Green Living

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m one of THOSE moms. I don’t believe in filling my family’s Christmas stockings with random stuff just so it’s full. In the past, when my husband and I have done that, the stockings have remained full, with the kids ignoring the small gifts and trinkets we added as the last-minute. But those last-minute stocking stuffers don’t have to go ignored. We’ve since shifted our strategy to giving two types of gifts in our stockings: Small and meaningful, or useful and needed.

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When Walmart challenged me to share some last-minute gift ideas, I chose to focused on the latter: stocking stuffers that anyone can use.

Personal care products

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My family and I use very specific types of personal care products: ones that are organic if possible, but all natural at the very least. But we always seem to run out at inconvenient times. This year, I focused on those items that I know we’ll wind up needing sooner or later: Shea Moisture soap, lotion from Gud by Burt’s Bees, and an EcoTools bath sponge for my daughter, who has been begging for one for the past several years.

Walmart also carries other natural and organic brands, including Yes To, alba botanica and more. These brands do tend to cost a bit more than their traditional counterparts, which makes them an even better gift idea. Noone will complain about saving $7-10 on lotion they needed anyway.

Hats, gloves and scarves

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Let’s be honest. Most kids don’t do a very good job of keeping track of their hats and gloves during the winter. My daughter has a habit of mixing and matching her gloves every day, so we can never find more than one of any pair at a time. Plus, she’s outgrown many of her gloves from the last several years. I snagged this awesome red, gold and green hat for my husband, in the colors of the Ethiopian flag, for less than $8, and I plan to go back for a couple hat and glove sets for Ja’Naya and baby Juliza for just $5.

Gift Cards

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There’s not a single person on this planet who will complain about getting gift cards in their stocking. Or at least not a single reasonable person. Walmart gift cards are always welcome in my house for everything from groceries and household items to toys for the kids or a new outfit or boots for mama. They’re practical, but the recipient will feel special because they get to choose their own gift. I’ll also be heading to Walmart to complete the rest of my gift list affordably. Check out all the gift ideas you can still order online and pick up in store.

What about you? How do you approach stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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A few years ago, I was THAT mom: The one who was militant about making sure everything I bought had some sort of eco-friendly story behind it. It had to be organic, or made of recycled materials or FSC-certified wood, or acquired secondhand, or made by Fair Trade artisans. I’m not that mom any more. I still care deeply about the planet and look for these qualities in the products I purchase, and we’ve made some changes that we’ll never go back on, but I have relaxed my stance a bit. Part of the reason for this is that even with all my knowledge about what makes products green, it can still be difficult to find ones that meet those exacting standards. This is especially true as the holidays approach and I begin shopping for toys for my kids — particularly baby Juliza — and gifts for my family in general.

All of this is why I’m so happy to have found Wild Mint, a great online retailer that aims to help families live greener, healthier lives. When I shop there, I don’t have to worry about how things were made or what they’re made of. I can trust that they have vetted the products for me, ensuring that they provide only the best for my family.

This makes perfect sense, given that Wild Mint was started by a mom and daughter duo back in 2011 to serve folks who were looking for an easier way to buy non-toxic, eco-friendly products. While they started offering products for the kitchen and lunch products, realizing that toxic products really are everywhere, in so many things, they expanded their business to offer products for every part of our lives.

In other words, Wild Mint lets me get back to the “green” part of “Green & Gorgeous” without any added stress.

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And with an active 9-month-old baby on my hands, the last thing I need is to stress out about that new thing she’s putting in her mouth — because she’s teething, so everything goes directly in her mouth. These teething rings from Lifefactory were just what we needed.

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There are a couple of textured areas to massage baby’s gums, and — much to my delight — they’re big enough to be worn on my wrist so they’re always accessible even when we’re on the go. They’re also dishwasher safe, and we can put them in the refrigerator or freeze them for those days when the new teeth are really bugging Juliza. Best of all though, they’re made of medical grade silicone rather than potentially toxic plastic, which means that they are free of BPA, phthalates, PVC, polycarbonate, lead, and latex, and Wild Mint carries other teethers that meet the same criteria.

