Archive | HEALTH AND WELLNESS

4 Eco-Friendly Spring Activities for Teens

As inquisitive as kids can be, they will drill you with dozens of questions on a daily basis to understand your every decision, every move, and every choice you make. And if they are growing up in an eco-friendly family, they will slowly adopt and comprehend the benefits of such a balanced lifestyle, when explained properly.

However, teens are a whole different story – many of them are rebellious by nature and they are eager to be different from everyone and not follow the herd. As a mom of two little nestlings, I’m striving towards instilling an eco-friendly mindset into my kids throughout their adolescent years with the help of these simple activities, but even if you’re a newbie in the green world and wish to pass this wisdom onto your teen kids, these could be true life-savers!

#1: Contribute to cleanliness
I’ve noticed that our little rascals are eager to help around the house, especially when we make things interesting with some music and healthy snacks. Suddenly, cleaning up the room and washing the dishes no longer feel like chores, but like fun family time! Kids have also been asking me where I spend my Saturday mornings, and when I explained that I go to clean the local riverside with a few other people, they actually yelled: “Mommy, we want to come, too!”

Since modern societies still have much to learn in order to build this awareness as a norm, you have a chance to encourage your teenagers to take part in causes that matter to them and that will allow them to make a difference and thus, be different. You don’t have to chaperone them, but treat them as responsible adults and support them in their search for the right local activities to keep your community clean.

#2: Green exercise and transportation
Our little nestlings can spend hours playing in the garden, helping their dad make a birdhouse or playing with our pooch, but teens yearn for independent activities that will reflect their core beliefs and every choice they make is a statement. My husband and I have been using eco-friendly Gitane ebikes to work out and ride across town, and our kids have noticed that these bikes are different from the majority of those they see on the streets.

It’s natural that teens have increased self-awareness about their looks and their values, and supporting their efforts to be fit, healthy and confident with the help of an eco-friendly method will help them stand out in the crowd even more. Plus, they will reap the rewards of a healthy lifestyle and start early with maintaining their green habits.

#3: Green fashion
If our little girl already knows she adores green tees and absolutely despises yellow skirts, then I can only imagine the level of detailed commitment a teenager is willing to invest in their wardrobe. What they wear is yet another form of authentic self-expression, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in something they find ordinary or conformist.

And what better way to appeal to their inner rebel than by introducing them to an eco-friendly line created by none other than a teenage girl? Maya Penn is a young entrepreneur with tremendous ambitions to create sustainable, fashionable clothes. Although not many youngsters will be eager to make their own line of clothes, you can encourage them to design their new spring outfits by using sustainable materials and thus support the local economy.

#4: Everyday choices
If my kids are proud of me for hosting lectures on eco-friendly choices in our community, and the global teenage population prides themselves on individuals such as Ann Makosinski and her energy-efficient inventions, then your adolescent kids certainly do not lack sources of inspiration in this day and age.

Not only can you help them stay informed and learn about their peers who are literally changing the world, but you can also lead by example in your own home without imposing your beliefs. Small deeds such as shopping in your local market for locally grown goods, or more involved ones such as organizing green food drives for the homeless, hosting seminars and volunteering are more than enough to inspire your kids to make a difference and have fun during spring.

6 Tips to Help You Grow Your Own Organic Veggie Garden

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.

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Have you ever tried to grow your own vegetables?

If not, you’re missing out. Eating vegetables is part of a healthy diet and can greatly cut down your risk of diseases and illnesses. Organic veggies, grown in your own garden, reveal just how bland, both in color and flavor, grocery store veggies are. Not to mention the huge markup that supermarkets put on organic foods. If you are simply buying your vegetables at the store, eating organic can be extremely expensive!

You may also be concerned about the wasteful ways that supermarket produce is grown and the pesticides used to get them to grow and thrive. With this knowledge, more and more people are making an effort to grow their own vegetables and live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Having your own garden is an excellent way to preserve the planet, while also helping keep your household costs to a minimum.

If you like the idea of growing your own veggies organically, but you don’t know where to begin, here are 6 simple tips to get you started:

#1: Soil Preparation
Many new gardens wonder, “What’s my first step?” The best place to begin with your garden is preparing your soil. Although some plants may thrive in poor soil conditions, others will offer a more bountiful yield with soil that contains organic matter. Utilizing important nutrients such as fertilizer and mushroom compost can give your soil a boost.

You can also have your soil tested by a landscape professional to ensure it is prime for planting. Simply take a sample of your soil, bring it to the professional, and the nursery can test the organic particles in it. If it is less than ideal, they will give you advice on how to improve the quality of your soil so your organic garden and thrive and flourish.

