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5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner

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Hello, Friends! November is finally here – Hooray! Which means 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!

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.

HOW TO: Recycled Eco-Friendly Glitter Skulls For Halloween

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Looking for a fun Halloween project to do? How about easy glitter skulls? We used a couple of recycled newspaper skulls that we found at our local craft store, homemade green glue and eco-glitter. When they were finished, we placed them inside one of our kitchen apothecary jar (these usually house flour, sugar + coffee) complete with recycled artificial moss and an antique key – you know, to lock the skull inside. Read on to learn how to make a set of glitter skulls to display for Halloween.

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What you will need:

– recycled newspaper skulls
– homemade green glue (recipe below)
– eco-glitter
– paintbrushes

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Step 1: Make the Homemade Green Glue

What you will need:

– 1 c. organic flout
– 1/3 c. organic sugar
– 1 1/2 c. water
– 1 tsp. organic vinegar
– green natural food colorant

Directions:
Warm all of the ingredients over medium heat until you get a thickened consistency. Remove from heat, let cool.

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Step 2: Get Painting

Use paintbrushes to coat your skulls with homemade green glue.

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Step 3: Get Glittering

Sprinkle eco-glitter all over the skulls. I recommend placing the skulls on a plate to catch the leftover glitter.

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Step 4: Get Displaying

We used our glitter skulls in the entry-way of our home for everyone to enjoy.

How to Make a Simple Upcycled Flying Ghost

how to make an upcycled ghost

A few years ago, we wanted ghosts that we could hang on our front porch that will blow in the breeze. How fun and spooky, right? Eben and I had a super fun time making the 4 large ghosts, it is a really fun memory! They only cost us $5. We had everything to make these, except the white sheets which we paid $2.49 each for at the thrift store. Want to make ghosts with your little goblins? Read on to get started.

Here is what you will need to make 4 ghosts:
  • 2 queen or king sized white sheets or bed skirts
  • 4 hangers
  • Wire or twine
  • Any type of plastic bag
What to do:
  • Cut the sheets into 4 large pieces, cut the edges so they are jagged
  • Stuff fabric scraps into a plastic bag and tie it around the top of a hanger
  • Hold the ghost by the neck. Eben thought “choking” the ghost was fun and made gagging noises while he did it. This is when I wrapped wire (or you can use twine) around the neck.
  • Insert a piece of wire at the top of the head for hanging.
What do you think of my upcycled flying ghosts? What is your favorite Halloween memory?

Green Tip: Pick an Organic Pumpkin

Green Tip Pick an Organic Pumpkin

Did you plant your pumpkins and gourds last spring? If so, you should have a bounty of them to use for decorating and baking this fall. If not or if you live in Florida like me, that’s alright, you can find lovely organic pumpkins and gourds at your local organic farm, farmer’s market or organic grocer. Do you need help locating great organic pumpkins in your area? Check out Local Harvest to locate a farm in your area, and enjoy autumn!

Where do you get your pumpkins?
Do you purchase local organic ones?

8 Eco-Friendly Living Tips – Questions to Ask Yourself

8-eco-friendly-living-tips-questions-to-ask-yourselfIn all of my years writing a green lifestyle blog, I still get the same question over and over again, “where do I begin?”

I remember in the beginning I was completely overwhelmed with going green. It felt like I would have to get rid of everything in my pantry and medicine cabinet immediately. Instead of throwing everything in the trash, slow down and take one step at a time. When you step back and look at the big picture, you can start to take small steps that will equal a huge impact in the long run. If you are feeling overwhelmed or as if feel you aren’t making a big enough impact  – relax. Start by asking yourself questions throughout the day to see where you can add more small green steps. Once you get started, you will find that those small steps really can add up to a bigger impact.

To get you started, here are some small green steps that you may not be already taking that you can easily add to your routine:

1. Wear it Again:
Many clothing items can be worn again before being thrown in the wash. My thought, if I can’t see or smell (ew!) it, then it should be worn again, except for undergarments, soiled clothing, and washcloths of course!

2. Use it Again:
You can reuse the same cup all day long, just fill it up again. There is no need to use a new glass every single time you need a drink of water or a cup of coffee. Every morning, I fill up my favorite cat mug with tea, and I fill it up over and over again until I put it in the dishwasher at dinner time.

3. Bundle it Up:
Plan all of your errands and shopping for the same day. If you need to get groceries, fill up the gas tank, do your banking, drop off the library books, and pick up the dry cleaning – do it all together. It is much more eco-friendly to run all of the errands at once and it frees up a lot of time in your schedule for the rest of the week. Plus, won’t you feel better when your to-do list is done early in the week!

