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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!

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?

Who Knew? A (Very Effective) Natural Food Poisoning Remedy

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It’s summer, and that means more fun, sun, and BBQs! We’ve all encountered that time where you’ve just finished a scrumptious meal, and all of a sudden, you don’t feel very well. Your stomach is rumbling, you’re starting to feel weak, and you know what’s coming next, and it won’t be pretty. We’ve all wished for a natural treatment for nausea and the unmentionable after-effect, but it seems like there’s never anything on hand that ultimately stops what’s happening in its tracks, unless we take a chance on the pink stuff. Who knows what’s even in it! Here’s a great recipe for nausea relief that you’ll almost always have on hand – especially if you love Italian food!

Our bodies are filled with many different strains of bacteria. As we grow, we are exposed to more and more kinds of bacteria, and either our immune system fights them, or we get sick. Getting sick is how we obtain antibodies and can more effectively fight off the bacteria the next time we are exposed to it. The first line of defense against bacteria is our skin. But how do we protect what we consume? That’s where our stomach comes in. Our healthy stomach contains many types of “good” bacteria, like L. Acidophilus, which we can supplement with yogurt and kefir to beef up our stomach’s immunities.

There are times though, when our stomach’s bacteria is outnumbered by the bad bacteria, such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and the most common, Campylobacter. All of these bacteria cause some not-so-nice symptoms, and can be treated with just two food products that you eat on a regular basis to reduce the symptoms, or completely fight the bad bacteria. It is used often in my house, and we often times treat ourselves, and then go on about our day like nothing happened.

So what are these two miracle foods?

Honey

Honey is amazing in all forms. The best kind of honey is raw, which you can pick up just about anywhere these days. It is highly antibacterial, and is the first punch of this knockout formula.

basil

Basil

Basil?! Yes, basil! It is one of the most powerful antibacterial foods out there for food poisoning (alongside garlic) that helps knock out those bad bacteria that make us feel awful. Here’s the recipe:

Honey-Basil Food Poisoning Treatment

All you need to do is juice a bunch of basil, which usually makes a couple tablespoons’ worth. Don’t underestimate the power of this awesome juice – a little goes a very long way! Then just add 1 tablespoon of raw honey, and sip until it’s gone. If you’re still having some bouts of nausea after 15 minutes, or it goes away and then returns, drink another round.

If you don’t have a juicer laying around, you can put torn up basil leaves in 3 tablespoons of yogurt, with a pinch of crushed black pepper, and eat three to four times for the remainder of your day.

Once you feel your stomach is settled enough, sip on some peppermint tea to soothe any stomach cramping you may still be experiencing.

Here’s to hoping you never have to use this secret recipe, but make sure to bookmark it in case you do!

5 Non-Toxic Ingredients for DIY Cleaners and How to Use Them

2014-01-18 01.00.26Many people with pets or kids have noticed that many of the ingredients in commercial cleaning products are not only harmful to people and animals but can be fatal. So, it’s no surprise that people are looking to remove these harsh chemicals from their home and replace them with great, green, healthy alternatives. Fortunately, there are a some great, green, affordable substitutes that can be used pretty much anywhere in your home and that you likely already have sitting in the pantry. Read on for my 5 favorite, non-toxic ingredients for DIY cleaners and how to use them in your home.

1. Vinegar
Vinegar is my all-time favorite non-toxic cleaner. It removes odors, stains, and grease and can effectively prevent mildew and mold when applied regularly to shower walls, sinks, and toilet bowls. Vinegar neutralizes pet odors like cat urine and will help keep colors from bleeding from a new pair of jeans or a red shirt if you soak the clothing item in vinegar for 30 minutes before washing or dump a cup or so into the washer with the detergent. To remove corrosion and chemical buildup from showerheads, soak the showerhead in vinegar overnight. Plain white vinegar should be used but if the smell offends you, you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil to your cleaning mixture. My favorite all-purpose cleaner, for bathroom, kitchen, and glass, is simply 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water mixed in a spray bottle. That’s it!

2. Baking Soda
Baking soda has virus-killing abilities and makes for an effective but gentle scrub for bathtubs, toilets, tile, and porcelain or stainless steel sinks. When I run out of Bon Ami, I pour baking soda in the sink, squeeze in half a lemon or pour in about ¼ cup vinegar, and scrub with a sponge or bristled brush. For a great toilet scrub, pour ½ cup baking soda into the toilet bowl and add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and ¼ cup vinegar. The mixture will fizz while you scrub and cut through mold and grime while the tea tree oil disinfects. Tea tree oil and thyme oil are both great non-toxic disinfectants to be used in place of bleach. That said, just because they’re non-toxic doesn’t mean that you, your kids, or your pets should consume these products!

