Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Naturally Wonderful New Year




Taking stock of where you have been and where you are now will help you to move forward with all of your dreams and aspirations clearly laid out. The passage of a year comes with the four seasons, the growth of trees, the shedding of leaves, and the hibernation before the process begins again. The passage of a year comes with a natural rhythm and it is this rhythm that can help you to dive into the new year with your goals set.

First, look back on the first part of this past year. From January through March. For many,depending on where you live, your winter was colder. You saw snow and darkness. During that time, nature was quiet, getting ready for the spring, getting ready to sprout into beauty. What did you do during that time? Were you hibernating, storing up energy, gathering your strength to jump into your time to blossom in the spring months? Think back to where you were during those months, how you managed and what you loved about that time period this past year. Think about the people who were with you, the memories you had and how those influenced you for the next phase of the year. If you journal, write about it. If you are a poet, rhyme about it. If you enjoy music, sing a song about it. Find a way to express your reflections.

Second, look back at spring, joyful spring. From April through June, the birds began to sing louder as they built their nests beneath new leaves. The sun shone longer and the first flower of spring poked its head out to see the world. Such promise. Life survived the winter in one way or another and dared to live in the glory of spring even with the knowledge of another impending winter. That is the cycle of life after all. Hope carries all life through all seasons. Think about the activities you engaged in during the spring months. Did you have more energy then? Were you able to start new projects, take more initiative? Again, express these reflections in a way that fits you best.

Third, look back at summer, from July through September. For some, autumn began in August, and included the changing colors of the leaves, while for others summer bought heat, more heat, long lazy days of salty ocean air and lulling waves. Ice cream cones, ice pops, and iced cold lemonade are but a memory away on our tongues. Was your summer relaxing, too long, hot and humid and draining, or a time of respite? Express your reflections on those hazy days of summer.

Fourth, the months we are finishing up now, the autumn into winter months. The leaves have given some of us an amazingly spectacular show of brilliant colors. From red to gold, autumn shared how beautiful life can be right before death. The last flaming burst from a candle is always the strongest right before it goes out. Those same leaves dried up, turned brown, and fell to the grown, but with grace and acceptance, they flowed into the breeze. As your life flowed from the changing of the leaves to less time in the sun to colder weather, did you look forward to this time to reflect on the beauty of the cycle of life? Did you have the chance to see how the rhythm of the four seasons is really the rhythm of all life, of your life?

From what has been, to what is now, to what is to come, this is your life and your choice. You are able to decide how you will survive and thrive in each season of the year, and each season of your life. You are able to decide your dreams, especially if you look back to see where you have been, love who you are now, and then see clearly the road ahead toward where you want to be.

The snowflake doesn’t stop and fear the melting that will take place ahead, it only forms in its own unique way and then shares its beauty before it becomes another amazing life form in water for the land. The snowflake knows its destiny, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is to be. The snowflake accepts that its own uniqueness has a purpose in nature and simply goes with that flow. Do you? Take the time to find your aspirations this new year by looking at where you have been, where you are now, so you know where to be. Follow the rhythm of the seasons within yourself and each moment will be your purpose.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Natural Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas




The spirit of the season is not all about material items and spending time in malls and lines. Rather, it is about sharing time and creating memories with those we love. Gifts given with this spirit in mind are easy and all natural.

If you are able to find a potted Christmas tree that can be replanted this can be a great source of family memories and tradition. Not only will this gift continue to grow in your yard for years to come, but decorating it will be filled with the joy of knowing that you are instilling values of respect for Mother Nature in your children.

The excess branches that need to be trimmed from your Christmas tree can be used to make wreaths as beautiful gifts for friends. Simply tie the branches together with twine, add some berries and a bow and your friends will delight in the simplicity of the pine aroma and the time you took to create it just for them.

For those friends or family members who love collecting items such as photos or other memorable trinkets, a cute storage box is a perfect gift. Find any shoe box or other small boxes you have and rather than throw them out create a gift box. Make this a shared family experience for all to decorate in a way they feel matches the recipient of this gift. The more homemade it is with painted handprints, ribbons and inspirational phrases, the more this gift will be treasured.

For those out there who did an exceptional job of drying their summer fruit, go ahead and dip pieces in chocolate, wrap a bunch up in recycled paper and tie with a bow. Not only will this tasty treat be appreciated for its flavors but also for the time you took to harvest the fruit, dry it and create a gift from it to share.

Look around, look outdoors at nature, and see what you have in your home that can be accentuated to create the perfect natural gift. Be inspired to set a different path this holiday season that includes shared family memories creating natural gifts rather than standing in lines at stores. Your gift recipients will remember those gifts for all time, and you will forever have those memories of time well shared with your family.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Magical Christmas Purple Ball


by Guest Author, the Green Granny



There was nothing more exciting than the sights and the sounds as well as the smells and busyness of the holidays as a young child . Waiting for all the festivities to begin was a true test of patience.

Preparation for the celebration of Christmas would begin right after Thanksgiving. The making of paper chains from red and green construction paper, candy canes that were rolled and folded and colored with a red crayon on white construction paper, popcorn strung on thread, coloring pages dotted with sugar crystals for a glittering effect, and everything from wreaths to Christmas trees glued with cotton balls and foil stars seem to add to the joy of the season.

My mother would create her own potpourri by placing tangerine rinds on top of the gas stove in the kitchen and the aroma would waft into every room. Holiday songs played on the kitchen radio while mom cooked and prepared all the yummy foods for all of the family to enjoy.

Dad would go out two weeks before the holiday to a nearby farm to pick out the nicest little tree. He would carry it in the cold weather through the cold hallway up to the first floor and set it up right in the parlor in front of the large picture window for all of us inside as well as outside to see.

As my father put the large red and green lights on as well as the bubble lights, my mother and I would decide on which branches were the best to hold the balls, icicles and paper chains while my brother would wait until we were done to literally throw on the tinsel.

One particular decoration that I dearly loved was and still is, the traditional purple ball. It is flocked with a design of Santa in his sleigh packed with toys while his reindeer pull the sleigh right around the purple ball. I am not quite so sure why I treasure this ornament the most of all the lovely things I have ever placed upon a Christmas tree. But it has taken its place of honor not only on my parents' tree during the forties until the early eighties, but on our family tree for my children to decorate throughout the nineties.

It is so special that it doesn't get tucked away with the other holiday decor but is wrapped very carefully and placed in a box and put away on top of the shelf in a closet where only I can find it year after year.

When it is time for it to make its appearance as the grand and only purple ball that has lasted this long without even a chip or scratch, it is with total silence and careful, steady hands that it is placed on the sturdiest tree branch for another season.

As the lights get plugged in and the holiday songs still play on the radio, I still take in the sights, sounds and smells of another holiday coming, and enjoy looking at the purple ball glistening on top of my Christmas tree. It surely keeps me remembering the many holidays of the past and the simplicity of it all then and how it still should be.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Does It Mean to Live Naturally?




There are a variety of ways to live naturally. Nowadays some folks feel that living naturally only means eating totally organic food, and making or purchasing only furniture and products free of chemicals. Often this way of living is difficult for some as organic food can be more expensive and not everyone has time to make their own clothing. This shouldn't mean that we give up our efforts to live as naturally as we possibly can. The most important first step is to know your lifestyle and what can work for you to ensure a greater likelihood that your natural behaviors will begin and continue.

