Eco-Friendly Back to School Supplies Guide

Good for you for being interested i learning how to do better for the earth while supplying your kids what they need for their education. We have lot of options now for reusable and/or sustainable school supplies than ever before.

Book Covers

We use stretchy cloth book covers. They have smaller and larger ones available. They stretch easily over my kids textbooks and don’t fall off. They’re washable, reusable, and come in lots of colors and designs. We have several book covers that have been around for several years. I think we’ve had one get a hole in it but they can be easily repurposed into hair ties, hacky-sacks, barbie doll clothes, or whatever you can think of. You can find them in-store at Walmart too really cheap.

Snacks

Our school allows our children to bring in snacks. We can send them in daily, weekly or for the entire month. Reusable snack bags are not only eco-friendly, but also saves money in the long run. I have 4 kids, I can go through a box of sandwich bags or freezer bags in a blink. Even buying the generic brand it adds up.

There are clear reusable snack bags that look more like the normal sandwich bags and freezer bags. Then there are cloth reusable food storage bags that come in fun designs.

Pencils

There are lots of options for more earth friendly pencils. There are plantable pencils, pencils made from recycled newspaper, and if you just have to have a mechanical pencils there are even mechanical pencils made from bamboo.

If you’re a pencil snob and just have to have the Ticonderoga brand #2 pencils well Ticonderoga envirostik is your answer. It’s a natural wood pencil from “responsibly managed” forests. And still the #2 designation.

Erasers

This one seems to be harder to find but not impossible. A company called Onyx and Green make erasers made from recycled rubber.

Glue

It seems Elmer’s used to make a natural glue but I can’t seem to find it available anywhere which makes me wonder if they stopped making it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I found this great recipe for easy homemade glue. You can reuse an old glue bottle or use another similar reusable squeeze bottle. I’m even wondering if a clean, empty mustard bottle would work? What do you think?

Crayons and Colored Pencils

The elementary kids tend to use the crayons more while the teens seem to use the colored pencils more.

There are several choices for environmentally friendly crayons. There are crayons with reduced packaging as well as crayons made from beeswax.

You can even repurpose broken crayons you have by melting crayon stubs down and creating new chunky crayons. For mine I used a mini muffin tin for the shapes.

Onyx and Green comes through again with earth friendly colored pencils made from recycled newspaper.

Just FYI, for markers, Crayola has a program called Colorcycle for schools where schools can collect unusable markers and send them back to crayola for marker recycling.

This post does contain affiliate links. I will get a small commission from sales made through my links. Any opinions expressed are my own.


Living with Moderate Ulcerative Colitis – My Story

If you’re reading this you’re either curious, effected by UC (the short way of saying Ulcerative Colitis), or know someone that’s effected by UC. Any of these reasons are ok. Not everyone wants to hear about it. Not a lot of people even know what it is. The truth is, talking about Ulcerative Colitis is not a glamorous topic. It involves talk about managing not curing which is not always appealing to the sufferer or a loved one. It involves bathroom talk which ….let’s face it, not a lot of people want to hear. It involves having to plan every outing, just-in-case. It involves figuring out how to deal with people when the ask “what’s wrong?” but don’t actually want to hear about what’s wrong.

When I First Started Realizing Something Wasn’t Right

I started my path to my ulcerative colitis diagnosis roughly 10 years go. This is where I talk about things that people don’t want to hear. After the birth of my youngest son I started noticing I was getting “gassy” a lot. I constantly felt bloated. I started taking things like Gas-X , Pepto-Bismal and trying to change my diet a bit, but it didn’t help. I noticed I was having more need to excuse myself to the restroom. Even when I did, the relief was only temporary. I started to become uncomfortable in a lot of situations not knowing about what would happen. I was afraid of putting myself in embarrassing situations so I’d shy away from things. After about a year or so of dealing with it, I finally decided to see a GI doctor.