3. Castile Soap
Castile soaps are made from 100% plant oils so they’re safe and gentle but effective. While traditionally it’s recommended that wood floors be cleaned with pure water, I’ve added a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus castile soap to a warm bucket of water and mopped our wood floors with the mixture to clean and freshen up the room. Our floors aren’t wax-treated, so please ask a pro if yours are before using anything but water on your wood floors. Castile soaps are great all-purpose cleaners, too. Simply mix a tablespoon to a ¼ cup with warm water for washing down counters, tile, windows, or a sink full of dishes. The term “all purpose” really applies to castile soap!

4. Lemon
Lemon juice kills mold and mildew, shines harder surfaces, cuts grease, and deodorizes. A cut lemon can be scrubbed over the surface of a cutting board to sanitize it. Simply rub a halved lemon over the surface, let sit for 10 minutes, and rinse. Lemon juice can be added to vinegar cleaning mixtures to add a fresh scent and aid in cutting grease. Lemon juice is a great bleach substitute for washing laundry, too; just add lemon juice to the rinse cycle.

5. Essential Oils
Peppermint, tea tree, and thyme oils are my favorite for use in home cleaning products. Peppermint oil eliminates offensive odors and is a natural pest deterrent. I have successfully used peppermint oil to eliminate mice in one of our sheds by placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the entrances to the shed and places where the mice frequented. Tea tree oil eliminates mold and mildew; a few drops can simply be mixed with water and sprayed onto shower walls (don’t rinse it off) and left to kill mildew and mold. Thyme oil is a powerful, natural disinfectant that has been said to kill and prevent botulism, e. coli, listeria, and salmonella. Add a few drops to your vinegar all purpose spray or use in the same was as tea tree oil in the formula above.

YOUR TURN: What are your favorite DIY, green home cleaning products?

7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

Recycle-MarkersIt’s no secret that our landfills are filling up, and fast. Each person in America generates approximately 4.5 lbs of trash each day—with a population of 317 million people, that’s a LOT of garbage! We all know about the obvious ways to reduce solid waste—donating old clothes, recycling containers, composting, and choosing biodegradable when possible—but it turns out that a lot of other commonly used products can be recycled or reused, too. Here’s a list of 7 you may not have known about.

#1: Markers

Crayola’s ColorCycle initiative takes old Crayola markers and re-uses and recycles the barrels and caps in the production of new markers. As a bonus, Crayola also uses 100% reforested wood to make their colored pencils as well as other eco-friendly practices.

#2: Corks

If you needed an extra reason to buy that bottle of wine, Recork turns used corks into building insulation, shoes, and more. Find out where to recycled your corks.

#3: Pantyhose

No Nonsense, a manufacturer of tights, panty hose, leggings, and socks will take back used pairs pantyhose and tights and make them into things like park benches, running tracks, and playground equipment—how cool is that? Find out how to recycle your used pair on No Nonsense’s Recycling page.

#4: Bras

Bras are a highly sought-after item in shelters and transitional programs. While most women trash their used (or poorly fitted) bras, thinking perhaps that no one would want to purchase a used bra at a second hand store, companies like The Bra Recyclers are more than happy to accept used bras and other textiles. Their mission is to reduce the amount of textiles in landfills by recycling and reusing textiles in an effort to support people and the environment.

#5: Old CD’s

I’ve always wondered why CD’s couldn’t be recycled—turns out they can! The CD Recycling Center of America accepts CD’s and DVD’s and recycles them into plastic for automotive and building materials in an effort to reduce oil consumption (plastic discs are made from oil), eliminate the toxic fumes produced when CD’s are incinerated, and keep CD’s out of landfills.

#6: Crayons

Each year, the National Crayon Recycling Program keeps more than 94,000 lbs of unwanted crayons out of landfills. The program has nation-wide drop off bins that accept used crayons that will be recycled into new ones. They accept all crayons but as a bonus sort and discard crayons manufactured in foreign countries before 1995 that may contain questionable materials.

#7: Apple Products

Apple accepts old iPods, iPhones, computers, and more and recycles or reuses the product or its parts. If your old product qualifies for reuse, Apple will give you a gift card for the monetary value of your old product. If it does not qualify for reuse, Apple will safely recycle your product free of charge.

This list of 7 is just the tip of the iceberg! From batteries to eyeglasses, there are many more household items that can be recycled, and the number of products and materials is growing all the time as more and more companies spring up hoping to reduce consumption and waste.

YOUR TURN: Do you have other inside info on lesser-known recyclable or reusable products or materials?