First, take a look around your home and see what you already own that is a natural product. Are your shoes and clothing not leather and only made from organic cotton? Is your furniture made without formaldehyde and other toxins? If not, perhaps you can begin to identify a plan to slowly, one garment at a time, begin to include chemical free, eco-friendly clothing into your wardrobe. If that sounds like too big of an expense for you right now maybe taking the time to learn how to stitch your own clothing made from healthy fabrics will work better for you. You can join a stitching group or get your friends together to start one!

Second, make a list of your daily routine chores and activities. Are you driving to work? Is your workplace 2 miles away? If so, perhaps you can walk or bike to work one day out of the week. Are you eating out everyday at fast food restaurants? If so, maybe you can begin to pack a healthy lunch for yourself each day instead. Do you have time on the weekends to plant a garden or to join a local community clean-up group? Look at how you can include more eco-friendly activities into your daily or weekly routines in a way that will be fun and fulfilling for you.

Lastly, what type of food are you ingesting? If you are an all meat eater and cooking with a lot of artificial sweeteners or processed food items, then this step might be more difficult to take. So, take it slowly. Start with eating a whole grain and vegetable dinner one night out of the week. Then, make that meal organic too. Eventually you may find yourself enjoying whole fruits and vegetables so much that you are cooking this way for lunch and other days of the week. If you really get into it, you can join your local CSA to get organic fruits and vegetables from your nearby farm. Or, you can even begin your own organic backyard or patio garden. Whatever you decide, start out slowly and make it fun so that your eating habits are more likely to change and continue.

One step at a time and in a way that works for you is the best piece of advice to begin to live more naturally. An attempt to move from one extreme to another will rarely result in a consistent permanent change to live more naturally. No matter how many steps or how large of a step you take to live more naturally it is still a step. Praise yourself for that step and keep going!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Green Thanksgiving





‘Tis the season to give thanks, to go green, and to eat a lot of delicious food! What are the ways you can make this Thanksgiving greener for you and your family?

To start, the simplest way to go green this Thanksgiving is to give thanks. The root of living naturally is to live with values of gratitude and compassion. Thus, Thanksgiving is perfectly in sync with going green since we sit around the dining room table and each share all that we are grateful for.

Second, if you are able to buy the produce for your delicious ingredients at your local farmers market, and that produce is organic too, you just scored major points in going green this Thanksgiving. There may not be a farmers market in your town, so look online for other nearby towns that may host them. Often a larger city near you will hold them on the weekends.

Third, when buying packaged foods at the market look for items that are easily recycled, such as cardboard containers, cans and bottles. More and more companies are also using less packaging, so you may just find that your favorite stuffing has a smaller box, but not less stuffing mix in it. We have the experience of opening large boxes that don’t need to be that big given the amount of food in it, so try to stick with those companies that are breaking that habit.

Fourth, try to reduce carbon emissions by staying at home this Thanksgiving. Perhaps it is time to get to know your neighbors better and they can just walk over rather than parents or cousins flying or driving hours to get to you. Skype offers a fabulous and free option to be with your family on Thanksgiving without the added carbon emissions of a plane or a car. This is a truly difficult step to take if you only see your family once or twice a year due to distance, so please don’t feel you need to follow all of these steps. Only choose those that fit your lifestyle and needs.

Fifth, plan ahead and know from your guests what they would like to eat and how much they will eat to estimate better how much food to make. Leftovers are great if you are sure you will actually eat them! Composting produce is another efficient way to recycle by returning produce to the earth to improve fertile soil toward the production of new vegetables or flowers. If you plan incorrectly and still end up with a whole turkey untouched, then bring it to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen where you will again be truly showing some of the greenest values of all - compassion and generosity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Healthy Halloween!

by the Green Granny, Carolann Stefanco



It is not just on Halloween that we consume sugars. On a daily basis, the majority of the population eats some form of sugar, whether it be fructose, lactose or sucrose, maltose, maple syrup, corn syrup or brown sugar. All of these can become problematic to your health.

Sugar can change your healthy body by feeding cancer cells, triggering weight gain, and promoting premature aging. It can create metabolic imbalances, increase cholesterol, weaken eye sight, cause food allergies, contribute to diabetes and even osteoporosis.

White sugar is physically addictive and humans have had a strong desire for sweets as far back as 327 B.C. when raw sugar was used in India. But you don't have to give up your sweetness of sugar, just replace it with better alternatives, such as stevia and xylitol, that are safe and natural.

In order to make your Halloween healthier you can enjoy and hand out the following to trick or treaters: dried fruit, trail mix, baked pretzels, nuts and seeds, raisins, sugar free gum, fig cookies, low sugar cereal bars and low fat popcorn. Some children may have food allergies to nuts, so it might be best to ask first before handing out a packet of peanuts.

You may want to consider handing out non-edible treats to trick or treaters such as stickers, spider rings, bubbles and vampire teeth. If your child receives a lot of sugary candy you can always try to recycle it by giving it away at work or donating it to charities or using it for other events.

If you are considering a Halloween party for children, serve healthier snacks and natural drinks for them to enjoy. Parents will be appreciative knowing that their youngsters will not be consuming tons of sugary sweets and coming home with a Halloween tummy ache!

At Halloween parties a fun game to play, that is also nutritious, is bobbing for organic apples. Children can also have a fun time creating a vegetable pizza, making pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread, and baking pumpkin seeds or apple pie. Craft activities can be quite fun for children, such as decorating Halloween masks for their friends, making ghosts out of old fabrics stuffed with cotton balls, or the traditional carving of pumpkins as an activity supervised by adults with safe implements.

By getting creative and finding healthier alternatives, Halloween can be a very nutritious as well as enjoyable time for adults and children.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thinking Green




The world is all abuzz with the idea of thinking green. What exactly does this mean? For some, it means living in a home made by hand of mud and straw from the earth. For others it means recycling and reusing. No matter what you do, the most important part is simply to act. Actions come from thoughts, so let’s explore how to think green.

It seems that some people automatically look around them, whether outside or indoors, and immediately assess where and how certain things can be altered to be more environmentally friendly. For example a neighbor who sees her vegetable waste as an opportunity to start a compost pile or her children’s empty shoeboxes as a great way to store all of those sewing supplies she uses.

Then, there are those, and we have all sadly seen them, who flick their cigarette butts out of their car windows onto the roads as if the world is their trash can. Where do we begin so that we can not only incorporate green thinking into our lives, but also into the lives of others?

First, for ourselves, the best place to start is to imagine that you wear green colored glasses when you are looking at the world around you. This visual image is quite powerful at coloring your thoughts to become more eco-friendly. Every time I leave the house for work, or to go for a walk or out shopping, I imagine I am wearing these green tinted glasses. This makes it much easier for me to start to think about the world from a more eco-friendly perspective. For example, as I drive to work I notice the smoggy Southern California air and the traffic. Then, I begin to think about ways to help improve the air quality and that is when I notice the hybrid and electric cars on the road, and then the metro train whizzing by parallel to the freeway. When I get home I research the costs of hybrid and electric cars, as well as a metro commuter pass. These are all actions I can can take now because I looked at my commute with green thinking.