Check out Wild Mint’s Toxins in Toys Guide if you need a reminder of why we should all be avoiding these ingredients and materials, particularly in products we’re giving to our kids.

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And now, when the rest of my family asks what to give the kids, my husband and I for Christmas (because they know I’m picky), I can send them to a store where everything is safe and meets mama’s needs as well as baby’s. They’ll be able to find everything from organic baby toys and wooden toys to nontoxic nail polish all on one site, and I can maintain some peace of mind that I won’t have to vet every single gift that gets unwrapped on Christmas morning.

If you’d like to get started shopping for natural toys or other eco-friendly gifts, check out this great discount from Wild Mint.

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Just in case you can’t see the image, from now through 12/3/14, use coupon code “WILDMINT” to get $10 off orders over $75, plus all orders over will $49 ship free! Free shipping is for ground shipping orders only.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Green Sisterhood. As usual, all opinions are my own.

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My mother is an amazing woman, and I’m thankful that my family and I get to spend as much time with her as we do. But when Mother’s Day rolls around, as it will this weekend, it can be difficult to figure out what to give the woman who has given you — well — everything. Flowers just wouldn’t do the job. So when Walmart challenged me to do something special for Mother’s Day, it really took a lot of brainstorming to decide what to do.

Until I remembered that my mother loves photos. She has an album for each of her children and grandchildren featuring photos from our childhoods onward. These albums are the source of about 75% of my #tbt (Throwback Thursday) photos. She also has a family wall with framed pictures of all of us, and she’s always looking for more. So I decided to head to Walmart’s photo center for an awesome gift.

There are dozens of options, from basic prints to posters, blankets, mugs and more. But because I had so many photos I wanted to use, I chose a photo book. It also helps that several of the books can be ordered online and picked up at your local store on the same day.

So with photos in hand, I proceeded to the photo book layout area. After uploading the photos I wanted to use, I chose the cover color I wanted (only 2 colors are available for same-day pickup) and page backgrounds (there are dozens of design sets to choose from). Finally, I started organizing the photos onto pages.

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I admit that this part took a while, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. You can let the site autofill the book for you. But if, like me, you have a lot of photos without a logical organizational structure or naming system for the files, the photos won’t necessarily be grouped the way you’d like. So I did autofill, but then I went in and grouped the images onto pages the way I preferred, by event and/or theme. Of course, you can forgo autofill altogether and design each page individually, but autofilling will give you an idea of how to use the specific number of photos you have, so you’re not shooting in the dark or using just one photo on every page. You can also add captions and titles to the pages if you like.

When you’re ready to check out, you’ll be able to choose the option of having your book shipped or picking it up at a local store. Assuming you didn’t choose any custom options (like book cover colors), you should be able to get it the same day. I was very careful to choose options that were available same-day. So a few hours later, I went to my store and picked up this beauty.

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I love it, and I can’t wait to surprise my mother with it. The paper is great quality, as is the printing. It’s the kind of gift that I know she’ll cherish forever. And in fact, I plan to make a couple photo books for my own household. Then we’ll finally get some to enjoy the couple thousand photos I have on my computer. I just have to find time to organize them all.

If you’re looking for a unique, super-personal gift for mom, or really for anyone, this a great way to go — especially given that you can pick it up the same day. There’s even one book that’s available within an hour! It’s the perfect last-minute gift that won’t feel last-minute at all.

Walmart also has a coupon for $5 off a photo book. Click the link to print it. The only caveat is that the total for your book has to be less than $25 for you to use the coupon, and if you have a lot of photos — and therefore a lot of pages — the total can climb above that pretty quickly.

So what about you? Would you give a photo book as a gift,
or would you make one for yourself?

