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World Ocean Day

In honor of World Oceans Day, I’d like to share some actionable, easy, and budget-friendly ways for new parents to make decisions that are gentle on the oceans.

We don’t have to feel like we need to do everything or give up entirely. Each thing we do makes a difference in the overall health of our families and our planet over time. You have the opportunity to create systems that you instill in your children that will have an enormous lasting impact starting from the time they are infants. How cool is that?!

I’m going to take the Top 3 sources of ocean pollution and give one tip for how you can personally make a difference in your growing family.

Plastics


By every estimate, the amount of plastics in our oceans is by far the biggest risk to long term ocean health. New parents are bombarded with suggestions for what to purchase and many of these baby and parent items are made of soft, non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastics.

The biggest way you can combat the increase of plastics in our oceans is to BUY LESS overall. Most of the items parents feel are necessary for their children in infancy we can do without. The plastic wipe warmer that you also have to plug in? ...Definitely not necessary. Twenty different “development” toys made of plastic? ...2-3 age-appropriate toys made from organic materials are plenty -- babies need your voice and love to develop, not a lot of plastic toys. If you do want to purchase more than less, you could get items second hand or focus on gathering non-plastic items that grow along with your child instead.

Another big way to limit plastics in infancy is to NOT BUY PLASTIC BOTTLES. I’ve written about how using glass and stainless steel bottles is not only good for the environment, but significantly better for your baby’s health before. Even if it says it’s “BPA free,” the materials used for children’s feeding items (in infancy and beyond) are full of many chemicals known to cause problems for long term health of children AND the ocean. Major bonus - you don’t need to sterilize glass and steel bottles, cutting out extra work and loads of extra plastics and other energy sources. This will save you a ton of time and money, too.

The cumulative amount of plastic produced since the mid-20th century is of the order of 5 billion tons, enough to wrap the Earth in a layer of plastic wrap. The amount projected by 2050, on current trends, is about 40 billion tons, which is enough to wrap 6 layers of plastic wrap around the planet.

source -  Saftey4Sea


Chemicals

Here’s another action I love sharing because it hits on three huge things parents care about - infant health, saving money, and being more ocean-friendly. DON’T BUY TWO SETS OF CLEANING SOLVENTS.

Run-off toxins in waterways is called “non-point source pollution.” Chemicals from land, including toxins from car gas, agricultural runoff, and chemicals from items in our homes enter our waterways and reach the ocean in enormous concentrations. They can cause areas of algae bloom or “dead zones” and wipe out marine life across huge patches of ocean.

Many families are rightly concerned about the chemicals touching their baby’s sensitive bodies. There are loads of companies which make gentle cleaning products for baby items and that area of the beauty and home cleaning industry has exploded in recent years.Where that may address some issues around chemical exposure in babies, in reality, this in isolation isn’t doing much for your infant’s health or the environment.

It’s two-fold : For one thing, it’s not environmentally friendly to purchase two sets of things -- One that’s okay for adults and one that’s okay for babies. That’s usually two sets of plastic containers, two sets of shipping emissions, two sets of production emissions, and so on. Secondly, your baby is exposed to the chemicals present throughout your home and your person. Even if you have separate cleaning materials for baby’s food containers, laundry, and room, if you use harsh chemicals to clean the rest of your home and personal items, your baby is being exposed to those chemicals at the same rate and so are the oceans through runoff.

Purchasing all home cleaning items in bulk, in glass containers, with low or no non-biodegradable chemicals, or making your own cleaning items with natural ingredients will go along way in improving the health of you and your baby.

Other Single Use Disposables

Living in Santa Cruz has given me a deeper appreciation for our seas and the human connection to this water.

Living in Santa Cruz has given me a deeper appreciation for our seas and the human connection to this water.

Our beaches are littered with trash from all over the world. Non-recyclable paper and cotton items are one of the largest contributors to global ocean waste.

Many parents utilize several items of single use paper and cotton items in infant hygiene. Giant boxes of diaper wipes go by in a flash. Cotton swabs and Q-Tips start to be purchased in bulk. Plastic-covered absorbent pads suddenly enter your life as disposable on the go changing stations.

