Sunday, April 22, 2012

Viva Portlandia

Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival! 

This post is part of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction. Each participant has shared their practices and insights of earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.  

Happy Earth Day!

We went for a family bike ride last evening. Jaymz was in front, Daniel and I were on my bike in the middle, and my brother Matthew brought up the rear. We bought new bikes for Jaymz and Matthew last week from a local shop that repairs and re-purposes old bicycle parts into "new" bikes for sale. Matthew got a fixed-gear bike, and Jaymz was lucky enough to find a frame tall enough for him, which the shop owner then built into a custom bike for him. How cool is that?!

In light of Earth Day, I got to thinking about all the ways this beautiful City of Roses makes it very easy (and appealing) for our family to be environmentally conscious.  

Here are a few of my favorite eco-friendly things about Portland:


There are bike lanes on most streets here, and in the Summer it's not uncommon to see more bikes than cars lined up at a red light. Drivers here are pretty good at being aware of cyclists, since it's so common. There are many, many people who commute to work on bicycles every day. From our house, it takes the same amount of time to commute to work downtown whether you drive, ride the train, or pedal a bike (20 minutes), so there's no disincentive to choosing a "greener" option.

On the MAX with baby Daniel

Public Transportation

The MAX light rail, buses, and streetcars cut down on traffic and provide affordable (and reliable, very clean compared to other cities) transportation here. The trains here have enabled us to remain a single-car family, even as we've added new family members to our household. Jaymz commutes to work on the train during the week, and his monthly MAX pass costs less than ⅓ the average cost of paying to park a vehicle downtown.

Composting & Recycling

We have weekly city-wide pickup of yard debris and food scraps (and pizza boxes!) for composting, and the city recycles almost everything with a number on it. The garbage cans (ours is tiny compared to the other two bins) are only picked up every other week. I'm still getting used to this but so far, it's great! Our last home was one of five attached town homes, which is one more residence than the limit for public compost pick-up. Jaymz and I didn't let that stop us, though—we started a compost pile in the front, and within a couple of weeks, all our neighbors had asked if they could use it, too!

Some of my harvest from
last year's container garden

It seems like most people have gardens here, which allows for lots of creative inspiration just walking around the neighborhood! Many people plant their whole front yards with vegetable and herb gardens (in lieu of grass), and it's very common for people to use the parking strip (the piece of grass between the sidewalk and the road) for growing vegetables in a raised bed, growing squash, or even planting a few rows of corn! I've been making the best of the limited space we've had by gardening in containers since we moved here. This year will be the first year of gardening with permanence in mind, which feels so good. I'm loving planning and planting things knowing that we won't have to leave all our hard work behind anytime soon.


Though we don't have any, Portland residents are allowed up to three chickens, ducks, doves, pigeons, pygmy goats or rabbits without obtaining an animal facility permit to keep them. Beekeeping is also allowed, provided the bees are a certain distance from your house. Many of my friends have chickens, and one of our new neighbors (with whom we share a fence) has some. We've agreed to cut a small chicken gate in our fence, so we can share our yard with their chickens. This will provide them with more room to run around, and it lets us have yard clean-up and fertilization services whenever we want.

Cloth Diapering

It is quite common to use cloth diapers here. There are plenty of great local diaper stores (my favorite one in Portland is Milagros), and at least one prefold diaper service I know of (Tidee Didee), which we used for Daniel's first three months. The commonality of cloth diapering means that there are more quality used diapers available locally, which cuts down on manufacturing and shipping costs if you're buying used. Another bonus is that when a friend or neighbor takes care of your child, they probably already know how to change a cloth diaper!

Farmers' Markets

There are markets open all over the city every day of the week during the Summer, and nearly year-round in some places. There's no shortage of local, organic, gorgeous food to peruse and consume here. There are usually at least two different tents at our favorite local market run by gluten-free bakeries, which is such a special treat for me. I can't even tell you how much I enjoy walking around the market, spending money on local produce.

NIPing at the farmers' market


It's common for mothers to breastfeed and also to see public breastfeeding here, which helps future mothers to feel more comfortable with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is such a cheap and eco-friendly way to feed our babies!


This is not unique to Portland, but I just love Freecycle. It's a great way to get rid of things that you can't/won't use anymore and give them to someone who will. Likewise, sometimes something pops up on there that I think, "Hey, I've been wanting one of those." and sometimes I'm lucky enough to get it for free! Freecycle cuts out the middle-man of a thrift store, and no one profits (monetarily) from the exchange. It keeps useable items out of landfills. I've gotten incredible things from Freecycle, including a glider rocking chair and many great plants.

Even though there are ways that living in this city makes thinking of the environment a no-brainer, it was no accident that Jaymz and I decided to live here. I have no qualms admitting that it is in my nature to be pretty crunchy, and living here has encouraged that side of me to flourish and grow.