#2: Choose Regional Vegetation
Before buying seeds for your garden, you want to determine the type of vegetables that are sure to thrive, based on your region. Important things to take into consideration include our local growing zones, rainfall, and sunlight quantities. The internet has a wealth of information that can help guide you to find the plants that best reflect your region. You can also take a look at the directions on the back of the seed packets or planting stakes.

Another thing to consider is the weather in the later stages of the growing season. Some regions may experience frost at earlier times of the season than others. Unless you are making ice wine, frozen produce isn’t what you want in your garden. Before you begin to plant, ensure that your veggies will be safe from the cold by determining the latest point you should harvest them.

#3: Plant a Garden that Attracts Pollinators
Your garden needs the help of Mother Nature to grow. You can encourage pollinators such as bees, pollen wasps, butterflies, flower beetles, and moths to visit your organic beds by planting flowers near your crops.

Nature is a delicate balance, and today, it seems like that balance is upset. You constantly hear horror stories on the news about how essential pollinators, such as bees, are dying off in massive numbers. This is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Nobody knows why this is happening, although there have been many theories (Cell phones, pesticides, etc.) These kinds of stories can make us feel helpless, like there is nothing we can do for the planet. By planting flowers with pollen that support bees around your produce, you will be helping them thrive, along with your garden. Clover can be an excellent choice for this.

#4: Make Your Own Compost
Like we mentioned above with preparing your soil, natural compounds are necessary to help your garden flourish. Without them, any growth will be stunted. You can make your own organic compost pile using grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, and other household waste. Find a place in your backyard to house your compost pile. If you prefer not to have the pile out in the open, you can invest in a number of different containers that will help the organic material breakdown. As you tend to your vegetables, add the compost material as needed around the plants base. If you find that you don’t have enough compost, you can also purchase organic mulch to help your soil retain its moisture throughout the season.

#5: Purchase Product from Reputable Resources
If you’re going to all of the trouble of growing your own garden, you want to make sure that all of the produce is organic and natural. When you’re ready to purchase seeds or plants, you need to ensure the company you are buying from is certified organic. This means both the seeds and starter plants have been manufactured without the use of chemicals, pesticides, or GMOs. Check your local home improvement stores or nurseries for their certified organic offerings. You may also want to check your regions farmers markets for organic starters and seeds.

The internet can also be a great place to find fantastic quality organic seeds. Just make sure you do your research on the company first to confirm that they are certified organic and have quality plants.

#6: Eliminate Pests Naturally
Creating a successful vegetable garden takes a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, before you can reap what you’ve sown, pests such as aphids, ants, beetles, deer, and rabbits may decide to prematurely sample your bounty. Turns out that they like organic produce too. While you want to turn these vegetable thieves away, you also want to avoid using chemicals or poisons that will hurt both them and Mother Nature (and you too, while they’re at it).

To prevent your garden from being devoured by these uninvited guests, you can eliminate hazardous insects and pests naturally. Marigolds, soap sprays, garlic, and natural oils can help provide your yard with relief from the vermin. Research your region to find the most likely pests that will attack your garden and prepare for them well ahead of time.

Starting your own organic garden may sound challenging, but can be well worth the effort. Eating nutrient rich foods has a host of benefits. Simple things such as cutting out sugar and consuming broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and green beans will help preserve brain function and reduce risks of diseases such as dementia, diabetes, and cancer. If you don’t have a green thumb and have never worked in the yard, growing your own may seem to be more of a nuisance than purchasing your organic produce at the local market. But with the right plan, soil, and organic seeds, you can grow veggies that are eco-friendly, healthy, and bountiful.

3 Budget-Friendly Ways to Remodel Your Kitchen and Bathroom

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.

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If you’ve decided you would like to remodel different areas of your home, you may want to start with the kitchen and bathroom. Both these rooms are most likely frequented by everyone in the household on a daily basis, which make them a great place to start your remodel. Even once you’ve decided these are the two rooms you want to work on, you could have some concerns about how much money it will cost to achieve a drastic transformation. You may also be worrying about the challenges of making eco-friendly design decisions while staying on-budget. Here some effective, budget-friendly, and environmentally conscious ways to complete the remodeling process without stressing yourself out.

1. Choose a Fresh and Exciting Color of Paint For the Walls

Nothing says new like a fresh coat of paint. A new color on the walls of each room is a great way to start the transformation process. Painting is budget-friendly because you can easily do it on your own. All you need to do is get the necessary supplies, such as cans of paint, brushes, and rollers. Painting is often a concern for the environmentally conscious decorator because it traditionally contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that release toxins. However, in recent years, mainstream companies like Benjamin Moore have released paints with zero VOCs at a reasonable price-point. There are many affordable eco-friendly paint options available on the market today that can instantly take your bathroom and kitchen from drab to stunning.

