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5 Green Ways to Unwind As a Family on School Nights

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With tests, sports, homework, and lessons, after school schedules during the school year can get hectic quickly. Eben is a now a junior in high school which means his evenings are full of National Honor Society meetings, volunteer projects, homework, and tutoring. So, I would say that our schedule feels a little overwhelming right now. If you spend the school year wondering what’s your spouse and kids are up to, try these 5 tips for unwinding and reconnecting as a family on school nights.

#1 Family Dinner or Breakfast
Even if everyone in the house has a different schedule, try your best to sit down as a family even for 30 minutes to eat dinner or breakfast – whichever works best for your schedule. There’s no need for elaborate meals if you’re pressed for time—the important thing is that everyone sit down together to share what happened during the day and reconnect. The mister has Fridays off – so we always sit down together for a big breakfast before Eben heads off to school – it makes Friday a little more special.

#2 Walks Around the Neighborhood
After-dinner winter walks are so refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Grab your parka and boots and trek around your neighborhood. Kids can learn about the changing seasons and all of the animals that only come out at dusk, you can even look for animal tracks in the snow—make sure you bring your flashlight and teach kids nighttime outdoors safety like wearing a blinking light or reflectors if you’ll be out near dark. You and your kids will also sneak in a little exercise and will probably sleep better since you’ll be tuning your circadian rhythms by going out in the evening.

#3 Let the Kids Pick 
Eben has always been really into reading manga and watching anime. When he started to get a little older, I quickly realized that if I was going to bond with him as a young adult, I better learn as much as I could about both. It is really one of the best choices that I ever made as a mother, it paid off in a huge way. Eben and I have been watching anime and reading manga together for several years. Even now that he is almost 17, our anime time is something that we do together every single night. We look forward to it, and it gives us a ton of stuff to talk about on a regular basis. Not to mention, I found out that I love anime/manga and without Eben being into it – I might have never figured that out.

#4 Do Homework Together
During times when everyone’s just too busy to relax together you can still connect with your kids by sitting down and offering homework help (if your kids need it!). Just because you aren’t conversing about the day’s events doesn’t mean that you’re not connecting and learning from one another. Kids learn a lot from how their parents offer help and encouragement. Eben doesn’t need my help – however, I still sit quietly next to him catching up on my reading while he works, that way I still get the opportunity to be near him and offer assistance if he needs it.

#5 Offer to Coach
A great way to spend time with your kids in a different setting (and learn a little about them!) after school is by offering to coach their sports team, become a scout leader, or head up an extra-curricular club. The mister takes Eben and his best friend to Yugioh tournaments every single Saturday. You’ll get a chance to dusk off some old skills and will also have an opportunity to see how your kids interact with others and parent them in a new and different context.

What’s your favorite green activity to do to connect as a family on school nights?

3 Smart Strategies For Creating An Eco-Friendly Home Office

When it comes to home renovations, many homeowners assume that the biggest ROI comes from kitchen and bathroom remodeling jobs. In fact, experts say that bathroom additions alone offer an average ROI of 86.4%. But before you decide exactly which area of your home is ready for a remodeling job, you should be aware that home offices are a major asset that are growing in popularity. About 67% of professionals agree that working remotely is productive, and by taking a few small steps, you can create a picture perfect and eco-friendly home office that can serve as both a productive space and a major selling point should you decide to put your home up for sale. Here are just a few tips for creating the eco-friendly home office you’ve always dreamed of.

Consider Window Replacement/Insulation

New windows can lower energy bills. In fact, depending on where you live, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that you can save up to $501 a year by replacing old single-pane windows with new Energy Star approved models. With this in mind, it only makes sense to either add insulation or replace your home’s windows, if possible.

If new windows are out of the question, don’t rule out the idea of getting Energy Star savings just yet! Experts say that there are countless office appliances with Energy Star labels that can help you save big over the long term.

“If you’re buying new office equipment, look for products with the Energy Star label. They’re designed to save a lot more energy than products without the label,” Jennifer Roberts, author of Good Green Homes, told ThisOldHouse.com.

Invest In Small Solar Panels Or Lights

If your home office has subpar lighting, investing in one or two small solar panels is an innovative way to conserve energy and create ambience inside your office.

Tube lights are ideal for full lighting, and they’re easy to connect to a reflective dome on your roof to get set up. They work by trapping sunlight and transferring it via the tube to fully illuminate your eco-friendly office. Just make sure to decide on the right path from your roof to your office’s ceiling to avoid affecting cables, plumbing, and duct work.

Solar powered LED lights, on the other hand, are better for illuminating just your desk area. Modernize.com says they have a number of advantages of traditional lighting.

“You won’t have to strain every time you read or work on your computer, which will also help avoid eye strain and decreased productivity. Solar-powered lights are attached to electric panels. They have batteries at their bases, which can provide power for an entire day if fully charged,” writes Ronique Gibson on Modernize.com.

