Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu -- How we're ALL connected

I believe... scratch that, I KNOW environmental discrimination is real. Even though I'm seething, I'm going to try to keep this entry succinct and short.

Right now the entire world is on edge because of the recent outbreak of a new strain of the swine flu virus. Officials have suggested that a 5-year-old boy from La Gloria, Mexico may be "patient zero" in this latest outbreak. There is a large pig farm near his village, one that is notorious for untreated pig waste that regularly poisons the air. La Gloria is upwind of the pig farm and its mountains basically trap the polluted air emitted by the farm, also contaminating the water supply. Many many people in La Gloria have been sickened recently, and Edgar Hernandez, the 5-year-old "patient zero," had positively tested for the H1N1 strain of the virus, though others in the same village tested for a more common flu strain. The company that owns the pig farm claims no workers or pigs there have been sick, and the Mexican government does not believe the H1N1 strain originated there.

The boy is the first known case of this new strain of swine flu, but the strain has since spread throughout the world and we are now at near pandemic levels. But here's the thing that bothers me: La Gloria residents had long complained of widespread sickness and tainted air and water. Why didn't anyone listen? Let's just assume for a minute the Mexican government is right and the strain did not originate from the neighboring pig farm. But the pollution it generated probably still contributed to widespread disease and made it very difficult for most people in La Gloria to ward off even the most common infections. So transmission of the H1N1 strain would have only been facilitated -- all because of POLLUTION. But hey, La Gloria residents aren't the most affluent in the nation. It's not the most glamorous of places. It's tucked away somewhere in the mountains and only 3,000 even live there. Why should anyone have listened?

Why should anyone have listened to low-income parents in the Bronx when their children were getting asthma and pneumonia at alarming rates -- at the hand of systematic pollution?

Why should anyone have listened when a 1997 study found that working-class minority neighborhoods were most likely targeted for hazardous waste disposal?

Why? Because however remote and contained we may think a problem is, it still has the potential to have far-reaching -- often global -- effects. We are all connected, whether we're in Mexico or Malaysia. The world is once again reminded of what happens when we fail to consider "the least of these." But this time will we listen?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Goin' Places...

We have a couple of family trips coming up. The first one is a weekend trip to Cleveland to visit my mom's side of the family. They haven't met Layla yet, so this is their introduction. The next trip is to a family reunion in Charleston, SC this summer. Now, these trips are making me incredibly nervous because 1) I've never travelled a significant distance with a baby and 2) Layla is cloth-diapered, so I don't yet know what I'm going to do about diapering her.


I think for the Cleveland trip I'm going to bring her cloth diapers because we're staying with my aunt who has a washer and dryer. Plus we're driving a minivan so we'll have plenty of storage space. But the Charleston trip is a different animal because we'll be flying, provided my husband can swallow his fear of planes. They give you enough crap about checking multiple bags as it is. Imagine us trying to cart our entire stash with us on a plane ride. Not happening! We'll also be staying in a hotel and as good as the Marriott's laundry service may be I'm sure they don't wash cloth diapers.

I'd heard of gDiapers a few years ago before we had our girl.


I've never tried these for Layla, but I think they may be an option for the SC trip. They work similarly to the prefolds and covers we use for Layla, but the liners are flushable. I've heard people find preparing them for flushing a bit cumbersome (you have to tear the sides, pull the liner apart, and swish it in the toilet... all fun stuff!). But I figure if it keeps waste out of landfills, I don't mind the extra work. Plus the company claims the liners break down in a landfill in 90 days, as opposed to the 500 years it would take for disposable. I wouldn't consider them for long-term use, however, because they do contain SAP. That's the polymer used in conventional disposable diapers and it has been linked to gynecological problems in girls later in life. Also buying the liners on a regular basis would get a little pricey I imagine, which negates the money-saving benefits of cloth. But for our travelling purposes, these look like they might be a good option. I hope I'm right.

I think I just need to get past my overall nervousness about travelling with a small, unpredictable child. Pray for me... PLEASE!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Earth is the Lord's...

...and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

Happy Earth Day, everyone! As a gift to the earth and its Creator, the Anderson household is now officially 100% wind-powered!


Thanks to utility de-regulation, power customers can choose their own energy supplier. I contacted Washington Gas Energy Services (a supplier for our electric utility) and signed our account up for their CleanSteps(sm) 100% Wind Power program. It's a few cents more per kilowatt hour than we're currently paying, but the price is fixed throughout the year, so we won't have to deal with the rate jumps that often come in the summer. I feel really good about this decision for our family and for the environment. And I expect it to actually save us money in the long run. Easy on the planet. Easy on the wallet. It's a no-brainer decision.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I knew there was a reason I joined Curves!

