Mar 31st – Bring a flower to a special someone, today.

Put a smile on someone’s face, and let them know you care from one of nature’s most beautiful items, a flower.  While there are an endless number of gifts you could buy in any shop of your choice,  there is still nothing like a brilliant, freshly blossomed flower, grown by sun and water, to enjoy and give as a token of affection :).

Happy Spring!!!

Mar 30th – Skip the store bought gift wrap paper, try reusing items in your home for gift wrapping, today.

According to Hallmark research, the gift wrap industry accounts for approximately $3.2 billion a year in retail sales… that is a lot of gift wrap, bows and ribbon, which largely ends up in landfills.

Today, if you are headed out to a birthday party, wrapping something special for the upcoming holiday, or have any other gift-giving occasion today, consider some of these reusable gift wrapping ideas:

  • Reuse gift bags you have received in the past
  • Cut up a brown paper bag that you may have gotten from a grocery store, have the inside of the back face outward and decorate with cool painting, crayons, stencils, stamps or glueing on cutout decorations/dots/pictures, etc.  FUN IDEA – glue on cut out letters from glossy magazine paper of the person’s name
  • Wrap in newsprint or magazine pages – you will look so hip being the eco-person ;)… Finish it off with a black ribbon for a polished look
  • Use your children’s artwork/painted papers
  • If you want to get fancy and use cloth, you may have an old scarf you don’t want or other cool clothing or linens that you could use.  Even sewing together some fabric scraps
  • Tins that you received from others
  • Part of the present may even be able to be used.  For instance, if there is a special blanket you are giving, or a bag, etc… get creative in making the gift into art without the wrap
  • Old maps and wallpaper are fun to wrap
  • If you must get new gift wrapping, buy recycled gift wrap and tissue paper.
  • Be sure to use some fun ribbon that you saved from another occasion or packaging
  • Skip the tape – raffia and hemp twine are also eco-friendly for ties if you do not have reusable ribbon available
  • Consider no physical gift exchange at all and order a gift certificate on-line to be emailed

Coming on another day… eco-friendly cards (send an ecard!).

Mar 29th – Use Unbleached Parchment Baking Paper instead of Teflon coated or Aluminum foil when baking, today.

Let me start this off by making it clear I am definitely not a professional baker, but I do a lot of baking.  In talking about eco ideas with another mom, she suggested using Parchment paper over Aluminum foil… I’ve been testing it out, and what a great suggestion!  Though do know ahead of time, they do bake the food slightly different, and parchment paper can only be used up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure to use the Unbleached Totally Chlorine Free Parchment Paper, there is a great one I use made by If You Care.  Benefits of use:

  • No heavy metals or toxic Teflon coating on your food (evidence seems inconclusive of the risks with using aluminum while baking food, though admittedly sounds minimal)
  • No grease needed – the non-stick coating on the paper is silicone and is non-toxic when incinerated (you would almost thing silicone is a plastic, but it, in fact, is not – it is a natural element found in sand, quartz and rock… and after oxygen, it is the most abundant element on earth)
  • Creating Aluminum Foil causes local erosion and deforestation, pollutes water sources, disrupts ecosystems and products air pollution.  The If You Care parchment product I mentioned is FSC Certified (Forest Stewardship Council)… FSC is an international non-profict organization which promotes responsible management of the world’s forest.
  • The unbleached means no chlorine is dumped in our lakes and streams, or the creation of dioxins.
  • Can be reusable.
  • The parchment paper is also recyclable.

Better than parchment or aluminum is non-toxic bakeware, which I will be investigating further another day, but glass and stainless steel are good options.  Until I go shopping for those, I need to use parchment for today.

Mar 28th – Prepare for a more eco-friendly and healthier Easter, today.

