Monday, April 26, 2010

Meatless Mondays

I've been doing a bit of thinking. You see, I've always cooked 2 meals at our house. One dish of meat-filled goodness and one vegetarian option -- usually what Henry and I are having minus the meat and with tofu or beans added -- for my dear partner who is a vegetarian. As an aside, Cin's vegetarianism isn't like my "phase" at university, where I dabbled in it because it was hip. She grew up as a Buddhist and thereby also as a veggiehead.

Sure, sometimes Henry and I eat what she is having. There are many good recipes and plans out there that allow children to get enough protein without meat products. I'll even go so far as to admit I feel better (less heavy, more fulfilled) when I have a meal without meat. But it is so hard to cancel out years of pro-meat conditioning when raising a child. (I grew up in the middle of America where you eat meat with every meal. Literally.)

So I've decided to commit to Meatless Mondays for the whole family. One day a week of thinking outside the box. (Well, thinking inside my veggie box, but that is a bit too cheesy for this post.) One day of offering Henry with protein alternatives and reevaluating what I was taught as a kid.

I wasn't the clever one to dream up MMs. For a great intro to the movement, check out:

It's a bit North America-centric, but you get the point. They also have  a great list of 'why go meatless'

  • REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • IMPROVE OVERALL QUALITY OF DIET. Consuming dry beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.[2]
  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation.[3] And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.[4] Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.[5]
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S.[6] Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.[7] Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
So anyone else up for Meatless Mondays? Anyone else already doing this and want to share about your experience? 

Check back every Monday for recipes and posts! Jess xx

Sunday, April 25, 2010

O Me, O My, O'Dough!

April 24th, 2010: a very sunny and beautiful Saturday that was spent, amongst other outdoor activities, playing with our new O'Dough kit. I feel compelled to say a few things about the overall kit before I go on as it's very clear has spent a lot of time being conscious about every aspect of their products. Case in point: Packaging was in recycled paper, tied with twine. Each little tub is packed in a compostable plastic container and between the 6 tubs was pretty little shavings (see picture), instead of miscellaneous paper or (gasp!) styrofoam peanuts.

Now, onto the actual Dough - it came in 6, primary and secondary colors (not as dark though - all were pastel-like) with a good array of active colors (i.e. no brown or black because, let's be honest, there are only limited things you can make with those and if your little one mushes all the colors together you have a huge brown blob anyway). The texture is a bit hard to describe but as a comparable, it's a bit softer and more pliable than conventional play-dough, not as runny or sticky as goo or putty, and not a dry or oily cookie dough - just right. One of the best things I liked about the O'Dough is that it smells quite pleasant, like a fresh vanilla bean. My worst memory with play-dough was the terrible smell that it left on your hands for days to come and there's not a trace with the O'Dough. The product molds quite well and as you can see in the picture of our pig, is sticky enough to make small parts but hard enough to stand on its own. Best of all, Henry was extremely happy with his new O'Dough.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the purchase and would recommend it to others as well. Frankly, with gluten-free, wheat-free and toxin-free ingredients, I don't see why all of the schools shouldn't replace their current playdoughs with O'Dough.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bath Mats-Oh My!

I've spent a great deal of time today looking for an eco-friendly anti-slip bath mat. You see, I currently have to constantly hold onto Henry at bathtime as it's quite slippery in our tub -- and he's growing more annoyed and independent by the second.

About a month ago, in haste, I just quickly ordered an anti-slip "jelly" bath mat and some anti-slip stickers (without my green thinking cap on). They were so incredibly smelly - had all the unsafe plastic numbers and PVC to boot. To think of Henry bathing with that plastic really kinda scared me. (I should add that he happily bathed in a plastic bathtub for several months as a little baby before I even realized what I was doing.)

Eek! And now I can't find an eco-friendly anti-slip option without all the toxic plastic stuff. I'm really at a loss here. (And since we rent I can't add any adhesives - has to be a temporary solution.) Any suggestions on PVC-free bath mats? Anyone?

Becoming Greener Parents

Don't forget to join me at our Becoming Greener Parents workshop this Wednesday, 28th of April at Cupcake Mum at 10:30 am. 

We'll focus on why and how to surround your baby with a safe and and healthy environment, void of synthetic chemicals and harmful toxins. We’ll discuss simple and easy ways to go green and I will also provide a brief overview on clothing, nappies, toys, skin care and nursery. I’ll briefly mention food, but will cover it in June during 2 practical cookery courses on Whole Grain for your Baby’s Brain and Family Meal Planning and Cooking for Toddlers. We’ll also cover more about babywearing, co-sleeping, attachment theory in May at our Organic Parenting workshop.

For a quick intro on the importance of eco-friendly clothing: Did you know that cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25% of all pesticide use?! Scary, right?! It is such a heavily treated material - and we have to consider this when choosing clothing for our children. 

It's these little things that add up to make a difference. In this workshop, I'll give you quick and easy ways to become a greener parent. 

