Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My First Book Review ~ The Eco-nomical Baby Guide

Let me start by saying I am so honored that the first book to review on my blog is The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet by Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley. The authors have an amazing blog, The Green Baby Guide. This book is practical, sensible, and flexible. Let me explain...

The book begins by describing a spectrum of green parents, from 'defiantly ungreen' to 'extraordinarily green.' I think I'm at about the 'gladly green' level, and I found it to be very valuable. Although I was always fairly eco-friendly (brought paper home from work to recycle, avoided eating meat/poultry, looked for cars that got good gas mileage), it wasn't until I gave birth to Lydia that I realized how truly wasteful we are as a society. As I enter my garage, which I will now refer to as 'the plastic graveyard,' I am instantly reminded of all of the "need to have" items that I purchased or asked for as shower gifts. So many items are that mass-produced are only useful for the first 6 months, 3 months, or perhaps not at all because your child just doesn't like them. For Lydia, big ticket items included her bouncer and swing. In addition, you also learn that some of your earlier choices were just not that safe. This includes some of the baby carriers I initially purchased. The Eco-nomical Baby Guide gently reminds you that can live without so many of these items, but you also need not be critical of your own previous (or current) decisions. The authors are not suggesting you hand-sew your child's clothing out of potato sacks or hitchhike across the country as a family vacation to save a few dollars. The ideas are practical, and for the most part, quite convenient!

Here are a few ideas/suggestions that touched me personally:

1. I love the focus on saving money now to put toward college later. Earning my doctorate in 2008 was probably my greatest personal accomplishment ever. It has already opened so many doors for me. Richard and I already began putting money toward Lydia's college education through the Florida Prepaid College Fund. It's about $100 a month, but gives my family the security we need to plan for her future.

2. I was appalled when I saw the cost of feeding your child organic baby formula for the first year of life - about $8,000!  I had no idea. I breastfed Lydia since the day she was born. When the doctors in the hospital suggested we supplement with formula because of her jaundice, I cried. Breastfeeding has been an amazing (and economical/eco-friendly) journey for us as a family. I could not imagine paying thousands of dollars for something that is not nearly as good as what I am fortunate enough to be given for free. However, I understand for some people breastfeeding is not an option, so we are lucky to have many formula choices on the market today, and this guide evaluates those choices for you.

3. I love the emphasis on living a vegetarian lifestyle. Being a pescetarian has been a very important aspect of my life for about 3.5 years now. That decision has guided so many other decisions that I am proud to have made. While pregnant, I cut out a lot of my seafood intake, so I lived off of fruit/vegetables, pasta, rice, and dairy. Many of my friends/family members were concerned that I was pregnant and vegetarian...but when Lydia was born 8 lbs 7.7 oz, my sister said she had never heard of such a big vegetarian baby (and my sister is a nurse)! I've also been asked if I am going to raise Lydia vegetarian. I feel like that's a decision she will have to make once she is informed and understands the benefits of making that decision. Until then, she'll eat primarily fruits, veggies, grain, and dairy, but I will also prepare her some fish(wild)/poultry(free-range). I love cooking, so this should not be a problem!

4. The list of suggested companies for baby gear, feeding utensils, toys, cloth diapers, etc. is great! I even like the section where they suggest items that are really worth the splurge vs. those that you can get for less money and still be satisfied. This advice would have been amazing as I was planning my baby shower. Fortunately, though, I can use this information to advise my friends who are expecting. It's even shaped the types of gifts I'm giving to friends. I've learned that being eco-nomical doesn't mean purchasing the $20 wooden teether. It means giving your child a celery stick to gnaw on instead.

5. I began composting a while back, but I did not actually do it properly until recently (see my post on composting).  What this book taught me is that even when you discard items that are biodegradable (paper products, cardboard, etc.), they end up trapped under items that are not biodegradable. As a result, they are basically preserved in garbage heaps. This is why recycling and composting are imperative! The great thing about composting, as expressed in this book, is that you are creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Living in Florida, I am able to garden year-round, so composting is very beneficial to us.

6. There are just so many other amazing topics discussed in this book, such as cloth diapering with cost-comparisons, making your own baby food, living on a restricted budget, caring for children as a single parent, and caring for multiples.

Overall, the emphasis is on trying your best...not expecting to be perfectly eco-friendly, yet disappointed when you want to take a relaxing bath every night or take a drive to the beach in your SUV. The book reminds you that you should actively think through each decision you make for your family, evaluate your options, and do what's best for your family and the earth. It's already given me some great green ideas for Lydia's first birthday party, and she's not even 8 months old yet!

Thank you to Rebecca and Joy at The Green Baby Guide for allowing me to review your amazing, practical guide.

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