Have a Lovely Weekend + A Few Green Things

apple-orchardHello, Friends! How have you been? I haven’t written “A Few Green Things” in quite some time. I have been super busy building my virtual assistant firm and as you may have noticed, I have hired a few writers to help ensure that Sweet Greens is being updated with great green content each week! In fact, if you are interested in being a contributor,please email me, I would love to chat!

Eben started 8th grade this week – it really is amazing how quickly time flies. He was only 8 years old when I started writing Sweet Greens and now he is in his last year of middle school. Can you believe that it is almost September? I am already dreaming of our fall family trip – it is quickly approaching. Do you have any fall family traditions that you are looking forward to? A favorite pumpkin patch? Apple orchard? Fall hiking trail? While I lay back and dream of fun fall activities, here are a few green things I thought you might enjoy!

- I am in love with this twist on the ice bucket challenge – check out the trash bucket challenge!
- Dogs really are the most amazing animals in the world!
- Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables each day?
- I am in love with this tiny home – it is complete perfection!
- What is hiding in your O.J.? Make sure you are buying a “good” one!
- Finally! For all of us biking enthusiasts – a self-locking bike.

I hope you enjoy the last weekend of August – I will see you back here in September!

xo,
Sweet Greens

6 Time Saving and Eco-Friendly Back to School Organizing Tips

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Eben just started 8th grade! Can you believe it? Wow – how time flies. We have his creative space ready to go and we  have updated his homework station with all of the supplies that he needs. He is still reusing this backpack (4 years and still in perfect condition (it’s the Lands End Eco-Friendly back pack) and I used my best eco-friendly back to school shopping tips to get all of his done. Yay!

As a parent, I feel that one of the most important tips for back to school is being organized. I have shared a lot of my tips in the past, however, there are still so many other tips that I haven’t mentioned. Most of these tips are very simple and will save you time, energy, money – and in the long run will save the environment too. Read on to learn my 6 favorite back to school organizing secrets – get organized now so the first day of school will run smoothly!

#1: Get Yourself Ready First!
Tip number one is the most important tip that I can give you – get yourself ready first! If you try to get your children and yourself ready at the same time each morning – you are going to be overwhelmed. Eben gets up at 7:30 a.m. every morning for school, this means I get up at 5:00 a.m. It may seem early, however, I am able to exercise, tidy up the house, shower and get myself ready – all before he even wakes up. I never feel stressed when something pops up – because I am ready, I can jump in to help fix any of the morning mishaps. (and believe me, over the years, there have been plenty!)

#2: Build Chores In!
All children should have chores. Chores are great on so many levels, they teach children responsibility, pride of ownership, it builds character, and what Mom couldn’t use a little extra help around the house. I have built chores into Eben’s before and after school routine. Don’t worry – he isn’t doing hours of chores everyday, but he does get up early enough in the morning to make his bed, feed and take his dogs on a mini-walk, and pack up his computer and school supplies for the day. Then, after school he is responsible for setting and clearing the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the recyclables, taking the dogs on another walk, and helping with the general evening tidying up!

#3: Snack Station!
Giving your child easy access to the best, healthy snacks for school is easy when you incorporate a snack station in your pantry and refrigerator. Each morning, Eben chooses an item from the pantry snack station and the refrigerator snack station (you can see our lunchbox packing station here). I never have to worry that we don’t have anything yummy and healthy for snack time because these areas are always stocked and ready to go. He never forgets to pack his snack because these are healthy foods that he enjoys.

#4: Breakfast is Ready!
Eben is not a cereal type of kid – he doesn’t like cereal, any cereal. Period. However, we don’t always have time or feel like whipping up a hot breakfast in the morning. Our solution, we make them ahead of time and either refrigerator or freeze them. This way Eben always gets his choice of his favorite breakfast items (these items are always healthier than a boxed cereal anyhow) and it makes for a quick and yummy breakfast time, with foods he will actually eat. And of course I also keep the refrigerator stocked with his favorite fruits and organic yogurt to go with breakfast too.

#5: Lunch is Ready!
If you have a lot of lunches to pack in the morning and find yourself spending too much time on it, consider packing your lunches the night before. The mister will purposely make a little extra dinner simply for Eben to take to school the next day. Eben loves this because he would much rather have shish-ka-bobs, or a homemade soup for lunch over a sandwich any day! It is also a great way to give your child’s lunchbox menu a lot of diversity, the lunch is ready to go and your child is more likely to eat their lunch everyday. 