Second, to help improve others’ level of green thinking, simple role modeling and education goes a long way. Every time we recycle and inform our neighbors about the town recycling program, or we send our children to school with reusable lunch containers rather than plastic bags, we are modeling the idea of thinking and acting green. It doesn’t take much as evidenced by the spread of the green movement to the present day point of electric cars and mass eco-friendly behavioral change.

So, get out there with your green tinted glasses, think green as often as you can, and see how many other people you can inspire to think green too!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Natural Outdoor Activities for Kids



by Guest Author, the Green Granny

Times certainly have changed from the walks I took as a kid listening to my transistor radio that received only three stations and playing my old 45's on the record player to dance to. Technology may have surpassed those times countless times over, but I wouldn't change or trade the fun I had growing up in the times of the fifties. Obesity problems and boredom was practically non-existent. Kids were way too active and creative in so many different ways.

During the winter months long walks to the other side of town brought you to the town lake for ice skating. Sledding took place at the river's falls, where the path started near the top of the falls, and stopped just a few feet from the river itself. It took a lot of energy to climb back up that steep hill and sled down over and over again.

Springtime offered opportunities to play hide and seek with friends and neighbors as well as collecting clover flowers to make a necklace chain. A simple blade of crabgrass was thick enough to hold between your thumbs and blow a screeching sound that could be heard from a distance. The magnolia trees had seed pods filled with tiny red seeds, that of which we all were curious about and liked to find them in places on the tree. We picked red berries from the bushes and placed them in pails to count later in the day to see who had found the most. Lucky was the person who also found a four leaf clover in the lawn.

On the side street the kids gathered to play 1-2-3- red light and tag. Someone always brought a laundry rope for several of us to jump in at the same time. We brought along out roller skates and of course carried the skate key around our neck to have handy for tightening our skates. If you were lucky enough to have a pinkie ball you could organize a punch ball game for all to enjoy.

The days of summer were wonderfully long and using your imagination you could make mud pies after a summer rain as well as make "soup" with leaves and twigs and stir it up in the rain barrel. It was fun to cool off in the lawn sprinkler or just simply pick up the garden hose and run the water over your head and body to feel cool in the summer heat. Lolling in the canvas hammock in the shade and reading a good Nancy Drew mystery book certainly made the day. Running down to the corner confectionery store for a chocolate or lemon ice was all that was needed to quench our taste buds.

It was fun to sharpen our Crayola crayons and color the afternoon away and sometimes cut out the Hollywood stars paper dolls, like Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds. Many times we just made our own from cardboard found in the house.

Nighttime was the time to catch those lightning bugs and place them in old pickle jars with lids filled with holes, only to let them escape right back into the night.

Once Fall came around and school was back in session, the days became shorter for outside play. Late afternoon was time for a bike adventure to a nearby field, where there was always a thick rope someone hung from a tree that you could hang onto and swing yourself across a brook. Sometimes a fun walk with a friend on the deserted railroad tracks would take you right through most of the town. If you stepped on a track nail you would get an alphabet letter and you would lose the game if you spelled donkey.

Each season brought new and exciting adventures with family and friends.All the activities helped to keep us healthy physically as well as in mind, heart and spirit. It certainly was a time of good old fashioned, carefree fun and innocence, and most of all childhood happiness.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Organic Cotton Difference

by Guest Author, The Green Granny





After raising three children in the seventies and having purchased tons of cotton clothing throughout the years for them, as well as for two grandchildren, I never gave thought as to how the fabric was made. I always thought only of the universal comfort of it, and how it is a soft and breathable fabric . Recently, I have learned of a new grandbaby on the way, and I have done some investigating about cotton as I am learning more about organic foods and other organic items. I was shocked to learn about how conventional cotton is made.

I was surprised to find that conventional cotton poses a series of health problems, as well as environmental effects, as the cotton crops are sprayed with pesticides thirty to forty times a season when brought to harvest. Some of the pesticides used are cyanide, dicofol, propargite, and triflurin, all cancer-causing chemicals. Did you know it takes 1/3 pound of pesticides in the production of just one cotton tee shirt?

Only 3% of farmland is used but the pesticides are so poisonous that the fields are barren after growth. The farmland consumes 25% chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Soil, water, wildlife and human life are harmed when aerial insecticide is sprayed on the crops’ leaves.

After that shocking information, I seriously wanted to find out how organic cotton could benefit anyone who would want to buy a cotton item, such as a tee shirt, or baby clothing, or any other wearable item or items for a bed, such as crib sheets and blankets.

Organic cotton is grown in fields where no pesticides have been for three years and the soil has been rebuilt. No synthetically produced pesticides or fertilizers are used and beneficial insects keep pests and insects in check. Weeds are controlled by tillage and a simple hoe. The organic farm of course has more intensive management.

Organic clothing is free of harmful chemicals and pesticides and is kind to the environment. There is a difference in long term health, not only to the environment but to animals and humans, and the quality of life is improved.

Anyone who would like to find organic cotton items for a child can check some of the following online websites, but as always be sure to call the company to double check that they use organic cotton and non-toxic dyes. Some helpful organic cotton product websites include: Baby Brilliant Organics, Happy Hippie, Sckoon, Organic Baby Wearhouse, Sage Creek Organics, Eco Choices, Petit Tresor, Mamas Organic Baby and Baby Earth.

Remember the meaning of organics, it is of living things, it is developed naturally. Organic products enhance our ecological balance of natural systems for optimum health and for the productivity of interdependent communities of soil, plants, animals, life and people.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Natural Baby Basics





This has been and continues to be a massive search. This hunt for natural, organic, green baby gear is seemingly endless. There are some companies that offer natural and organic products for babies, yet many of these are expensive. Deciding to go organic in the following three areas will ensure you are not spending too much on purchasing organic products for all of your baby's needs.

When it comes to you newborn baby, keep in mind that she does not do much more than eat, sleep and poop. Therefore, there is no need to surround your baby or your home with a lot of "stuff." This is the first step to raising your baby more naturally. Keep it simple, minimize your purchases, and focus on quality time with your baby as the most naturally beneficial way to raise your baby.

For organic baby feeding, the most natural way to go is of course breastfeeding. Not only is this the healthiest food for your newborn, this is also free! For some mothers breastfeeding may not be an option, which means finding a healthy formula. In looking for a natural formula for your baby, keep an eye out for ingredients to avoid such as soy, fructose, maltodextrin, and other chemical names such as BHT. The healthier options will contain milk protein and organic brown rice syrup rather than soy and corn syrup. Be sure to avoid plastic bottles made with BPA as well.

To take care of the sleep needs for your baby, an organic mattress is best to ensure that she is not exposed to lead, chlorine or other harmful chemicals often found in the plastic covering and interior stuffing of a non-organic mattress. A GOTS certified mattress makes it easier to know that you are purchasing a healthy option for your child. In addition, organic cotton sheets made with non-toxic dyes will help to keep your baby breathing in clean air in the place she will spend most of her time. Since this is the one place that your baby will be exposed to the most, put your money saved from buying countless unnecessary toys toward a good organic crib mattress.

In looking for a natural organic wood crib and rocking chair, also helpful for sleeping and feeding needs, most are incredibly pricey. Thus, the best option is to at least find a crib that is made from wood without added sprays or chemicals.