Though you might not think it’s possible to keep your baby clean easily without these things, they are very very recent developments in parenting and you can definitely use less or go without. Plus, going without can save you a ton of money in the long run.


Even supposedly biodegradable wipes that get flushed or taken to industrial landfills are rarely completely broken down, often clog waterways and drainage systems, and very often contain some plastics in the weave of the actual wipe and of course in the packaging.

It might not be realistic for many families to use cloth diapers, it is pretty easy to switch to reusable wipes for pee diapers and other baby hygiene purposes, saving the disposable wipes for poo diapers only. Since baby pee is rarely as smelly or concentrated as adult pee, it’s easy to throw these small washable wipes into a basket by your changing station and be thrown in with any load of laundry. This will save you a TON of money, stress about restocking your wipes, and it’s great for ocean health.

You can easily make your own from cotton flannel, or you can purchase them online. It’s great to have a few different sizes around. Once your baby is out of diapers, these make for great replacements for your cotton face wipes for removing makeup, cleaning small wounds, or cleaning up the constant debris on your growing child’s face.


Hope you consider making one or more of these easy and ocean-friendly switches in your family. I see families implement these things all the time and can tell you they’re just as easy as the heavy polluting options, if not easier.


Buy less. Buy better. Buy better for the Ocean.

Plastic Free Periods

Hey friends, here again to complain about P L A S T I C.

I’m deep into some research on the plastic - hormone connection so I can be better informed for my clients on this topic. The evidence is compelling, long standing, and clear : Plastics contribute to our changing hormonal landscape for the worse.

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

There are loads of ways we can reduce our plastic consumption, everything from ditching the plastic water bottles and leftover containers to purchasing fewer items that come in plastic containers.

One huge way we can lower our environmental imprint and help adjust our hormones back to healthy levels is to swap out plastic period products for more sustainable and healthful options. Though studies have shown that the concern around dioxin in bleached tampons and pads might be minimally risky to most, the petrolum-based chemicals and plastics in the absorbant materials, fragrances, and other dyes and packaging has not been properly studied in regards to period products, but have been shown to be in dangerously high quantity in our everyday environment. Most period products are petroleum-based plastics through and through. The packaging they come in, the applicators, the sticky bits, the material they’re made from, the chemicals they’re soaked in...it all comes from petrol plastics and made by some of the worst corporate environmental companies around.

plastic free period via Natracare

An added bonus to switching to reusable period items -- many of these brands are run by progressive women and often have components of their business practices that focus on wider environmental impacts, ending period stigma, and creating more access to sanitary items for those who need it most. This feels like a win-win-win. Oh wait...there’s more! Reusable period products are more cost effective. Reusable period products help you get in touch with your own anatomy. Reusable period products reduce common infections and don’t come with the scary reality of toxic shock syndrome. So WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?


Here are a few great options :

  • Reusable period underwear from Thinx, Moon Undies, Sustain Natural, and more

  • Washable pads from loads of great companies like Luna Pads, Glad Rags, and about a million small vendors on Etsy and maybe at your local natural market.

  • Sea Sponge - Okay, this is usually the hardest sell, but I love mine for backpacking. You can trim this little guy down to the size that’s the most comfortable for you and there’s zero added anything to be concerned about.

  • Soft menstrual cups from Lunette (you can buy it from Zero Waste Shop and have it shipped plastic free, too!), a natural rubber one from Fair Squared, the XO cup from Glad Rags, the Keeper Cup, the Bella Cup, the Ruby Cup (they donate a cup for everyone you buy), the Zero Cup (their insta page is DOPE), the UltuCup, and a million others.


Not ready for a full conversion, Natracare uses organic cotton and low/no plastic in their products and packaging.


Without going on a total tirade, I also want to point out the issues around using baby wipes around your period both for your health (loads of toxins you’re just schmering directly into your vagina) and the environment, but I’ll let some of these articles do the work for me. If you want some ideas on how to make your own sustainable and healthy wet wipes, here are a few cool options.