#6: Bag the Equipment!
A couple of years ago, Eben had swimming as his P.E. activity – instead of running around every Friday morning looking for his swimsuit, swim shirt, goggles, sunscreen, and towel – I packed everything together in a bag and it stays there. When he brings home the wet clothes on Friday afternoon, I would toss the entire bag in the laundry room and wash and repack the swimming bag for next Friday. Then, it would go on a designated hook in our mudroom and would be ready to go the following week. This same tip can be used for any sport or activity that your child has particular clothing for – just pack it and forget it.

What eco-friendly and time-saving secrets do you have for back to school?
Please leave your comment below – they support us all in living a greener lifestyle.

6 Great Kid-Friendly Uses for Organic Coconut Oil

CoconutRemember the father in law in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” who used Windex to cure everything? Well, I’m that way with coconut oil. I’m convinced it does everything that duct tape can’t. But we all know by now that coconut oil is practically a deity when it comes to health, wellness, and being green. I use for everything from conditioning my hair and brightening my smile to soothing chapped lips and rough elbows! You may be wondering how your children can benefit from coconut oil too? I put together a list of my six favorite ways to incorporate coconut oil into your child’s daily routine – you will want to pin or bookmark these, they are pretty amazing!

1. Lotion + Diaper Cream:
Coconut oil is a great diaper cream for those who use cloth diapers, and a great lotion for babies and kids alike, especially those with sensitive skin! It’s also great because a little goes a very long way and it can even be mixed with other lotions or oils to make your own lotion creation!

2. Frizzy Hair Tamer:
Coconut oil can conquer the static and frizz putting a wrench in those busy school day mornings with just a quick dab in the hands and a finger comb through the hair.

3. Lice Treatment:
Mix coconut oil with apple cider vinegar, and you have a natural lice remedy. This one is great to have in your arsenal for the younger kids, especially now that school is back in session!

4. Chicken Pox Anti-Itch Remedy:
The little ones are bound to get Chicken Pox at some time or another, and why should they suffer through the itching? Rub coconut oil on their spots and they’ll feel some relief and be able to get more rest.

5. Safe for Cooking:
Growing kids will ask for something that’s not good for them, it’s fate! Why not be a little sneaky and use coconut oil to add a healthy twist to their indulgence, and it may even turn the whole meal into a healthy treat! We use coconut oil when making popcorn – it takes a simple treat to a whole new level!

6. Immunity Superhero:
Scrapes and sickness are two things almost guaranteed to happen to your little ones. Coconut oil is great as an antibiotic cream for scratches, and can be taken internally to fight the cold and flu. It’s also perfect in a cup of tea to sooth a sore throat, and naturally heals thrush too.

YOUR TURN: What are your favorite uses for coconut oil?

6 Eco-Friendly Lunchbox Essentials for Green Kids

Now that the kids are back at school – you are probably testing out the new lunchbox. If you are like me, it can be hard to find the perfect lunchbox essentials. We have had a hard time with the lunch bag being too small, containers leaking, water bottles that won’t fit inside the lunchbox and even worse, the lost lunchbox. Over the years, we have fine tuned Eben’s lunchbox and have found 6 essentials that we highly recommend – all of them are eco-friendly too, read on to check them out!

1. Large Reusable Insulated Lunch Bag $35
Over the years we have tried out quite a few eco-friendly lunchboxes, the key is a lunchbox that is insulated and large enough to hold everything including a water bottle. For Eben it also helps if it has a handle to carry it by – since adding another bag to his shoulder isn’t an optimal option. I love this one printed with EAT on the front. Such a fun statement at lunchtime!

2. Hen House Lunchbox Napkins (6) $25
Reusable fabric napkins are a must for the lunchbox – these fabulously designed ones from Hen House Linens add a pop of color and whimsy to the lunchbox. We loves our and have found them to be super durable too.

3. Contigo Reusable Water Bottle $25
I adore Contigo products – I am a huge fan of the reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. These are large enough to hold a sizable lunchbox drink for Eben, keep his drink cold and they don’t leak! They also have a fantastic kids line with insulted food jars perfect for soup or chili on a cool fall day.