My First GI Doctor Visit

The doctor was nice. He seemed to listen to me. He decided to do a colonoscopy. Honestly the prep was the worst part. I did a follow up visit after the test. Basically he said that he didn’t see anything unusual except maybe some mild inflammation. He gave me some pills that I don’t even remember the name of anymore. I took them for a couple months but they didn’t help. If anything, they made me feel more bloated. I told him this and he told me I didn’t have to take them anymore. It was disheartening to hear that he really didn’t have an answer.

I felt like the pills were just thrown at me because there was no other answer. I wasn’t real confident in going back to see this particular GI doctor so I just didn’t. I tried to manage my symptoms myself. Cutting back on carbonated drinks. Virtually eliminating spicy foods. Staying away from greasy foods. Continuing to take things for bloating and indigestion. Eventually my symptoms got worse.

My Symptoms Started Escalating

I was not having diarrhea along with the bloating, and gas. I was also starting to get abdominal cramps and discomfort in my left side. Still I tried to manage it myself. Trying calming teas meant for digestive health. Drinking more water. Now taking anti-diarrheal medications as a daily med just to make it through my work days and other obligations. So I started asking around about GI doctors. I finally got a recommendation that seemed trust-worthy. I called and made an appointment.

About a week or two before this appointment with the new GI doctor though something happened. I was standing at my sink doing dishes when I got terrible abdominal cramps. They hurt to the point that I couldn’t stand up straight. I sat down in my computer chair in the dining room. I had a strong urge to use the bathroom. I ran upstairs as quickly as I could. But I didn’t make it. I was horrified, how could I have not made it. Until I actually got into the bathroom. I realized I didn’t “have an accident” I was bleeding. It was a lot of blood in my pants and still more in the toilet. I called my dad to come watch my kids so I could go to the emergency room. My husband was at work.

They did a test and confirmed I was bleeding “from that area” and they told me to make sure i keep my appointment with my GI doctor.

THE Diagnosis

So I meet with the doctor. I seem to have a lot more confidence in him. He also schedules a colonoscopy along with a couple other tests. When I woke from the colonoscopy I was still back in the testing room. The nurse told me “Yea there’s definitely something there. You’re fire engine red” So they wheel me back out to a cubicle area where my husband is waiting and the doctor tells us I have ulcerative colitis. It was evident in the colonoscopy. I honestly felt some relief. At least I knew what was wrong with me and we could start treating it. I had high hopes of feeling better soon.

My Disease Progression

I started taking a pill. It began with an “A” I can’t even remember anymore. It helped for a while. After about a year though, it seemed like it wasn’t helping as much. I was having flair-ups. Bleeding, cramps, pain, frequent bathroom visits, etc. So he doubles my dosage. Again, I feel pretty good for a few months, ok for several more months, then eventually it felt like it wasn’t working again. So my doctor moves me up to the next “tier” of drugs. A stronger drug. It requires me to get my blood drawn every so many months. Again worked great for a year, stopped working doubled dosage, yada yada yada. Until now where I was again moved up to the next tier of drugs. I need to give myself a shot every other week. Routine blood work is required again. This one has a risk of causing liver cirrhosis which is why the blood work is necessary. After using that for so long….you guessed it, it seemed like it wasn’t working as well so increased it to weekly shots. When that didn’t work infusions were suggested. I’ve yet to jump on that train though.

Daily Life

I have 4 kids, I work part-time in a hospital. I’m only 39 years old. I’m not stopping. I can’t stop, I won’t stop. Anti-diarrheal is a daily medication for me. Humira shots weekly. Gas-X or something similar occasionally. Always mapping out and planning for restroom visits or the day that “I just don’t make it”. I keep a change of pants, underwear, and a pad in my car. I’m always reading about the newest treatments and progress with Ulcerative Colitis treatment. I’m always considering looking at a new doctor or even alternative treatments. I’m hoping for something to help to avoid surgery or ostomies in the future.

Standing in line at the pharmacy is almost impossible. I’m grateful for mail delivered shots. I’m thankful for public restrooms along my commute to work. I’m thankful for generic anti-diarrheal meds at Walmart. I’m thankful I have an understanding husband. A deciding factor upon going somewhere is if I’ll have access to a bathroom.