One important tip is to set aside some dedicated time to get the painting done. If you are off from work on the weekends, you could probably get both these rooms painted in two days if you stay focused.

2. Replace Those Old Countertops With New and Modern Options

Adding a new color to both rooms is a great way to start the renovation process, but there are other budget-friendly options that can make a major difference too. Countertops in your kitchen may be old, outdated, and possibly even a bit stained. You could buy new and updated countertops while getting everything you need to remodel your home kitchen and bathroom. There are several eco-friendly materials to choose from, including recycled glass, fast-growing bamboo, recycled wood. Aside from considering appearance, affordability, and quality, you may want to select a specific color and pattern to match the existing color and décor of your kitchen.

3. Enhance the Look of Old Cabinets With Simple Yet Effective Tricks

If you would like to take the renovations one step further, completing a do-it-yourself project to transform the cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom is a great idea. There are several effective and fun tips and tricks you can use to make old cabinets look brand new again. You could start by using sandpaper to smooth the surface of the material and remove any minor imperfections. After sanding, you can paint the cabinets on your own with a new paint color or even some wood stain. Another easy way to change the look of your cabinets is to replace the old hardware with updated handles. There are hundreds of different knobs and pulls to choose from! Sprucing up your current cabinets helps your renovation stay eco-friendly by upcycling your existing furnishings.

You may have many reasons for wanting to remodel your kitchen and bathroom. Most people complete home renovations because they would like to upgrade their living space and make it even more comfortable. If you are worried about trying to complete these upgrades on a budget, focus on keeping it simple and making a few small changes that can make a significant difference.

Aside from increasing your own comfort, there is another great reason for you to complete these budget-friendly renovations. When you update your kitchen and bathroom, you are increasing the value of your property. If you have plans to sell your home at some point in the future, the renovations you’ve done can make it worth even more than you expect.

How to Make Organic Instant Oatmeal for Cool Fall Mornings

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I love oatmeal on cool, crisp fall mornings! Am I the only one? You can make your own organic instant oatmeal packed with flavor in a few simple steps taking your regular oatmeal from ho-hum to yum-yum. Read on to learn how you can make organic instant oatmeal and wake up to goodness tomorrow.


Step 1: Bake It!
Preheat the oven to 350°, spread 4 cups of organic old-fashioned rolled oats on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Step 2: Pulse It!
Pulse in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Step 3: Mix It!
Mix in a cup of your favorite oatmeal add-ins such as; almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, brown sugar and coconut.

Step 4: Store It!
Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Step 5: Boil It!
Stir boiling water into a cup of your organic instant oatmeal until you reach your desired consistency.

Step 6: Enjoy It!
Oatmeal is my favorite on cool, crisp fall morning – top with a honey too!

 

Healthy Habits for Green Kids Start at Home

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As parents, the most important lessons we can impress upon our kids are the sorts of healthy habits that will stick with them throughout life, especially once they’re off on their own for the first time. Healthy lifelong habits can include eating well and exercising, but also extend to things like keeping their living space clean and following good hygiene practices. Today I want to talk about the latter, as no parent wants to see their kid end up as a stereotypically smelly, unkempt teenager!

Of course, kids have to be given freedom to explore their identities and express themselves creatively with their clothing and hair choices. I think it’s only natural for kids developing their sense of self to explore those avenues. But good hygiene is simpler than that, and important for everyone. Teaching kids to maintain healthy habits and take good care of their bodies starts at home, and is something the mister and I have tried to approach in a positive way.

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Personal hygiene is also an area fraught with marketing campaigns (some of which rely on shaming tactics or other nasty approaches to selling their products) surrounding the products we supposedly need to use in order to keep clean. Many of these are full of synthetic scents, untested ingredients, or are otherwise not very eco-friendly, being tested on animals or produced in unsustainable ways. So even our choices of hygiene products can be a big influence on our kids, and what they choose to use in the future. One of my favorite brands of natural personal hygiene products is Tom’s of Maine, who never use artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, preservatives, or animal testing.

You’ve probably seen Tom’s at your local drug store or grocery, and they’ve been around since the ‘70s. I would bet that they’re the most recognizable brand of natural body products around today, not just relegated to health stores or other specialty retailers. I think Tom’s of Maine is great because they aim to operate sustainably and care for both the environment and the communities we live in.