If you would like register for the workshop, please contact me! I am also available to present to groups or do individual consultations!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Energy Saving Tips


I've been meaning to post after our last Green Parents Cafe, but seems like life gets in the way. (Also, really exciting events and new workshops are happening at Green Families, so that keeps me busy as well. :) Make sure you check the website for details!) Anyway, here are a few of my favorite energy tips:

  • Turn your thermostat down in the winter. Reducing your room temperature by 1°C could cut your heating bills by up to 10 percent and typically saves around £55 per year.
  • If possible, fill up the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher: one full load uses less energy than two half loads. (Or better yet, hang the clothes out to dry!!)
  • Only boil as much water as you need (but remember to cover the elements if you're using an electric kettle).
  • A dripping hot water tap wastes energy and in one week wastes enough hot water to fill half a bath, so fix leaking taps and make sure they're fully turned off!
  • If everybody in a four person family replaced one bath a week with a 5 minute shower, you could save between £5 and £15 per year off your energy bill. So, opt for short, refreshing showers on a daily basis and keep baths to a minimum.
  • Where possible try and reuse unused water, for example pour your left over glasses of water on houseplants and avoid wasting water from running taps whilst waiting for hot water.

 And for the tip I need the most help on:

  • Remember not to leave laptops and mobile phones charging unnecessarily.
I think I found some of these tips at On their website, you can do a home energy audit - really cool and helpful resource. 

If you would like additional information, or to schedule your own green home consultation with me, please email me at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

book club: my green day

I picked up 'My Green Day: 10 green things that I can do today' at our local bookstore for Henry's Easter basket. By Melanie Walsh, it's an adorable book full of little green tips for the kiddies. Henry has other eco- books about animals and plants, but this our first very practical guide for kids to learn to create a greener world. (As a result of this information, he learned to say compost this weekend. :) What we didn't consider was that he would then become obsessed with the compost bin. Oops. I guess it's good he is so inquisitive?!)

The book follows a day from morning to night; kids learn why it is best to use free range eggs and compost the shells, hang clothes to dry, make crafts from old things, play in the park, etc. The message is a great one - although much too sophisticated for my 18 month old. (Yes, the book is aimed at 3+ years.) Henry LOVES the illustrations though - they are gorgeous and completely worth the book until he gets old enough for the actual content.

The book is made from 100% recycled materials. Would have been cool to see it printed with soy ink, but don't know how that would last or look. At £10.99, it's not the cheapest book, but a great investment for your child's library.

Highly recommend it - it is inspiring enough to try to for a (very) green day myself. :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

PVC and me

I went searching for a raincoat for Henry this weekend. While I didn't find a raincoat, I gathered so much more-information (and fear). You see, most of the jackets I could find were made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride). 56% PVC to be exact. 

For more information on PVC, see Greenpeace UK's info page.

It's scary stuff, right?!

And I knew PVC was bad. I've seen Blue Vinyl: A Toxic Comedy (2002) which chronicles Judith Helfand’s investigation into the toxic life cycle of polyvinyl chloride. (If you haven't seen this - check it out. It's hilarious and sad and frightening and moving. Judith is quite inspiring.) Anyway, point being, it is so easy to get busy with life that we forget to look at the material composition of items we purchase.  

I'll admit. I didn't look at the material label for Henry's wellies. I just bought them in a hurry as he was running about the store in a shoe frenzy. (I get the same way. I LOVE shoes too.) But I am frankly afraid to look now. PVC is quite a scary item. Even more frightening, as I am looking around our house, it seems like everything is plastic and possibly (probably, let's be honest) contains PVC. Okay, not everything is plastic. But, please, even if we try to be eco-friendly it is sometimes hard to be completely green. We've had a lot of toys given to us as presents and Henry loves brightly colored plastic things. I know, it's bad. I know I can be better, but I also appreciate where I am now and where I can go in regards to a green lifestyle. Augh! Can you tell I suffer from such maternal guilt? :) 

Phew, after that rant, you are probably wondering if I have any suggestions for raincoats to purchase in the UK. Well, I found that Hatley makes PVC options: It's hard as there are other companies, like Patagonia, LL Bean and J Crew that make PVC free raincoats, but I couldn't find any to purchase in the UK. 

If you know of other options, please let me know!

PS. If you already have a raincoat made with PVC, just air it outside before your child wears it or wears it again. :) Wowzers, there is quite an ethical dilemma here. Do you throw it out? (To be put back in the earth.) Do you donate it? (Is it right for other children to wear it?) AUGH! This is not easy.

product review: OWL Wireless Energy Monitor

I thought I should share my latest eco-obsession: our OWL wireless energy monitor. I know, it sounds complicated, but it's not, really!

Cindy set it up with the help of our 17 month old, so it's not too tricky -- you just program in your energy costs with the option for different tariffs, hook the sensor up to your electric board (or whatever they call those things) and you are on your way. It tells you in real-time your power, cost and carbon footprint.