Besides shedding this baby weight and trying to gain more energy, apparently my recent weight loss quest has a greater environmental impact. A recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that thinner people are easier on the planet. Why? Because the transportation of overweight individuals as well as the overproduction of food contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. No lie... the story is on CNN.com. I guess now when those exercise machines start to kick my butt, I can find motivation in the fact that I'm doing something good for the planet. Oh, and I'm improving my health, too.

Watch Oprah on 4/22!


Just a quick check-in to encourage everyone to watch tomorrow's episode of Oprah. She'll be tracing our garbage as it makes its way to the landfill and she'll also be talking about how going green can help our pockets. What better reason int his economy to go green than to save money? As they say on TV *ahem*, check your local listings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Composting, anyone?

So, I've never composted... ever. My family never did it growing up and up until about two and a half years ago when my husband and I bought our townhouse I'd always lived in apartments with no land on which to compost. Composting services aren't readily available where I live, so you sorta kinda need a patch of grass somewhere if you want to do it. Hubby and I by no means have a large yard, but we do have just enough to start composting. And it can only help our already pitiful law. I think it's something I want to do, but where in Sam Hill do I start?


I know I need one of these thingies:



A Garden Composter. This one is available on Amazon.com for $70 and is made of 100% recycled plastic. According to the product description, it "has a patented venting system to maintain proper temperature plus an animal resistant lid and sliding bottom door for easy, mess-free compost dispersal." We definitely need a bin that's animal-proof, as we have no fence and a Jack Russell Terrier living next door who loves to escape from her yard and play in ours.


So, what do I do with all the composting scraps before they go into the bin? Between our recycle bin and regular trash can, we don't have much floor space for a composting bin in our kitchen. And our cat has enough trouble staying out of the trash as it is (probably looking for old cat food cans) and would have a field day with a compost bin. I saw this on the HGTV Green Home 2009 special yesterday and I think it's a must-have for when we start composting:


A 1-Gallon Odor-Free Countertop Composter. You put all your composting scraps in this bin until they're ready to go to the large bin in the yard. And it goes right on your countertop or anywhere else in the kitchen. It also has a carbon filter in the lid to reduce odor. And the best part about it: it's CAT-PROOF!

It seems simple enough, but I'm still nervous. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cloth Diapering and Babysitters - Dispelling Some Myths

My daughter started with a new day care provider yesterday. My sister-in-law sends her boys to this woman and I absolutely adore her. She's warm, friendly, organized, and very good with the children. Her day care is set up very similarly to school and the kids receive structured education taylored to their developmental level. So she doesn't just "watch" the children, she actually teaches them as well. She goes out of her way to provide for them and to show the parents her appreciation for their business. I can sing her praises all day long, but initially we ran into a snag.

When we were considering switching our daughter to her day care, my husband asked her about her policy on cloth diapers. She told him she did not deal with cloth diapers. We have cloth diapered Layla from birth for many reasons. The most important reason, for me, was environmental. Babies have between 6,000 to 9,000 diaper changes during their diaper-wearing years. That's 9,000 dirty diapers per child in landfills, taking up to 500 years to biodegrade and slowly leaking untreated human waste into the ground and ultimately into the water supply. I cringe when I think about it! But in addition to the environmental reasons, we've chosen to cloth diaper because it's cheaper and it's healthier for baby. For me, putting Layla in disposable diapers for an extended period of time was not an option.

We use a number of cloth diapering methods, including pocket diapers for babysitters and grandparents. Those diapers are functionally no different from disposables and are built the same way. We've chosen bumGenius 3.0 One-Size pocket diapers for Layla.



It doesn't get much more user-friendly in the world of cloth diapers than this. I decided to plead my case to the new day care provider. Initially she expressed concern about state regulations against using cloth, however in the state of Maryland there are no regulations against it. In fact, the diapering procedures given to day care providers have guidelines for the use of disposable AND cloth diapers. We described the kind of diapers we use to her and she was pleasantly surprised that there were no pins involved. That was the source of the apprehension all along... she didn't want to get stuck! Who could blame her?

