March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage Green

March 9th, 2010 by Dionna | 21 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Children, Compassionate Advocacy, Eclectic Learning, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, Homey Goodness, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers

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Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage Green!

This is the third monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we’re writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


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The great thing about “going green” is that so much of it is easy on the wallet. When I tried to think about ways my family was green growing up, all I kept coming up with were the ways my parents were cheap. Here are a few examples of how my mom and dad scrimped and saved while being environmentally friendly (if not consciously so), and how my own family is green today:

1. Buying Second Hand or Accepting Hand-me-downs: My mother and maternal grandmother were the queens of the garage sale. They could sniff out a sale within a 5 mile radius, and believe you me they would turn that car around to get their bargain hunting on. I got some of the coolest – and most hideous – things from garage sales. The best? A few rockin’ record albums (Slippery When Wet, Thriller, and the like). The worst? An itsy bitsy teeny weeny puke yellow bikini that my grandma gifted me when I was about 10 years old. It was an abomination; thankfully my mom didn’t make me wear it to “be nice.” My parents were also not ashamed to accept hand-me-downs, whether they be clothes, furniture, dishes, etc. Our financial situation required it, but it was also Earth friendly.

Today, Tom and I scour garage sales and thrift stores for both reasons: First, because it makes little sense to waste $15 on a shirt for Kieran that he will only wear a handful of times. Second, because that $1.25 shirt at the thrift store is better for our bank account. And we don’t just shop secondhand for Kieran, we do it for everything. We figure that vintage goods have more personality. Plus, we have a toddler in the house (and a clutzy mama) – why buy expensive stuff that has a good chance of being broken?

2. Cloth Diapering: Cloth diapers are the environmentally responsible choice when used appropriately (wash in full loads, line dry when possible, etc.). My parents fell into cloth diapering after I got persistent diaper rash from disposables. They kept using cloth with my sisters because it was cheap. Of course the diapers mom used on us were plain white prefolds with the stereotypical rubber pants. She might have used duck-head pins to dress them up.

Today, Tom and I use cloth for a variety of reasons, but the main two are cost and environmental. Disposable diapers can run parents anywhere from $1600 to $4,150 for only two years of diapers. Cloth will typically run you far less than $1000. We’ve kept our diaper expenses below $500 by buying secondhand at sites like DiaperSwappers. We can recoup part of that cost by either using them again on a second child or by selling them after Kieran is out of diapers. The best part? Cloth is so much cuter now than it was when I was sporting it.

3. Gardening: My grandparents gardened for leisure and to save money at the grocery store. My parents grow a variety of flowers and vegetables for the same reason.

Today, Tom and I are expanding our garden every year as we get more experience. We are also committed to gardening in a way that is healthiest for our family and the environment. There is really little better than eating the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor.

4. Creatively Repurposing Your Stuff: My mom and my grandmother (who was basically my second mother) used to drive me crazy with the way they would reuse everything. My grandma – a product of the Depression – saved bread bags, twist ties, plastic butter containers, cardboard tubes, bits of fabric, buttons, every single Christmas card she ever received, pens, matchbooks, the list is endless. She bordered on the obsessive. And oddly enough, she’d actually use that stuff again. Plastic butter containers would be surreptitiously slipped from her purse to hold leftover fish and chicken from Old Country Buffet (she fed them to her cats). Bread bags would cover rarely used kitchen appliances to ward off dust. Et cetera.

My mom did the same thing. The one thing that sticks out in my mind? Pantyhose and soap. The woman made us save soap slivers. Once there were enough slivers (did she count? weigh them? I don’t know!), she would take the foot part of pantyhose that had too many runs to wear anymore, put the soap slivers inside, and tie it up. Then we would use the foot soap in place of a bar. Ew.

Today, Tom and I are also big advocates for repurposing things that may otherwise be thrown away. Kieran has a couple of huge (formerly pretzel) containers holding his blocks and trains. I reuse glass jars for freezing and storing dried goods like beans and rice. When I freeze certain things in Ziploc bags (waffles, rolls of cookie dough), I save the bags to use again once they are empty. We save containers to make toys for Kieran – different sized plastic containers have become piggy banks and shakers, cardboard tubes are now tunnels for his Matchbox cars, and oatmeal containers are integral to art projects (put a piece of paper inside, squirt in some tempera paint, throw in a couple of rocks, put the lid on, and shake).