The last category is one of the most important because your baby will be going through countless diapers. The first, and most economical option for going green in this area is to use cloth diapers. There are people who have run the numbers and feel that the use of water to wash all the diapers ends up in just as much cost to the environment as tossing diapers into landfills. Whether you choose to go cloth or traditional disposable diapers, the aim here is to be sure that the material does not have any chemicals or chlorine in it. Your baby's skin is snug up against her diapers all day long, so opting for diapers with no bleach or other toxic chemicals will result in a much healthier experience for your little one. Keep this in mind for your baby wipes as well to be sure to avoid chemicals in those.

Going green for your baby can mean focusing on purchasing only those organic and healthy products in the areas of eating, sleeping and pooping. Baby gear, such as a car seat, stroller, activity gym and swing/bouncer are the next items for research. Until that article, begin to stock up on the basics and remember that the most naturally healthy baby need is her parents' arms.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Going Green Back To School




We see children each and every Fall hunched over wearing backpacks larger than they are. We hear them worry that they won't have the clothes the popular kids are wearing. And, we wonder why teachers demand such a long list of school supplies. This school year can be different when we put our green caps on and brainstorm how to simplify and help the environment at the same time.

Those large backpacks are not necessary if children don't have so many school supplies to lug back and forth each day. One way to decrease supplies is to have one binder for notes for all of your child's subjects. Or, a larger notebook with three or five dividers can do the trick. Aurora Binders are totally recycled and recyclable and available at Sam's Club for $6.00. There is no need for your child to carry five binders or large notebooks back and forth each day. In addition to saving trees and your child's posture, you will save money by purchasing only one binder or notebook instead of five or more. If your have several children this can result in an even larger savings.

Envirosax, EcoGear, ebags.com, and other companies are investing more and becoming more successful in selling their all organic, non-toxic dyed bags and backpacks for kids. If your child takes good care of these bags she can use them for several years which will warrant the cost ranging from $25 to $60. If not, then, find a few neighbors whose children are about to graduate from school and ask if you might be able to buy their backpack for a fraction of the cost. Freecycle and Craigslist are great options for finding good items for less, of course exercising caution in how and who you buy from.

Clothing can be quite a difficult issue, especially as children get older and become more interested in their appearance and popularity. This is always a good opportunity not only to teach children about the environment and ideas such as reuse and recycle, but also about core self-esteem and self image. Consignment shops and neighborhood clothing swaps offer the best option for reusing and recycling good clothing for less. Be careful to look at the clothing to see if it is made of organic cotton and non-toxic dyes. New organic clothing can still be quite expensive, but more and more consignment shops are setting aside organic clothing sections to make finding these clothes easier. If you already belong to a local parenting group of like-minded tree-huggers such as the Holistic Moms Network, then swapping organic clothing will be much easier. Hopefully your children will enjoy the various clothing options offered to them and will be proud that they are helping the environment too.

Start this school year off with ease, simplicity, less pull on your pocketbook and more love for the environment. Just think, the money saved can be tucked away into a savings account for your children's college in the future, and Earth will still be beautiful by the time your children are ready to go to college!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Summer Vacation Ideas!




This summer brings a plethora of all natural vacation choices. Just when you thought life would be challenging once your children got out of school, it became much easier with this easy guide to fun and green vacations.

First, there is the beloved, ever so simple staycation. By staying at home you save the planet a plane trip or two which helps improve air quality. Your time is quality as well because it is put toward sharing activities together rather than running through airports, waiting in line, packing and unpacking, and getting cranky about all of the logistics. A staycation is also a huge money saver as long as you keep it planned and organized.

Some staycation activities that are great for the environment include a walk to your local park to picnic and play games such as frisbee. Your local farms welcome curious children for tours, and your backyard can be the start of your own mini-farm with some care and tending during your staycation. Don’t forget the homemade, organic meals and snacks you can make with your children simply because you will finally have the time to do so. If your children enjoy sewing, try tackling a project such as a new shirt or dress for the new school year, or a family quilt.

Second, to get the most out of your get up and go, head out to the wilderness for a camping adventure. Be sure to bring a sunscreen that is free of chemicals such as Badger sunscreen, and use Herbal Armor or another similar all-natural chemical free bug repellent. The greenest way to camp is to be sure that you leave no trace, meaning that you do not leave any trash behind. Camping is a great way to foster a love of nature and respect to the environment.

Lastly, ecotourism is a new and booming industry for good reason. Now, you can connect with like-minded people in some of the most eco-friendly and environmentally progressive areas. Imagine staying at a cottage at the US Virgin Islands campground where you will live a simple and green life on the shores. Or, getting a tour of the indigenous people and then the geothermal energy plants in Scandinavia. Check out International Ecotourism Society for more information and a full range of destination ideas.

Whether you stay at home, trek off to the mountains, or head out to another country, do it with green in mind and feel a sense of pride after this summer vacation!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Green Father's Day!




Father’s Day is just about here, which means another chance to really share our love and gratitude with our dads and granddads. Luckily, our fathers are mostly already leading quite natural lives, from grilling outdoors to playing golf to enjoying other outdoor activities. It is simple to just add to these green activities with some quality time and gifts.

As far as gifts for basics go, did you know that you can find solar powered chargers for laptops, smartphones and other gadgets your dad uses? Also, solar powered razors have hit the scene and will add to the greening of your dad’s morning routine.

For all of his activities, your father needs a BPA free reusable water bottle to keep him hydrated. And, believe it or not, for those dads who love to tee off, there are recycled tees and golf balls available so he feels even more green when out on the greens. One of the most natural outdoor activities is gardening, so if your father enjoys planting and tending to flowers and vegetables outside, then be sure he has all the organic soil and seeds he needs.

When enjoying the summer barbeques remember to shop from those local farmer’s markets and go organic for produce so pops can feel even better about his grilled feast. A great idea is to give your father a homemade coupon for seven summer farmer’s markets trips and then join him to have fun treating him to whatever produce he wants to grill for his family and friends.

The most important part of Father’s Day is simply spending time together that day. Remember that time shared does not only have to be on Father’s Day. In addition to providing your dad with a time of undivided attention on this Father’s Day, give him the gift of time throughout the year. Gifts such as gift certificates to his favorite restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events in town will create an opportunity for you and your family to be enjoy time and create memories all year long. Be sure to bring your camera for these events so that you can create a photo album of all of your memories with your father to treasure for a lifetime.

What are some ways you will celebrate your father this year?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mission Summer Fun!




Your kids are almost out of school, dreams of summer fun dance in their heads! Perhaps you can't wait as well, yet are unsure as to how to fill the entire summer with green activities.

This week is the week to prepare. Start with the following easy steps:

1. Be sure you know where your local park is and gather up your children's favorite toys in a convenient storage basket to make it easy to transport to the park.

2. Check in with your local or nearby kids' museums to see what summer specials they have. Perhaps the kids' science museum is offering free showings of their movie about sharks. Or, the local aquarium is hosting a family fun week filled with activities.

3. If you live near a local farm check with them to see what types of activities they offer during the summer for families. Perhaps in addition to an educational tour they also have hands-on harvesting and fruit-picking events!

4. Ask your children what types of activities they would like to do this summer. Make a list and start to research those as well.