My friendly advice to parents considering cloth diapering in day care: First, get familiar with your state and local government policies. Don't let any care provider tell you using cloth diapers are against state policies if they are not. Second, consider supplying day care providers with easy-to-use cloth diapers, such as all-in-ones or pocket diapers. Making it as easy as possible for them usually negates their objections. Third, stand by your reasoning for making this decision about your child's care. If you've determined there are no real legal or functional obstacles to using cloth for your child in day care, yet the care provider continues to object, consider finding another provider. I can't imagine too many day care providers passing up steady income in this economy.

In the future I'll write an entry about our cloth diapering methods, including pictures of our "stash."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Looking Mighty Green at the White House!


My daughter and I were privileged to get tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll this year. Obviously, I was excited because this is the first one the Obamas have had since the President took office. But I'm additionally excited because this year's Egg Roll (sounds like a Chinese dish when you say it like that) was decidedly green! The theme for the event was "Let's Go Play" and encouraged children to engage in physical activity and healthy living. The souvenir egg this year is the greenest in history, containing 33% less paperboard that last year's egg and made of wood from sustainable forests. It's also printed with vegetable-based ink. Here's the design:

Layla got the orange one, but I was hoping to pick up a pink one instead. Oh well, I guess I'll just order a box of all the colors.

I just wanted to share some photos from the event yesterday...
Word Girl

Layla fell asleep. I was afraid she'd miss the whole thing.

Eventually, she woke up and began reaching for everything... as usual!

The White House... of course.

The Obama's herb garden. I so love that they have a garden!

Ziggy Marley. I'm still psyched I got to see him!

There were a lot of educational opportunities, like this egg matching game. Kids had to match the eggs to the animal that laid them. Great nature activity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Layla's Favorite Home-made Baby Foods

Mrs. Cocoa Confections asked if I would share my experiences with making home-made baby food. I have to give credit where credit is due... I get a lot of my recipes from http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/. They not only have great recipes, but they also tell you about the nutritional content of different foods and when they should be introduced. Definitely worthy of a bookmark if you intend to make your baby's food yourself.

Here are some recipes Layla likes:

Sweet Potatoes
I prefer to bake her sweet potatoes, mainly because I can leave them in the oven, run off to do something else, and they never burn because the delicious smell always lets me know when they're ready. Plus if you bake them a little longer than you intended, it usually doesn't hurt them. In fact, it can make them more tender and workable, not to mention sweeter.

To bake a sweet potato in the oven, scrub it very well with a brush under running water. Take a fork and poke holes in it for ventilation. Wrap it nicely in aluminum foil and bake it at 400F for about 45 minutes (I usually leave mine in for an hour).

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool down and then cut it length-wise. The "meat" should be really mushy already and you can easily scoop it out with a spoon. If it's not mushy enough, wrap the potato up and bake it a little longer.

Scoop out the potato and spoon it into the Magic Bullet cup or food processor. You'll then add your water. When I use the Magic Bullet, I usually fill it with just enough water to be level with the sweet potato pulp. Remember, you can always add more water, but you can't take any of it away so add it gradually until you get the desired thickness for your baby. Blend it until you get an even consistency and serve it to baby!

Green Beans/Peas/Carrots
I use the same method for all of these vegetables, and Layla loves each of them. I use frozen veggies for the convenience, but of course you can use fresh veggies if you choose.

Take a small sauce pan, add about a quarter of a cup of water (you don't need much more because the vegetables have their own water), add about 2 cups of frozen veggies and bring them to a boil. Once you get a rolling boil, turn down the heat and simmer them for about 10-15 minutes or until they're tender. Cool them and puree them in the Magic Bullet or food processor, adding water until you reach the desired consistency.

Steaming your vegetables helps them retain their nutritional value, so you may prefer that method to boiling. You can also microwave, but I would not suggest microwaving ANY food for baby.

Those are just a few of the most commonly-used recipes in our household. Making baby food is really easy to do, and it's cost-effective as well. You tend to pay less for a big bag of vegetables than a bunch of jars/containers of prepared baby food. Remember, most baby foods can keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days, so plan your baby's meals accordingly. And if you plan to make your own baby food, it helps to invest in some serving-sized storage containers like these:


These are Stay Fresh Baby Food Containers and can be purchased at http://www.onestepahead.com/. Of course, you can always re-use old store-bought baby food jars and containers, which is what we do.

Well Mrs. Cocoa Confections and everyone else, I hope this helps you out!

Color your Easter Eggs NATURALLY!

Happy Good Friday, everyone!