4. Island Picnic Reusable Organic Cotton Snack Packs $17
Pretzels and Popcorn and Nuts – oh my! These organic snack packs are the perfect size for packing those back to school treats! I pack Eben a couple of snacks every day and these are perfect for keeping the snacks together!

5. Wean Green Reusable Glass Lunch Cubes $6-12
These are by far my favorite reusable lunch containers, we use them every-single-day. They come in an assortment of sizes that fit perfectly inside a lunchbox, are made from non-leaching glass and the lock seal means no leaks EVER.

6. SwaggerTags $4
Never worry about a lost lunchbox again – Swaggertags are a fantastic way to identify your child’s lunchbox without giving too much information away (you have to open them to see the identification – the outside is customized by you with any photo!) They come in a selection of fun colors too and are guaranteed to not fall off. Perfection!

What is a must have for your child’s lunchbox? I would love to hear – leave your comment below!

4 Easy Ways to Help Kids Go Green by Teaching Community Awareness

Help Kids Go Green by Teaching Community AwarenessFor kids, who may not fully understand what a carbon footprint is or how their green choices today will improve everyone’s quality of life tomorrow, it’s helpful to begin teaching them to be environmentally-friendly by focusing on community awareness. Kids are naturally friendly, curious, social creatures who are constantly studying and interacting with their peers and adults around them. We routinely teach children how their emotions and words affect others, and by keeping the context on community we can easily show them how their environmental decisions affect others. Read on for 4 easy ways for kids to have fun while expanding their community awareness.

#1: Pen Pals
I remember my first pen pal. She was totally different than me! I lived in Colorado and she lived in Virginia, I lived in a suburban house and she lived in a mobile home on a few acres of beautiful, green land. She had siblings and I didn’t. While we could relate on some aspects of being a kid, my seven-year-old mind really hadn’t conceived of the idea that someone could really live in a different state with a different ecosystem and a different type of house and neighborhood than me. Pen pals, even if your child is simply writing to a cousin or grandmother, help kids build an awareness that there is a vast diversity among how people live and will show them we are all human and all connected at the same time. A feeling of ownership for one’s community is at the root of every good-hearted intention to live green.

#2: Clean Up a Park
Kids are usually too busy playing at the park to notice whether there’s litter or whether facilities are clean. By volunteering to clean up trash at a local park, baseball field, or neighborhood you can teach your kids to respect communal spaces and give them the opportunity to see what these spaces look like before and after they’ve been cared for.

#3:  Visit the Local Animal Sanctuary
Animal sanctuary’s often house an animal or two on the endangered species list. Visiting these animals gives parents the opportunity to explain why these animals are endangered and where they used to live. Visiting the animal sanctuary also connects kids with animals and widens their global view by teaching them about the ecosystems where animals once lived.

#4: Visit a National Park
National parks really are America’s treasure! There are so many beautiful national and state parks to visit, and taking a trip to one will allow your family to bond and remember why it’s important to protect natural spaces—especially when kids see how many other families flock to these natural havens to escape and enjoy the wild.

YOUR TURN: What is your favorite way to teach the kiddos about community awareness?

Back to School: 3 Reasons to Let Kids Pack Their Own Lunch

kid lunch

Back to school time is here which means busier mornings and evenings.  Finding the time to prepare and pack nutritious, homemade lunches every morning or evening for your kids can be challenging with homework, family dinner, extracurricular activities, and social time all packed into a few hours before bedtime. Some parents may feel frustrated to see half their carefully prepared lunch return home in the lunch box, too! There are so many reasons to teach your kids to pack their own lunch for school; read on for our top 3.

#1 It’s a Time and Energy Saver
In the beginning, especially with younger kids, you’ll put in extra time and effort while you supervise your child in the kitchen as she learns to use new utensils and skills. Once she gets the hang of it, though, she’ll take pride in the responsibility and the fact that she gets to make decisions about what to feed herself. After the confidence and excitement set in and her lunch-making skills solidify, you can sit back and relax while the lunches seem to make themselves!