Establish A Paper And Plastic Recycling Routine

With the availability of recycling programs nationwide, there’s really no reason all homes shouldn’t be prioritizing an efficient way to make sure all their recyclable get to the proper place. This includes not only paper, but plastic, considering the fact that Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. One of the easiest ways to simplify recycling is to keep two separate bins — one for paper and one for plastic — and sort all refuse each week. Don’t forget to check all labels to make sure you’re recycling everything possible. Even things like printer ink bottles can sometimes be recycled!

Ultimately, understanding these techniques for maintaining an eco-friendly home office is the key to staying productive and preserving the potential for ROI. Eco-friendly home offices are proof that any room in your home can be transitioned into a sustainable and enjoyable living space!

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips Sweet Greens

While this time of the year is the most wonderful  – it is also the busiest. You may feel like there are so many things that you need to prepare and buy and deciding where to start can be overwhelming. Instead of getting things done ahead of time, many of us tell ourselves we will get everything done when the holidays get closer. Then, the next thing you know the holidays are upon us and we end of spending too much money, getting completely stressed out, and not making the best choices – not exactly the feelings that you want to experience. It happens to the best of us, right?To get your holiday shopping off on the right foot, I thought I would share my favorite budget and eco-friendly holiday shopping tips. These are all tips that I use every year to make sure that this time of the year is definitely the most wonderful without breaking the bank or losing my head!

1. Make a List – Check it Twice
Every year, I create a simple holiday gift list in my iPhone. It includes the name of everyone on my holiday shopping list, gift ideas for each of them and my spending limit per person. Since my list is on my phone, I can consult and update it at anytime. Then, I mark off each person as I finish their holiday gift shopping. This has saved me a lot of time and money and I never have to ask myself – did a buy a gift for so and so? Or, how many gifts did I buy for Eben or the mister? I just check the list and I am done!

2. Start Early
The earlier that you start your holiday shopping, the better. Just think, if you finish all of your holiday shopping early, you can spend the day after Thanksgiving at home, snuggled up with your family and a yummy warm beverage. I can’t think of anything more stress-free then having all of the holiday shopping done before December even arrives. It really frees up all of December to focus on making fun memories with my family. This is another place that #1 comes in, if you shop early picking up items when you find them on sale – you save a ton of money.

3. Shop Locally
Instead of hitting the closest big box store this holiday season, consider supporting small, independently owned businesses. Many towns have a shopping area that is filled with adorable shops that focus on the work of local artisans and many have eco-friendly options. In my opinion, a handmade gift is the best gift! You could also give a gift from your local farm, such as; fresh vegetables, fruits or dairy items. Another option is to check out Etsy for fantastic handmade goods, you can click here to shop Etsy shops located in your local area.

4. It’s All About Quality
Each year, I like to focus on purchasing the mister and Eben quality gifts that they will enjoy for years and years to come. I focus on items that I think they will really enjoy and steer clear of items that are disposable, or would only be enjoyed temporarily. My favorite items to purchase for them include; books, experiences (see below), heirloom quality items that they will keep forever and gifts that focus on their favorite hobbies.

5. Give the Gift of Experience
I am a huge fan of giving the gift of experience, some that I have given in the past include annual passes to local nature and science museums, state parks, botanical gardens, art centers and even scuba lessons. I think gifts that allow the recipient to learn something new or go to place they have always wanted to see builds memories and brings much more happiness long-term than any material gift could ever could. Plus, it’s just another excuse to spend more quality time with my family – and that is the best gift of all.

What are your favorite holiday shopping tips? Please share them in the comments section – I would love to hear! 

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner

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Hello, Friends! I am pretty excited, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you hosting the big dinner this year? There are many eco-friendly ways to green your Thanksgiving dinner – all of which are easier to implement if you plan ahead. Many of these ideas will save you money and time while cutting down on the amount of waste that can accumulate from a big family dinner. Read on to learn my 5 favorite eco-friendly ways to plan your Thanksgiving dinner and start planning today!

1. Decorating 101
You don’t have to spend any money when decorating for Thanksgiving, instead use items that you already have or consider bringing natural items indoors. We always have a handful of pumpkins leftover from Halloween that we use as Thanksgiving decorations. And Eben and I like to take a nature walk to collect natural elements (pine-cones, acorns, branches and leaves) to display as our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

2. How Much is Enough?
It is really easy to go overboard when planning the Thanksgiving menu. Consider the dishes that you will be serving and ask yourself if you are making more than is necessary. Choose a few dishes that you are sure your guests will love and skip the rest. Also, consider which parts of Thanksgiving dinner you want to or can afford to purchase organic and whenever possible, avoid pre-packaged items.