I draw the line at pantyhose soap slivers though.

How about your family? Were you green growing up to be Earth friendly, or to save money?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Code Name: Mama and Hobo MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated March 9 with all the carnival links.)

21 Responses to:
"March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage Green"

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Pantyhose slivers — I agree, it’s too much! I am intrigued by the oatmeal container craft project. Does it color the paper inside? Can you do a post on this to explain it to me further? :)

    I am so excited about gardening. My first little seedlings just popped their tiny heads up. Hooray! I sometimes remember I’m gardening to eat organic cheaply and save the earth and involve my child in nature, blah blah blah…and sometimes, I just really, really like it. ;) It’s nice that it can all fit together, isn’t it?

  2. the Grumbles   thegrumbles

    Wow, I think I was a little hard on myself in my post. I do a lot of these things I just never think of them as green! They’re just a way of life! It never even occurred to me to list them… Oh well!

  3. Darcel   mahoganywaymama

    We LOVE garage sales and thrift stores! That is one of the things I’m looking forward to with the warmer weather, garage sales :)
    The pantyhose soap sliver had me cracking up. I really want to make my own soap. That is one of my goals this year.

  4. CodeNamePapa   CodeNamePapa

    In my opinion, the cloth diapering is the one in which we’re making the biggest impact. It uses a lot of water, but we’re saving a ton (no kidding) of trash from going to the landfill! And the water gets cleaned and re-used, so it’s not all waste.

  5. One thing I don’t do but would love to do is grow an edible garden. Even in the desert there are fruits that can thrive without using a ton of water. Great list – I almost have to blush to admit this, but I’m always frustrated with those darn soap slivers and think the pantyhose soap sock is a pretty darn clever idea.

  6. Joni Rae   kitchenwitch

    My mom saved everything- we grew up really poor! She would reuse foil and ziplock bags and saved every plastic food container no matter how flimsy it was. We would eat cereal out of generic cool whip and country crock containers. LOL.She was greenish, but not on purpose.
    Great list!!!

    <3

  7. Jessica - This is Worthwhile   tisworthwhile

    I love this list! I want to do more of all of these things, particularly reusing all the glass jars from food. Currently, Austin is a single-stream recycle (almost) everything city so I recycle constantly. We have one of those gigantic blue recycling bins – it’s bigger than our trash can! So even though I don’t repurpose as much as I’d like, at least I can breathe a little easier knowing I’m doing my part to not just toss it all away.

  8. Claire   lactatinggirl

    I love shopping at thrift stores. I can’t remember I the last time I bought clothes that weren’t from a thrift store or at least on sale.

    I’m also a klutz and my husband always tells me I’m why we can’t have nice things. :-P

  9. I remember from a young age my dad recycling. In particular I used to watch with curiosity as he’d stand on milk cartons to crush them down to a smaller size to conserve room in the bins. Recycling was something we just always did, which was why when I got my first apartment, I didn’t even think about it… I simply bought a second trash can for recyclable items, and when it was full, I’d take them to my dad’s bin. It’s always been second nature to me and now I am even more conscious in a lot more ways about my impact on the environment. I hope to pass it on to my own children one day soon.

    You know I love the “green” theme… just wait til next month when I have my own green theme on my cooking blog! =)

  10. Oh and I’d like to add that when I do have babies, I fully intend to use cloth diapers, among many other environmentally responsible things!

  11. The pantyhose soap cracks me up! I would love to have a big garden, but don’t have that option in my apartment. I did grow basil and oregano in containers though, which saved money and definitely added great flavor to my cooking. Maybe this summer I’ll try to add another herb-any suggestions?

    • CodeNamePapa   CodeNamePapa

      Cilantro is good in salsa, pasta sauce, rice for burritos, um… it’s good. It’d probably grow well in a container, too… and it is QUITE bountiful, too, we couldn’t use all the cilantro we grew last year!

  12. Melodie   bfmom

    My husband has often talked of how his Grandma saved soap slivers too. Guess it really was a Depression thing. Oh, and she’d make him and his siblings were their underwear for at least two days in a row too. Now that’s ONE thing I wouldn’t bend on.

  13. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Lauren – I will do a post :) And I agree re: gardening. If I was doing it solely to save money/eta healthier produce, I’d give up based on past years’ yield. I just like the process!

    theGrumbles – I think a lot of green things can also be frugal – it’s a double blessing!

