Living Consciously Holiday Gift Guide 2014

I’ve never done a Holiday Gift Guide before, but this year I really learned about some great brands and products that I think will truly help you give (or receive) this season in a way that will help you live more consciously in 2015, so I had to share! Please note that I do have an affiliate relationship with some of these brands, or that I might have received free products the first time I tried them, so that I would know whether I wanted to recommend them to you. I have noted which and what applies with an asterisk or affiliate relationship marked in parentheses.

My hope is that you will be able to find some amazing non-toxic gifts for anyone on your list, while giving back (see Soapbox Soaps) and supporting small businesses.

Happy Holidays!

GiftGuideKids2014v2For the Kids

Bendi Baby Yoga Mat (affiliate link) – A yoga mat specifically made to be as tall as your child and light enough to carry! Comes in two sizes: Baby and Tot. Make sure to follow them on Instagram, they have some adorable pictures!

Kids Yoga Stories – I used these books when I taught Kids Yoga and the kids LOVED them. Now there is also a set of flashcards with children doing poses to make learning the yoga poses easy for kids. I’d also recommend signing up for the weekly newsletter on this site, which comes with really neat pose sequences that you can do with your child at home.

Mama May I Shop* – An adorable boutique of handmade, sustainable toys for all ages. My kids (ages 3 and 5) absolutely LOVE telling stories to Daddy and I at night and listening to us make up stories for them with Story Starters. These handmade wooden dice have pictures printed on them in eco-friendly ink. You roll them and make up stories! They come in a metal tin with a little notebook for recording your best stories. Other toys we were interested in included play silks, Fairy Friends, and the assortment of crayon wallets!

Musical Instruments – More of a general suggestion, I wanted to include this because we recently purchased both a child’s guitar (affiliate link) and a full junior drum set (affiliate link) for our son, even though I honestly thought we were insane to do it (especially when it came to the drum set). But it hasn’t been a terrible idea, actually. I have noticed he has much better rhythm and it gives him a constructive way to use his energy. We started at the age of about 2 with this simple Melissa & Doug music set (affiliate link).

 GiftGuideAnyone2014v2Eco-friendly non-toxic gifts for anyone

Vitamix blender (affiliate link) – Although this is more of a dream item for most people, it’s absolutely worth the price tag, in my opinion! I got mine for Mother’s Day this year (2014) and still use it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Make your own nut milk, nut butters, soups, hummus, smoothies, and even juice with your Vitamix to avoid additives and preservatives in processed foods. For ideas, check out my Vitamix recipe Pinterest board.

Board & Batten Farm to Skin* – A new concept in luxury skin and body care, this company has a “Farm to Skin” philosophy — their products are created from raw materials taken from their own farm in Florida. On their site you can purchase soy candles, charcoal soap, body creme, and a full skin care line, all packaged beautifully and ready to gift. I have tried the “Begin Again” facial buff made of organic quinoa and fruit enzymes and loved how simple yet effective it was! If you just can’t decide on a gift, try a pre-assembled gift set bundle.

Soapbox Soap Holiday Bundle* – One of my favorite discoveries at ShiftCon this year, Soapbox Soaps are in the business of giving back to those in need year-round. Every time you purchase a soap, body wash, or body lotion from Soapbox Soaps, they will donate an equivalent value to someone in need. For example, buy their famous charcoal soap and they’ll give a bar of soap to someone who doesn’t have access to soap. Buy a body wash and they donate an entire month’s worth of water to areas with no access to clean water. For a bottle of lotion, one year of vitamins to undernourished populations. My favorite item for gifting is the Holiday Gift Bundle, the purchase of which provides a bar of soap, a month of water AND a year of vitamins to someone in need!

Dolly Moo products – I won a package of Dolly Moo products in a yoga challenge this year and the scrubs quickly became my favorite. I love that the body products are made of ingredients I recognize and that all the scents come from essential oils. She also makes dried sage smudge sticks for cleansing the home. The company has a lovely Instagram page and is very committed to the yoga community in particular. Bonus: the scrubs also stand in for shaving cream on legs, leaving your legs luxuriously moisturized! Two products for the price of one!