My girl Whitney Pointe in Virginia sent me this link. If you color eggs for Easter, consider giving those dye tablets you buy at the supermarket a rest this year and try some of these suggestions. Although if you get a little nostalgic at dye-stained fingertips and the smell of vinegar, feel free to do it the old-fashioned way. *wink*

Take a look at Jeanne Winter's blog, where she did the same and it turned out great!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I have a pet peeve...

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why some people regard organic foods as luxuries. I understand the price of some organic foods make them cost-prohibitive for many people. However, I don’t understand why food grown the way it’s supposed to be grown, free of some of the harmful additives commonly found in food, should somehow be reserved for only the most affluent of us.

For those who may not know, there is a program by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. Their mission, according to their web site is “to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.” WIC is actually a very wonderful program that provides nutrition education and encourages new mothers to breastfeed. It also has a Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program that encourages the consumption of locally-grown foods from small farmers. It fills in the gaps for many women and children who may not otherwise have access to nutritional food and information.

For all the good it does, however, WIC has some shortcomings. It is a program of the Food and Nutrition Service, yet each state has its own individual guidelines on how to administer it. Currently, organic foods are not approved for WIC in most states. Some states may approve only certain organic foods, such as organic milk. My state, Maryland, currently does not include ANY organic foods on their WIC-approved list. While some state agencies have argued that organic foods are no better for you than non-organic foods, most states cite cost as the determining factor of whether or not organics are included in WIC food packages. And if you’re vegan, well, you may be even more out of luck because soy and rice milk are not on the approved list at all. I cannot stress the amount of good WIC does for the health of women and children, but I think they’ve dropped the ball here.

To fail to include organic choices on the WIC- approved list of foods is to tell “low-income” families they do not have the option of optimizing their health and well-being. Why should WIC families be excluded from potentially the most beneficial of foods, especially when there is research to support the assertion that organics are in fact healthier dietary choices? How can you tell a mother that because of her socio-economic status she cannot give her children every possible nutritional advantage? Many WIC families also receive food stamps, which can thankfully be used for organics and non-organics. But depending on your allotment amount, your food stamps may still not be enough cover the cost of organic choices. So, again, families are limited in their options.

Considering that one in 10 African-American mothers receive WIC benefits (as opposed to one in 16 Caucasian women), I’m even more concerned. Not only are organic choices off the table for most of these moms, but studies have suggested that WIC counselors are also less-likely to encourage African-American mothers to breastfeed. Therein lay the suggestion that WIC might even be systematically marginalizing a segment of the population in a very fundamental way – after all, if you don’t have your health, what have you? I know that’s a strong statement, but the fact remains that WIC could do a lot better by mothers and children, especially those who are African-American.

I’ll continue my thoughts a little later because I’m getting a little irritated just thinking about this. Perhaps we can vibe in the future about how to light a fire under the proverbial behind of WIC to get some of these things changed.

Blackened Baby Food


One of the challenges of trying to raise a green baby is the amount of preparation required. Oh, I don’t dislike it at all. I think it’s totally worth it. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge sometimes.

Mornings are hectic in any household with young children and it’s usually best if you do all your preparation for the day the night before. You know, make sure the bag is packed, the food is ready, the bottles are washed… things like that. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, your preparation usually spills over to the morning – that’s if it doesn’t take place completely then.

I make almost all of Layla’s baby food. I like the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what’s in my baby’s food, having made it myself. Plus even some of the "all-natural" or organic baby foods you buy in grocery stores look really overcooked and overprocessed to me. Are peas supposed to be brown? At any rate, we keep frozen and fresh organic vegetables in the house expressly for her. Making her food usually requires lightly cooking some veggies and blending them in the Magic Bullet with a little water. Okay, I have to digress for a second – whoever invented the Magic Bullet is a certified GENIUS.




I mean, they should be nominated for a Nobel Prize, seriously. This thing has made my life so much easier, even before we became parents. My husband is a kitchen gadget freak and when he initially brought it into the house I turned up my nose. But once I saw everything it could do – from smoothies to coffee grinding, and now BABY FOOD – I was sold. If you don’t have one, just get one on general principle. End digression here.