5. Once you know your area events and activities, it will be easy to plan each week around a theme. Don't forget built-in summer themes such as Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day. Those are great holidays to start tree planting traditions to honor our loved ones.

What types of green and fun activities do you plan to do this summer with your children?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Hippy Side Came Out In Full Swing Today- While Surfing the Web

by Guest Blogger Granola Grizzly Mama




The winner of our guest blogger contest is Granola Grizzly Mama! With a fresh voice and a sharp green wit, she brings us tips from her point of view as one lean green Mama machine!
 
Once again my hippy side came out in full swing today as I was surfing other blogs written by moms.  For those of you who don’t know me check out the "About Me" at Granola Grizzly Mama and see what an oxymoron I really am. I basically battle between a hippy  and a conservative side, but these days, as a mother, the hippy side usually wins, unless it’s political.
 
I was searching the internet and reading interesting blogs when I came across a blog called: How Green Are You by Practically Green.   It is basically a five minute quiz that determines how green your life style is.  I’m happy to report I scored seven out of ten. It was kind of disappointing in some ways, but since we are still renting, I guess I will have to accept the house we live in “as is”.  My challenge to you is to take the quiz, figure out your score, and go from there. Let me know how you do.
 
After you take the quiz, think of ways that you could improve your lifestyle to make it greener for your and your family. These are not difficult or expensive ways… there is no need to re-do your entire house to make it as green friendly as possible. Below is a list of ten suggestions; try to implement as many as you can.
 
1.     Reusable bags. I always have about ten in the car and one in the stroller. They go wherever we go.
2.     We take our shoes off in the house to keeps our floors clean. This is important when little ones crawl on the floor.
3.     Make homemade items (check out my Granola Grizzly Mama Quick Sauce) in bulk and freeze for a later day. There is no need to waste a can of tomato sauce, when you can buy in bulk, make a batch of homemade sauce, and freeze it. This saves loads of waste and processing time and makes your food fresher.
4.     Buy organic whenever possible. I know sometimes it is hard, but in the long run, it is better for your health.
5.     Make your own baby food. Check out my recipes and ideas for that. I can do this for less than $10 a week and it takes under an hour to prepare.
6.     Walk whenever you can instead of driving. This is often fun with children and turns into adventures.
7.     Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
8.     Don’t use the microwave.
9.     Buy local produce whenever you can.
10.  Donate used tennis shoes to local running stores (call first to make sure they have programs in place).
 
I also incorporate my 2 ½ year old in the following ways:

1.     We go over trash v. recycling and she decides where each thing goes.
2.     We color on both sides of the paper in order to not waste.
3.     We find sticks, leaves and flowers and glue them on paper creating our own crafts.
4.     We plant flowers and watch them grow.
5.     She knows we don’t use plastic bags and why.
6.     She knows we don’t buy strawberries at the grocery store because we support the local growers.
7.     The farmers market is her favorite place to shop.
8.     We purchased colored bracelets that have duel purposes. She uses them to play with but we also learn colors.
9.     She knows that lemons go in the compost or down the disposal, but not in the trash.
10.  We potty trained early to save on water.
 
Again, while all these things may not be incorporated right now, I suggest you try to work on a few and remember to teach your little ones also.
 
Those are ten ideas that are easy and inexpensive to implement to make for a greener lifestyle. Let me know your top ten.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Green Mother's Day




The greenest, most natural Mother’s Day gifts are simply about being together. If you are a mother you have a deep appreciation for the most coveted gift - time together with family. If you have a mother, your best memories are of those with your mother. Our mothers are all different. Some of our mothers are biological, some are adoptive, and others came to us as a neighbor or Earth angel.

Our mothers, at the end of the day, have never asked for more than their kids’ happiness. Our mothers have always been thankful for the hand-painted crafts we gifted to them as children and the milestones we reached throughout our lives. Think about the smile and glow on your mother’s face as she saw you walk down the aisle toward your diploma or toward your husband - pride in her children is indeed the greatest gift of all.

The first gift of time together this Mother’s Day involves nothing more than laughter. My mother is the one person in the world that I laugh with more than anyone else. Even if your mother lives far away, as does mine, skype with her for free and spend all day laughing together if you have the time. Chat about anything and everything that brings you joy and smiles.

Another fabulously natural, and free gift, is the gift of food. Think about all of the meals your mother provided for you throughout your childhood years. It is estimated that by the time we reach the age of eighteen our mother has provided for us a total of twenty-thousand meals to ensure we grow healthy and strong. This total doesn’t even include snacks and treats such as fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. So, how difficult would it be for you to prepare a scrumptious meal for your mother? Even in the middle of your busy life, with kids and a job, it is possible and will be much appreciated. Invite your children to cook with you to create a uniquely tailored meal of all of your mother’s favorites. Imagine her surprise when you invite your mother over and she sees you and your children standing at a table of fresh-cut flowers and her favorite hot meal.

When was the last time you and your mother took a short or longer trip together? Does your mother love to walk or hike? Does she love to go birdwatching or to garden? Maybe your mother enjoys the ocean and the spa? Whatever her adventurous side loves, indulge her in that experience. A picnic and walk at a local park is not only fun but inexpensive. A trip to the spa may be costly so you can always create an at-home spa experience with candles, music and all-natural facial masks made from produce straight out of your refrigerator. No matter what she loves, it is the time together enjoying that experience that will make your trip with her memorable.

If your mother has physical or cognitive challenges, time together is even more important. Doing artwork together, writing a book together, or recording a duet of just the two of you singing her favorite song, will provide for you long-lasting treasures to cherish. If your mother is only able to sit with you, then simply sit with her. Enjoy that time, that precious time, where all that needs to be is gratitude for your mother.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Green Easter



Easter is by far one of the easiest natural holidays to have. Kids love their Easter egg hunts, and some of us adults do too! What child doesn’t love having a basket to collect those brightly colored eggs in? And, we can’t forget the chocolate and candy. This Easter do it all in green style and make that Easter bunny proud.

First up, are those eggs. Approximately three hundred million of our egg-laying feathered friends are stuck in very small cages and poorly fed in order to produce the amount of eggs Americans eat every year. Thankfully, more and more farms are beginning to institute a cage free and more humane environment for chickens. When buying your eggs, keep this in mind and look for eggs that are labeled with any of the following; certified organic, cage-free, certified humane, free range or free roaming. Those words describe a much happier place for our chickens.

Now, dying those cage-free eggs with toxic dye defeats the purpose of a green Easter, so try natural dyes. It is quite simple and fun for your children to see too. Simply boil your eggs with a tablespoon of white vinegar and the following for various colors:

red - red onion skins or pomegranate juice
purple - red cabbage
yellow - carrot tops
green - spinach

While you are doing this you can eat a nice salad with your family made of these natural dye ingredients, and chuck those leftovers into your compost pile - an entirely natural Easter egg dying experience!

One last suggestion for the eggs, are to not use the average of two dozen eggs on Easter at all. Instead, knit or felt your eggs if you are crafty and pass them down as a family keepsake and tradition. Check out a Child’s Dream Come True online for their felt craft ideas which are all-natural and non-toxic for kids. Or follow in President Obama’s footsteps and use eggs that are Forest-Certified Council hardwood.

