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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cleaning up the plastic soup

5 Gyres does such important work and recently they gave Facebook fans a chance to ask them some questions...and one of mine got picked!!! :)  5 Gyres co-founder Marcus Eriksen answers it here:

If you have a few minutes, check it out - he shares some really interesting and valuable information!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Applause for 5 Gyres...Food for Thought

The following was written by Stiv Wilson at the '5 Gyres' blog and really spoke to my heart:  "What, I ask, is our legacy? Or better, when will we band together not as just a people but a species and demand that our legacy is one worth having? Already, your children will never, ever walk on a beach anywhere in the world without plastic -- are we really so foolish to give up such incredible beauty for the sake of a to-go cup? I think not. And so we sail on."

 The value of the things we are losing are so much greater than the value of what we are destroying them with.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Last year, I started a TerraCycle program at our Elementary School.  In case you haven't heard of TerraCycle, they take your trash and upcycle it into cool new stuff....find out more here: .

Well now I have a reason to love them EVEN MORE....because they have a new CHEESE BRIGADE!!!!!!!!

We all know about America's obsession with cheese...and along with that cheese comes a lot of plastic.  So until a more environmentally-friendly packaging comes along, it's great that the packaging no longer has to sit in a landfill or pollute our Earth!

So if you are saving your trash for me, start adding your cheese wrappers, please!!!!!!

And if you eat a lot of cheese, consider finding a TerraCycle Brigade or starting one of your own!

SAY CHEESE!!!!!! :)

Christmas Light Recycling at Home Depot

Hi, all!
In case you have some of those old incandescent light strings hanging around, you can drop them off at Home Depot for recycling now through Nov. 14th.  In return, you will get a $3 coupon for new LED lights for each string you turn in, up to 5 strings.  So you could get $15 toward new energy-efficient lights and your old ones will be recycled!  Hurry in!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Story of Electronics - Pass It On

You've probably heard of Annie Leonard and 'The Story of Stuff' here comes the latest story:  The Story of Electronics.  Good info. and I'm trying to spread the word since they want 1/4 million people to watch it by Black Friday.  If you can help out, click below to watch and let me know what you think!  Have a Great Day!!! :) Kate
"This morning, we released our newest Story of Stuff Project movie - The Story of Electronics - a look at the 'design for the dump' mentality so prevalent in the electronics industry. 
This movie couldn't come at a better time:  this November, Americans are expected to spend over $8.5 billion on consumer electronics, motivated by enticements to buy gizmos we don't really need or to replace gadgets that are still working with slightly newer versions. 
The thing is, making all these devices takes an enormous SoElectronics_Still018_GreenChallenge environmental and public health toll: mining the metals trashes communities from Congo to Indonesia; assembling them uses huge amounts of water and energy and exposes workers to a host of toxic chemicals; and getting rid of them when we're on to the next, newer, better model creates mountains of e-waste. 
The good news is that while the production, consumption and disposal of short-lived, toxics laden electronics are a really big problem, the solution is pretty simple: Make 'em Safe, Make 'em Last, and Take 'em Back
We're releasing The Story of Electronics today to send a clear message to the electronics industry:  it's time to send that design for the dump mentality to the dump where it belongs and start making less toxic, longer lasting and more easily recyclable products. 
Our goal is to get a quarter of a million people to watch The Story of Electronics by Black Friday, just over two weeks from now. 
You can help us reach this goal by:
Every time we release one of our movies, we're floored by the way our community jumps in to spread the message. We know this time will be no different. 
So, thank you, and we hope you enjoy  The Story of Electronics!
Annie, Michael, Allison, Christina and Renee
The Story of Stuff Project Team"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hello, Again!

It feels like a REALLY long time since I've written an entry!
It was a fun summer (and a bit more!)!
I'm going to be back in blogging mode now, so stay tuned.
Hope all is well! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Healthy snacks that are good for the Earth, too!

I just watched a link featuring "Healthy summer snacks for kids" can view it here:

It reminds me of the irony that I'm faced with so many times when trying to find eco-friendly solutions.  It's so great that they featured and their reusable lunchboxes.  The irony is that the hosts of the show are gushing over the "cute packaging" of the space-age, NASA-designed applesauce pack and ProBug pack which go in the exact opposite direction of what ecolunchboxes is really all about.