Living Consciously Blog's Non-Toxic Gift Guide Stockings Stuffers 2014 Non-toxic Stocking stuffers/Secret Santa suggestions

Nutiva O’Coconut coconut nuggets – I loved finding these low-sugar (3g) GMO-free Fair Trade treats in my ShiftCon swag bag so much that I ordered more of my own from Vitacost.com. Flavors are Original and Hemp & Chia. The ingredients are healthy but the taste is like candy! They can be difficult to find locally, but if you have a Natural Grocer or Whole Foods near you, try the treat section. Or just buy through Vitacost (affiliate link).

Dang coconut chips Dark Chocolate – Coconut chips dipped in dark chocolate! Yum! Fair Trade, GMO free, and low in sugar. Very easy to find at any local health food store, but also available on Vitacost (affiliate link).

Miessence Rose Monsoon Hydrating Mist – The brand is committed to 100% organic skin care ingredients, and it’s a great place to find any body products or even probiotics, but their moisturizing rose water spray is something that everyone can use! Just this week I spent too much time in front of the fireplace and felt smokey — I sprayed a fine mist of the rose water all over my hair and face and the smokiness was gone! An instant mood brightener during hectic holidays, you might actually want to grab some for yourself as well as your friend. There is a discount with a purchase over $150. Be sure to click on her “Special Offers” for botanical perfumes currently more than half off!

Earth Mama Angel Baby Lotions – Not just for new moms and babies anymore! Here’s my last-minute pampering suggestion: Earth Mama has come out with 2 brand new lotion scents that make great teacher gifts, and you can run to your local Sprouts or Target as late as 10pm the night before and grab a bottle for $10! Put it in a cute bag with a note about how you trust your little one with such a great teacher every day and you’re done! They have all kinds of great stocking stuffers, from relaxing herbal teas to non-toxic lip balms (which are our family’s personal favorite chapstick option!) If you do want to buy online, you can always buy from Amazon (affiliate link) or directly from their web site.

 

* All items marked with an asterisk were given to me to sample by the company at some point in 2014. I liked them so much that I proceeded to purchase them with my own money and/or use them regularly. I did NOT get paid to mention any of them in this gift guide.

Green My Routine: cleaning

Green My Routine

It’s been a while since I did my first Green My Routine, and I admit I’ve been reluctant to do Part 2 of the series just because it is so labor intensive! There are a lot of links involved and can be a lot of picture-taking to illustrate. I solved this reluctance by taking on something that seems like a fairly simple part of my daily routine: cleaning.

It’s simple because I really rely on only a few products to get most of my cleaning done.

My Cleaning Products

Bottle of Thieves Household Cleaner

Thieves household cleaner* – Disinfectant that I use on everything: in the kitchen on the counters, the dining table, the kids toys, the kids potty seats, diaper pails, and also in our bathrooms for any surface my son pees on as well as the bathtub and shower. I also put it in my reusable microfiber mop sprayer and mop the floors with it. Ingredients are: Thieves oil, lemon oil and a surfactant to allow oil to mix with water. That’s it!

White Vinegar – Use this mostly on our microfiber couches for milk spills, but I also clean the windows with it. I often make orange vinegar to mitigate the smell, which my husband hates.

Shaklee Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate – Use this almost exclusively in the kitchen for greasy things like our glass stovetop. I also use it sometimes on the dining table.

Can of Bon Ami Cleaning Powder


Bon Ami Cleanser Powder – this is a simple, natural version of Comet. No bleach.

Baking soda – use this for anything that needs abrasive action, mostly in the kitchen and with dishes, but I have been known to scrub all sorts of things with baking soda!

Photo of a steam cleaner
Steam cleaner – for floor, no cleaning fluid necessary—just water!

Hydrogen Peroxide – Food-grade version that I bought from a health food store, I dilute at a 1:11 ratio with water to make the diluted strength we are accustomed to buying in a drug store. I spray hydrogen peroxide on my fabric shower curtain to remove mold stains. I also use hydrogen peroxide to remove pretty much any stains on tile, grout, or even fabric. It does a great job with blood! Often used in lieu of bleach.