#2 It Teaches Your Children Good Nutrition
One of the best parts about letting your kids pack their own lunch is letting them decide what they’ll eat tomorrow. In the beginning, it’s wise to let them choose just one item, like a side or drink, and work up to total decision-making power about lunch. During this process, try to let go a little. Kids who choose cookies over carrots time and again will eventually learn that they don’t feel as good come afternoon as they did when mom was packing a healthier option, and will begin to attune to their own bodies and intuitive cravings.

#3 It Gives them a Green Perspective
Kids who are involved with the entire lunch process—from preparing and packing to bringing home, emptying, and cleaning containers—are more able to notice the amount of waste produced by packaging and uneaten food. If they’re responsible for cleaning out their lunchbox before making tomorrow’s lunch, they’re also likelier to choose foods and portions that they know they’ll be able to finish the next day to save themselves the trouble of dealing with the stinky remnants they didn’t eat today.

Allowing your children to prepare their own lunches empowers and teaches them. If you stick with it, in time you’ll have raised a very healthy, efficient, lunch-making machine! Has your family passed off lunch-making duties to the kids?

Eco Families: 6 Green Activities to Enjoy as a Family Before the End of Summer

2013-12-22 01.26.39-2Summer break is almost over and many parents may be wondering how to turn those last few days of summer into fun family memories. Summer is a great time to get out of the house and enjoy the weather, nature, and your local community as a family. And if you haven’t made as many summer memories as you would have liked – don’t fret, there is still time to get a couple of great summer activities in. Read on for 6 summer activities are sure to be educational and fun for all ages—and green to boot! Try to sneak a couple of these fun, bonding experiences in, before those school bells begin to chime!

  1. Nature Walk
    From hiking trails to beaches, just about every city and town across the US has a beautiful, accessible outdoor park or trail to enjoy. If kids can learn about the wildlife and flora in their environment beforehand and will be excited to spot local birds, animal prints, and native flowers. Because I live in Colorado where hiking in the afternoon and evening means possible run-ins with bears and thunderstorms, my favorite time of day to hit the trail is early morning—though there’s nothing like a balmy, summer evening walk through the neighborhood with my family.
  2. Visit a Farm
    Farms are rich educational resources for kids. Local farms give children the opportunity to learn about where their food comes and witness the amount of land, resources, and effort required to raise livestock and grow and harvest produce. Some farms allow children to meet goats, cows, and bunnies, and many CSA farms invite families to pick or dig their own fruits and veggies.
  3. Volunteer at a Community Garden
    Community gardens have popped up in many cities across the US and allow families to learn about plants and the local ecosystem while connecting with and serving members of their community.  Plus, gardening gives kids a much-needed chance to slow down and notice the little things.
  4. Botanic Gardens
    While your local botanic gardens offer beauty and educational information year-round, summer is a great time to bring little ones because most of the flowers will be in full bloom, green plants will be the most lush, and trees will be in flower or fruit. A visit to the botanic gardens is a delightful, relaxing experience for the senses and teaches families about native plants and the environment. Many botanic gardens offer both youth and adult classes, and provide ample outdoor space to sit and enjoy lunch or read a book.
  5. Geocaching
    Geocaching is a great activity for little adventurers to get out and explore their community. Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt where participants follow clues and use GPS tracking to find hidden messages, toys, and souvenirs. When a geocache is found, the finder must leave a new object for the next seeker. Kids absolutely love the feeling of connection and excitement they get when they discover a tiny treasure hidden in plain sight in their community. Part of the creators’ mission is to maintain an open and welcoming community and forum for responsible stewardship of our lands—what a great message for kids! I recommend that an adult accompany school-aged kids on this activity since new and unfamiliar parts of your neighborhood or town will be explored.
  6. DIY Scavenger Hunt
    If a high-tech treasure hunt doesn’t appeal to you (or you’d just like a break from your smartphone for a day!), put together your own scavenger hunt. Route an area that you feel safe with your kids exploring and make a list of landmarks—both big and small—to be found. You can get really creative by adding clues or making a story whose plot is revealed as each item on the list is discovered. Scavenger hunts make for a great rainy-day game too—just pick out forgotten or hidden treasures at home!

These are only a handful of the many outdoor activities to enjoy with your family for the rest of the summer (don’t forget your kids’ regularly scheduled sports games and outdoor activities!). What eco-friendly and educational fun has your family enjoyed this summer?