Sunday, August 19, 2012
Raising a “green” child is actually not as much of a challenge as I thought it might be. Yes, he is currently only going on seven months of age, nowhere near “I want what the other kids have” territory, yet I feel we have gotten off to a positive start. This start is already increasing the neural connections necessary for growth and learning for our son. First, we have provided a routine during which he says, “Good morning” and “Goodnight” to the sky, grass, birds, breeze and flowers. He sits outside each morning while we play ‘I spy’ and ‘I hear’ to identify the different sights and sounds in nature. And, we get ready for bed by taking a walk through a wooded path and around a beautifully rural campus. These early imprints of nature will bring about a greater respect and awe of nature for our sweet son. What we have found as well is that he genuinely enjoys nature. And, why wouldn’t he? He himself is a part of nature, the rhythm of life. He has grown during his own seasons thus far and will continue on as he develops through the winters and springs of his life. Children have an innate curiosity for and love of nature. When our son stepped his little toes into the enormity of the ocean for the first time, he was overwhelmed by its mass. By the third time, he understood the peace and pace of the ocean waves and dug his teeny toes in the sand as if to ground himself in this special place. He looked out at the water with a smile. Our son reaches out to plants to touch the leaves, laughs when his feet are placed in the dewy grass, and gasps in delight at the sunlight dappling his hands when we look out the window. This joy of nature is inborn. This joy of nature can grow as our children grow. As long as we nurture their curiosity, safely, then they can explore and have fun in their natural surroundings. A child who spends hours digging up sand to build a sandcastle has learned and interacted much more with his environment than a child who has spent hours passively watching the television. What child doesn’t love to lay on a blanket at night to look up at and name the constellations? Again, this love of nature is innate. Our plans with our son as he grows is to: plant a garden and harvest the vegetables, pick pumpkins this Fall, learn how to swim, go camping, hike through the forest, bicycle and feel the breeze in our hair, be nature explorers, and so much more! What is more natural than simply following the lead of our children’s love of “green” learning?!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, internet articles, commercials, and news posts come at us at a rapid pace every moment of every day. It is challenging to sift through the wealth of information firing at us, especially in the middle of cooking dinner, listening to your child talk about his day, and planning for your important meeting at work tomorrow. Where did those seemingly endless summer days go? When we were young children, played outside all day with friends, and built tree houses? As adults, we are now faced with the dilemma of finding the time to help our children experience those precious, long summer days. How do we fit that into our adult days? Does our family budget allow for such experiences? Here are easy, simple and fun "green" activities for you and your family. These suggestions are meant to enhance your life, to bring balance to your family's life, and not to overwhelm you with more tasks. First, take a walk in the local park. When was the last time you went for a walk with your family? You and your child have energy, and physical movement will actually give you more energy as it makes you physically stronger and lifts your mood. While you are on this walk, depending on the age of your children, ask them to find three different living critters in the park during the walk. You can add to this activity for older children by asking them to photograph or draw the three new critters they find. This simple activity will provide quality time, laughter, and will refresh you all for re-entry into your busy lifestyle. Second, get the most out of your day and your family time with a green project such as planting and tending to a vegetable or flower garden. Skills learned from planting a flower are much more than physical. Children and parents increase their level of compassion, ability to nurture, and capability to focus. All of these benefits to children and parents are possible and likely with the simple tasks of planting a seed, watering, providing sun and attention. As you model nurturing skills, your children reap the reward of learning how to grow and nurture in return. Just the simple act of planting a flower creates not only a more beautiful landscape in your yard, but also a more compassionate child. As the seasons change, more free and green activities will be shared here for your family. Please remember to keep it simple, keep it quality, and have fun.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
The most helpful way to celebrate Earth Day is by committing to complete eco-friendly actions everyday of the year. Earth day is a reminder, an impetus for us to change our habits to healthier ones for each other and for the environment.
The idea of Earth Day began long before it ever received its name or shape in the mind of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in the early 1960s. He attempted to put concerns about the environment on the political agenda and convinced then President Robert Kennedy to travel to ten different states to discuss this as an issue. At that time, only seeds were planted. The late 1960s brought “teach-ins” for peace and it was this model that inspired Mr. Nelson to organize a similar event for environmental education.
Once he announced this mass environmental teach-in to take place on April 22, 1970, word spread and the idea grew. This event, twenty million people large in cities across the United States included rallies, demonstrations, education, and a united voice expressing concern for the environment. All events were organized at a grassroots level. There was no Twitter or Facebook at the time, so the immense number of people who organized and participated via word of mouth, newsletters, newspaper articles and phone networks is even more awe-inspiring.
This event led to the American government recognizing the need for immediate solutions through legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were all passed in the early 1970s after the first Earth Day.
For the twenty year Earth Day celebration in 1990, the event went international involving one hundred and forty countries and two hundred million people. In 1995 Mr. Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for beginning such a positive world-wide movement. Earth Day 2000 increased participation around the world to hundreds of millions of people and close to two hundred countries from large cities to small villages in Africa by mobilizing efforts on the internet. The focus was not only on pollution of the air and water, deforestation and more, but also now on clean energy sources.
The last Earth Day saw phenomenal results as the Earth Day Network increased their online community to close to one million people, the discussion of global warming continued to grow, and they launched the Billion Acts of Green and one million tree planting initiatives with an aim of completion by 2012. Other initiatives and ways to get involved include helping women in emerging nations with green jobs, creating more eco-friendly schools, and involving athletes in sending out green activist messages.