I wonder why they didn't mention that you could fill one of the reusable containers with applesauce or yogurt and be just as healthy and also good to the planet.  Or better yet, you could pack an apple with no packaging at all!  I'm a mom of 3 boys with very big appetites.  I completely understand the need for convenience.  I know we need to have quick snacks for our kids that are healthy and nutritious.  But we need to stop buying into all the 'cuteness' and 'convenience' that is being sold and realize that the best snacks we can send our kids are really the simplest ones:  grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, etc.

I mentioned the words "waste-free lunch" at a recent PTO meeting and was met with gasps and replies that it would never happen at our school.  Why not?  Is it really that hard?  Or have we just been brainwashed to believe it is?

As the TerraCycle coordinator for my school, I see first-hand how much is thrown away each day from the students' lunches.  When I collect juice pouches to be upcycled by TerraCycle, half of them are at least 30% full (and a juice pouch isn't very big to begin with!) and some are completely sealed with the straw still in the wrapper when they are thrown in the TerraCycle bin.  I think not only about how many resources could be saved, but also how much money could be saved by hard-working parents if they would only realize how much better it would be to send a reusable bottle for their child's drink.  Whatever is left can be saved for later or they can adjust the amount they send based on what is being brought home each day.

The same is true for chip bags.  I collect several each week that haven't even been opened and many more that are half full when they are "thrown away".

Is that convenient?  Is the convenience worth the waste that comes with it?

Lugging cases of juice pouches and bottled water home from the big-box store doesn't seem any easier to me than pre-filling a few reusable bottles each week.

What if the school glamourized fruits and vegetables the way they do chips, cookies and ice cream?  What if instead of moldy bananas and half-bruised apples the kids could choose from fresh fruits and veggies?  That's the world I hope for.  Our kids need us to wake up from the marketing blitz and help them make better choices....for their health and the health of the planet!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The North Atlantic Garbage Patch, Among Others

Did you know that there are huge garbage dumps swirling around in our oceans?

I was surprised to learn that there are still lots of people who don't know about this issue when my son was asked to repeat his recycling presentation to classes throughout his school.  Many of the teachers came and were shocked to hear about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and learn about the 5 Gyres and all of the trash, mostly plastic, that's floating around in them.  The really heartening part was that once they did learn about it, everyone asked so many questions and wanted to figure out ways that they could help be a part of the solution.

That's exactly what we need!  Lots of people spreading the word and educating others about these issues that affect us all and then everyone taking the learning to heart and figuring out what we can do to solve the problems.

If you want more information about the Garbage Patches and the Gyres, you can visit .
Their 'What is the Solution' tab has great information for spreading the word and leading by example.

When we took my husband to dinner on Father's Day, it took me an extra minute to grab a little tote bag and 3 reusable containers with lids to bring along with us.  At the restaurant, I heard so many positive comments around me as I loaded our leftovers into my containers from home and packed them into my tote.

People want and need to be inspired.  I'm thankful to all of you who inspire me and lead the way, lighting a path for the rest of us to follow!  Keep up the great work!!! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recycling Really Matters (and Ways to Drink in Public)

My 10 year old son just completed an independent study project on recycling.  As part of his work, he started a website that I wanted to share with you:

He will keep updating it and adding links, so please check back.

Our whole family learned a lot from the information he shared.  One thing that really strikes me is how much better we can do at recycling things that are "closed-loop" like aluminum cans....wouldn't it be great if we recycled them all?!?  And how much paper ends up in our landfills....Much of which we could probably do without or reuse or definitely recycle.  And then there's plastic....The more information I read about plastic, the more convinced I am that we should find better alternatives where we can.  There are so many places we CAN find better alternatives.  Everyone had to bring a snack for their presentations at school.  I sent orange slices (and composted the peels) which were devoured almost instantly.  We didn't really need a drink since the oranges were juicy.  Which leads to my next thought....