I would say that three of the most important hygiene habits to build with your kids are the following:

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Brushing Teeth: Keeping teeth and gums in good shape is important to overall health and maintaining good breath. It can also be a task which kids (especially young ones) are more likely to shirk or do a half-hearted job of. Being a good role model by brushing and flossing with your children can go a long way to building good dental hygiene habits. Tom’s makes a wide range of oral care products including all-natural toothpaste that my family loves using.

Washing Up: Whether we’re talking regular hand washing to prevent the spread of germs, washing your face each day to help with teenage skin concerns, or getting active kids into the shower to rinse off sweat and dirt after they’ve been out playing, washing up is a huge part of personal hygiene.

Using Deodorant: This one can be a little more controversial, as depending on how you were raised, you might not think of deodorizing products as a necessity. However, in modern society they’re a pretty prevalent part of personal hygiene, and even if you choose not to use antiperspirants due to health concerns, a simple, natural deodorant is a good choice. Tom’s is probably best known for their extensive line of natural deodorants, for men, women, and children. If you’re looking for a healthy, natural deodorant, I don’t think these ones can be beat. My whole family uses them, and we’ve been really impressed by the quality and effectiveness.

I’d love to hear your tricks for helping your kids develop healthy hygiene habits, or your experiences trying natural body products. Have you successfully swapped your conventional hygiene products for eco-friendlier options? How do you teach your kids about the importance of taking good care of their bodies? Have you tried any Tom’s of Maine products that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

 

This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield.  All opinions are always my own.

All Work & No Play? Keep Your Kids Active After School With CLIF Kid

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With the school year in full swing, it’s important to remember that our kids need regular playtime to remain happy and healthy. Balancing playtime with homework can sometimes seem like a difficult task, but the creativity that play allows for helps kids develop in ways that aren’t always focused on at school. I know I always try my best to keep playtime at the forefront of Eben’s life despite his busy school schedule and my own work picking up at this time of year. Today I want to talk about how I help incorporate play into our daily lives, and keep Eben fueled so he can do his best at school and have energy for fun activities afterward.

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Our favorite after school activities include taking the dogs for an evening walk around the lake or taking a stroll on the beach to chat about his week. It’s a great way for us to connect and helps me stay in the loop with what’s going on in his life. We also have family game night at least once a week and the two of us also spend every Friday night doing a mom-and-son “date night”. This usually means that we go out for sushi and then we hit the bookstore or a movie.

To keep him fueled at school, I always tuck a CLIF Kid Zbar® in his backpack. (In fact, he has a late-start school day today – so I slipped an apple and CLIF Kid Zbar in!) It is perfect for late afternoons when he gets hungry, or for after school when he stays later to work on a project or study for a test. The bars are great to snack on during class too, since they are easy to eat without having to pull out his whole lunch box. I also have a few approved snacks always available in the refrigerator and on the counter top. That way when Eben gets hungry during homework time or a video game session, he has easy access to healthy snacks! He loves their flavor, and I love that they’re made with organic ingredients, and no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or synthetic preservatives. They’re also made in appropriate portion sizes for growing kids, which a lot of snack bars aimed at adults are not, and have important nutrients for active kids.

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Eben also incorporates playtime into his busy schedule in a number of ways. He rides his bike to and from school, which is a great way to get kids energized and focused for a day of studying. We slip in family time whenever possible by having family game nights, making organic milkshakes together, and having make-your-own-pizza and movie nights on the weekend. We also do a lot of cooking together —especially Mr. Sweet Greens and Eben, which is a great way for him to learn life skills and healthy eating habits.

We like to take a fall vacation each year, to get some hiking in when the weather is beautiful and there’s a lot to see. It’s a great way to make family memories—I have lots of pictures from these trips that are great to look at again later!  Of course, CLIF Kid Zbars ® are Eben’s fave hiking treat, because they’re just the right combination of sweet treat and satisfying fuel without feeling too heavy when being physically active. We do a lot of outdoor stuff together as a family, including paddleboarding, bike riding, walking, hiking, and more depending on the season and location. Making sure we all have the energy to live an active lifestyle is one of my priorities, packing in CLIF bars is just part of our routine!

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Playtime is important for a kid’s growth all year long, and shouldn’t be pushed to the side during the school year. Unfortunately, as our society gets busier and we spend more time in the digital world, active play is disappearing at home, in school, and in communities. 70% of moms (like me, and probably you, too!) played outside when they were kids, but only 31% of our kids play outside today. That’s something we should all be focused on changing. CLIF Kid understands the importance of keeping kids active, and have a great video on getting your kids outside to push their boundaries and have adventures while staying properly fueled. take the initiative in this post to combine school activities and play.

