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All The Cool Kids Pack Waste-Free Lunches: Wild Mint Shop {Review and Giveaway}

 

To Go Ware Bamboo Utensils {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.

 

I have been packing waste-free lunches since my children started school.  When they were young, they took whatever reusable items I used without question.  At around age 10, however, that started to change.  I’m starting to run into the “cool factor”.  Some of these items somehow aren’t cool anymore.  So far, water bottles and the lunch bag itself are fine.  Reusable snack bags and eating utensils, not so much.  When my 12 year old grabbed the bamboo reusable utensils I received for review from Wild Mint Shop and asked if she could use it, I knew I had a winner.  We passed the “cool” test!

Now, I’m not usually one for being trendy or giving in to such things.  Why can’t she just grab a metal spoon or fork from the drawer?  Sure, she could, but will she?  Probably not.  She’s 12.  Is this really a battle I want to fight?  Heck no.  In the end, as long as she’s not using a plastic disposable utensil and understands why she shouldn’t, I’m happy.  So if it means getting utensils made from sustainable bamboo in an awesome little case, why not!

 

Why Pack Waste-Free Lunches

There are so many reasons to pack a waste free lunch.  Wild Mint’s Lunch Savers tips and tricks guide sums it up fantastically – “Saving Your Money, Your Health and the Environment”.  If I were to write my own waste-free lunch guide, this would be it.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I am an engineer and I need facts and solutions.  This guide totally fits the bill!

Here are just a few facts from the guide:

  • By Wild Mint’s calculations and extensive chart, you could save over $400 per year per child by choosing reusable vs. disposable lunch packaging.
  • Many disposable packaging contains harmful chemicals which can leach into your food.  These chemicals can cause harm over time.
  • Packaged items often contain other undesirable ingredients like preservatives, and extra fat, sodium and sugar.
  • A school age child’s disposable lunch accounts for an estimated 67 pounds of trash per school year.
  • Plastic and Styrofoam do not break down over time and can stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years.

 

The guide goes on to point out what to look for in reusables and provides options on the site.  “At Wild Mint, we are passionate about helping families live healthier, safer, and more environmentally friendly lives.  On our website, www.WildMintShop.com, we offer a one-stop shopping destination where people can find only the best and safest products, information on toxic chemicals, healthy living tips, recipes, and more.”

 

How To Start

Just do it!  Pick one item or go all out.  Wild Mint’s How to Pack a Healthy, Non Toxic and “Green” Lunch for Children guide is a great place to start.  Most children in my area use reusable water bottles and reusable lunch bags so that’s always an easy place to start.  For me, I think the reusable bottle is a “no-brainer”.  If you are still buying prepackaged drinks, STOP!  Get a bottle and fill it.  You will save the cost of the bottle in no time.  We use ours daily for school, sports, and outings of all kinds. 

If your children are older, get their input. As I mentioned, I have already seen a small revolt against our reusable snack bags.  My kids tell me that the ones we have are too “little kiddish” looking.  So this year I will be letting them pick out their own designs.  My girls have each found patterns they love on Wild Mint Shop.

 

Add More Reusables

ToGoWare

If you have the basics covered, think about adding a few other items to complete your waste-free lunch.  Adding reusable napkins, utensils and even straws can save your children time as well.  If lunch at school is anything like it is here, children have about 20 minutes.  Lunch rooms are crowded and it can take a few minutes to navigate your way to the plastic utensils and napkins.

 

Lunch

 

 

We have been using the to go ware bamboo flatware everywhere we go and even at home.  They have easily become a useful addition to our reusables.  The knife easily cut through the tomato and mozzarella salad.  I really appreciate the fact that the utensils are made of a sustainable material like bamboo and the case is made from recycled PET plastic.

 

Which reusables are your favorite?

 

 

Savings

The Greening Of Westford readers will receive 10% off any orders from Wild Mint Shop until September 4, 2014 using the code “WildMint”.