For every activity we have at school, there is always a list of things to bring and 'water bottles' is always on the list.  Has anyone found an alternative to this?  I know the BYO bottle solution will have a tough time gaining popularity at our school based on feedback I've gotten from members of our PTO.  What ever happened to water fountains?  We have one but it seems nobody EVER uses it....Have they all become so unpopular because of the press they got about having more germs than a toilet?  I know I avoid them because of having that thought in my head.  But it seems like we need to bring them back!  What other ways can kids share a drink with the class without adding more trash to the environment?  Bring on the ideas!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celebrate World Environment Day on Saturday, June 5th!

Every June 5th since the year I was born has been World Environment Day.  This is the first year I've ever heard of it, even though it was hosted by the U.S. in 2005, so I thought I'd share with you!  This year it is hosted by Rwanda and they are focusing on biodiversity.  Here's some info. from their booklet:
"Did you know that you are one in a million? Or more precisely,
one of millions on this wondrous planet - anywhere in fact
between an estimated 5 to 100 million species. If you think
about it that means there is a lot we still don’t know about
our planet, or whom we share it with. We do know though
that humans are among only a handful of species whose
populations are growing, while many animals and plants are
becoming rarer and fewer.
A total of 17,291 species are known to be threatened with
extinction, but this is just the tip of the iceberg; many species
disappear before they are even discovered. Human activities
are mostly to blame – what we use, where we live and what
we consume, all have an impact on the Earth’s resources.
As a result, we are risking the loss of the very foundation of
survival. The variety of life – known as ‘biodiversity’ – gives us
our food, clothes, fuel, medicine and much more. When one
species is taken out of the intricate web of life, it can trigger a
domino effect with unforeseen consequences.
At the same time, humans do have the power to stem the
tide of extinction. Through conservation action, we have
brought species back from the brink and restored vital natural
habitats. But, we need to do much more and faster.
The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year
of Biodiversity to stress the importance of biodiversity for
human well-being and encourage a redoubling of our efforts
to reduce biodiversity loss.
The theme of World Environment Day (WED) 2010, “Many
Species. One Planet. One Future.” echoes this urgent call to
conserve the diversity of life on our planet."

For more information, check out:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Buying Freeze and Other Thoughts

 I've been on a 'buying freeze' for a few weeks...and our refrigerator and freezer are quickly emptying!  I started with drawers full of produce and am now down to a few carrots and 2 bell peppers.  Our drinks are almost gone.  I made 3 quarts of homemade iced tea this week, so we still have that...woo hoo!  I've been checking out options for different things we use a lot of and trying to find better alternatives to single-use plastics.  One thing I found an alternative for is the regular skim milk container with the plastic ring and cap.  I just discovered that Whole Foods sells its 365 brand of skim milk in the 'old-fashioned' type of container with no plastic cap!  Unfortunately, most of the family drinks soy milk, and the 365 brand of soy milk HAS the plastic cap...not sure why, but I'm guessing it's the producer that makes it for them...another letter-writing campaign!  So I'm still on a mission to find plastic-free soy milk because making it from scratch is a task I don't feel ready to take on at the moment.  Until I find it, I will definitely cut back and use less.

Our son, JD, is a cheese-aholic.  If he could live on one thing alone, it would be cheese.  I don't buy Kraft singles anymore...thinking about individually-wrapped slices of cheese can set me off on a whole other tangent...but we still get a plastic bag from the deli counter.  I already get made fun of for my voice at the deli counter, so I'm not sure I'm brave enough to ask them to use my cotton bag to put my cheese into, but I'm hoping to gather the nerve to do it soon.  I know, I know...I need to stop worrying about what other people's still a weakness.  If only there were a self-serve deli....

The next thing we eat a lot of is apples and oranges.  I used to get the pre-bagged oranges, but now I will take the time to bring my cotton bags and load up my own.  Same for apples...luckily, we even have organic apples cheaply priced at our local ShopRite, right across the street, so that's an easy one for me.

I'm getting used to grabbing a head of lettuce and putting it in my cotton bag instead of getting the pre-bagged or packaged lettuce.  It's a little extra work, but it's worth it to me.

My boys love tomatoes and it's hard not to grab those little clamshell containers full of cherry or grape tomatoes....This Saturday, we'll visit our local Farmer's Markets to see what's available and I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised...look for my post about that next week!  We also started our own garden, thanks to Whole Foods who supplied us with a free 10'x10' plot of ground to grow on this year.  I will do a post on that sometime soon, too.