My Hopes and My Helps

I’ve realized over the years that, people that aren’t effected by UC in some way really don’t want to hear about it. So it can be hard. People don’t understand why you seem flaky about going out or need to cancel because of a flare up or a bad day. There are several resources and communities out there though.

The Crohns and Colitis Foundation has both support groups and an online community. I’ve found the online community helpful in talking and asking questions to other people dealing with the same issues.

It’s hopeful to see some of the new treatments, new research, and new break through with the treatment of Crohn’s and Colitis.

Educating yourself is half the battle. Preparation is the other half. It’s possible to keep on living your life the way you want to. Maybe you just have to make some adjustments.

If you’re just figuring all this out yourself here’s some things that helped me.

  • Stick to trustworthy sites like Crohn’s and Colitis foundation, Mayo clinic, and other trustworthy medical sites. It helps to seek out other sufferers online via blogs, social media, and online forums like the one on the Crohns and Colitis foundation site.
  • Keep a food log. There are some foods you’ll find you just can’t eat anymore if you don’t want to suffer the consequences. As much as I love popcorn and corn on the cob I know I have to abstain from it lest I pay for it the next day.
  • Talk to your GI doctor, dieticians, other dealing with Ulcerative Colitis, and your pharmacist.
  • It’s ok to try other things in addition to your regular treatment. You may find that a certain diet may help you. Maybe a certain tea seems to help. If you want to try some alternative thing like accupressure, massage, etc most time it won’t hurt. I’ve personally been reading about research with CBD.

This is a journey. What may work wonders for one person may not work for the next. It’s easy to get frustrated but keep educating yourself . Eventually you’ll learn what helps and what doesn’t help for your body.


Easy and Affordable Eco-Friendly Swaps

I’ve been wanting to do better in regard to making better choices for the earth. I realize there is a lot of changes I need to make. It’s a little overwhelming. One thing I started doing was to keep a stash of reusable shopping bags in my car so I wouldn’t forget them when I’d go shopping. Here are a few more changes I’m making

Choosing Eco-friendly Stores

I’ve been shopping at Aldi more. Even though it’s a bit out of the way they’ve been more eco-friendly for a while and continue to make changes to do better, themselves. Aldi fairly recently announced they would be moving to fully sustainable packaging by the year 2025. There are tons of options for reusable shopping bags out there. I’ve actually got quite a few from local events, swag bags, etc for free.

Making Eco-friendly Swaps

So one issue I kept having was disposable utensils. We have a lot of get-togethers with a lot of people multiple times a year. The idea of washing that many dishes and utensils was daunting but the reality is, I don’t own enough for the amount of people that come to our parties. Initially when looking into biodegradable or sustainable disposable products they were pretty pricey for a minimal amount.

A fate, facebook post helped me to find Avoplast. Avoplast is 100% eco-friendly disposable utensils and straws made from avocado pits! As if there was any more reason to love avocados. How affordable are these? Well as a an example the Avoplast forks come in a 24 pack with free Prime delivery.

It doesn’t appear that Avoplast makes disposable plates or napkins though but there are lots of options for biodegradable plates and biodegradable napkins.

I also found this 114 pc set from Earth’s Naturals that has service for 16 people at a reasonable price.

Everyday Eco-friendly choices

My nieces have some kind of crazy obsession with straws. I keep stainless steel straws handy when they visit. What i like about stainless still straws is, they’re sturdy, they hold up well, and they come in different sizes. They have everything thing from regular size straws to Boba straws. I tried glass straws but they just didn’t hold up in our house. The stainless steel straws definitely do better.

Check out this set of 10 stainless steel straws with silicone tips (a little safer for the kids). It also comes with cleaning brushes. They actually gave me a coupon code to share with you too that is valid until Sept 9, 2019. Use code: METST5FF to get this set for only $5.99 with free shipping! (expires 9/9/19)

Some local convenience stores allow you to buy a branded reusable travel mug and refill coffee for a lower price or even offer so many free refills. Save money and the environment but using reusable water bottles too. There are plenty of different sizes and options from glass, stainless steel, BPA free plastic, and more.