While not everyone celebrates Easter, for those that would like to join in the fun, here are a few ideas to make it a little less wasteful, a little more kind to the earth and a little less junk in our bodies:

1. For dying whole eggs (organic, of course :)), you can use these whole food ideas (note, for intensity of color, boiling fruits and veggies is suggested, add vinegar for dying):

  • For pink and red-colored eggs, use cranberry juice, beets, or raspberries.
  • For yellow eggs, use saffron or turmeric.
  • For purple eggs, use red wine
  • For blue eggs, use red cabbage leaves or frozen blueberries.
  • For brown eggs, use grape juice, rosehip tea, or coffee
  • For orange eggs, use yellow onion skins or orange juice
  • For green, use spinach

2. If you use plastic eggs, save and reuse each year, along with any other decorative Easter items.

3. Ideas for a little less sugar treats in the eggs:  Stickers, temporary tattoos, Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit, snap peas (baked or fresh), baby carrots (Bunny food!), nuts (if no allergies), Hot Wheels cars, cool gems, jewelry, glitter, seashells, small toys or hair bows/clips, popcorn, Chedder bunnies, spare change and coins, Play-doh, character band-aids, bouncy balls

4. Purchase Fair-Trade chocolates and locally made chocolates and candy products.

5. Better yet, make your own Easter candy, ditch the packaged candy for home baked goodies and save on the plastic and foil packaging waste. (some links for Easter candy ideas:

6. For the Easter grass (rather than the plastic grass) – consider using real grass clippings, edible Easter grass (which you can buy), or shredded paper (can be bought at the dollar store or use your own shredded paper)

7. For the Easter basket – reuse a basket you may already have.

8. For the Easter meal, consider organic items and adding more fruits and veggies to the menu.

Mar 27th – Hug a tree today.

You can stop snickering ;).  If you are too self conscious, feel free to just touch a tree.  The funny thing is that a child would not even blink an eye to do such a thing, yet we as adults can create so many inhibitions that we may actually feel strange touching a most amazing and majestic part of nature, a simple tree.

This is not just for “tree-huggers”, being in nature is scientifically known to boost mental health.  Hugging (or touching) a tree grounds us with it’s roots to the entire earth, as well as the rest of the world… which sounds a little crazy, but is a powerful thought.  Not to mention, the benefits they provide should not be disregarded with providing clean air, shade to protect ourselves, a home for little critters and a piece of beauty for us to improve our mental state.   On an added note, there have been studies linking human health and trees, including a recent one released in January 2013 by the USDA Forest Service.  For more information, see: http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/news/2013/01/tree-human-health.shtml

So remind yourself that trees are important and enjoy being with one today.

In a random article I found and read from the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team, believe it or not, the first thing they tell a child who may be lost in the wilderness is to hug a tree!  It goes on to say that one of the greatest fears many of us have is being alone.  Hugging a tree, and even talking to it, can help calm you down and prevent panic.

… and honestly, all we really are is older children.

Mar 26th – Reduce EMF (electric and magnetic field) risks in your bedroom, today.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend, she brought up the topic of EMFs and it’s affect on our bodies… a topic which is not necessarily much in the spotlight, yet we are literally swimming in it, what one article called an “electrosmog”, with our constant attachment to electricity, an electrical devices including our cell phones.

EMF deserves more explanation than in this brief change for the day, but there are six primary types of EMF – having different origins and different levels of risks/impact.  As well, there have been hundred’s of studies done in an effort to research the true impact of EMFs, particularly in certain areas such as being a carcinogen (causing cancer) and links to leukemia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and how they effect our body’s cellular activity.  I will list a few good links below for more info, but for now, let’s just focus on improving our bedroom, where it is important that our bodies rest and detoxify at night.  EMFSafeHome.com makes a number of suggestions to make your life safer, below are a few that are specifically for the bedroom:

[Note, while I realize some of these may be more extreme, reducing any risk is good, I personally am going to move my electric clock, as well as make sure I am charging my cell phone in another room than the bedroom… and know that even inches/a few feet can make a difference to move things)]