Second, the plastic Easter basket, used, bruised and thrown away each year into a landfill is not the only option. If you already have a sturdy plastic basket, reuse it. Other options include knitting a basket which your kids will love because it is nice and soft. Or, opt for the nice wooden basket in your home that holds your magazines all year. There is no reason why that basket can’t have multiple uses. Another idea is to use items that are in your garage for other purposes, such as that beach bucket waiting to come out and play before the summer arrives.

Lastly, only buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate for your children this Easter. There are estimated close to three hundred thousand child laborers making chocolate in horrendous working conditions. In order for us to help to ensure these practices stop we can choose to buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate only. Our purchasing power is our voice to shut down such unfair labor practices. Your children have the power to help other children.

Check out the Natural Candy Store online as well for natural and vegan candy for those kids, big and small, who need to have that sweet tooth satisfied by the Easter bunny.

An alternate to candy and chocolate altogether is to fill those Easter baskets with items your child will love. For example, fill the basket with art supplies, or with gardening tools. Kids Gardening online has a good variety of kid size gardening tools and this motivates your children to get outside and learn more about plants and flowers.

This Easter offer your children a holiday that teaches eco-friendly values, action, and tradition.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Top Three Earth Day Apps For Kids!



Earth Day is the perfect day of the year to plant some green awareness into our children’s sweet little sprouting brains. While nature is where we want our children to be, exploring, adventuring and playing, technology can actually help to get our kids outside. I wasn’t always a believer, but the more I started looking around and trying some different apps, the more I realized that these seemingly insignificant games on yet another plastic viewer offer a whole new way to teach our children. Apps are educational and help to provide a learning experience that is interactive as well as helpful to all types of learners.

This Earth Day, set your children on a path into nature with these great eco-friendly app games and books, all available on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch as well as in different languages.

First, Green Quest allows your child to adventure on and off screen as s/he sets off to engage in actual eco-friendly activities each day. Your child chooses a queen or king character, their clothing, hair and skin color, and the name of their character. Then, the story unfolds to reveal that your child has the power to save Earth in their own kingdom on screen and in real life. The activities for them to complete each day are simple and fun, such as turning off the light when leaving a room or eating one organic fruit. Each of these activities, when done, gets checked on screen and they get a reward in their game. The biggest reward is really the opportunity for your child to learn how to help the Earth in small, yet significant ways. These behaviors are so important to learn when young. My child was quite excited to complete these tasks and share them with friends too! Spreading the green seed!

Second, The Amazing Adventures of Eco Boy takes your child on a great adventure through a story where Eco Boy has the power to clear the land of trash. Children learn in a fun way about the three Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle. There is an option for this story to be read to your child or for your child to read it on his or her own which really allows the child the chance to learn in a way that works best for him or her. The illustrations and colors are engaging and will have most children laughing and intrigued. This fabulous app is also available as a book for those of us parents, and kids, who still want the feel of the pages between our fingers.

Third, ABC Wildlife, although not necessarily an app that gives children specific green tips, provides a very basic and engaging way to learn about animals. The pictures in this app are real and absolutely adorable. There is no way a child can’t fall in love with the picture of the duck or the video of the iguana with the sunglasses. The animals facts are interesting and easy to read as well.

This is a good start to help your children learn more about nature and how to help. It might also be a way for you to begin to become more comfortable with, or dare I say even enjoy, including apps in your child’s learning. Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eco Action!




With Earth Day coming up it is time to get serious, to get ready and to celebrate Earth Day not only one day out of the year but everyday. Earth Day is to help motivate us to make some changes, but truly we can do at least one simple eco-friendly act everyday.

Begin to practice this week by following these easy tips. By the time Earth Day is here, you will be in the habit of doing at least one of these, or all of these eco-acts. And, even better, they are all fun!

Land
1. Never use styrofoam again! Bring glass tupperware to restaurants where you know you will be bringing home leftovers and put those leftovers in your own reusable containers instead of in those toxic/landfill/never biodegradable styrofoam containers. Keep some clean tupperware in a bag in your car so you always have one handy! Stock your car today with at least 3!

Water
2. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth until you need to actually use the water. Take it one step further, like my Green Queen mother, and turn off the water in the shower until you actually need to use it -now that is being Green Queen!

Energy
3. Be sure all of your lightbulbs are CFLs. Change them all today and replace them with CFLs from now on.

Food
4. Buy local and buy in bulk. Start practicing this today and soon enough most of the grocery items you purchase, if not all, will be more eco-friendly.

Air
5. If you can't afford an electric car right now, buy an electric lawn mower. Or reduce your carbon emissions by walking or riding a bike for errands at least twice a week.

Yes, you can help Mother Earth with only these five eco-acts. If you are inspired to do more, please do!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mission Spring Cleaning!




Spring is here and it is time for some Spring Cleaning! Green your home inside and out with some fresh and healthy ideas! Your children can help to participate with these spring cleaning ideas too because they are all safe and natural!

This week, try the following:

First, open all of you windows as much as you can to air out your home. Let the sunshine in and the oxygen from the outdoors filter out any built up dust from the long cold winter.

Second, be sure you and your children take on the leave your shoes at the door challenge! Simple and prevents outside toxic elements stuck to the bottom of shoes from getting all over the carpet.

Third, clean countertops and most surfaces with a mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 1/4 cup baking soda and a 1/2 gallon of water. This is much more effective and healthier than any chemically-processed products from the store.

Fourth, find a cleaner in your town that uses carbon dioxide cleaning or Green Earth to clean clothes rather than dry cleaning. Dry cleaning has formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals in the process.

Fifth, place some broad leaf green plants around your house, such as Peace Lily, Spider Plant, English Ivy, or an Elephant Ear Philodendron to further promote filtering of the air in your home.

In no time, you and your family will be enjoying a much healthier and cleaner home!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Hunt For Water




This week is full of opportunity to have fun with your children while they hunt for water! This game is such a great way to introduce awareness and action to your children while they help the environment.

Water is sadly wasted everyday. We are not always paying attention to what is around us to see how water is being wasted in small and large ways. Ask your children to try to find ways to save water everyday this week and weekend.

For example, do they hear any leaks in your house? That kitchen faucet in the middle of the night? If so, your child can inform you of one successful find on this Hunt for Water and you can get that leak fixed.

Another great example is for your child to keep an eye out while you are on a trip this weekend for any wasted water, such as those large fountains in the middle of malls, plazas, and especially found in Las Vegas. Hopefully these fountains continually use the same water, but might it be better to use that water for another purpose. Your child can be a detective on the Hunt For Water by speaking with the manager at the location of the fountain to find out if this water is reused and if there might be a better purpose for that water. This teaches your child advocacy skills as well - of course you will be with your child to help with this conversation. Your child can even write a letter if s/he is not ready to speak up at this point in their development.

Another example is unfinished food thrown in the trash. It is estimated that uneaten food wastes more water than gardening and washing combined. The amount of water it takes to grow vegetables, fruit, nourish cows, etc... is much more than we know. When we don't finish our food and throw it out, we are wasting all of that water. Your children can help on the Hunt For Water by ensuring the grocery list has only what will be eaten, finishing their meals with portion sizes they can manage, and donating any food to those in need rather than throwing it out. Composting can help to turn leftover produce into a help for the earth as well.