To find out how you can get involved this Earth Day and everyday of the year in making the world a healthier place, check out the Earth Day Network website at www.earthday.org. Whether you want to become a full-fledged activist or learn a few green tips, the Earth Day Network will inspire you.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
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.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
"Look down. There is your son," the words floated through the air. I caught a glimpse of this wriggly little, teeny tiny being. He was loud. Very loud. And, he was here. With us, at last.
The months and hours prior to my son's arrival was filled with emotional highs and lows, physical struggles, and most of all a ton of gratitude. Moments of pure joy unlike any other I felt filled my heart daily.
My husband and I attended the Bradley class to learn about having a natural birth. We learned the emotional signposts of labor and delivery to be able to recognize when we were almost at the finish line. That class was right on. When I was whimpering to my husband, "I don't think I can do it. I can't make it." that was exactly 20 minutes before our son arrived. Right at the end of a long, hard journey is when our spirits are tested, when we see how much we really want the prize, and we face a wall. We face a wall that we must break through. The Bradley class taught us that right when I uttered those words of resignation that we were at the wall. Right then, I remembered that lesson and knew, deep down inside that I had to push through, break through that wall to get to my son. So, I did.
Somewhere inside each of us mothers and fathers we have this strength that we may never have known existed. That strength that helps us to plunge into the unknown of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and then raising a child. A strength that gets larger each and every moment we hold our child in our arms. Did you know you had this strength? Our children need this, and what I have learned is that our children are just as strong. They must be to have made this journey through labor and delivery too!
I dilated from 4 centimeters to delivering our son in one hour. I was blessed with a quick, albeit intense labor. My Bradley class teacher called me "a warrior." I could not have withstood that level of pain without the help of my husband, assisting me with all we learned in class and standing firmly by my side, holding my hand and cheering, "I am so proud of you." These moments are now the next level of a strong foundation for our marriage and our journey as parents.
We are not all able to become pregnant. This I know after a long battle with infertility. We are not all able to have a natural delivery. We are not all able to hold a healthy, and loud, baby in our arms. I consider myself beyond blessed. There are no words to explain the emotional, physical and spiritual connection I feel to our son and the energy of life as a whole.
A child is the most natural gift of all. A child is the most precious gift of all. The lessons from my mother, my friends who are mothers, and most of all from our son, contain a great wisdom which only Mother Nature holds true. I will continue to listen closely to that wisdom and be grateful for this amazing gift.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Living naturally and helping Mother Earth is not a big step. Rather, all it takes is a little step at a time. So, to break it down into doable chunks, we will implement one new green tip each month of this new year. By the end of the year you will have twelve new ways you are living a greener, more natural life!
Just cool it January: Yes, it is cold outside in most places right now. If you live in a cooler environment, lower that thermostat. Yes, you read correctly - lower it. Instead of running the heat as soon as the temperature in your home hits 60 degrees, consider saving that electric or water by delaying the heat until 50 degrees. An alternative and great way to keep warm is to simply layer up in that big sweater, under the blankets, with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa!
For the love of chocolate February: The month of love, Valentine’s Day and lots of chocolate! Consider buying Fair Trade Organic chocolate for your loved ones this month. You will feel better knowing that local producers created this sweet treat without pesticides and in harmony with that land.
Make it cleaner March: Spring is right around the corner so it is time to invest in some green cleaning products. Once your chemical based cleaners run out replace them with good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar. This concoction keeps windows and countertops clean and sparkly.
A bucket of water April: April showers bring May flowers so take this opportunity to set out rain barrels for watering your garden. Recycle the Earth’s water in this way and save not only on your water bill but also on depleting one of Earth’s most valuable resources.
Muscle building May: Now that the weather is warming up consider an alternative form of transportation to work. Remember that bicycle you have in the garage? It is calling for you to take it for a spin. Even if you can’t bike to work due to distance or logistics, try doing a local errand by just adding a basket to the front of the bike for carrying goodies home.
Jolly harvesting June: Plant that organic vegetable garden you always dreamed of! Make it a family activity for the entire summer and harvest delicious ingredients for meals as well as fun family memories!
Jump in the sun July: Especially since it is lighter out longer, there is no need to have those lights on in your home most of the day. Be sure you and your family switch off all lights immediately after use.
A pile of leaves August: The leaves will start falling and make great compost and mulch. Start that compost heap and you can use this rich fertilizer toward the planting of your winter garden.
Shining September: Swap out all incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs to help your light last longer with less draw on electric.
Off in October: Invest in a power strip so that it is easy to flip the switch to turn off all of your electronics at once.
Nothing to it November: That incredible Thanksgiving meal you are making is sure to include all of the delicious ingredients from your garden. From squash to pumpkin your guests will enjoy the rewards from your compost and recycled rain water!
Dazzling December: Make this holiday season’s focus about using less to give more back to Mother Earth and your community. Use newspaper as a vintage look for wrapping paper for those holiday gifts. Gift your time by volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Or, decide to decorate a replantable tree. The ideas are endless!
Hopefully you can plan a little bit of green into this year each and every month. If you have other ideas or additional ideas, go for it! When it comes to helping the environment the sky is the limit!