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4 Reasons to Eat Seasonally and Locally This Summer

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If you shop at the farmer’s market, are a local CSA member, or frequent the “local” section of your grocery store’s produce aisle, you are well aware that fruits and vegetables come into and out of season. Depending on the climate where you live, you may have a wide variety of fruits and veggies to choose from year round, or you may notice that summer is truly a more abundant season for produce. Wherever you live, eating seasonally has its benefits. If you’re not already doing so, here are four reasons to eat seasonally.

#1: Fresher, More Nutritious Produce
Produce that doesn’t have to travel long distances to get to you will be fresher when you purchase it because it’s been harvested more recently. Also, since seasonal fruits and veggies are harvested when they’re ripe and grown outside, in their natural environment, they’ll contain far more nutrients and flavor than produce that’s grown in greenhouses or prematurely harvested and required to ripen off the parent plant.

#2: Supporting the Local Economy
Farmers harvest and sell what’s abundantly in season. By purchasing seasonal, local food, you’re supporting local farmers and therefore your local economy (you’re supporting yourself in many ways, when you think about it!).  By supporting local farmers you’re not only helping people but also encouraging sustainable, green farming practices because local farmers will plant and grow only what is suited to the soil and climate where they live.

#3: It’s Cheaper
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are more abundant and therefore end up being cheaper than foods that aren’t in season. Buying foods out of season means paying a higher price to cover the transportation of the food and growing fruits and veggies in artificial conditions.

#4: It’s Eco-Friendly
Buying produce that doesn’t require transportation means that less gas is being consumed and less exhaust is being emitted. Additionally, fruits and vegetables that have to travel long distances (like strawberries traveling from Mexico to Wisconsin in January) require far more chemical-ridden sprays and treatments in order to stay fresh long enough to make it to the grocery store. By becoming a member of your local CSA or buying at the farmer’s market, you’re buying directly from a local farm where transportation and preservation time is minimal—many times you’ll purchase produce that was harvested the same day as you pick it up.

As you can see, eating seasonally and locally has some amazing benefits! I love sampling seasonal fruits and veggies when I travel because chances are I’m visiting a state or country with a different climate, ecosystem, and sometimes season—there’s so much variety to be experienced!

YOUR TURN: What’s your favorite local, seasonal recipe for summer or fall?

Eco-Friendly Ways to Successfully Cool Your Home

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.
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While you might enjoy staying cool and comfortable in your home during the warmer months of the year, you may also be concerned about cooling your home in a way that’s sustainable and friendly for the environment. Explore a few tips for making your cooling experience eco-friendly and just as effective as traditional methods.

Invest in Quality Insulation and Sealing

Some of the best and most effective cooling methods don’t even involve your air conditioner. Take out some time to have a professional technician who specializes in air conditioning repairs inspect your current insulation to see if it’s doing its job and whether you need to consider investing in an upgrade. Different types of insulation and sealing include thermal envelopes and heat shields.

Boost Your Home’s Ventilation

Making sure air can easily flow through your home is also essential to keeping cool and overall energy efficiency. Specifically, you’ll want to keep your home’s windows, shades and doors closed up until it’s cool out, otherwise, you’ll only have hot air blowing through your home’s interior. Additionally, bear in mind that ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, which means you should only have your fans on when someone is in the room. On a related note, when your fans are on, they should spin counter-clockwise to draw hot air up into the ceiling.

Close Your Shades and Blinds

No matter how great the inside of your home looks while drenched in sunlight, it comes at the cost of heating up your interior, which means your air conditioner is working harder than necessary. To help combat feeling as if you’re living in a sauna, close up your blinds and shades against direct sunlight and the heat waves that comes with it. If you’re someone who thrives on sunshine, you can leave your blinds and shades partially closed to direct sunlight.

Cook at Night or in the Early Morning

Operating your oven or stove during the day cranks up the heat in your home, which makes your air conditioner crank up its efforts to keep your home at the same temperature. Rather than feel as if you’re making a sacrifice by not using the oven, you can instead start eating more raw vegetables and fruits, which your body is sure to thank you for. Opt for fruits like watermelon that contain a lot of water to help you keep cool.

Lower Your Overall Cooling Load

Ways to make the most of passive cooling include:

  • Add or upgrade the sealing around your home’s windows and doors.

  • Use low-E glazing to your windows.

  • Make sure you have proper and sufficient insulation in your attic.

  • Invest in a whole-house fan, which can decrease your use of your air conditioner as well as your overall energy consumption.

  • Consider installing a radiant barrier in your attic ducts.

These methods are sure to pay off in the long run.