4. Re-Think About It:
Before you throw something away or recycle it, think about it for a moment – can it be reused or used for something else? Remember, recycling takes energy too, so if it can be reused or given to someone else, this is still a better option.

5. Turn It Off | Unplug It:
If it isn’t being used, turn it off or unplug it. A good rule of thumb – if it has a clock, it is sucking energy even if it turned off, so unplug it. This goes for coffee makers, microwaves, DVD players, televisions etc;. You get the point.

6. Borrow It:
When it comes to items that you need for a specific project that you will only be doing once, (such as a ladder to hang that chandelier) consider borrowing or renting it. And if you plan on only going camping, skiing or to the lake once a year, it may be more eco-friendly just to rent the equipment that you need.

7. Share It:
Wouldn’t it be something if communities shared items such as lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, shovels, bicycles, sports equipment, and rakes? It is amazing how most households have a lawnmower that they probably only use during certain times of the year and usually only once a week. I would love to see communities that share equipment, think: a library for things that we rarely use.

8. Thrift It:
When we need something I think it is fun to try to find it at the thrift store first. You will be amazed at how many fantastic things you can find that are in like new condition. We were in need of pots for planting our veggies, an umbrella and a stock pot – the thrift store had them all. Most likely they will have many of the items that you need too.

What simple ways have you found to take small green steps in your daily living?

7 Sustainable Ways to Welcome Fall with Your Family

7 Sustainable Ways to Welcome Fall with Your Family Jennie Lyon

Fall is my favorite time of year, it seems like we start to slow-down as family and spend more time reconnecting with each other. Since the days get shorter and it gets dark outside so much earlier, we really focus that time on family time. This is the time of year that our bowl on the dinner table gets filled with card games and brain teasers, and our nightly dinners get dragged out by long conversations and hot steamy beverages for dessert!

It is also the perfect opportunity to go green together as a family. To get you in the autumn mood, while getting your excited about sustainability, check out my 7 favorite eco-friendly ways to welcome fall.

 1. Make it Family Dinner Night
One of my favorite fall family traditions is to have make-your-own organic pizza night a few times a month. There is something fun about kneading the dough, cutting up vegetables and pulling hot vegetarian pizza’s from the oven. We like to make ours look like sweet, smiling faces and it always ends in a night of laughter and fun!

2. Green Your Overall Health
Fall is the perfect time to amp up your healthy lifestyle before winter hits – because with winter comes sniffles, colds and the flu. You can start by boosting your immunity, packing healthy, organic school lunches, adding some super-foods to your marketing list and by doing a whole-body cleanse. You want to stay healthy through all of the fun fall and winter holidays, right?

3. With Fall comes Leaves, Lots of Them
When it comes to the leaves that fall in your yard, the way that you dispose of them can have a huge impact on the environment. The best options would be to mulch them and use them as ground cover for your garden. The worse option would be to blow them around with a noisy, emission polluting leaf blower. If you want to have fun with leaves, consider making leaf prints for your family room or you can always jump in piles of them.

4. Enjoy Your Natural Environment
One of my favorite ways to enjoy a lovely fall day with my family is by taking a bike ride. In fact, I think we should take our bicycles on our fall family trip to this year. Another fun thing to do this time of year is to visit your local botanical garden – you could try one of these surprising ways to make it a day of full of fall fun.

5. Prepare for Winter
Before you know it, winter will be here – and fall is the perfect time to prepare. When we lived in Colorado, I liked to stock up on non-perishable organic goods so we didn’t have to go marketing as often. It is also a great time to weather-proof your doors, windows and prepare your garden for the cold, winter ahead. I also like to think of fun ways to cozy up our home – this usually means bringing out stacks of books, blankets and pillows and sipping hot organic tea and cocoa.

6. Green Your Halloween
Whether you are making plans to make your own Halloween costumes, decorations or you want to turn your home into the ultimate eco-friendly haunted house– now is the time to get started. We like to scour our local thrift stores and tag sales for fantastic Halloween decor well before the holiday. It always gets us in the mood for Halloween and when the holiday actual gets here, we are completely ready!

7. Go Local 
In Florida, our farmer’s market season starts at the beginning of October – which is the perfect time to stock up on those yummy fall vegetables. I love when the mister whips up a batch of one of his fantastic soups during the fall months using local vegetables from the farmer’s market. And pumpkins from the farmer’s market, oh my, they are my favorite. If you live in a cooler climate that doesn’t offer a farmer’s market during fall, consider joining your local food co-op.

How do you welcome fall with your family?

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