  • If there are infants and/or young children in the home have the home surveyed for unsafe levels of electromagnetic radiation particularly in the childrens bedroom’s and play areas.
  • Arrange bedroom furniture such that no member of the family sleeps with the head of the bed on a wall that is opposite to an electric panel, electric meter, refrigerator, freezer, television, computer, air conditioning unit or any other device that produces electromagnetic radiation during sleeping hours.
  • Ensure that all beds in use at night have zero electric field exposure and magnetic field exposure no higher than 0.2 to 0.3 milligauss. (an EMF meter can give you this reading)
  • Never sleep in a bed with an electric heating pad, electric blanket, or waterbed heater plugged in to a wall outlet.
  • If cordless devices must be used, recharge them at night and locate the charging units away from bedrooms.
  • Because of high levels of electromagnetic radiation and long periods of exposure, do everything possible to the home computer and workstation to reduce risks from electromagnetic radiation. (So keep them out of your bedroom)
  • Should a fluorescent light fixture be located beneath a child’s bedroom or playroom ensure that the fixture remains in the off mode while a child is sleeping or playing in the room.
  • Remove cordless telephones from bedrooms and replace them with corded units and use battery operated clocks and radios.
  • Avoid using wireless connections for computer equipment. (again, keep out of bedroom)
  • Avoid the use of beds with metal parts if electrical sensitivity is an issue.
  • Have all lamp wiring converted to a grounded type to reduce electric fields.
  • Avoid wearing ferrous metals on the body including costume jewelry, key rings, pens, belt buckles, metal eyeglass frames and bras with under wires. (So don’t sleep with your belt on ;))
  • Remove all electrical wires from under beds.

Below are a few links for more information,

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/emf/ (for a good reference a on studies regarding EMF)
  2. http://www.emfsafehome.com/emf_recommendations.htm
  3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/09/powerful-and-simple-tips-to-help-lower-your-emf-risks.aspx
  4. http://www.safespaceprotection.com/harmful-effects-electromagnetic-fields.aspx

March 23rd – Check to make sure your toilet is not leaking.

Who knew there is an official Fix a Leak Week every year?  It’s true, and this happens to be the week.

Checking your toilet for leaks is quite easy – add a colored liquid (i.e. juice, red wine, food coloring) to the toilet tank and wait 15 minutes.  If the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking.  NOTE: Be sure to flush as soon as the test is done, since food coloring may stain the bowl.

Hopefully you have no leaks, if you do, get it fixed and save on your water bill.

Some facts on leaks from the EPA:

  • Leaks can account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, which is enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.
  • The amount of water leaked from U.S. homes could exceed more than 1 trillion gallons per year. That’s equivalent to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined.
  • Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.
  • Common types of leaks found in the home include leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. All are easily correctable.
  • Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills.
  • Keep your home leak-free by repairing dripping faucets, toilet valves, and showerheads. In most cases, fixture replacement parts don’t require a major investment and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers.
  • The vast majority of leaks can be eliminated after retrofitting a household with new WaterSense labeled fixtures and other high-efficiency appliances.

And specifically about toilets:

  • If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day.
  • If your toilet is leaking, the cause is most often an old, faulty toilet flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part decays, or minerals build up on it. It’s usually best to replace the whole rubber flapper—a relatively easy, inexpensive do-it-yourself project that pays for itself in no time.
  • If you do need to replace the entire toilet, look for a WaterSense labeled model. If a family of four replaces its older, inefficient toilets with new WaterSense labeled ones, it could save more than 16,000 gallons per year. Retrofitting the house could save the family approximately $2,000 in water and wastewater bills over the lifetime of the toilets.

For the full article, check out -http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/fixleak.html

Mar 22nd – Request any direct “junk” mail be stopped that you do not want, today.

More than 100 million trees each year are destroyed to produce junk mail (that is 273,972 trees each day!).  The amount of money and waste that goes into direct mail is mind-blowing.  Here are some facts from 41pounds.org:

  • Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.
  • About 28 billion gallons of water are wasted to produce and recycle junk each year.
  • You waste about 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail.

Your Mailbox Today

  • The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in developed countries, and it’s the third-largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter (after the chemical and steel industries).
  • The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year. 44% goes to the landfill unopened.
  • On average, we receive 16 pieces of junk mail a week, compared to only 1.5 personal letters.
  • The majority of household waste consists of junk mail.
  • 40% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste.
  • Junk mail inks have high concentrations of heavy metals, making the paper difficult to recycle.
  • $320 million of local taxes are used to dispose of junk mail each year.
  • Transporting junk mail costs $550 million a year.
  • Lists of names and addresses used in bulk mailings reside in mass data-collection networks. Your name is typically worth 3 to 20 cents each time it is sold.