 

Giveaway

Wild Mint Shop is also giving you a chance to win an e-gift certificate worth $120.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

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MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

 

As a child I loved summer! We had a pool in the backyard and I literally lived in my bathing suit.  In the 1970’s and even in the early 80’s, we didn’t quite understand the dangers of the sun.  Sunscreen?  Yuck, that’s the white stuff you put on that looks and feels horrible!  Unfortunately, years later I am paying the price.  Wish we had Goddess Garden Sunscreens back then – great ingredients, great smell, great feel.

 

Why Am I Wishing For Better Sunscreen? 

It all started with a mole on my ankle that seemed to just appear one day.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have one there before.  Did I?  I had 3 children under the age of 5 at the time so I was too busy to notice. I was lucky if I showered regularly. I made an appointment with a dermatologist.  He said it looked completely normal, but since I was sure there wasn’t one there before we should biopsy it.  When the diagnosis came back as melanoma, I was shocked.  I am not your stereotypical skin cancer patient.  My skin is not pale and I have brown eyes.  I remember having a few sunburns as a child, only one particularly bad burn at age 10, but other than that, I tanned easily.

The next couple of months were a series of doctor’s appointments aimed at finding out the severity.  Luckily, we had caught it early and I would only need surgery.  Throughout these appointments, several doctors told me to stay out of the sun, wear protective clothing and hats and wear sunscreen year round regardless of the weather.  My children were also at higher risk and they should follow this advice as well.

Protecting ourselves from the sun is even more serious now.  However, the choices in sunscreens, thus far, have not been great in my opinion because of the ingredients and the hard-to-rub-on white mess most of the heavy duty sunscreens are made of.  I have been able to find better shampoo alternatives without questionable ingredients relatively easily but sunscreens are a completely different story for me.  Alternatives were not readily available when I was first diagnosed 7 years ago. So I used popular commercial sunscreens I found in local stores, figuring my family’s risk for skin cancer was greater than the side effects from the chemicals in them.  Or so I hoped.

This is why I was so excited when given this opportunity to try Goddess Garden Organics that are made with non-toxic, mineral and natural ingredients.  Its ingredient list looked extremely promising to me.  Had I found MY perfect sunscreen?

Now please remember, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on my blog.  This is my story and my conclusions alone.  You should absolutely do your own research and choose the option that is best for you.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about how the sun damages our skin.

 

How the Sun Damages Our Skin

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscren {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

The sun contains two major types of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UVB rays are also known as the burning rays.  UVA rays, the aging rays, penetrate much deeper and can cause more serious damage to cells.  UVA rays are able to penetrate clouds and are around even in winter months.  

In addition, the damage to your skin caused by exposure to the sun (both UVA and UVB rays) is cumulative.  Even tanning is evidence of sun damage.  Tanning is actually your skins attempt to protect itself from the sun.  Sun exposure can cause wrinkles, sun spots, sunburns, and cancer.

The best option is to avoid the sun during peak times and to use clothing and hats to shade your skin.  This is great advice, but you can’t avoid the sun ALL the time.  Sunscreens must be part of this equation.

 

Trouble Finding The Perfect Sunscreen

For years, I bought the sunscreen I was told to buy.  This was one area where I was not comfortable straying from my doctor’s advice.  I heard the word CANCER and freaked!   At the time, there weren’t many other alternatives that did the jobs I needed them to do – products that would protect my skin but not cause potential damage because of the ingredients.   I felt like I was choosing between tanning a bit or preventing skin cancer for my children!  Talk about Mom guilt!

As I did more research on personal care products, I really became conflicted.  I wasn’t entirely comfortable putting some of the chemicals on my skin and on my children.  But “family history of melanoma” loomed in my head.  

And in comes Goddess Garden  sunscreens, I was very excited!    

 

What I Like About Goddess Garden Sunscreens

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

  • According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), their toxicity rating is very low.

  • The sunscreens are very stable.  Sunscreens that are not stable can break down over time and with exposure to heat making them less effective.  Sunscreen stability was something my doctor’s stressed.

