town on that carpet. You should not get an overwhelming amount of suds.

If you run out of cleaner, just mix up another batch and add. However, it is important to note that you will have to completely empty the reservoir of cleaner BEFORE you add the rinse. Failure to do so will again result in the inert substance I described above. If possible, even rinse the last remainder of cleaner out with water so no residue is left. That being said, don’t add a whole whack-load of cleaner if you only have a bit of carpet left, or you will waste a bunch.

To rinse:

Mix about one part white vinegar to about four parts water. If you desire a scent, add 10-20 drops of the essential oil of your choice (I recommend lavender, any citrus, citronella, or rose). Add to resevoir. Go right over your carpets again with this. Do not be concerned about your carpets smelling like vinegar, the smell will quickly dissipate.

Unfortunately, in the exhausted stupor that comes with moving with a toddler, I did not have the foresight to take a before and after picture of my carpet. But you will not BELIEVE the yucky dirt that came out in the discard water. Holy momma, I am glad I cleaned those suckers!!

Some folks clean their carpet just with the vinegar solution, skipping the soap step. I wanted to make sure mine got super clean, as I wasn’t sure about what had happened on them prior to me being there. But, if you want just a light cleaning, you could definitely skip the soap and just do the vinegar step!

And there you have it! Carpet cleaning is backbreaking work, but at least this way you know you won’t be breathing in any toxic fumes while you’re at it!

NOTE: Some of you may be concerned about manufacturer warnings to not use any other products other than their lines, etc. in their machines. This is, generally speaking, a marketing scam, and there really is not much chance of these ingredients wrecking your machine. If you are really paranoid, just rent a rug doctor, mine was fine afterwards 😉

Cleaning with Toddlers & Small Children

After finding a nifty list of suggested chores for kids, I figured I could blog some thoughts I have about cleaning with kids. I have a two year old who loves to copy Mommy, which sometimes works as an advantage OR a disadvantage when cleaning your house – depending on how much time you have to be patient while they explore the task, or whether you just need to get it done in a hurry!

If you involve your child with cleaning behaviour from a very early age, they will be more likely to internalize the values associated with having your living space clean, and chances are they will be more likely to independently engage in the same behaviour when they are older. The earlier they can be come involved with taking care of their living environment, the better – IMHO!

If you clean your house with toxic and poisonous chemicals, you likely will be keeping toddlers and small children out of your cleaning routine. Nobody wants their kids breathing in / mouthing these kinds of cleaners. BUT if you start making your own safe cleaning products, you will feel more comfortable involving your kids in these activities. Got a kid who likes to use a spray bottle? Your all purpose vinegar spray cleaner is perfectly safe for them to use, and fairly gentle on the skin. Have them spray the mirror or floors for you and help you wipe it!

One thing my two year old loves to copy is sweeping the floors – so much so that we bought him his own mini broom to help sweep. He is now at the age that he even targets pieces of dirt – usually just flings them around to another part of the kitchen, but it’s pretty cute to watch 🙂

Kids usually love doing the laundry, too – you can have them add the laundry soap, turn the dials, press the buttons, and transfer the clothes from one machine to another. Folding laundry can be fun – start them with washcloths and hand towels! Finding the matches for socks can be a thrilling exploit for a two year old ;). My LO also loves taking the clothes to the proper bedrooms and putting them in the drawers. Especially the underwear, for some reason!

If you have a LO who loves to copy, but you can’t have them involved in the task either for efficiency’s sake or safety – try and have them either pretend with some imaginary / distracting objects, or give them an empty bottle to “spray” or “pour” with. If you are using a bucket, give them their own empty bucket to carry around. Be creative – it will work to your advantage later if you have tried to have them involved in the task in their own capacity rather than dissuading their participation!

If your munchkin has not taken an interest in cleaning and tidying, sometimes singing a song or making the activity into a game can be helpful. My LO loves counting, or singing the ABC’s – this has been a great strategy when completing a task involving steps. “Score a goal” with dirty socks or when putting toys in bins. Sticker charts can be a great initial motivator, too.

I thought I would make up my own list of the hierarchy of easier to more difficult “cleaning” tasks, and out them in categories, rather than lump them into age ranges – every little cutie develops at their own rate and has varying levels of interest in household activities. This way you can pick and choose from the list by category of interest! Check it out:

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CAUTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS:. I wouldn’t have a toddler shaking around the powdered scouring cleaner, as breathing in the dust from it is not super great for you – but it is certainly FAR safer than any other scouring cleaners you would purchase commercially! Your school aged kids should certainly be able to use this cleaner with supervision. If you involve your small children in mixing some of your cleaners, watch out for recipes with a lot of powdered dust floating around – have them wear a scarf over their face if they are joining in.

Re-useable wet wipes

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My little one has been out of diapers for a while now – we used cloth and LOVED them – but I thought I would share with you one of my favourite DIY tricks for babes: re-useable cloth wipes!

This tutorial comes with a recipe for diaper / wipe “spray” – you can either spray it on a bum directly and wipe, or spray it on a wipe first. In a small spray bottle, mix:

1/2 part MILD castille soap (Dr. Bronner’s makes an excellent one)
1 part olive oil
1 part aloe vera gel (food grade – I like Lily of the Desert)
10 parts water

Shake to mix. Because of the aloe vera, this recipe will only keep about a week or so out of the refrigerator. I recommend making a small batch first to see how quickly you will use it up. Using a tablespoon as your “part” should make a small batch.

For your wipes, you can use any small pieces of absorbant material – I personally loved using those little baby washcloths – they worked brilliantly, and I happened to accumulate a lot of them. I kept a basket full of them by our change table, and the spray bottle beside. Spray your baby or your wipe, and clean away! I recommend following with a dry wipe to remove any residue. The aloe and olive oil will soothe any rashes or irritations and be moisturizing for that bumby. The castille soap will take off anything stuck!

If you find your babe’s bum gets irritated in any way from this, remove the castille soap. Still works well without it!

And there you have it! Toss them in your diaper pail with your cloth dipes, or throw them in the laundry basket. Wash ’em with your lovely homemade laundry detergent, and you are helping eliminate a lot of paper and plastic waste, while also taking care of your LO’s tender tushie. Not to mention saving yourself some hard earned cash! Hope these work well for you 🙂