So, now that you have some ideas, get started and see what else your child finds on the Hunt For Water this week!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Earth Hour is Upon Us!




Celebrate Mother Earth by turning off your lights tonight at 8:30pm on March 26th! Wherever you are, at 8:30pm on 3/26, turn off your lights for one hour. Last year, Earth Hour was celebrated by 128 countries and lights went out at major symbolic places such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.

This is an impetus, a point of change for each of us. This is a great way to introduce your children to ways to help the earth. We can use this hour to reflect on how we can help Mother Earth everyday. Some simple examples include: using less electric during the day, using cotton tote bags instead of plastic, walking or bicycling to work or the store, and gardening for your veggies and fruits. Just adding one of these to your year ahead will make a huge difference when it is multiplied by the millions of people in the United States and the billions of people around the world.

Check out Earth Hour and WWF Earth Hour for more info!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greener Veggies and Fruit



Now that you have completed your new and improved grocery list with items that are earth-friendly and delicious, it is time to learn about how to keep those fruits and veggies healthy for you and your family. A rotten apple can spoil the bunch!

Organic is the way to go! Try to find organic produce, especially ones that are more absorptive to chemicals and pesticides even after washing, such as: nectarines, spinach, potatoes, pears, apples, peaches, strawberries and bell peppers.

Second, if buying organic produce is too expensive for your budget, then grow your own! We are now into Spring and it is time to research your climate and find out which produce will grow best in your area. You will find that growing your vegetables and fruit organically is not at all difficult. Introduce ladybugs into your garden so they can eat aphids and mealybugs, and plants onions around your garden to keep away gophers and moles. No need for chemicals at all! You will harvest more fruit and vegetables than your family can even eat in one season which means you have saved a ton of cash by growing your own.

Third, and just as important, eat the fruit and veggies raw. Cooking and boiling vegetables and fruit takes most of the nutrients and vitamins right out of them. If you cook, then try steaming or grilling for a very short period of time to keep in as much of the healthy parts of the produce as possible.

Enjoy your healthy veggies and fruit this week!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mission Green Food Week!




Green food does not refer to wheat grass, broccoli, or even "green eggs and ham." Rather it means seeking out ways to feed yourself and your family in earth-friendly ways. This week we will explore how easy it truly is to eat green food.

For Monday, take one simple step - create a shopping list that includes the following:

1. Foods with no or little packaging - for example, cereal, grains, oats and beans from a bin or barrel straight into your own cloth bags. Sprouts and local food co-ops sell grains, cereals, nuts and beans in large bins from which you can scoop or pour what you need into one of your eco-friendly totes.

2. Produce from your local farms - visit those farms or catch them at the weekend farmer's market to grab some delicious organic tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, apples, and other vegetables and fruit that will make your mouth water.

3. Get those glass milk bottles back - you will be amazed to find that there are one or more milk delivery options for your town. Google search your town's name and the words milk delivery to find out which local businesses deliver organic milk to your door in glass bottles, and then pick up those bottles to use again. These companies sterilize the bottles for reuse and by doing so cuts down on the millions of cardboard boxes and plastic containers that are used every year for milk. One could argue that the carbon emissions created by the delivery of the milk is indeed a problem itself, but with the coming of the electric vehicle that will help in time.

Stick with these 3 items for your grocery list planning this week and feel better knowing that you are eating healthier produce, supporting your local farms, and cutting back on unnecessary packaging.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Family Time Continues




Especially in light of the crisis in Japan, I can think of nothing more important to encourage than to spend time with your family. Our families are the core of our lives. In looking at the news, I see husbands searching for their wives, parents searching for their children, and people who know that in a moment of absolute crisis, the only thing that truly matters is family.

So, simply, share time with your family this week. Laugh, play, draw, sing, be loud, be quiet, be yourselves and enjoy each other. Please don't just limit Family Time as a mission for this week, keep this as a core value of your daily life every week of every year.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Family Garden Time This Weekend!




Gardening with your children is a wonderful way to teach them values of compassion, respect and care. They will also love getting their hands dirty and planting colorful blooms! While gardening with your children you can teach them math skills, work on their fine motor skills, help them to identify colors and learn names of plants. The learning opportunities are endless when working in the garden with your children!

This weekend, if you don't already have Family Garden Time, then it is time to start! Simply find a good area of your yard to do some planting. Be sure to check out which produce grows best at certain times of year in your climate. The following link will help you with that at The Vegetable Garden.

Then, find out from your children which plants and fruit they would like best to plant by showing them pictures and asking them to choose their favorites, or by taking them to the Farmer's Market to identify which fruit and vegetables they think taste the best. Once you have your chosen seeds or seedlings, sketch out the plot to determine where and how many rows of plants you will have. If your child is old enough to help you with the math and drawing of this, then praise her for that!

Once you have your sketch, begin to plant! While you are planting be sure your children have little hats, sunglasses and gardening gloves and a shovel that are their size and kid-friendly. A great site for such products are at Gardening with Kids.

Your children will be excited to check in on and take care of their garden each day and especially on the weekends as you continue this Family Garden Time activity. Once the flowers bloom they can clip some for a vase in the house, or to give as gifts to teachers. Once the produce grows they can help to come up with and/or cook a meal with the delicious harvest or donate the fruit and veggies to neighbors or local soup kitchens.

Some great books to read to learn more about gardening with your children are below! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Family Time Tuesday




A wonderful green family activity to do together today is to sort through the items in your children's rooms that may no longer be used and ready for recycling or donating.

Make it a fun game for them. Set out three boxes, one for save, one for donate, and one for recycle. Talk with your children about how some people may benefit from the books or toys that your children no longer play with. The items that your children are attached to, but perhaps no longer use, can be placed in the save box and put in your home storage closet to be rechecked in a year for sentimental value at that time. This way your children know that they can keep certain things they aren't ready to part with.

The value in this activity is that children can feel good about themselves knowing they are helping to give toys and books and clothes to children in need. Also, you are teaching them how to organize and not waste what they have. This weekend, as long as it is safe for the age of your child, be sure you all go to the local homeless shelter, group home or Salvation Army to donate your children's items so that they can see how they truly are helping those in need.

This is also a great activity to do during the holidays when local firemen and police departments accept donations for Toys for Tots programs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Green Family Time




Each day this week, make time for Mission Green Family Time!

For Monday, make up a little contest to see who in the family can find the most ways to save water.

Start the day, before your kids go to school with the idea. This will give them the opportunity to ask friends at school for ideas. Then, when they are home from school write down each idea they have come up with. Of course, practice those ideas that evening and from now on!

If your children are having a hard time, when they get home from school ask them to walk around inside and outside of your home to see where there is water. Then, ask them to think about how to save that water. For example, they might identify that water comes out of the hose. Ask them if there is a drip in the hose. Or ask them how many times a week the family waters the lawn and if the family could water less? The more active and interactive you make this game the more your children will enjoy and remember it!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mission Green School Extravaganza!




It has never been more important to green our schools! Not only because schools are around for the future so they need to be sustainable, but also because it teaches children to be green as well!

We will continue Green School Week by focusing on building a school garden. If your school already has one, great! Be sure to be involved. If not, first step is to get one going! Check Rebel Tomato for more resources to start.