  • A full how-to for making and using reusable wipes

  • “Wet bags” for portability and all natural spray for wetting the wipes from Bum Genius

  • More info on the chemicals in baby wipes along with a super easy how to for DIY natural and reusable wipes


Hope this helps you have a safer, healthier, happier period free of plastic. I give $5 off every hour of consulting services if you bring period products to our appointments for me to donate. Reusable items are tricky for those who need it most (I usually donate items to a women’s shelter in SF) so anything is welcome, but if you can swing it, organic items with minimal packaging would be awesome!

Plastic Free Breast Feeding

I’m on a plastic-free kick lately. Wanting to share so much more with the folks I work with, both expectant families and folks I see about general health care concerns.

Freezing-Breast-Milk-Mason-Jars.jpg

I was here thinking, probably like many of you, that switching to silicone was a good step. However, I got schooled a bit on silicone today by my work pal, Friday Apaliski, The Sustainability Concierge, and she helped me realize a few key details about certain storage options for breast milk. Turns out, glass and stainless steel are still the way to go, from start to finish if you’re going to be pumping, storing, and feeding through bottles. Silicone is a bit better than the thin plastics used in most baby items, but new research is showing how silicone items might also be leeching chemicals (and most silicone-based storage item and bottle have plastic fillers in them) when heated AND when frozen.

Some elements of switching to glass or steel take some effort, but mostly, you won’t notice a difference. Here are a few easy options :

plastic free ice cube storage
  • Stainless steel ice cube trays are more expensive than plastic or silicone, but are much more durable, just as easy (or easier) to use, don’t have any of the harmful chemicals that can get into your precious milk, and will last a lifetime. An investment in two trays should cover a good supply of milk and will carry over to freezing prepared foods for your baby when they’re eating solids or just as regular old ice cube trays. See the advice below on grease pencils for labeling…You can buy stainless steel ice cube trays for milk storage on Life Without Plastic and the Plastic Free Shop and probably loads of local stores.


  • If you want to store milk in glass jars in the freezer, you have to buy glass jars that run straight up and down. This means 12oz jam jars, pint jars, and 1.5 pint jars only. One case of any of these should suit you. Hopefully, you’ve picked some up for homemade broth and quick pickles to help fight off GBS in pregnancy so you already have some, but if not, you can find them at most hardware and grocery stores and all over the place online (I suggest NOT Amazon, if you can help it). Friday suggested putting the jarred milk in the freezer with the lid off till it’s frozen to ensure it can easily expand without cracking the glass. She used to mark the flat part of the lids with a grease pencil with the date of pumping. You can use any type of glass jar, including this Mason Bottle, if you are leaving the milk in the fridge.


  • You can fit your glass bottles right on to your breast pump! No need to pump into plastic and fiddle with transporting it into something else, unless you are freezing what you are pumping. Easy-peasy. No need to ever purchase ANY plastic bottles for babe. Here’s the rundown of the Best Glass Bottles according to The Bump. Ideally, you can switch away from plastic nipples, too, like these natural rubber nipples from EcoViking.

Image via Friday Apaliski

Image via Friday Apaliski

Well, there they are…just a few easy steps and for the same cost and ease as the plastic alternatives. I’m happy to help you set up this plastic-free system through some postpartum consultations or through a separate consultations focused primarily on how to have a plastic-free, environmentally considerate, and healthier plan for postpartum. I can do these in-person in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley or online anywhere. You can also check in with Friday if you want someone to do your green baby registry for you! How cool is that?

If you want more information on why you should switch away from plastics for your baby’s milk storage, check out these links :

Make a Green Baby Shower Gift Basket for about $100

Okay okay okay, I have to admit it -- I’m the baby shower buzz kill. I’m just frankly no fun when it comes to baby gifts. I have my reasons though, so hear me out.