  • Goddess Garden uses a mineral sunscreen.  Mineral or physical sunscreens block and deflect the sun’s rays.  The alternative, chemical sunscreens, absorb the UV radiation and convert it to a small amount of heat.  Personally, I like the idea of reflecting as opposed to absorbing into my skin.  So does this doctor.

  • The mineral sunscreens they use, zinc and titanium dioxide, in all of their products are NON-NANO sized.  According to Goddess Garden, ” The average particle size is 120nm. The range in particle sizes is 100nm to 130nm. Most definitions of “nano-particles” are under 100nm.”  The issue here is that nano -particles, very small particles, could be absorbed into the skin and then the bloodstream and cause problems.
  • They are broad spectrum, meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays.

  • Goddess Garden does not leave a whitish glow!

  • They smell and feel great!  They feel light and not greasy at all.  Can’t say that about many sunscreens!  This makes them very easy to wear all year long.

  • The other ingredients used are fabulous for your skin!  Among them are aloe vera, sunflower oil, shea butter and, in the facial sunscreens, Helichrysum essential oil!  This essential oil is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which is great for anti-aging.

 

I have been using the Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen with SPF 30 daily.  It feels wonderful!  It is light, non-greasy, non-whitening, and feels very hydrating.  And oh did I mention the lavender scent!  I have replaced my morning moisturizer with this one.  By the way, I still have the occasional issues with breakouts and this has not caused me any troubles.

My children have been trying the Sunny Kids Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 and the Kids Natural Sunscreen Continuous Sports Spray SPF 30.  Great success!  They are easy to rub in and don’t feel heavy and greasy.  My children thank you, Goddess Garden!  I do not let them out of the house without sunscreen and they don’t fight me so much with these.

Personally, I feel like I have found a great product.  No questionable ingredients and it will do the job of protecting our skin from the sun.  I of course urge you to do your own research, talk to your dermatologist, and come to a decision that is best for you.

 

What do you look for in a sunscreen?

 

Savings

The Greening Of Westford readers will save $2 off purchases of Goddess Garden Organics  from May 1 through July 30.  Just use the discount code #GGOrganics.  

Giveaway

Goddess Garden Organics is also giving you a chance to win several cools prizes:

One GRAND prize (valued at $183) includes:

4 continuous sprays

1 facial sunscreen

1 kids’ pump spray

1 kids’ 3.4 ounce tube

1 adult 6 ounce tube

1 kids’ 6 ounce tube

Twenty people will receive a second prize of a 3.4 ounce tube of Natural Body 30 SPF sunscreen.

 

 

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Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Review and Giveaway

Wi_Fi_Smart_Thermostat

Disclosure: I received a free Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Want to reduce your home energy consumption and save money?  Who doesn’t!

The biggest way I have found to do this is to closely monitor your heating and cooling system.  This is the single biggest draw on our electric and gas usage.  Even though we heat with natural gas, the HVAC system still needs electricity to run the fans and so on.

Using a programmable thermostat is the simplest and most efficient way to do this.  The temperature is set automatically based on a schedule you set.  So at night or during the day when no one is home, the temperature is lowered (in the cold months), so as not to waste the energy.  I love things that are done automatically!  Less for me to remember.

I was recently sent a Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat to install and test out.  OK, I’ll admit that I, personally, did not install this.  My very handy husband did.  

Compatibility

Before you buy one of these thermostats you need to determine whether or not your system and household wiring is compatible.  Honeywell provides a step by step set of questions to determine whether or not your current system is compatible with the thermostat.   Go through ALL of the steps.  We found that the final step, connecting power to the unit, proved to be a little tricky because of our furnace not the wiring at the thermostat.  My husband was able to figure it out, but I’m guessing it was a little more complicated due to our particular furnace.

Installation

The installation was fairly easy.  My husband did have some issues with supplying the unit power as I mentioned above.  He was able to figure it out with the help of the videos.  It’s nice to know that there is also a help line should you need more assistance.

After that it was my turn again. I was quickly able to set the temperature schedule throughout the week!  Much quicker than our old thermostat.  I also chose a cool red color scheme.

Online Access

I, then,  created an account at My Total Connect Comfort so that I could access the thermostat from my smart phone app.  Apps are available for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices.