What about your kids? How do you incorporate active and creative play into their lives? I’m always interested in hearing how my readers balance their busy lives to prioritize healthy habits!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

How to Create a Natural Disaster Survival Plan

Hello, Friends! Emergency preparedness has been on my mind, since Hurricane Matthew is quickly approaching. We have lived through several category 1,2 and 3 hurricanes before, so I know how important it is to be prepared.

This week, the mister and I have been updating our family’s natural disaster survival plan, kit, and backpacks. I thought if I walk you through my process, it could be of service to some of you out there. First, I wrote a new natural disaster survival plan – this is especially important for us, since this is the first major storm we have experienced since we moved back to Florida. Read on to learn how to create your own natural disaster survival plan.

1. Review, Update + Practice
First things first, once a year you should sit down to review, update and practice your natural disaster survival plan. This is the one way that you will be able to make the necessary updates to the plan and practice makes perfect. Everyone in your family should have a role when it comes to your plan, including the kids. Some examples include choosing a designated place to meet if your family becomes separated and establishing an out-of-state emergency contact, someone everyone in your family can contact to say “I am OK! if you become separated. Please have your children memorize this number in case their cell phone goes dead.

2. Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? 
If you know about the disaster ahead of time – in cases such as; hurricanes and volcanoes, you need to quickly decide if you plan to stay or evacuate. If you live in the area that is going to be directly hit by the natural disaster, it is best to leave as soon as possible. However, leaving doesn’t mean you have to hop on an airplane or drive hundreds of miles. You usually only have to drive several miles to get out of harms way – you don’t want to get stuck on the freeway or at the airport during a natural disaster. For example, the last time we lived in Florida, when we heard that Katrina (category 1 at the time) was headed our way (we lived on the beach at that time), we grabbed our hurricane kit and backpacks and drove to a hotel (that accepted dogs) outside of the cone.  Always better safe than sorry.

3. Have a Last Resort Plan
If you decide to stay during the natural disaster and then for some reason you have to leave your home at the last minute, you need to know where to go. Have a list of shelters in close proximity that you can get to quickly and have an emergency preparedness kit and backpacks (for each member of your family) ready to grab and go, including blankets/pillows, food, change of clothing, toiletries, water, medicines, and other survival items.

4. If You Plan to Stay – Stay and Prepare
Do not wait until the natural disaster is knocking on door to prepare. For natural disasters such as hurricanes, install your hurricane shutters immediately. If you have a generator, replace the oil/gasoline and make sure you have enough to keep your generating going for several days, make sure the generator is in working order. (Remember to only run the generator outside and away from your home, this is very important, many folks have died due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning). If you need a very long extension cord, make sure to pick on up immediately. If you need supplies to board up your home, get them now. Choose a safe room in your home that has no windows and that can shelter your family if your homes outer structure breaks apart. Great examples are inside bathrooms, closets or stairwells. Choose an out of state emergency contact, someone everyone in your family can call to say “I am OK” if you become separated from your family.

5. Prepare for Special Needs Family Members + Pets
If you have a family member that has special medical needs, contact your local emergency management department to find the local special care shelter. If you need to take a family member to the shelter, make sure that you pack enough food, water, medicines, and supplies for each person for at least three days. If you have pets, take careful consideration on what you will do if you have to go to a shelter or evacuate. Many shelters will NOT allow pets – please have alternate ideas ready in case you have to leave.

6. Prepare Your Home
After you have made all of the necessary accommodations to protect your home from the natural disaster – contact your insurance company to find out what disasters and damages your policy covers. Determine whether you need to add more coverage protection and ask yourself, would my insurance cover the costs to rebuild my home from ground zero if necessary?

7. Prepare Your Survival Kit and Backpacks 
You should have a natural disaster backpack for each member of your family. We have dedicated backpacks that are packed with all of the essentials necessary to sustain each of us and our dogs (Noodles and Olive) for at least 3 days. Included in each of our packs a blanket/pillow, two changes of clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, bug spray, flashlight, hat, vital documents, credit cards, cash, notepad/pencil, a book, card games, rain gear, and our hiking boots. We also have separate large survival kits that house our food, water, Swiss army knives, tent, paper goods/plastic cutlery, rope, solar powered radio/flashlight, extra batteries, tape, garbage bags, wipes and other supplies that will be necessary, if we have to grab and go we are prepared.

If you are in the path of Hurricane Matthew, please prepare now if you haven’t already! It is always better to be safe than sorry. Stay safe everyone!

photo via Rick McCharles

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