I’ve been working in childcare for almost 15 years, 10 of which as a birth and postpartum doula and parent educator. I am by nature a fairly minimalist person. Blame it on my Swedish grandmother. The amount of baby stuff has tripled in the past few years, and I have to tell you all, IT’S MOSTLY CRAP. Worthless, plastic, expensive, crap. Sometimes dangerous, worthless, expensive, plastic, crap.

Our planet is on a fast track toward demise. Sorry to be gloomy here, but we all know it. The fires raging here in California, the hurricanes hitting our families and friends back East, conflicts in resource-rich parts of the world. We are literally on fire. Luckily, we can do something about it.

environmental baby

One of the big ways we can make change is in choices in parenting. Starting a new family is an awesome opportunity to make healthful and environmentally conscious changes that will spread through the lifetime of this new person. If you have someone in your life who is starting or expanding their family and want to give your warmth and love for them through gifts, you can help by making smart and “green” choices in your gift giving. We can all chip in bit by bit without having to go crazy on bespoke items or GOOP approved nonsense.

Here is a quick list of environmentally considerate items you can gather for a very sweet baby shower basket for about $100 dollars (please please please try and buy these in store and even second hand versus online if you can for double the green points!) :

Basket #1

Glass baby bottles $12 each or $36 for 4

Silicone breast milk freezer storage $10 for one

Herbal Sitz Baths $14 for a pack of 2

Organic cotton baby swaddles $40 for a set of 3

Basket #2

Full glass bottle set $60

Milky Mama lactation cookies $16 with shipping

Mrs. Patel’s Lactation Chai $16 with shipping

Basket #3

Glass baby bottles $18 for one 8oz bottle

Organic Cotton Moby Wrap $60

Organic herbal perineum balm $13

Basket #4


Glass baby bottle set of 4 $36

Washable wipes ~ $10 for a set of 12 (I recommend buying at least 2 packs of 12)

Scarlet Sage Lactation tea $16

Organic cotton burp cloths $16


Yep, all of them have glass bottles on the list. Plastic bottles are horrible for the environment, horrible for our health, and deprive infants of some of the essential fats and nutrients in exchange for pumping chemicals directly into their bodies (also this). Switching away from plastic toward glass and silicone (without plastic filler) or even better — stainless steel, is one of the biggest steps we can take in lessening the footprint and improving the health of our little ones. Glass bottles are easy to clean, last a lifetime, and can be placed directly on pumping equipment, too!  

More tips on “Green Gifting” and “Green Shopping” for new parents :


First off, you could not purchase anything. Take the money that would be spent on some useless gadget or yet another onesie and stock your cabinet with healthy postpartum snacks or hire a doula or put it toward your home birth kit. Ask your friends and family to chip in to a fund for these items that are proven to be helpful in birth and postpartum instead of wasting their money on Amazon purchases you don’t need. (See...buzz kill, but TRUST ME, this is so helpful.)

Secondly, you can purchase things second hand. There are loads of great local shops that specialize in maternity and infant items that are gently used, or even not used at all and consigned to them. Babies grow fast, someone’s great Aunt Marg insisted on buying them double of something, and lots of times families find that certain things just don’t work for them. That’s where these shops thrive. You can go in and take a peak at various items to pick up for yourselves or for a loved one expecting another little being. The price tag will be greatly changed, you’re supporting local businesses (many of them women-owned), you’re making less of a dent in your baby’s footprint, and you get to actually test drive some things before purchase.

Lastly, as much as it seems like a Herculean feat to leave your house in the first few weeks postpartum, I want to caution you to resist the lure of same-day shipping shopping sprees. (Buzzkill again...I’m not sorry about it.) This is multi-fold, friends. You will be less likely to bunch things into your cart you don’t need, fall privy to advertising of plastic garbage you didn’t know you didn’t even need that was irresistible during an infant tantrum at 3am, short shipping times are an absolute nightmare for the environment, and it’s more money and time spent away from getting hands-on supportive help and more money to the corporations making the biggest disasters in our environment. Your bestie really wants to help you in the first few weeks, so send them out to Natural Resources for those silicone breastmilk storage containers! Your dad doesn’t want to see your boobs, but wants to be helpful, you say? Great, send him over to Scarlet Sage for your herbal sitz bath then to Berkeley Bowl for some broth and mac & cheese.

