Green Living

HappyEarthDay

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.

As a proponent of green living, one of the first things I recommend to people who want to start making their lifestyle more sustainable is to start recycling. Of course, if you’ve never done this before, it can be difficult to know how to get started.

There are the obvious questions: Does your community even offer recycling? What materials can be recycled? Do you have to sort those materials? Is curbside pickup available, or will you have to drop the recyclables off at a central location yourself?

Well, you’ll have to do your homework on that part. In all the places I’ve lived, I’ve done some variation of all these things: sorting, washing, curbside pickup and personal dropoff. There is no “right” way. You’ll just have to find out what works in your community. But once you’ve got the details sorted out, the next step is to actually start recycling at home. Even if you’re already doing it, there are always ways to streamline the process.

I always suggest creating a recycling station somewhere in your home so that you can get the whole family on board. If everyone knows that recycling is a priority and you give them a convenient way to do it, they’re a lot more likely to get on board. Thankfully, The Home Depot and Rubbermaid have a wide variety of recycling options no matter your preferences, and I’ve teamed up with them for America Recycles Day to offer you some options that could work for your lifestyle, whether you need to recycle at home, or even if you’re trying to start doing it at work. You can find all of these options at HomeDepot.com.

So what’s your family’s recycling style?

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

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Perhaps you’re not a fan of the idea of looking at your recyclables. Trust me. I get it. I don’t want to see mine either. In that case, you’ll love Rubbermaid’s Hidden Recycler from HomeDepot.com. It is a simple, but sturdy bag with a frame and lid that is designed to be mounted inside a cabinet door. That way, you can drop in your recycling, close the door and never have to look at it.

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The bag is made from 65% post-consumer resin — which means it is eco-friendly in itself — AND it’s machine washable. So when it inevitably gets grimier than you’d like, you can solve that problem easily. Plus, the bag has a handle, which makes it portable and perfect for transport either to your larger curbside recycling bin, or even to your municipal recycling station.

All-in-One Access

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Maybe you have to sort your recycling into two distinct categories. Try the Rubbermaid 2-in-1 Recycler from HomeDepot.com. As the name implies, this solution has two bins — larger on top and smaller on the bottom. The top unit has a handle that folds away, which makes it easy to remove for emptying into your larger recycling bin or for transport. The lower bin tilts forward so you can easily get to it, and it also can hold an 8-gallon trash bag in place. You could use the lower bin to sort a different type of recyclable material, and you can also remove it and carry it with a handle.

This would’ve been particularly useful to my family a few addresses ago when we had to sort our recycling into two categories: paper/cardboard and everything else. Instead, we’d spend a lot of time sorting on recycling day because we only had a single bin.

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Alternatively, though, you could use this container to keep your trash and recycling in a single spot. Maybe the kids will be more likely to remember to recycle if the bin is attached to the trash can. Put a bag in the larger lower container for trash, and keep all the recycling up top. If you have a single-stream system, where you don’t have to sort your recyclables, this would be perfect. Or if you’re in an office where no one wants to go hunting for a recycling bin to get rid of an empty water bottle, they’d probably appreciate the ability to get rid of their trash and recycling in one trip.

Rugged Sortability

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But maybe neither of those covers your household needs. Maybe you have an awkwardly sized space where you need to set up your recycling, or perhaps you’d prefer to keep it outside the back door, or even in the garage. Then the Rubbermaid Stackable Recycling Bins from HomeDepot.com might make more sense. There are bins in three different sizes, and you can stack and interchange them based on your needs. If you have to sort recycling into a bunch of different categories, having a bunch of smaller containers all stacked together would make that so much easier for you.

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They also come with stickers, so you can label each container for paper, plastic, glass, or whatever else you need to sort. But to make this option even more attractive, each one has a flip door to make it possible to load and unload them from the front. And the three available sizes means that you can customize your setup very specifically for your available space.

Final Recycling Tips

Regardless of how you choose to set up your recycling station, there are a couple of things you can do to streamline the process.

  1. Always rinse jars, bottle, cans and plastic containers before putting them in your recycling bin. This will help prevent mold and smells and is often required by your municipality.
  2. Collapse cardboard containers, like cereal or pasta boxes, and crush paper egg cartons to save space.
  3. Keep your bins clean with soap and water so you don’t attract pests — especially for your indoor bins.

Once you’re ready to go, head to HomeDepot.com, where you’ll have more than 40 different Rubbermaid recycling products to choose from.