    Darcel – I have to be in just the right mood for thrift stores/garage sales, but that mood seems to be occurring in much greater frequency ;)

    Papa – I agree. That and not buying new – the amount of stuff we have that was passed on to us from someone we know or we bought from a thrift store/garage sale is really green. Someone’s carnival post today was all about the resources saved by reducing consumption/reusing resources. It’s significant!

    Shana – you and my mom would get along well ;)

    Joni Rae – that’s my grandma to a T!!

    Jessica – now that we use the glass jars, I like them so much more than the plastic containers I bought for freezing before!

    Claire – I’m surprised my hubby didn’t chime in with something like that. I’m a notorious klutz!

    Emily – I love the green theme idea!

    Maman A Droit – I second cilantro. It’s my absolute favorite.

    Melodie – ew on the drawers. I won’t be that green ;)

  14. Ruth

    You didn’t report one enormous project that I remember Grandma getting involved in…she and I went to a Rexall Drug that was going out of business, they had literally HUNDREDS of pairs of white nurses nylon pantihose. They were marked down to something ridiculous like 5 cents a pair..Grandma bought every pair that was in our size, probably 50 pair…we brought them home and she boiled them on the stove in tea bags to color them a LOVELY shade of brown. Those pantihose lasted forever because, as you might remember, when you get a run in just ONE leg you clip it off and combine it with another one legged pair that is waiting in the drawer!!! Voila!!! 3 pair for the price of 2!!!!

  15. Sarah   considereden

    Another great post by one of our great carnival hosts!

    I LOVE garage sales, but I’m a complete failure at finding a good one… I did however find some goodies thrift shopping on Saturday, so I’m not yet useless.

    Cloth, I love cloth! I am so cheap that we use prefolds, and practice EC religiously. Of course, cost isn’t the only reason, but it helps keep us motivated, for sure!

    We just started buying the heavier duty foil, and now we’ll able to re-use it 6-7 times for baked potatoes, which is amazing! “Upcycling” is so fun. :) Great post, by the way.

  16. Paige   babydust

    lol! My mom did panty hose soap slivers! I dont do that either!

    I grew up on thrift store clothes (my grandma managed a Salvation Army so almost everything I wore was from there) but I’m so bad at it now. Every time I go to a thrift store or consignment shop I ask myself “why don’t I come here more often?” and yet it will be months before I go again. I’ve become lazy in the consumer lifestyle of our culture. I’m wasting money on new clothes as well as perhaps supporting things I don’t believe in (slave labor, unfair trade practices, products shipped miles and miles).

    This carnival has been so great. I’m actually going to have a list of new resolutions this month!

  17. We do all those things, I love thrift stores. I recently purchased a wool sweater($6.99 I think) and felted it down to make a pair of longies and I will get four other covers out of it because it is so long and my baby is so slim. Love it!!

    I don’t remember the last time I bought clothes for my kids,
    besides socks. They get all of their clothes from their cousins, we get enough to share with friends. I also thrift shop for myself and my husband.

    We are counting down the days till it gets nice, but being MN we know we may have one or two more snow storms. We have a huge garden planned this years and my hubby is going to make/dig me a storage cellar so I don’t have to process so much at the end of the year. We also just ordered 60 new chickens to free range and eat all of our summer bugs. Eggs and chickens in the freezer are great too!!

    We buy almost everything in bulk, the few boxes and bags left over my kids used for arts and craft. Good job everyone in their efforts to be green.

  18. Michelle   seekingmother

    I love that this post highlights what your parents and grandparents did and how this has remained and evolved in your own family life. You give readers great examples of how and why to make a greener lifestyle work. It sounds both practical and fun for everyone. You’ve given me some great new ideas.

  19. Amber   AmberStrocel

    My parents were hippies who heated our home with wood, were periodically vegetarian and ate organic food. I would definitely say that this avoidance of the chemical and artificial, and rejection of cultural norms, shaped me. But I will also say that after watching them get up before dawn to chop wood in the rain, I will NEVER have wood heat myself. No way, no how.

  20. Ok, the pantyhose soap idea is genius! I’m sitting here thinking of how I can implement that idea in the Navelgazing household. I might have to find some sort of mesh material though since I don’t wear pantyhose anymore.

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