Sleep With a Buckwheat Pillow

If you’re like most people, you probably like sleeping in a cool room. Blankets and sheets are comfortable while sleeping, but they can raise your body temperature. Rather than crank up the air conditioner, invest in a buckwheat pillow, which is naturally cooler than standard pillows and won’t keep you tossing and turning during the night, which impacts the overall quality of your sleep.

Turn Up Your Unit Temperature

You can still remain comfortable even if your unit is set at a higher temperature. For every degree you set your unit above 72 degrees, you can save anywhere from one to three percent energy. Try it and see if you notice a difference in your comfort levels.

With the right information, you can do your part to save the environment through more efficient cooling methods. Put these tips to good use and see what a difference they make and how good it feels to practice sustainability.

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.

Looking for Fun Organic Summer Fashion? Check out Nordstrom!

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to shop stylish, eco-friendly fashion with big stores like Nordstrom stocking organic and sustainable clothing. Designer Eileen Fisher creates simple, wearable styles with organic linen and cotton that are perfect for the upcoming summer months.

Not only are organic fabrics good for the environment, they also result in garments which are wonderfully soft and breathable, creating the perfect blend of style, comfort, and sustainability.

For those hot summer afternoons in the garden, Eileen Fisher’s Organic Linen Crop Pants will keep you cool with light fabric and a breezy style. For year-round layering, top them off with a simple Organic Cotton Tank. There’s nothing quite so comfortable in a basic layering piece as the incredible softness and breath-ability of sustainable, organic cotton. If you’re looking to build a complete outfit with organic fashion from Nordstrom, finish those two pieces with an Organic Linen Open Front Cardigan. Made from breathable organic linen, this cardigan is a great option for cooler summer nights and the eventual transition into fall weather.

Shopping for organic, eco-friendly clothing doesn’t mean sacrificing all the versatility and simplicity we’ve come to expect from less sustainable brands. Nordstrom features organic fashions for every body type with certain styles designed specifically for petite women. Most pieces by Eileen Fisher are also machine washable and safe to put in the dryer so it’s easy to incorporate sustainable fashion into your existing clothing routine. Fun organic fashion also doesn’t have to break the bank with Groupon offering promo codes and discounts to shop at Nordstrom on a budget.

It used to be that you had to travel to specialty stores to find stylish and sustainably made clothing, but Nordstrom has made it possible to shop online and buy stylish eco-friendly products no matter where you live.

 

Full Disclosure: This post was brought to you in part by Groupon – all opinions are my own.

A Visit to the Palm Beach Florida Zoo with Stonyfield!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: I am a #StonyfieldBlogger  and  I received compensation and product coupons in exchange for sharing information. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Thank goodness the rain finally stopped! We were able to visit the Palm Beach Zoo here in Florida yesterday with our AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) tickets.

In case you forgot, as part of a year-long effort, Stonyfield will not only be contributing funds to field work but also to drive kids and their families to see animals and conservation projects first hand at zoos, aquariums, and on the ground where the research is happening.

I have been taking Eben to the Palm Beach Zoo since he was little! We hadn’t been back to visit in quite some time, and it was nice to see how the zoo had grown and changed. Here is a little tour of the Palm Beach Zoo!

Wow! My teenager is almost as tall as the mister – how time flies!

I kind of love the peacock and I might be partial to the capybara! Watch the video of him eating here! Love.

Don’t forget, Stonyfield YoKids is also featuring an on-pack offer to get families out to visit any of the 131 participating AZA accredited member zoos and aquariums in their own communities. Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this summer, hit the zoo with your family!

Go to an AZA Accredited Zoo for Free this Summer with Stonyfield!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: I am a #StonyfieldBlogger  and  I received compensation and product coupons in exchange for sharing information. All opinions are 100% my own. ________________________________________________________________________

Last weekend, we had plans to visit our local zoo to support the Stonyfield YoKids sponsor AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program. But guess what? It rained all weekend!

As part of a year-long effort, Stonyfield will not only be contributing funds to field work but also to drive kids and their families to see animals and conservation projects first hand at zoos, aquariums, and on the ground where the research is happening.

We have plans to visit on a sunny weekend in the very near future. With today being World Penguin Day, Stonyfield and AZA are hosting a Facebook live for kids and their parents to get a firsthand look at these majestic seabirds, as well as the conservation work being done to save them. Tune in to this Facebook Live broadcast direct from Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT today at 12pm on the Stonyfield Facebook page. How fun is that? I know, we will be tuning in!

Stonyfield YoKids is also featuring an on-pack offer to get families out to visit any of the 131 participating AZA accredited member zoos and aquariums in their own communities. Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this summer, I think you should jump on this great deal!

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