Here are some ways I strive to go above and beyond the eco-convenience of this green town:

Personal Hygiene

  • I'm choosing gentler body products, utilizing the Cosmetics Database to check products for environmental friendliness before I purchase them. My most recent favorite discovery in the soap department is a locally-made shampoo bar. These bars require little to no packaging, and they're compact for storage in my (tiny) bathroom. Aside from that, they're made from natural ingredients and they're extremely gentle on my hair.
  • I use family cloth. Yep—I admit it—I've made the leap over into what some consider extreme crunchiness by using cloth wipes in place of toilet paper. Honestly, once you get past the initial "Yuck!" thought of it, family cloth is really not that big of a deal. After cloth diapering Daniel for almost two years now, it seems only logical that I'd be thinking about my own consumption of paper products with respect to my bathroom habits. Just like with Daniel, I use family cloth only with pee, and it's not at all gross like you might think. In fact, in a lot of ways it's actually less gross than toilet paper: cloth is softer, there aren't bits of paper left behind (so to speak), and it leaves me cleaner than paper products. Here are some great reasons to use less toilet paper, and here's a helpful tutorial on how to make your own family cloth.
  • While we're in the TMI zone, I might as well admit also that I use reusable menstrual products. I cannot say enough about the difference between a menstrual cup and a bleached tampon, or a cloth pad and one made of plastic (but that's a post for another day). If you're interested, though, Lauren wrote an incredible piece at Natural Parents Network highlighting the reasons to switch to reusable products and also outlining the (many!) different types of products out there if you're interested in exploring your options. I highly recommend it!
  • I shower less than I used to, but I promise I'm not a dirty hippie (yet). Just a few years ago when I worked night shift at the hospital, I was showering twice a day on work days. Now, I shower every other day which is gentler on my skin and hair, while also saving water.

Grocery Shopping

  • I do my best to buy things in bulk, which cuts down on packaging (since I use reusable containers) as well as trips to the grocery store. Some of the things I regularly buy in bulk include Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, hand soap, grains, and nuts. I also belong to a bulk foods delivery co-op, which enables me to purchase organic, wholesome foods while cutting back on the transportation costs of shipping to individual grocery stores.
  • I use reusable grocery bags and produce bags, which is fairly common these days. (I even make reusable shopping bags, which are available for sale in my shop.) The city of Portland recently eliminated single-use plastic bags from stores, so the choices here are either recyclable paper or (bring your own) cloth. 
  • I do my best to walk or bike to the grocery, even if it means I have to take my folding metal grandma cart and embarrass Jaymz. We've been doing more walking and biking grocery outings as the weather has been getting warmer.


  • We have High-Efficiency machines (both washer and dryer) in our home. We were lucky enough to have HE machines in the last place we lived (where we were renting) as well, so I even got used to washing cloth diapers in this low-water environment.
  • I use a clothesline for many things (including diapers) instead of using the dryer as much. At our last place, we didn't have a yard, but Jaymz rigged up this ingenious vertical clothesline on the posts by our front door. Fortunately, our rental company didn't have any rules against this kind of thing, though I know that can be an issue in some places. We recently bought a new clothesline to put up in our back yard, which will hopefully get installed today!
  • I use wool dryer balls in my dryer when I do use it, which cuts down on drying time and naturally softens our clothes without adding any artificial chemicals or creating more waste (in the form of dryer sheets). Since wool is biodegradable, I can (theoretically) compost my dryer balls someday...if they ever wear out.

Sharing in Nature with Daniel

Perhaps the most important thing I do to better the environment is to foster a love of nature and the outdoors in my child. We make an effort (more and more each day) to get outside often, to have few rules, "no"s, or time limits, and to enjoy ourselves fully.

Daniel also participates in our family's ecologically conscious lifestyle habits. Whether he's putting a banana peel in the compost bin, helping us work outside in the yard, throwing a piece of used paper into the recycle bag, or riding to his OT appointment on my bicycle, he's learning that these things are a normal part of the way we live life. They're all ways we make a conscious effort to show our respect to the Earth.

Even if our back yard looks like this, Daniel still gets
most excited when we get to go "ide!" (outside).
While we were riding our bikes together last night, I was talking with Daniel about all the things we were seeing and experiencing on our ride as he excitedly pointed at the things he saw and shouted out their words.

"[Gr]ass! ... Bird! ... Ow-ow! (flower) ... Bike! ... Rain!" (Though it wasn't raining, I explained that he was feeling wind on his face.)

"Weh-dee! (windy) ... Sun...[l]ight!"

... "Gog! Gog!" (dog)

As Daniel cheered me on with a "Go-go-go!" on the final climb up the hill to our house, I realized we must be doing something right: raising him here in this place, in this way.