3. Consider the Table
Do you have enough dinnerware for everyone in your dinner party? If not, consider borrowing place settings from close friends or family members instead of purchasing new. If you aren’t a china and tablecloth kind of family and choose to go with disposable place settings, choose a great compostable version that is made from 100% recycled materials.

4. Think Seasonal
When choosing fruits and vegetables for your Thanksgiving menu, think seasonal. You want to avoid purchasing produce that are imported from far away. You may consider joining a local CSA for the holiday season – not only will you have delicious, local foods to serve this Thanksgiving, but you will be supporting a local farm too.

5. Plan for Leftovers
What do you plan to do with the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers? If you are planning on sending goodies home with your guests, have glass resuable storage containers ready to go. If you made more than your family can consume, you could donate some of the leftovers to a local food bank, freeze them for later or have a menu plan for the days after Thanksgiving so all of the leftovers will be used.

How do you green your Thanksgiving dinner? I would love to hear – please share your thoughts in the comments!

7 Easy Ways to Adopt a More Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Although everyone celebrates Earth Day on April 22, there are so many opportunities to help “keep it green” all year-round! For those who want to adopt an eco-friendlier attitude throughout the year, there is more you can do than just recycling cans and plastic bottles. You can adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle and attitude.

The benefit of adopting an eco-friendly attitude is not just related to conserving resources and the environment. In fact, the therapeutic and preventative effects of eco-friendly choices can be reflected in human health. Humans who eat organic meat and pesticide-free vegetables, for example, avoid ingesting harmful chemicals and hormones that interfere with the body’s natural ability to digest and process food. However, an organic diet is not the only path to a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle. By following some of these tips below, you can help conserve the Earth’s natural resources, positively improve your health, and maybe even save a little money as well.

#1: Adopt a Natural Cosmetic Routine
There are so many chemicals that go into the average cosmetic product. By using natural products, you will be reducing the chemicals that you are putting on your skin, and eventually into the Earth. You can also adopt green habits by purchasing fewer beauty products in general, and by looking for products with two-in-one capabilities, for example, a conditioning shampoo. Why use two plastic bottles when one will do?

#2: Exchange Traditional Eyewear for Laser Surgery
Laser eye surgery has gone from being a luxury to a common and reliable procedure that makes glasses and contact lenses a thing of the past. Laser surgery corrects the cornea, so light falls accurately on the retina. By exchange your eyewear for laser surgery, you will be saving the materials necessary to make the glasses or contacts, as well as the fluid needed to clean them on a daily or monthly basis. If you need advice on the advantages of exchanging conventional contact lenses with surgery, you can find Lasik consultations in Minneapolis and many other states across the country.

#3: Eat in Season
Although most fruits and vegetables are now available year-round in the average grocery store, you can usually spot the ones that are in season. They are the juiciest, most delicious looking ones in the store. Eating vegetables that are grown in the appropriate season reduces the likelihood of ingesting harmful preservatives that are used to keep produce fresh during long distance travel. And not only that, seasonal produce usually tastes way better too!

#4: Exchange Cotton for Bamboo
Cotton is probably one of the most used fabrics on Earth but to grow it, you need a huge amount of water. There is an alternative to using cotton, however. Bamboo can be used to create an incredibly soft fabric that is fast becoming a popular choice for bedsheets and pillow cases. Bamboo is not only soft and requires less water to grow, it also absorbs moisture from the skin, in addition to removing harmful bacteria.

#5: Exercise Outside
Have you ever had a gym membership that you never used? Gym memberships can be costly to the consumer and, in addition, use up an inordinate amount of electricity operating treadmills day and night. Walking, running, or biking outside is free, uses no electricity, and it exposes the participant to a much needed dose of Vitamin D.

#6: Use Your Slow Cooker
Slow cookers can be a huge time-saver. Simply throw some ingredients into the slow cooker before work in the morning and you can come home to an absolutely delicious meal. Using a slow cooker offers many eco-friendly benefits as well. Cooking with an oven can generate a lot of heat. As slow cookers use less far less heat than conventional ovens, using one can help keep the kitchen cool, reducing the burden on your air conditioner. Slow cookers also use about the same amount of energy as the average lightbulb, so they can even save you money on your power bill!

#7: Limit the Amount of Tech Time
Watching television and using the computer, in addition to texting on cell phones, can consume an inordinate amount of time and electricity daily. By limiting the amount of time spent using these gadgets, you will not only save money, but you will also have more opportunities to interact with other humans. Another eco-friendly tip, many of these devices (like televisions) consume power even when they aren’t turned on. Investing in a power bar with a timer can shut off the power at the source at a predetermined time of night, then turn the flow back on in the morning.

All of these behaviors are simple ones that do not require a lot of money to adopt. By changing actions that can become toxic over time, or by adopting habits that allow reconnection with nature and other humans, you will be doing your part to save the Earth. And in the end, more than just the Earth will thank you. Your body will too!