Again, after more than a decade of observing families in the postpartum period, I can tell you that NO gadget or pile of clothing can replace putting your money and the time and effort of your loved ones like investments in lactations support, grocery store gift certificates, acupuncture appointments, postpartum massages, herbal support from a midwife, and postpartum doula care. Plus, all these things are much much more gentle on the environment.

Want to put together an environmentally friendly baby shower registry but don’t know where to begin, let Friday aka the Sustainability Concierge, do it for you! Or give me a call on all things postpartum and we can chat about it. I do phone consults starting at $45 an hour, or full packages for $380-450. These investments can save you a ton of time, money, increase confidence, and lower your carbon footprint all in one go! Let’s get to it.

WE ARE ON FIRE -- What to do about it

These fires raging through CA have my mind drifting harder than ever into how to reduce waste.

As someone who meets with 10+ new people a week in interviews, consultations, doula prep sessions, postpartum visits, meetings with colleagues, networking events, etc., I realize I’m in a special position to make suggestions that might make a difference. Even if every person I meet with doesn’t make some sustainable switches, or if they don’t go full in on making a change, I am not an all-or-nothing person. When you look at the real numbers, having even just a few folks at a time convert aspects of their life to more environmentally friendly options can make a difference over a lifetime. Those people, too, now can help others make meaningful changes by showing how it can be done. That kind of organic ripple effect really excites me and encourages me to keep going.

Here is my list of a few simple, but impactful ways we can make greener choices in our lives.

1. Reusable menstrual products

One of the biggest ways we can start to effect change is by moving away from disposable period products. The average person who bleeds will go through nearly 300 pounds of period products in their lifetime. That’s not even including the amount of resources and energy used to make these products and properly dispose of them.

There are loads of good options here :

  • Soft menstrual cups

  • Flannel pads

  • Period Undies

  • Sea Sponge

Many of the companies that make these items are also woman owned, progressive, local, environmentally conscious, world conscious organizations, too, which can’t be said about most of the larger companies that make most menstrual products.

If nothing else, switching to organic cotton menstrual items is better for the environment and your health.

2. Ditch the wet wipes

The wipe industry has expanded beyond baby wipes into everyday / every flush items for adults. It’s boomed in the past five years into a $2.1 billion dollar industry. Many of them are made by companies with horrific environmental records, making up some of the worst pollutant offenders around.

Though many wet wipes are now made out of wood pulp instead of plastic, that’s not a universal practice. And that’s mostly for wipes labeled “flushable” and marketed to adults, not babies. In addition to the wipes going down the poop pipe, baby wipes and disposable diapers generate 7.6 billion pounds of trash annually, making them the 3rd largest consumer product in landfills and 30% of all non-biodegradable waste.

You can make your own wet wipes super

easily following this guide from the Wild Minimalist.

If you really need to get a cleaner booty, you might want to look into some of the more accessible bidets available now. These little gadgets often pop right on to your toilet and don’t need elaborate pipes and setups like traditional bidets. You could even consider using these to move away from toilet tissue and wipes altogether!


3. Adios, paper cups

This might seem like a no-brainer at this point, but we still have a massive problem with to-go waste. According to Carry Your Cup, American’s are the leading consumers of coffee globally and toss out 25 billion non-recyclable styrofoam coffee cups per year and 5000 paper cups PER DAY! According to one study of Portland alone, roughly 50 million paper cups are used in just that one metro area alone per year.

I had a pal who would bring her own glass or steel containers to restaurants if she wanted to take things to go. This might not be where we all are quite yet (wouldn’t it be cool if we all thought this far in advance and were this environmentally thoughtful?), but we seem to mostly be jumping on the reusable cup wagon, so let’s keep going!