Thank you for stopping by the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival! Please relax and take time to read these other great eco-living posts:
    Earth Day Blog Carnival - Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction
  • You are a Child of the Earth - Using the Earth as their classroom, Patti from Canadian Unschool teaches her 4 children their spiritual connection to the Earth and she accepts that loving the Earth can get really, really messy.
  • Cutting Out Paper - Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went from curiosity and concern to actually cutting out the use of paper towels in her household. She is proud to be "greener" as each Earth Day passes.
  • The World is Brown - Debra Ann Elliot of Words are Timeless believes in keeping the Earth green, but because so many people inhabit the Earth it is turning brown because people aren't doing their part by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
  • 7 Child And Eco Friendly Activities To Honor The Earth (Plus Some Environmental Books For Kids) - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her favorite books that help children become more aware of the importance of respecting and caring for Mother Earth. In addition, she hosts a guest post outlining seven child and eco friendly activities to honor the earth.
  • 5 Ways We Teach Our Children To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - Valarie at Momma In Progress shares a few tips for encouraging young children to care for the earth.
  • Little Changes - Big Results - Meegs at A New Day talks about how sometimes it’s the little decisions and changes that can lead us to find big results, and how she's baby-stepping her way to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  • Inspiring the Next Generation - aNonyMous at at Radical Ramblings hopes to inspire her daughter to live a green and sustainable lifestyle, in the same way she was inspired by her high-school science teacher, and talks about the changes her family are making towards this vision.
  • Eco-Friendly Cleansers: Safe For the Environment, Healthy For Every Body - Rebekah at Liberated Family writes about safe and natural alternatives to toxic, household cleaning products..
  • Lightening My Footprint with Cloth Nappies (Diapers) - Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares the biggest eco-choice she has made so far, and why she is so passionate about it.
  • Clutter Free for a Cause - At Living Peacefully with Children Mandy's penchant for decluttering and simple living cuts down on consumerism, taking less of a tole on the Earth.
  • Eco-Parenting: Homemade Bug Spray - Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares a homemade bug spray recipe that helps her family to enjoy the natural world while taking precautions against bug bites.
  • Let the Scales Fall From My Eyes...Just Not Too Quickly - Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about the discomfort of no longer being able to live in denial over how her choices affect the world around her.
  • Fostering Love of Earth - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger instills a love of nature in her daughters by embarking on their first backyard vegetable garden together.
  • Being in Nature - Carrie at Love Notes Mama knows that just being in nature is more than enough.
  • 5 Ways to Pass Down Environmental Values to Your Children - Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares how easy it can be to instill environmental values in your children.
  • Viva Portlandia - Amy at Anktangle writes about the place she lives and loves in: Portland, Oregon. She describes the ways this green city makes it easy for her family to take care of our earth, and also the steps she's taking to further lessen her family's environmental impact.
  • Conspicuous Conservationism - Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction examines the phenomenon of eco-conscious behavior as a status symbol.
  • Time for Radical Sustainability - Terri at Child of the Nature Isle ponders how she can model a truly sustainable lifestyle for her children and raise them in a way that their environmental consciousness is as natural as breathing!
A big thank you to all of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival participants!


  1. You're very lucky to live in such a wonderful city! I've loved visiting Portland, and I felt the same way as you when I lived in San Francisco. It seemed like it was outside the norm not to be green and natural in various ways and everyone had such a great affinity for the outdoors... it was an incredible lifestyle.

    I'm also such a big fan of Freecyle!

    1. There is just something different and special about these green cities, isn't there? I'm grateful that we live here where caring for the environment is the rule instead of the exception.

      Yay for a fellow Freecycle lover! =)

  2. Having grown up in Washington and visiting Portland often, I really do wish that we lived there still. I used to travel there for work a ton and wished all cities could be as ecofriendly as Portland!

    Great post! My favorite piece from it is when you write: "Perhaps the most important thing I do to better the environment is to foster a love of nature and the outdoors in my child." I could not agree more!

    1. I also wish more cities could be more eco-conscious, but I think many places are moving (slooowly) in that direction. Change takes time. =/

  3. I LOVE reading about other urban natural parenting families! Have you read the book, "Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability," by David Owen? Sounds like it would be right up your alley!

    Cheers from Boston!

    1. Thanks—I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I haven't read that book, but it's going on my reading list. Thank you for the recommendation!

  4. it sounds absolutely lovely where you live, I love how they are making it so much easier to be green :) Jesse also loves his time outside, and even now that the weather is getting cooler he spends most of his day outside.

  5. Ah, all of this sounds wonderful! We try to live "green" here, but it's so easy to get lazy when your choices make you the odd one out - or to feel eco smug and forget that you still have such a long way to go!

    It sounds like you're living mindfully in a number of ways that are unique to you and your family, though, and those all make a huge difference!

  6. What an amazing eco-living life you have! I love how the city has implemented so many eco-friendly options and it makes me a bit wistful...whilst I live in one of the most natural places on Earth there is limited recycling, no way you could ride a bike, public transport is just about okay but not entirely efficient, certainly no bulk buy health stores and I may be one of a handful of people who have used cloth diapers. Ah well I guess no where is perfect and I love how you have integrated the best of your place in the world with your own environmental ethics. It may be really un-environmentally friendly for us to fly all the way to Portland but I do hope that we get to visit there at least once in this lifetime.

    Thank-you for being part of the Earth Day Blog Carnival

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