We are constantly looking at the numbers - you can see immediately the effect of turning off one light has on your your bill, your footprint and the amount of energy being used. For example, I'll admit I have been shocked at the amount of electricity the dishwasher eats up. (I knew it was going to be an energy zapper, but not as much as it is. But, no, I won't give it up! I'll just try to reduce the number of times I run it per week.) And I always felt guilty running the dryer, but also have had a hard time not using it. (I'm American, remember!) As I can't ignore the data supplied from the monitor, it makes me think a bit more about my choices.

I found ours online at Nigel's Eco Store. Was a Christmas present for Cin. (Romantic, I know, but for someone with a passion for clean technology, it was the most exciting gift, EVER.)

From Nigel's Eco Store's website:

OWL Wireless Energy Monitor - shows exactly how much electricity you're using and the cost

It's easier to cut your electricity bills if you know how much you're using. The OWL wireless electricity Monitor can help you reduce your electricity use and your carbon footprint by showing you how much electricity you are using, as you use it. Simple to install, OWL easily connects to your electrical supply without needing an electrician.
This latest version of the best selling OWL Wireless Energy Meter has a cumulative memory feature, is more accurate, and Economy 7 multiple tariff compatibility making it easier than ever to monitor electricity usage.
Using an OWL you can see the cost and energy saving of turning off electrical appliances and lights. It'll show you the savings arising from turning something off completely vs leaving it on standby, and how much you'll save by changing your habits - you could save hundreds of pounds per year!

Price: £34.99 incl. VAT

Friday, April 2, 2010

Green Parent Recipes

It's always nice to add a few more recipes to your repertoire. I am always trying to change and experiment with our food as it's so important for little ones to get used to trying different tastes and textures. (This is definitely information for another post.)

Here are two recipes we discussed at our Green Parent Cafe Meetup. (Sorry for the Americanized recipes. I've yet to make the switch!)

Squash and quinoa pilaf

Ingredients for 2 cups

- quinoa, 1/2 cup
- extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp
- veggie stock or water, 1 1/2 cups
- courgettes, 2 coarsly shredded
- ground cumin, 1/2 tsp

How ?

In a saucepan, toss quinoa in 1Tbsp of oil to coat. Add stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and slimmer for 20 minutes. Quinoa will be transclucent.

While quinoa is cooking, in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add squash and cumin and sauté until tender, 3-5 minutes.

Remove quinoa from heat. Add squash to quinoa and mix thoroughly before serving

To store

Refrigerate cooled squash and quinoa pilaf in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or larger containers to freeze for up to 3 months.

(This is one of Henry's all-time favorite recipes. It's so darn easy and quick too. I add other veggies sometimes and cheese on occasion, but I  never leave out the cumin. I didn't have any on hand one time, and he noticed. And let me know about it. Oops.)

Root veggie medley

Ingredients for 2 cups

- sweet potato, 1
- parsnips, 2
- carrots, 2
- extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp
- fresh rosemary, 2 tsp minced (or dried if necessary)
- pinch of salt and pepper depending on age of child

How ?

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel sweet potato, parsnips and carrots. Using a mandoline or chef's knife, carefully slice vegetables into rounds 1/2 inch thick. Cut sweet potato rounds into quarters or as needed to roughly match the size of the parsnips and carrots.

Put vegetables in a ceramic or glass baking dish. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast until vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Depending on your baby's age and chewing ability, mash part of the cooked vegetable medley and puree part in a food processor and then combine for a variety of textures. Or, simply cut vegetable pieces smaller to accommodate little mouths.

To store

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

(Okay, I don't slice them in 1/2 inch thick anymore as we started this recipe from a very young age. I now just roughly chop them - and he loves it. Easy and quick.)

Thank you to Sandra for typing these up. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Green Parents Meetups - all shades of green welcome!

I had such a great time at our Green Parents Cafe Meetup today! We chatted about a variety of topics - and learned that I have an obsession with steam cleaners (they sanitize and don't use ANY chemicals, yipee!, but they use electricity so could be better).

Wallace & Co is such a fab location! If you haven't been there before, I really encourage you to stop in for a coffee or muffin. (Or join us on Thursday mornings at 10am - wink!)  They "aim to bring you the best local, seasonal fruit and vegetables on a plate.  Most of the produce is grown at Secrett’s Farm in Surrey, where our restaurant supply business Secrett’s Direct is based.  And stock a small selection of that produce in the cafĂ© – whatever is great right now." Love that you can buy fresh, season rhurbarb or a yummy biscuit all in the same place!

I think the most important part of our Meetups is that we all come together to support each other on the wild and fun ride of parenthood. And every one of us is just trying to make the world a better place for our children. At Green Families, we believe everyone is a different place and it is okay to be all "shades of green" - we are here to help families be healthier and greener without judgement or condescension! (Frankly, we believe that small steps towards a greener life is the most practical and approachable method.)

Can't wait for next week's Meetup! For more information, please contact me at stclair (at)