Earth Friendly and Family Friendly Cleaning

There’s lots of reasons to swap out your cleaning products. Not just environmental but for your families health. Fumes and chemicals in some cleaning products can actually cause more harm than good.

There are more eco-friendly options in your grocery store with reduced packaging and free of chemicals but you can also make your own. A simple vinegar and water solution can be great for cleaning windows, counters, and more.

There are also essential oil companies that offer safer cleaning options and essential oil recipes. Simply Earth actually has a subscription service that send you several essential oils each month with natural product recipes. Everything from cleaning products, hygiene products, cosmetics, and more.

You can also choose products that are reusable and let you clean without chemicals using water. E-cloth is an affordable alternative with chemical free options to clean windows, scrub dishes, even remove make up with just water. I’ve used these products myself and they work better than I ever thought. Who knew you can get a good clean with just water?

Are you trying to make earth-friendly changes? I’d love to know what you are doing.


Benefits of Talking to an Insurance Broker

I’ll be honest, up until a few months ago I didn’t even know what an insurance broker did. I honestly thought it would be more expensive to go through an insurance broker rather than dealing with a company directly. I thought they’d get some kind of big commission which would translate into extra fees on our insurance.

When we were getting ready to add our oldest son to our insurance and saw the crazy numbers that were coming up, we figured it couldn’t hurt to talk to an insurance broker. If we didn’t like what they had to say, well, we already had our insurance with the same company we have for many years. I’m so glad we took the time to do it.

We found out that the insurance company we were with for years is one of the most expensive ones out there and they can be beat by almost any insurance company out there.

We found out that if you have a pool or one of those big outdoor trampolines it can make your house insurance go up.

They told us that the smaller regional insurance companies can be a lot cheaper than the national companies because they’re not having to compensate for payouts for things like earthquakes in California, tornadoes in Kansas, or hurricanes in Florida.

We found out that while one company had amazing rates on car insurance they’re rates were actually worse on home owners insurance so our broker helped figure out the best company to go with as a whole for our needs.

In the end we ended up saving over $1000 a year on our car insurance even with adding a new driver and a used car with liability. I’m so glad we took the time to get the quote. It really paid off.

Speaking of insurance, check out this post I wrote for Bodwell’s blog on Insurance Fun Facts.


16th Birthday Gift Ideas

16th birthdays are a big deal. For many that means they’re now allowed to get their permit and start driver’s training. But the idea of buying a car for a 16th birthday present isn’t always within reach. Here are a few other great ideas for 16th birthday gifts.

16th birthday gift ideas
  1. Drivers Education classes – This will not only give your child more experience with driving but also give you a nice discount when they finally get their driver’s license. We did this for our oldest son. I wrote about the benefits of drivers education classes here.
  2. AAA membership – another sensible gift that will help with towing, road side assistance, and when they lock their keys in the car. This also gives a little more peace of mind for the parents.
  3. Gas gift cards – with their new driving freedoms comes new expenses. Gas gift cards gets them in the habit of filling the tank when they take the vehicle especially when they’re on a tight budget.
  4. Car Wash gift certificates – if they did happen to get a vehicle for their 16th birthday they’ll want to take care of it. Car wash gift cards will give them a little more motivation to take care of the outside
  5. Car Safety kits -my son actually got a car safety kit for his birthday from his aunt. It contained things like flares, bandaids, road triangles, and more. He said he really appreciated that gift
  6. Car care kits – Armor All makes car care kits to keep your car clean inside and out. My son actually said he’d like to have one because he enjoys cleaning the car. I always did too at that age.
  7. Car oriented gift bags/gift baskets with small items like a key chain, air freshener, driving sunglasses, ice scraper, etc.
  8. Maintenance gift cards – Places like Jiffy Lube or Pep Boys offer gift cards so your new driver can take care of an oil change, windshield wipers, tires, or whatever maintenance they need.

This post does contain some affiliate links. I will get a small commission from sales made through my post.