If you stop into a local coffee shop and aren’t taking your cuppa out in the world, make sure you ask for a mug. It’s amazing to me how many places still put everything in a paper cup, even if you are staying in. If you are heading out with you java, make sure you pack your reusable cup with you when you head out the door. Ideally, you’re not using plastic containers, especially not for hot drinks (Who wants to put all that plastic directly into their mouths?). Stainless steel coffee cups are ubiquitous at this point and it’s worth having a few of them for your hot and cold drinks to go. Best to make sure you’re ditching the plastic caps in favor of full stainless steel, too — they last longer, are better for the environment, can withstand high heat cleaning, and won’t seep horrible chemicals into your body when the hot liquid passes through them. Ew.


4. Stop Amazoning everything

Sorry friends, but stop. Or, at least cool it so we can cool the planet down a bit.

This is a multi-layered issue worth looking into :

  • Transportation took over from power plants in leading the way in pollutants

  • Much of the items on Amazon are made and shipped from China, where production pollution is the highest

  • Much of what you are buying online is made of thin, poor quality plastic, which leeches toxins easily and has a short life overall

  • Diverting money away from major corporations that cause much more damage than any individual is the most crucial step in slowing global climate change. When you shop on Amazon, you are moving money away from local shops, even local box stores, which provide more hours and benefits to its employees (minus WalMart, which is a major offender on both fronts)

  • Amazon is a major contributor to rising package waste with one-item-at-a-time shipping

  • The design of online marketplaces is geared towards buying more in general, generating more shipping and more waste

I find this issue to be especially important to communicate to the new parents I work with. It’s incredible how much they purchase when they’re sitting on their phones with new babies in their arms. Especially for exhausted and stressed families, they are so vulnerable to purchases that promise to help ease them through a rough patch, but many of the gadgets and gizmos of infancy targeting new parents range from senseless to unsafe, so it’s best for your wallet and the environment to not get sucked in.

I know I’m being a total buzz-kill on this issue and that few, if anyone will listen, but as Amazon becomes the place where more and more we are buying everything from birthday gifts to our weekly groceries, it’s worth looking into how big of an impact all this shipping and packaging and one-click plastic consumption is having as we are LITERALLY ON FIRE all across California




5. Eat less meat AND less soy and almonds

milk almonds soy environment

I’m likely not going to say much that’s new here about the environmental impact of meat production and consumption so I’m not going to even bother. It’s a huge issue and we need to all be more aware.

I do want to note that the meat alternatives also have a huge impact on the environment that we need to also pay attention to. Almond production is huge here in CA and is a massive consumer of water and other resources. Switching from meat to very processed alternatives like almonds and soy (much of which is grown commercially without good environmental considerations) is not necessarily the best option.

I also feel the need to note the hormonal issues around eating a lot of commercially produced meats and soy products. It’s an issue in water sources, as well, with agricultural waste runoff dumping loads of xenoestrogens and other harmful chemicals causing infertility and early periods directly into our waterways. An overload of soy can also alter hormone levels.

One option is to remove meat from a few meals a week to whole plant meals. That means not replacing the meat dish with a processed alternative, but simply a meal with all proteins made from the whole plant.  This will cut down on processing resource usage AND packaging, hitting the environmental issue from many angles.

If you are continuing to eat meat, more local, organic, and grass-fed is the best way to go here, for sure.


I know what a stick in the mud this post can be, but it is important for us to start making some serious changes in our daily lives. The impacts of our waste are not long in the future, they are right here at our front doors.

I am happy to bring an environmental focus to any consultations I am apart of, and would like to recommend my friend and collaborator, Friday Apaliski aka The Sustainability Concierge, who will come and do an environmental walk-through of your home and help make some big time changes that could save you money and help reduce your carbon footprint.


You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go live in a tiny home in the woods to make a difference! Small steps, done in community, will help make lasting change.  

Here are some shops to check out instead of Amazon:

Package Free Shop

Preserved here in Oakland

@moonundies for handmade period underwear made in San Francisco

tonlé a low-waste, handmade shop in San Francisco

Luna Pads

Wild Minimalist