Anyway, making Layla’s food is an activity better suited for the evenings because you have to cook the veggies, blend them in the Bullet, let them cool, and then chill them in the refrigerator. But I could not get myself in gear the other night and yesterday morning I just threw on some peas and carrots, thinking I’d have time to take them off the heat a little later and blend them. Yeah… that wasn’t happening at all. I got Layla out of bed to change and nurse her, but she wanted to nurse for half an hour! Usually she’s done in no more than 15 minutes. Of course, since I have severe “mommy brain” these days and had moved onto another activity, I totally forgot I had veggies on the stove. After about thirty minutes on high heat, my sweet husband came into the kitchen, took them off the stove, looked at them, and asked, “Uh, were you still trying to use these?” The peas and carrots were stuck to the sides of the pot and burnt to a crisp! Thinking it’s a little early to introduce her to Cajun food, I had him put on a new pot of green beans and tried very hard not to kick myself.

Moral of the story: Always plan ahead. You never know what curve balls life and your baby will throw at you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Meet the Andersons

The loves of my life

Meet my precious family -- my husband, Carter, and my daughter, Layla. Carter and I were married on June 2, 2007. The next year we welcomed our First Born on August 25, 2008. To me, they're enough reason to try to save the world.

What can I really say? They are the reason I do much of what I do. There are plenty of mornings I wake up and don't feel like going to work. I don't always want to wash bottles or fold diapers. I don't always want to go to the grocery store after a long day of working. I don't always feel like picking up dinner or cooking. But when I look at those faces... *sigh* I find the motivation easily.

Having experienced the unique love of motherhood, I can't help but look at all children -- and all adults -- through the eyes of a mother. When I look at someone, I know somewhere somebody feels the intense love and devotion for that person that I feel for my daughter. People may wonder why I even care about the planet to the extent that I do. Well, I care for your mother's sake. Everyone's child deserves to live in a nurturing environment. And every parent should be able to give their child a livable home. I want my Baby Girl to grow up able to enjoy and appreciate the seasons. I want her to catch lightning bugs in the summer and learn about the cycle of life. I want her to know what fresh air smells like. I want her to enjoy all that God created for her to enjoy.

Green parenting is conscious parenting. It's my goal to be conscious of what I put in her body, on her body, and in her environment. I feel I owe it not just to my child, but to mothers everywhere who love and want the best for their babies.

Who is this lady and what is she talking about?

Wow, where do I start?

Well, first I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Tawnya Anderson and I live in Maryland with my husband of almost two years. Most people call me by my middle name, Denise, but my daughter just calls me “mmmmmma ma ma ma ma!" Speaking of my daughter, her name is Layla and she is seven months old. Personally, I think she’s the most adorable baby on the planet, but I admit I’m biased.

Layla’s birth changed my life in so many ways. I’d always considered myself a pretty healthy and “green” person. I grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and the Hampton Roads area is a very environmentally conscious region. I remember when the city first implemented its recycling program when I was a child. All residents were required to participate, and if your recycling bin was not at the curb on collection day you had to pay a fee. As a result, I’m a faithful recycler to this day. I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years because I feel it’s a healthier and more earth-friendly way of living. I bring my own bags to the grocery store (when I remember). I respect nature deeply and I guess you could say I’m a stereotypical tree-hugger. However, having my daughter opened my eyes to so many other aspects of green living that I’d never considered. If you’re not a mom, let me tell you that motherhood makes you worry about and research EVERYTHING. And I found that when I became a mother I got increasingly concerned about the environment in which my daughter would be living. I’d like for this blog to not only be a place for me to chronicle my experiences trying to raise a “green” baby, but also collaborate with others about how we can all live a little greener.

Additionally, I’d like to for this blog to function as a place for advocacy and social awareness. I’m African-American (if you couldn’t tell by my profile picture), and I am incredibly disturbed by the lack of environmental concern or awareness among some (by no means all) members of the African-American community. Moreover, it pains me that more people don’t realize how marginalized communities specifically are negatively impacted by pollution and ecologically unfriendly practices. I will be exploring issues of environmental racism in this blog. I am also a devout Christian, and one of my biggest pet-peeves about the church is its failure to address environmental issues. I believe our faith calls us to be good stewards of the home God has given us, especially when we consider how our neglect of the planet affects “the least of these.” Through this blog I intend to lovingly take communities of faith to task on the subject.

While I have some strong views, I do intend to express them with as much respect and tenderness as possible. It is not my intention to present my lifestyle as the ideal to which all people should strive. By no means do I have it all together, so if what you’re doing is working for you, then I’m all for it. I have nothing but respect for people of differing views and I invite all to connect and vibe with me, even if we disagree. All I want to do is inspire thought and invite others to consider how these things affect them, their children, and their world. So with that, I welcome you and look forward to connecting with you!