I think that pretty much covers my entire cleaning arsenal for the whole house! Not a lot of products, I just keep some of each in every major location on both floors of the house.

Have I missed anything? If you have a question about how I clean various things with these 8 products, please leave it in the comments, on my Facebook page, or tweet me and I’d be happy to answer!

* I no longer sell this product myself online.

Green my Routine: Mornings

I have been thinking for a while that I’d like to document the steps I’ve taken so far to “green” my daily routine. Not just how I’ve made our lives more eco-friendly, but how I have tried to make it healthier by avoiding trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and phthalates specifically. At the same time, I need to acknowledge where I am failing and still need to take ground. As I thought through this in my head, I realized that a post like that would be reeeally long, so I think I’ll make this a regular feature called Green My Routine. If you have your own blog, feel free to join in by linking up!

Today’s Green My Routine is: Mornings

Showering
For bathing, we use two options: handmade soap bars from Whole Foods (to avoid phthalates, parabens, and sodium laurel sulfates) or Kirkland Body Wash from Costco which is surprisingly also free of those things, has a great citrus smell, and is very cost effective.

For shampoo, I have a Green Fail so far. I have such a dry scalp that I’ve been unable to find an eco-friendly shampoo that doesn’t leave me with itchiness and flaking. I’m currently trying the Hugo brand but it isn’t looking any more promising. For conditioner, I use Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Conditioner.

I also use hair conditioner on my legs to shave, so I don’t buy shaving gel. I have another Green Fail when it comes to razors. Before kids, I removed hair using homemade body sugar, but now I don’t have the time to keep up with it and I’m back to disposable razors (horrible, I know). According to Beth Terry, my best option would be to buy an old fashioned safety razor and refill the blades. I really want to do this!

Body care
After spending years and a ton of money on expensive organic and not-so-organic body lotions, I recently gave up on commercial body moisturizers and decided to try to make my own. I have been using this recipe for homemade coconut oil lotion bars to make my own solid lotion for the last few months and it works pretty well. I add some Peace and Calming essential oil blend for scent. I also have some Hugo Naturals body lotion as an option for when I’m in too much of a hurry to apply the coconut oil bar.

I’ve done a few posts about natural deodorant and how to use crystal deodorant, so that’s what I use to control odor. I rarely wear perfume of any kind any more because it is all phthalates, phthalates, phthalates. When I do want fragrance, I use Aveda’s Pure-fume which is specifically blended for me using essential oils.

Hair care
If I washed my hair, I apply a little Aveda Smooth Infusion Style Prep Smoother when it’s wet. I blow dry and finish with Aveda Control Paste and, if I am doing a zig zag part, Aveda Control Force. I just realized that I am an Aveda whore. It’s true. They are not paying me to talk about their products, but clearly I am addicted.

If I didn’t wash my hair, I use my homemade dry shampoo. I got some free commercially made dry shampoo at BlogHer 2012 and after using it 3 times, my scalp reacted so badly that I had to invent my dry scalp mask treatment to restore the balance. What do they put in that stuff?! It can’t be good!

Breakfast Food
Since my son recently exhibited a sensitivity to the organic cereal he was eating every morning, we have mostly cut cereal out of our morning food. Right now, I typically have oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, and sometimes banana. Sometimes Christian makes steel cut oats with chia seeds in our rice maker overnight.

The kids have yogurt, which is a Green Fail because they will only eat naturally flavored yogurt (no HFCS or artificial colors or flavors, but they want it fruit flavored), which only comes in individual containers. It would be much greener if I could buy large containers and spoon it into bowls, but there is currently no brand that makes large containers of organic fruit flavored yogurt. WHY IS THIS?! What is so difficult about that?? I tried making my own yogurt but the kids absolutely hate plain yogurt. I tried flavoring plain yogurt with honey and fruit but they hated that too. Somehow they knew that it wasn’t fruit flavored out of the container. I have given up. We kill the environment every day with those stupid individual containers.