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

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Anyone who has been reading my blogs or even talking to me casually for more than 5 minutes knows that sustainability is a big deal to me. While the fashionista in me constantly battles with consumerism and the lazy cook in me tries not to justify eating processed food, pretty much every other area of our lives incorporates green practices. Knowing this, it can sometimes be difficult to explain why I have chosen to work with Walmart, a company that — on its face — is just too big to be sustainable.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Walmart is doing a lot more for the sustainability movement than you’d expect. And this week, I got to experience the excitement around the company’s efforts firsthand at their first Sustainability Expo. Baby Juliza and I traveled to Bentonville, AR, home of Walmart headquarters, for the event.

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But before we went, we had a film crew come to our home — along with the homes of a few other moms — to find out from us firsthand what sustainability means to us and our families. My kids and hubby even got to make an appearance!

The great thing about making a video like this is that it doesn’t feel like lip service. Two of the moms, Denise from Wholesome Mommy and Jenn from Frugal Upstate, got to go up on stage during the expo to share some more of our thoughts about what consumers are craving. (Nicole of Presley’s Pantry was there too). They did this in front of a captive audience of Walmart executives and CEOs of major manufacturers. It feels like Walmart is actually listening to what consumers say they want and trying to provide it.

There’s really a lot the company is doing behind the scenes that may never affect customers directly, including their goals to achieve zero waste and to fuel their truck fleet with renewable energy. But more and more, sustainability is becoming inseparably woven into the customer experience as well — which generally translates to more organic, natural (though I hate that word), and otherwise eco-friendlier products on shelves.

My fellow Walmart Moms and I at the Walmart Sustainability Expo.

My fellow Walmart Moms and I at the Walmart Sustainability Expo.

However, the consumer side is just one small part of the sustainability movement. I tend to speak to my readers as the voice of a fellow consumer, and share the changes we can personally take on to make the world — and our homes — healthier places to live. However, sitting in a room full of the CEOs of the largest companies in the world made me truly grasp how important it is for them to make changes for the better. Because of the sheer size of not just Walmart, but their suppliers, including huge corporations like Cargill and Kellogg’s, small changes multiply exponentially for dramatic impact.

For example, one initiative aims to reduce the amount of air in packaged products. Just air. On its face, that doesn’t seem like a very green change. However, the impact means that more product can fit in a single truck for transport, which in turn leads to fewer trucks needed on the road and an overall reduction in carbon emissions.

Realistically, sustainability is a very complex concept — particularly when it comes to manufacturing — and it would be a waste to look at it one-dimensionally. There needs to be consideration at every stage of the production process. Walmart’s 7-pronged approach to packaging is a good example of how many things need to be considered when creating true sustainable change:

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There’s so much work to be done one so many fronts, and I’m happy to be on the front lines of that.

I tend to consider myself a green activist, and it can be difficult to listen to large companies promising to do better. Because what we’d really like to do is for them to get rid of the products that are not eco-friendly altogether and replace them with greener options. I get it. Really I do. But what I also understand is that huge companies aren’t going anywhere, and we as consumers have to continue pushing them to do better, even if it takes baby steps. Because the absolute truth is that they are listening and learning and understanding that sustainability is not just better for the world, but better for their bottom lines as well.

Walmart is a great example of that. They are truly leading the change with innovations like their sustainability index and their initiative to remove 10 toxic chemicals from products. These changes will inevitably lead to suppliers making better products, and that will benefit us all.

Check out my Twitter stream from the last few days or search the #WalmartExpo hashtag for more about what we heard and learned, and share what you think about Walmart‘s commitment to sustainability. I’d genuinely love to hear your thoughts, and Walmart would too.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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As a blogger who focuses largely on sustainability over at Green Your Decor and weaves it into this blog as often as possible, I talk and think about sustainability often. As a result, I tend to neglect Earth Day, because I try to be mindful of the Earth every day. (Except when I’m shopping for clothes for me. Then, all bets are off. Just being real.)

Seriously though, in the future, I’m going to do better about making a big deal of Earth Day, because it’s nice to have the whole world paying attention to this issue that is so near and dear to me.