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And for those of you in the marketing field, great article from HubSpot.com on the ROI (return on investment) of Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing…. Dollar for dollar email wins by a SIGNIFICANT amount… not to mention, the calculated numbers do not factor the additional associated costs on the environment and costs of dealing with the collection and waste of the mail itself.  Here is the article:

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34032/An-Investigation-Into-the-ROI-of-Direct-Mail-vs-Email-Marketing-DATA.aspx

HOW TO STOP YOUR “JUNK” MAIL (websites below assist in stopping junk mail, some require some work on your end):

  1. CatalogChoice.org
  2. DMAchoice.org
  3. ProQuo.com
  4. GreenDimes.com – http://www.greendimes.com/how_do_i_stop_junk_mail/
  5. 41pounds.org will do it for you for a one time fee of $35
  6. MyJunkTree.com will help you – 3 yr subscription is $20
  7. You can write “return to sender” on any solicitations that are first class mail (unfortunately it will not work on 3rd class mail)

At times I am conflicted to write some of the suggested “changes” as I realize these industries employ an outstanding number of people (postal service, marketing professionals, artists, printing companies, etc), which is important, though finding more creative solutions to advertising and reaching audiences with sustainability in mind is an incredible and necessary feat.

Mar 21st – If someone in need asks you for money in a non harmful manner, please give some.

I used to be somewhat skeptical of anyone who ever asked me for money, yet when I met what would be my future husband, I was taken by how he would give, without reservation, to anyone who simply asked for the help.  Lucky for me, I married him.

We often drive by people in need on the street as they hold their sign, possibly passing by as if it is not our problem.  But that person counts and exists just as we do on this planet, and as a child, I imagine that person probably never aspired to one day be standing on a street corner asking for a handout. It is easy to make judgements, but I think it takes great courage to ask for help. If they are there asking, they probably need it more than you.

Several years ago, while volunteering on a project to give bags of goods to homeless people, we were encouraged to speak with the people to whom we were giving.  What an eye-opener to hear how some people had gotten to where they were and why.  While some that we met clearly had signs of mental illness, many were quite astute.   I remember thinking at that moment, how fragile life can be and that anyone could be in those shoes.

Each one of us has probably worked hard for our money, and none of us are required or obligated to give, but if only we were all so fortunate to have something in our pocket to give (big or small).  I, for one, am grateful to be the giver in this scenario rather than the receiver.

Mar 20th – Avoid food with GMO corn today.

The topic of GMO’s is a BIG one to tackle, but let’s get started.

GMO’s are rampant in our US food system.  GMO stands for ‘genetically modified  organisms’ and remain very controversial.  They are plants or animals created through genetic engineering, merging DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes than cannot occur in nature or traditional crossbreeding.  For example, in traditional breeding you could breed a pig with another pig to get a new variety, or the same with an apple and a pear.  With genetic engineering, scientists can “breach species barriers set by nature” such as splicing fish genes into tomatoes, which they have done.

The concerns of GMO’s are associated with health problems, environmental damage and violations of farmer’s and consumer’s rights, and there is no shortage of information discussing all of these topics.  While they are in an overwhelming number of our foods in the US, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on production and sale of GMO’s, in more than 40 countries around the world including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union.

There is no legally required labeling for GMO’s, so you will have to do some reading and investigation of your food.  According to the Grocery Manufacturing Association, 70% of items in US food stores contain GMO’s.  Whole Foods just announced two days ago that they will be requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods on all products sold in the company’s 339 stores within five years.

The most common GMO’s are corn, soy and canola oil.  Some good news, you may be surprised to know that currently no North American wheat is genetically modified.

Today, let’s just focus on corn, though you should know it may still be in your food even though it is not on the label.  As well, there are a few hundred ingredients that are corn, derived from corn or can contain corn (for a full list, see http://www.cornallergens.com), the list is astonishing.  Because of this, your best bet is to eat only whole foods or ones that are specifically labeled that they containn No GMO’s.

… more on this topic to come… many healthy wishes to you today!