In addition to the yogurt, they eat eggs from our backyard chickens and Costco. Another favorite is “honey toast”, which is toasted homemade bread from my bread machine spread with coconut oil and local honey. My son would eat waffles every single day if we let him. To save money, I make my own. It was somewhat of a Green Fail for a while because I was using the Bisquick Heart Healthy mix which contains a lot of preservatives I didn’t love. Still, it was the only Bisquick mix that didn’t contain trans fats. Then I found this recipe for wheat waffles on Weelicious and we’ve been using it lately. I make a batch and freeze whatever we don’t eat that day. I’m going to have to start making double batches because these kids can EAT in the mornings. We put maple syrup (cheapest at Costco) on the waffles, or even honey because conventional Aunt Jemima-type syrup from the store is made primarily of high fructose corn syrup and has artificial colors. No, thank you.

I have to admit that I do use a Keurig for my coffee. I didn’t buy it, it was given to me by a family member who didn’t like it. Since I am the only person in the house who drinks coffee, it’s very convenient. It could be a Green Fail except that I use a reusable cartridge, which I fill with Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic coffee, instead of K-cups. I only buy K-cups for guests, and I make sure that the coffee in the K-cups is also Fair Trade. When they finish with the K-cup, I peel off the top, dump the grounds into my compost, rip out the biodegradable paper filter, and recycle the plastic part. Hopefully that makes up for the evil of using 4-5 K-cups per month.

I could still take some ground here with breakfast. Honestly, most “green” moms don’t allow their kids any sugar so the waffles and yogurt should be right out. And many consider wheat of any kind to be bad. That pretty much leaves eggs and oatmeal. I have not yet convinced my children to eat oatmeal. Yesterday my son told me, “Oatmeal is for Mommy and Daddy and LL. Oatmeal is not good for me.”

How about you? Any suggestions for my Green Fail areas? Any other questions I can answer about our mornings?

Homemade green shower cleaner

*recipe updated 02/2013*

A while back, I reviewed store-bought green bathroom cleaners, and then later revealed my ongoing battle with our old, old, old bathroom grout. It gets mildew really easily because it is no longer sealed in any way. Old, old, old.

At the time, I was using one of the Tilex-type shower sprays to keep the old, old, old grout in our shower from getting all moldy after showers. After a while I became a little suspicious about what exactly was in that spray, so I started attempting to make my own.

Per the “vinegar is amazing book“, vinegar is a good mold killer. For a while I was using just vinegar and water. I began adding a few tablespoons of Wave Jet natural/biodegradeable dishwashing aid (it’s like Jet Dry, only the natural version – that’s an affiliate link) to keep it from streaking. I found this solution to still allow some mold to grow, especially on the cloth shower curtain liner I had substituted for our previous plastic liner. Also, Christian was always complaining about how the shower smelled like pickles.

Then, just the other day I started reading some green cleaning web sites talking about tea tree oil and how it has natural bleaching powers. I actually like the way tea tree oil smells – is that weird? So I went to a local natural food store and got a bottle of tea tree oil and added that to the mix.*

Here is what I’ve been using so far and I believe it is actually the most effective so far:

Jenny’s Homemade Green Shower Spray

24 oz spray bottle
1-2 tablespoons Wave Jet Rinse Aid (buy here, affiliate link)
10 drops tea tree oil
white vinegar – just a few tablespoons
11 oz hydrogen peroxide*
water – fill the bottle the rest of the way

Shake it up before spraying on the shower each time. I spray shower walls and tub directly after using the shower, and the solution is also safe for white cloth shower liners. Do not inhale or let it come in contact with skin (see notes, below).

It smells like tea tree oil more than vinegar now that I’ve adjusted the recipe. I like the way it smells!

 

* As of late 2009, I added food grade hydrogen peroxide to the mix to help bleach out previous mildew stains. It also seems to help prevent mildew on the cloth shower curtain liner. However, mixing hydrogen peroxide and vinegar creates a solution that should NOT be inhaled or sprayed on skin, so don’t get too close and make sure to dilute with plenty of water as instructed!