You will see that the first step is to get a Garden Committee going. Be sure this group includes students! Even if your child's school doesn't have a lot of property, there are ways to grow veggies and herbs indoors.

Once the Garden Committee is formed and the school administration is ready to devote the space they can, it is time to get some fundraisers going to get seeds, soil if indoors, and supplies.

The California School Garden Network lists several grant opportunities, as well as the National Gardening Association and Kids Gardening!

That's it - easy! 1. Form the Garden Committee 2. Get approval for school space 3. Apply for a grant and/or do a fundraiser to get supplies!

You can view online Setting Up and Running a School Garden by City Farmer which includes all the steps!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is there a Green Team at your School?




Creating a Green Team at your child's school will make a big difference in ensuring green actions take place. This team can be comprised of a dedicated teacher, committed students and an administrator to approve ideas.

The Green Team's first task is to set a monthly meeting time, then to set three main goals to green the school.

Possible goals are: recycling, saving electricity, saving water, setting up a school garden, composting, community education and fairs, incorporating environmental education into the curriculum and more!

Help your child to set up a Green Team at his or her school today!!!

Check out the Green Team at Fayetteville for more ideas!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Green Your Child's School Week




This week, in honor of the passing of my father-in-law, who was an amazing Headmaster at Manlius Pebble Hill School in New York, we are going to focus on one of his missions - to green schools!

It may feel overwhelming to think about how to green a whole school, especially as a parent, but there are always simple steps.

The first this week is to find out if your child's school recycles. If not, meet with the principle or head to ask about consideration of including recycling receptacles throughout the school for cans, bottles, and paper.

The California Bright Schools Program serves as a valuable resources for helping schools to start.

For today, just focus on recycling. If your child's school does not have or can't adopt a recycling program, then encourage your child to bring any paper or bottles he or she uses during the day home so you can recycle those items at home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mission Green Home




This week's mission is all about greening your home. To start for Monday, make one simple change - yes, you have heard it before but it is easy and makes such a difference - change those light bulbs!

First, get rid of those incandescent bulbs. Second, look for the Energy Star approved bulbs such as LED and CFLs. Keep in mind that CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury making them more difficult to dispose of.

Here's a link to those LED lights to make it even easier for you to see what they look like and then go out to buy them today!




The most eco-friendly light bulb out there is the natural sun! Keep your windows open and let the sun shine in for as long as you can instead of turning on the lamp.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wear Red Day



To finish out the preparations for Valentine's Day, I ask that we honor one of our most amazing gifts, our heart. Without our heart we would not be here, we would not be here to love and to live. Our hearts pump everyday for us and we need to help educate everyone about the need to take care of our tickers.

When you wear red on Valentine's Day, pay tribute to one of the most fabulous wonders of nature, our heart, by telling at least one other person about the American Heart Association and their commitment to fight heart disease.

Read more at Wear Red Day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your Big Green Heart



This Valentine's Day, actually everyday, share your big green heart! Show some love to the people around you and the planet in anyway, everyday, and your green heart will help keep the world beautiful!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eat Organic on Valentine's Day




The internet has given us such gifts. Now, it is easy to find the local and organic eateries near you. Check out the Eat Well Guide for local, sustainable restaurants in your area. You can find local Farm to Table restaurants as well at American Farm to Table.

This Valentine's Day consider eating out with your love at a local restaurant that obtains their vegetables and meats from local and organic farms. The food you eat will be healthier and more delicious and you will have helped to cut carbon emissions since the food doesn't have to travel far.

Your heart will overflow with romance, delight, and pride in choosing to eat well and do well on your Valentine's Day date out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mission Green Valentine's Day Tuesday




Show your love with a plant. You may think it is not as romantic as that incredibly large and very noticeable bouquet of red roses delivered to your honey's workplace, but it is. A plant can be chosen based on a memorable event or tradition the two of you share. Or, maybe a plant that has meaning to your whole family.

After you plant it, as the years go by, that meaning will remain in your lives. The beauty of that plant will live on.

How can you get more romantic than that?!

Check out Local Harvest to find organic farmer's markets and nurseries near you to choose your special plant in time for Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mission Green Valentine's Day!




Time to get ready for a green Valentine's Day! Everyday this week you will receive new tips to prepare to have the greenest Valentine's Day ever!


To start, for Monday, begin to prepare by purchasing eco-friendly, fair trade, organic chocolate. Most of us typically buy chocolates we see all pretty in a big red box with ribbons. Do we know where that chocolate was produced, how it was made? And, really, how much packaging is necessary to hold some chocolates?

Do some research online by googling organic, fair-trade chocolate. There are a few options, but my personal recommendation is Endangered Species Chocolate because they are organic, fair-trade, and give 10% of their profits to help the environment. You have time to order some - your sweetheart will appreciate the thought as well as the taste of this Valentine!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Clean Air Challenge Friday




Can you do it? Can you rise to the challenge? If you completed the missions thus far this week for Mission Clean Air, then I think you can!

Today, Friday, and for the rest of the weekend, do not use your car! AAAAAHHHH! You read correctly - do not use your car. The only way to get around would be your feet, a bicycle, and if you must, public transportation. For those who live in the city, this is probably already your way of life. For those of you in Southern California, this may be an adjustment.

Have fun and enjoy where your legs and feet can take you!

Read more about National Bike Week 2011 to get ready for that too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Calling Guest Blogger Submissions!

Do you love the earth? Do you have a fresh and different perspective to motivate people to do a little green everyday?

If so, apply to be a guest blogger!


1. Write a blog article that you feel conveys your love of green and put that article on your own blog.
2. Comment on this Be The Green Queen blog entry with a link to your blog entry - I will follow your blog too!
3. Follow the Green Queens and Kings Facebook page here

Guest authors with a fresh voice will be selected by February 15th and will be notified via a personal message on facebook. Your article will then be featured here, with two more articles, one per month and the possibility of a longer working relationship.

Looking for some fellow Green Queens!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Plant a Tree Thursday




For Mission Clean Air Week, plant a tree!

Trees give us oxygen! Did you notice how much cleaner the air feels in your lungs and on your skin when you are in a forest? Aaaahhhhh - those trees!

Support Arbor Day and their many programs! So simple - plant a tree!!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mission Clean Air Wednesday





To piggyback on yesterday, we can reduce emissions by doing one simple thing

CARPOOLING!

In many areas of the U.S., those who carpool are even rewarded with a carpool lane on freeways which gets them to work even faster. Rideshare programs can be found around the U.S. at Rideshare Online.

You will have a much more sociable and fun start to your workday, make new friends, and enjoy the reward of helping to keep the air cleaner by carpooling!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mission Clean Air Tuesday




The electric car, the hybrid, diesel, oh my! What to choose.

Yes, our air would be cleaner with less emissions from our cars, and yes, it is confusing to figure out which car does just that.

This EPA site helps you to figure out which cars are best for air quality.

Do your research, see if you can afford a Nissan Leaf, which comes with rebates when purchased and may be more money up front but will save you money in the long run as you won't need to purchase gas. You may not be able to make that change today, but start researching now so you are ready to help to contribute to cleaner air by driving a cleaner vehicle.

Remember too that the cleanest form of transportation is our feet and bicycles!