So far so good!  Not sure I’ll use the app much, but I had fun changing the temperature with my phone and seeing the thermostat change.    The thermostat is working well, was easy to install, and set up.  I also like that I can see what the temperature is outside!

 

Honeywell is giving one lucky person a free Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.  Enter below.  Good luck!

The giveaway will run from Saturday April 18 through Friday April 25 midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Bog Berry Dryer Balls {Review & Giveaway}

 

Bog Berry Dryer Balls review {The Greening Of Westford}

 

Have you heard of wool dryer balls?  They are the eco-friendly replacement for dryer sheets that reduce drying time, soften clothes and eliminate static cling.  I tried making my own a couple of years ago and was not overly impressed.  I did see a decrease in static but didn’t see a decrease in drying time. 
 
I was fortunate to connect with Brooke of Bog Berry’s Wool Dryer balls to have a chance to test them out.  Let me tell you….   You know I am a DIY girl at heart, but in this case, BUY BOG BERRY DRYER BALLS!
 
These things work!  The softening capability was way better than my attempt!   Because you know the engineer in me needs hard data to really believe something, I started designing tests the second I knew these babies were coming.  Let me tell you how I tested the claims.  
 
 
Static And Softening Test
 
Purpose  To test the static busting and softening capabilities of Bog Berry Wool Dryer Balls.   
 
Materials  
 
 
  • Two identical loads of laundry each consisting  of – 

                 3 towels
                 3 pairs of jeans

                 3 items of fleece
                 2 microfiber cloths
                 2 napkins
 
 
  • 1996 Kenmore Electric Dryer
  • 6 Bog Berry Dryer Balls
 
Procedures
 
  1. Wash one load of laundry and dry WITHOUT dryer balls
  2. Observe static and softness
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 WITH Dryer balls
 
Results
 
No Dryer balls –  The microfiber cloth was completely stuck to the napkin.  I had to pull them apart and shake them to release the static.  Loads of static from the fleece too.   Clothes were the same in terms of softness as when they went into the wash.
 
With Dryer Balls – The microfiber cloth and napkin barely stuck to each other.  Our clothes were noticeably softer.
 
 
Drying Time Test
 
I wasn’t seeing a difference in dryer time in the first test, so I asked Brooke.  She told me that 6 is the minimum.  For a heavy load like I was doing I would need more (as many as 12) to see a noticeable difference.  I didn’t have 12, so I tried another test with a smaller, lighter load.
 
Purpose  To test the drying time reduction capability of Bog Berry Wool Dryer Balls.   
 
Materials  
 
  • Two identical loads of laundry each consisting  of – 

            1 pair of nylon running pants

            2 cotton shirts
            2 pairs of nylon shorts
            1 pair of cotton pants
 
  • 1996 Kenmore Electric Dryer
  • 6 Bog Berry Dryer Balls
 
Procedures
 
  1. Wash one load of laundry and dry WITHOUT dryer balls
  2. Measure dry time
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 WITH Dryer balls
 
Results
 
Without Dryer balls – drying time = 21 mins
With Dryer balls – drying time = 16 mins
 
That’s a 23% decrease in drying time!
 
 
Based on my 2 tests and having been using them for a couple of months, I have to say I like them and they work for us.    I calculated some savings.
 
Savings
 
No more dryer sheet cost  – $15 per year
Based on 10 loads per week, cost of $0.04 per sheet 
   savings = $15 per year
 
 
Electricity savings  – $57 per year
I used this handy calculator to figure out my savings using these parameters – 10 loads per week, cost of $0.15 KWh (specific to your area), and a savings of 23% which for me is about 10 minutes per load.
 

To gain these savings, I would need a set of 12 dryer balls.  This would cost $59 plus shipping. In less than a year, I can recoup this savings.  And you can’t even put a price on the reduction of chemicals.

 

As an added bonus, Brooke is originally a local girl from MA!
 