Today, make ONE change in your life. Just one. Read the ingredients on the personal care products you buy, and opt only for ones with ingredients you can pronounce. Call your trash collector and find out if you can recycle through them. Cut out paper towels and use regular towels and dishcloths instead. When there’s lovely spring weather, turn off the air conditioning and open the windows and doors. Sign up for a Recyclebank account and start earning points for learning about green issues and, possibly, for recycling in your area. And now, you can even use your points to shop for green products.

It’s not hard to find small ways to make a difference. And once you begin to make that mental shift, it only gets easier.

And enter my $25 gift certificate giveaway from Soft clothing so you can get some organic clothes for your kids!

Feel free to leave more tips for making green changes in the comments and share what you’re doing already.

You’ve got a lot of junk hanging around the house. But, is it really junk? Before you throw away that chest of drawers, or those random buttons that are piling up, maybe you should try repurposing them. You’ll be surprised at just how pretty and chic they can be once you use them as decoration or for some other functional purpose.

CD Case Picture Frame

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If you’re like most people, you’ve started trading in your CDs for MP3s. But, you don’t have to ditch the plastic cases just yet. On a computer, open a high-resolution photo of your choice, and then resize the image to 26 ½ x 18 ¼. Now, use a selection tool in your favourite image editor to divide the image into twenty 5 3/8” x 4 5/8” squares. Now, digitally cut and paste each square into a separate 5 3/8” x 4 5/8” file.

Print out all the documents onto a 5” x 7” piece of photo paper. It should look like an image. Now, trim off any white space. Pop out the interior section of 20 standard-sized jewel CD cases. Also, make sure you remove any paperwork or art.

Trace one photo segment onto a piece of thin cardboard and cut it out. Repeat this process 19 times so that all cases are taken care of. Use double-sided tape to attach one piece of cardboard to the back of each and every photo segment. Now, slip each segment, image side up, into a CD case and close it. Once you’re done, Velcro or use mounting strips to attach the segments to the wall. The end result will be one very unique photograph.

Old World Globes

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Have an old globe? It might not be dead yet, even if it still has the USSR instead of Russia listed as a country. To create your own globe light, you’ll need a 12-inch diameter cardboard globe. You’ll also need a pendant light cord. First, remove the globe from its base.

This is pretty easy with a utility knife. Now, cut a 3 ½ inch diameter opening at the bottom of your globe, using the latitude as a guide – who said geography class would never pay off? Now, hold the light cord’s socket at the top of the globe, trace around it with a pencil (you want something you can erase later), and then cut out the circle.

Drill out the circle and pierce small holes around the outline of each continent. Leave a quarter-inch between holes. Now, insert the socket at the top and follow the lighting kit’s instructions. BAM – you have a globe for a light now.

Books

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A lot of old books, as found on online stores, can be turned into sophisticated art. How? First, start with an old and ratty book – one that’s on its last legs. Hardcovers work best for this, because the shell of the book will look rustic when it’s all done. The older, the better.

Now, decorate it with pretty much anything your little heart desires. One idea it to cut stars or butterflies or even flowers out of construction paper or even some of the pages in the old book. Then, glue them onto the cover. Frame it using a blank page or glue a square in the center of the outside of the book cover and make the flowers or what-have-you “leap” out of the book.

Find a nice place to set your finished project. A bookshelf might be nice, but a better place might be on an old piano or a wall shelf.

Mason Jars

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Mason jars make excellent soap dispensers. You don’t need that many of them, either. First, measure and mark the centre of the jar’s lid. Now, drill a small hole in the top of the lid. Make sure it’s screwed on nice and tight first. If you really want to do this on the cheap, use a pump from an old soap dispenser that’s ready to die. Fill the jar with liquid soap, and screw the lid back on.

Push the pump down into the jar, through the hole and you’re done. You have a neat soap dispenser that didn’t cost you very much money at all. And, it looks amazing.

Buttons

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Those buttons that are collecting dust can be put to better use. Let’s assume they don’t belong to any shirt or coat. Turn them into rings for you or your children. Start with an adjustable brass ring – a blank. They’ll run you about $6.50 for 10 of them.