Beth Terry (Fake Plastic Fish) posted this really awesome guide to storing fresh fruits and veggies from Berkeley Farmers Market (which has gone plastic-free!).  Check out her blog this week for lots more great tips:

Slowly, but surely, I'm finding ways to reduce my plastic use and it feels really good.  I was digging in the sandbox with our almost-3-yr-old the other day and was saddened to find some little chips of plastic mixed in with the sand...this in such a tiny space of sand...imagine what the beach is like with all of the plastic trash it is bombarded with on a daily basis.  I want the beach to be here for my grandkids and their grandkids to all of my plastic-free efforts feel like a step in the right direction!

So, back to the buying you have a stockpile of plastic in your fridge, freezer or cupboard?  Are there plastic-free alternatives readily available?  If yes, take inventory, phase out your plastic and make your voice heard with your purchasing power!  Let me know how you are doing!  Give me your ideas!  Have a great week! :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Can Do Better - My Challenge to You!

Just watched this video, like many others I've seen this year:

It makes me feel motivated to do more and do it faster since I know we all want a better world for future generations than the one we're leaving behind right now.

So here's my challenge:  Get rid of as many single-use plastics as you possibly can, as soon as you can.  Make it a thought that stays on your mind.  Use your purchasing power as your vote.  I watched an interesting video on the 10 R's of Sustainability made by high-schoolers and one of them said something so simple, yet so profound:  We need to slow down.  This is so true.  If we can slow down, we will be able to think about the choices we are making.  If we can slow down, we will be able to make the better choice.  If we can slow down, we will have more time to enjoy our lives.  We are being sold quickness and convenience, but we are losing what really matters the most.

It's a tough challenge.....Who will take it with me?  Let me know what you are giving up, trading in, finding alternatives for and how it's going!  I just made the decision to ask for my kids' drinks in glass, like the adults from now on when we eat at a restaurant.  JD drank from one at breakfast yesterday and did quite well.  If he can do it, so can the older boys!  Small steps...big changes...right now!  Are you with me?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plastic is bad, Waste is worse

Hello, Dear Readers! :)

I've been TerraCycling for our school since November (see earlier post for more info. about that) and it has been a real journey, to say the least.  I started out wanting to do good for the planet and I feel like I am in a small way, but it has also made me think about so many issues that are bigger than chip bags and juice pouches.  Like how huge the plastic problem has become and how we don't even think of it as a problem in the U.S.  It doesn't make the nightly news, even though there are huge gyres of plastic filling up our oceans....the very oceans we depend on for survival.  And like how much we waste in this country.  If you ever want a lesson in waste, take a look at what is thrown away at a typical Elementary School lunch.  This leads me to so many other thoughts.  Do parents realize how much money is being thrown away, even if they aren't at all concerned about the environment?

I haven't posted for a while because all of these thoughts are swirling around me like a gyre.  I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with them.  When I do, I'll post more, but if you have some of your own that you'd like to discuss here, please let me know.

Have a great week!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Slow down and notice the trees....and other stuff

Sorry for the lack of an original post, but I loved this micromovie and thought I'd pass it along in honor of Arbor Day which recently passed - it only takes 2 mins. to watch:

I found it from the comments section at Fake Plastic Fish since I agreed so much with what Clif said there (Here's just part of it):
"P.S. How about that Gulf oil spill – will it be the 3 mile island of deepwater drilling? Another holocaust for wildlife – from plankton right on up the food chain. We are outraged when a single innocent person suffers injury from others or when someone poisons a neighbor’s dog, but wildlife takes repeated blows from us and on we go."

I also think you'd probably love some other info. from Clif that can be found here:

If you get a chance to read his 'Life at 12 Miles an Hour', let me know what you think!:

If you have 4 mins. to spare, this video is definitely worth a watch...I think these guys really hit the message home with what they say about plastic:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Putting Little Green Thoughts Into Practice