 
Giveaway
 
 
Bog Berry Handicraft is giving one Greening Of Westford reader a set of 6 wool dryer balls in the color palate of your choice. For the main entry, visit Bog Berry and let me know which is your favorite color combo.   This one doesn’t have to be done first but it does have to be done for all other entries to count.

This contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada, 18 years old or older. The contest will run from Friday March 29, 2013 thru Tuesday April 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced Wednesday April 10. The winner must reply within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.

There are additional ways you can enter:

 

Separate comments must be left here for each additional entry!

Also, please include your email with comments or if you’d rather, after you leave your main entry comment, email me at thegreeningofwestford(at)gmail(dot)com so I will have a way of contacting you if you win. You will have 48 hours after I contact you to send me your info or else I will choose another winner.

 
 
Coupon Savings
 
If you just can’t wait or would like to order more, Brooke is offering The Greening of Westford readers a 10% discount oany purchase 29.50 or higher  from her Etsy shop.
 
Use the code:  GreeningOfWestford  at her Etsy shop.  This code will only work at her Etsy shop not on the website.



UPDATE:  The winner is Katie of Littleton! Congratulations.
 
 
Have you ever tried dryer balls?
 
Disclosure: Bog Berry Handicraft provided me with a complementary set of 6 wool dryer balls for this product review.  The opinions expressed are mine.

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Cleaner Planet Soap Nuts {Review and Giveaway}

Cleaner Planet Soap Nuts Review

The search for eco-friendly laundry detergent has been a long one!   I have tried making my own with baking soda, grated soap and the like.  They just didn’t seem to work.  I think maybe it’s our hard water.  I have also bought detergents.  I was never convinced of the claims, they were expensive and didn’t work as well as others.

I was so excited when Cleaner Planet gave me the chance to try out their soap nuts!  I have heard of soap nuts but hadn’t had the chance to try them yet.  Do you know about soap nuts? They are actually a berry that grows on the Sapindus Mukorossi tree in parts of  Asia.    The berries have Saponin which is a natural sufactant (like soap).  They leave little trace as well since soap nuts can be composted once used completely.

I have been using the soap nuts for about a month and couldn’t be happier!  Here are my top reasons.

  1. Our clothes are clean and smell fresh – not perfumy. 
  2. I really like that I don’t have to pour or measure out detergent!  Such a silly little step, but it makes things easier.
  3. They work great in cold. 
  4. I definitely was able to use the bag for 8 – 10 washes.  I added the spent soap nuts to a cup and filed with boiling water.  I then used the liquid for an additional few washes!
  5. They are cost effective.  Assuming each 250 gram bag washes 100 loads, soap nuts will end up costing about 0.14 per load.  If you order two 250 gram bags at once, this includes shipping costs!  A quick search online for some of the popular traditional detergents yielded prices well over $0.20 per load.


I was afraid I would forget about the bag and it would end up in the dryer.  For the first few weeks it always seemed to land at the bottom of the washing machine.  But, one time it did make it into the dryer.  FYI – they were fine.  Whew!

If you would like to try soap nuts without committing too much, Cleaner Planet has a sample bag you can purchase for $1.99.  It is good for 4 – 8 washes and comes with a $2 coupon towards your next purchase.

The Cleaner Planet is giving one Greening Of Westford reader a 250 gram bag of soap nuts (value $10). For the main entry, tell me one natural cleaner you already use.  If you don’t use any, tell me which one you would like to switch first.   This one doesn’t have to be done first but it does have to be done for all other entries to count.

This contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada, 18 years old or older. The contest will run from Thursday January 3, 2013 thru Thursday January 13, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced Friday January 14. The winner must reply within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.

There are additional ways you can enter:


Separate comments must be left here for each additional entry!

Also, please include your email with comments or if you’d rather, after you leave your main entry comment, email me at thegreeningofwestford(at)gmail(dot)com so I will have a way of contacting you if you win. You will have 48 hours after I contact you to send me your info or else I will choose another winner.

UPDATE:  The winner has been picked and notified.  Congratulations Susan!


Disclosure: Cleaner Planet provided me with a complementary 250 gram of soap nuts for this product review.  The opinions expressed are mine.

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