Disclosure: I’ve received compensation from Rubbermaid and The Home Depot for my time and efforts in creating this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If your family is anything like mine, you probably have about a million plastic bowls and loose covers in a kitchen cabinet. The cabinet is an avalanche waiting to happen — a leaning tower of plastic. The issue is that we’re not big fans of plastic bowls in general since I’m pretty sure most of them contain BPA — a toxin we could all stand to avoid. We’d much rather use glass storage, but we only had a couple of large Pyrex casserole dishes that we use for baking. So when Walmart offered to send me the new Snapware storage system for review, I jumped at the chance to increase our ratio of glass storage containers. The fact that it is made in the USA was icing on the cake.

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These are also from Pyrex, but each container has an air-tight and leak-proof, four-latch plastic lid. So technically we haven’t gotten away from plastic completely, but I’m not sure what else you’d use to create an airtight cover, so I really can’t complain. They also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes for storing all types of things.

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We used the containers a few nights ago for dinner, when we made nachos. My daughter and I cut up and prepared all the fixins — shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and grated cheese — and put each one in a Snapware container in the refrigerator until we were ready to serve. Serving in them was as simple as removing the cover and putting them on the table. And when we had some leftover toppings, we just recovered them and put them back in the fridge.

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We also served dessert — chocolate chunk-laced brownies — in a Snapware container. They’d been in the airtight container for a few days, and they were still perfectly moist and fresh — all the confirmation I needed that dishes are, in fact, as great as I initially thought.

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I love the idea that Snapware pieces are nice enough to use for serving, but hardy and practical enough to also be dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe (minus the plastic covers for the latter option). We’ve already used them for everything from storing diced onions and peppers to half a huge omelet my husband made for breakfast one morning and couldn’t finish. Knowing we can pop them in the oven instead of the microwave without having to switch to another dish has been a Godsend and has allowed us to cut back on used dishes and aluminum foil.

I do want to find out if they come in larger sizes, because most of the dishes are on the smaller side. Being able to bake a full brownie recipe or my “famous” baked ziti in a Snapware dish would allow us to replace nearly every single storage and baking dish in our kitchen. We’ve already sent a bunch of the old plastic ones to recycling heaven because of Snapware, and I’d love to get rid of the rest.

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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NOTE: It is Black Breastfeeding Week, and although I have never successfully breastfed a baby, my current pregnancy means that I have an opportunity to try again. This issue is important to me, and I figured this is a great time to share my passion and failed experience, in hopes that it will help other women.

The last time I was pregnant was 8 long years ago, and I knew little about being pregnant and even less about breastfeeding. I suspect that this is true for a lot of African American moms and moms-to-be.

I can’t remember ever seeing a woman in my family or my community breastfeed while I was growing up. Formula was the norm. I never even thought about the fact that there was a choice until I was about to become a mother myself. And as I mentioned, this was 8 years ago, before I found my path to green living and just genuinely wasn’t aware enough to try doing better.

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As a result, I told myself I’d “try” to breastfeed my daughter, based on a few paragraphs in a few books I’d read, never thinking of it as worthy of any concerted effort. It didn’t help that no one at the hospital where I delivered seemed at all concerned about whether I would breastfeed. In fact, I had to say repeatedly that I wanted to try, and the nurses were still quick to hand me a bag full of formula and coupons for more.

My attempt to breastfeed lasted exactly 2 days. It hurt, and I had no idea if my baby was latching on properly or getting enough milk, so I stopped. The bottle of formula sitting at the ready seemed a whole lot easier. I gave up. And looking back on it, I wish I could have a do-over.

Me, breasts painfully engorged with milk after I gave up on breastfeeding my daughter 8 years ago.

Me, breasts painfully engorged with milk after I gave up on breastfeeding my daughter 8 years ago.

No one in my circle of friends and family had ever breastfed (to my knowledge), so I didn’t have anyone to ask for advice or support, and I’d never even heard of a lactation consultant or La Leche League.

All of this to say that 8 years and lots of self-education on health and green living later, I know better. And now that I’m pregnant with my second, I plan to do better.

I have surrounded myself with women who have breastfed, and who are advocates for breastfeeding. I currently have a doctor and midwife who specifically asked if I plan to breastfeed and enthusiastically encouraged me when I confirmed that I do. I have a husband who gets it and who knows that this is important to me. And, since I’m a card-carrying punk when it comes to pain, I am mentally preparing myself for the knowledge that yes, breastfeeding will likely hurt, at first, but that the benefits to my and my baby’s health will be worth it. I accept that I may not always know what I’m doing, and I may question myself sometimes, but it will be worth the effort.

And frankly, even if all that were not enough, I’m just looking forward to avoiding the expense of formula, because that stuff isn’t cheap.

I Realize That I’m Fortunate…

I recognize my privilege here. I know I’m in a good position to have a positive breastfeeding experience because I work from home and don’t have to worry about what will happen when I have to go back to work outside the home. A lot of women are not so fortunate.