Now, if your button has a shank on the back, snip it off with wire-cutters and sand it down using a rotary tool. Make sure the back is nice and smooth. Apply a thin layer of metal-bonding glue to the back of your button. Now, adhere it to the top of the ring blank – Vwala! You have yourself a ring. Let it dry for 24 hours before you wear it.

Scarlett Watson has spent much time decorating and renovating her home. An avid blogger, you can read her helpful articles on a variety of blogs.

One of the things I had to learn about going green is that there are lots of ways to approach it. For those people who are doing it specifically because of personal health, their approach often centers on the ingredients and components of products they buy. But some people take a broader, more global approach, considering the impact of their decisions on the health of the planet overall — whether in regard to carbon emissions or direct environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

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All that to say that every little step toward making all the things we buy more sustainable is a good step in my book. If taking that step also means creating more jobs for Americans — many of whom sorely need them — then it’s a double win. That’s why it’s not hard to get excited about Walmart’s plans to invest a whopping $250 billion in products that support American jobs over the next 10 years via their MADE BY initiative.

This goes directly against one of the biggest complaints I hear about Walmart: that the products they sell are cheaply made overseas. Instead, many of the products on Walmart shelves will come from a lot closer to home, and because of it, many more people will have meaningful jobs. I know a lot of people who have been out of work for a very long time who could stand to benefit from any program that makes it easier for them to find work.

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But if you’re like me, you probably still want some details. Well, Walmart plans to accomplish this in three ways:

  • Increasing what they already buy of U.S.-manufactured goods (and there’s already a lot)
  • Sourcing U.S. manufactured goods that are completely new to Walmart
  • Helping existing suppliers bring their manufacturing back to the U.S.

I’m especially excited about those last two. Anything that can be done to make existing manufacturers more sustainable can only be a good thing, but this initiative also has the potential to give small companies a chance to get their U.S.-made products on Walmart shelves. Hanna’s Candles is a good example.

What do you think about Walmart‘s new initiative? Do you think it is important to buy products made in the U.S.?

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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When I began my green journey about 5 years ago, I admit I was a bit militant about it. I essentially demanded change from myself and my family, in everything from our shopping and recycling habits to the lotion we put on our skin. It was a tough transition, but it worked. We switched most of those habits within months, and never really looked back.

However, in the years since, I’ve slackened my stance a bit. Often, the kids will outgrow clothes and need immediate replacements, and finding organic cotton in person is difficult. And finding it for myself — a plus sized woman, and now a pregnant one — is all but impossible — in person OR online. I love thrifting, but that’s not always a viable option and I wind up buying what I can find. We also have hobbies that can’t be considered green no matter how we spin them — like playing video games.

But now that I’m pregnant, a little of that militancy is creeping back into my life. Because I WILL buy green for my new baby whenever possible.

This has made shopping at Walmart really challenging. Because truth be told, outside of organic baby food, there’s very little in the physical stores for a mama who wants to buy green. Not even an organic onesie in sight.

However, this is when shopping online becomes useful, and Walmart.com is no exception. The company’s website stocks and sells a LOT more products that you can ever find in store. That means there’s a ton more available for your green baby: From organic cotton sheets to clothing and mattress pads.

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I recently picked up a Boppy Bare Naked nursing pillow, along with an organic cotton cover to go with it, and a pair of organic cotton Boppy swaddling blankets. These are all things that I anticipate needing within the first days after my little lady is born, so I’m glad to have them on hand now. (aff)

But there was honestly quite a bit more to choose from. You can even find eco-friendly nursery furniture at Walmart.com! Affordable stuff, too.

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Baby Mod makes nursery furniture from sustainable New Zealand pine with non-toxic finishes. Had I not found an awesome crib on Craigslist, I would’ve chosen one of these, because they have clean, modern designs and fit into our nursery budget pretty nicely. (aff)

So if, like me, it’s important to purchase organic, natural and otherwise sustainably made products for your baby, and you’re on a budget, I’d definitely consider Walmart.com for those things you can’t find in store.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.