And while I wouldn’t consider myself militant, I’m also the type of person who would dare anyone to have anything crazy to say about ANY of my personal choices, from my decision to wear my natural hair to my decision to breastfeed, at home or in public. My friends and family members know this about me and tend to respect my choices even if they disagree, so I don’t anticipate any of them will have anything unpleasant to say. If strangers do, they will likely get an earful.

However, a lot of women don’t have my personality or the same type of support in their personal circles. In the African American community, there is often stigma attached to breastfeeding, particularly if you do it for longer than 6-12 months. While I’ve never personally witnessed anything like this, I’ve heard and read all too often about women who’ve had their mamas or aunties or girlfriends tell them to “take that baby off their titty” or all manner of other ridiculous things.

This can make breastfeeding tougher for black moms, particularly in a wider society that already views it as a radical parenting choice and something that should only be done in private or while covered with a cape. A society that thinks this contraption is a viable alternative to just discreetly letting your baby feed by unhooking a nursing bra:

Yes. This is a thing that exists. No, I don't get it either.

Yes. This is a thing that exists. No, I don’t get it either.

I also know that among African Americans, breastfeeding rates are lower and rates of infant mortality, low birth weight and childhood illness are higher. While I have no idea how to fix those problems overnight, I will do my part by letting the women around me see that breastfeeding is a viable option in hopes that seeing it more often will normalize it. And I will do this without judging women who formula feed out of choice or necessity. After all, my formula fed baby was healthy and happy.

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But I just want more black women to know that breastfeeding is a choice too.

Check out these resources if you’re interested in learning more:

Also, the awesome and inspiring Denene Millner of MyBrownBaby.com (@mybrownbaby) will lead a twitter chat for African American parents tonight at 9 p.m. EST using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Check it out. I know that I will.

Linking up with Confession Time at Agape Love Designs.

Last year, My daughter and I gave my husband a bike for Father’s Day. Since then, I have watched wistfully as he and my daughter rode together as I watched from the sidelines. That all changed a few days ago when we FINALLY bought a bike for me as an early Mother’s Day present, thanks to some encouragement from Walmart. We were challenged to spend a gift card on something biking related, and we used it toward the cost of a bike. I chose the $149 Schwinn Clairmont cruising bike, and I couldn’t be happier that I can now join the fun. The fact that the bike is my favorite color (turquoise) and features a gorgeous peacock motif is just icing on the cake!

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May is National Bike Month, and here are some great reasons to take up biking with your own family:

1. It’s an INCREDIBLE workout

Let’s face it. These days, with technology as prevalent as it is, most of us are pretty sedentary. The last time I rode a bike with any regularity, I was a teenager in great physical shape. So when I took my new bike out for it’s very first ride, I got a quick reminder about how physically taxing it can be. But you know what? It was the best kind of workout. With the breeze blowing through my hair and my husband and daughter laughing gleefully in front of me, I couldn’t think of a better way to get my heart rate up. Anything that encourages us to be active as a family is an automatic win in my book.

2. It encourages great communication

We live in an apartment complex with a pretty busy parking lot. So even if we stay within the complex and don’t venture out onto any busy metro Atlanta roads, we still have to be alert and vigilant. Our preferred riding positions are for my husband to take the lead, with my daughter in the middle and me bringing up the rear. Biking together encourages us to talk to each other to alert of possible dangers, changes in direction, etc. It encourages us to be clear, concise and respectful of one another — all characteristics of great family communication in general.

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3. The wind in your hair

Do I need to explain this one? Plain and simple, it feels like the best kind of freedom, and I love every second of it.

4. It’s great quality time

My husband, daughter and I have pretty diverse interests, and biking is one of those things that we ALL enjoy. When we all can get excited about doing something together, it makes for much better family time than when something is forced upon one of us that we really don’t feel like doing. This is one activity for which none of us has to compromise.

5. Umm. No carbon emissions. Score.

While we haven’t quite worked up to biking to the store yet, we’re getting there. We live in a pretty traffic-heavy area, so biking everywhere may be a safety risk, but there are three grocery stores and two strip malls within safe biking distance. We have every intention of biking back and forth whenever we can to cut back on our carbon emissions as a family.

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6. Did I mention it’s just plain fun?

As I mentioned, I had been wanting a bike for years, because my memory told me riding was something I’d want to do often. It’s a great way to get — or stay — in shape, but more than that, I really do enjoy it, and my daughter and husband do, too. We’ve found a great parking lot that is empty during the weekend where we can race, challenge ourselves to bike up steep inclines, etc. I feel like a kid again when I’m riding, so that’s reason enough for me to do it often.

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.