There are a bunch of green things that I've heard I should be doing and I'm finally getting around to doing a few of them.  I still have a list of others waiting to be tried, but one at a time, I'm adding them up!  Here's what I'm up to:
  1. Putting the lid on my pots when I'm boiling water.  I've finally made this one a habit and I can definitely tell the difference in less cooking time.
  2. Catching 'gray' water in our shower.  I put 2 open top watering cans in our shower and catch the water that runs when our shower is heating up...since our house is built on a concrete slab, it seems like the hot water takes a while to get upstairs.  After each shower, we empty them into a big container with a lid to use for our garden.
  3. We've been doing cloth napkins for a while, but now I've started to think of ways to use less tissues.  This idea was stolen from my Mom, who does many green things that she doesn't give herself credit for!  Instead of using a tissue for my eye makeup remover, I started using one of the boys' old baby washcloths.  It's just as soft as a tissue and that's 365 tissues I will save this year!  Thanks, Mom! :)
  4. My Mom has to be the queen of quick showers...I think she would win a contest!  So taking my cue from her, I've started cutting down on shower time.  Once the water is hot, I quickly lather up my hair & rinse, then turn the water off while I condition my hair and wash my body.  I also skip showers on days that I'm home and not in need of one, which gives my hair a break and saves resources.  Still on my radar to try is getting rid of shampoo and conditioner in favor of more earth-friendly ones.  Has anyone tried this?
  5. I've been turning off all of the lights after the boys have gone to bed (usually around 8:30 pm) and working by candlelight or just keeping one small light on.  I'm looking into those Smart strips that conserve phantom energy for our tv, computer, etc. - who has these and do you have any recommendations?
Those are just a few that are on my mind right now, but I'll post more later.  What little green thoughts have you put into practice?  Thanks for reading and sharing!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Green Families?

I found an article that touched at something I've been thinking for a while, too:  big families aren't necessarily bad for the environment!

You can read it here:

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No More Blog Music

Please come back to my blog!!  I turned off the music so it won't bug you...sorry!  It was a lesson to be learned! :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Earth-Friendly Toothcare

I was browsing at (amazing to watch their plastic bag ticker....over 141 billion plastic bags consumed this year - ugh!) for some type of reusable straw to carry along for restaurant visits when I got sidetracked noticing some new eco-friendly toothbrushes they are selling:  Eco-Dent TerrAdent Replaceable Head Toothbrush.

I was immediately interested because I have recently purchased the Preserve toothbrushes that can be sent back for recycling (which we have been pretty happy with, except for JD's which keeps losing bristles...probably because he BITES his toothbrush!), but reading some literature at the Eco-Dent site has made me think they are on to something.  They have an article called 'Lone Ranger Recycling' that is very interesting.  I wish it were from a more impartial source, but what they are saying seems to make sense:

Before I found Preserve, we saved all of our toothbrushes for cleaning and to use as paintbrushes, but they will ultimately end up in a landfill.

Anyway, I noticed that they also sell dental floss in some type of recyclable cardboard packaging...which is exactly what I've been looking for - a less wasteful dental floss!  (I still wish someone would sell it in larger family-size quantities, though).

So this company has me pretty intrigued.  I will probably make a few purchases when our Preserve brushes are all used up.

You can check them out here:

And for you Oprah fans, according to their website, Oprah even uses their products! :)

What eco-friendly toothcare habits can you share?  Keep smiling! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The 40th Earth Day will be a very special one

Today I start the 39th year of my life...yes, I am the big 3-8!  I was born 2 years after the first Earth Day celebrations.  It is the big 4-0 for Earth Day this year!

I just checked a new book out of the library:  Whole Green Catalog:  1,000 Best Things for You and the Earth, edited by Michael W. Robbins.  Here's a small bit from the foreward by Bill McKibben:
"The series of interlocking environmental crises we now face - global warming, water shortage, food supply, peak oil - seem daunting.  That's because they are daunting, the worst cul-de-sac into which human beings have ever stumbled.  It will take every bit of wit and skill we have to chart a course through the next few decades - and it will demand real community and political engagement from everyone who cares.
But of course, that's the view from up high, taking in the whole sprawling mess.  It can also be viewed, productively, from down below, where each of us actually lives.  Where, a hundred times a day, we make small choices that influence the future, our own and the planet's."
(The emphasis is mine).  I am excited for this Earth Day because I think there is a collective consciousness rising that is the start of a new revolution - one that will treasure and protect this Earth that we live on.  We are all called to make a difference and so many are taking up the charge.  I am so thankful for all of you and encouraged by you!  You inspire me and give me courage to do better.  There are so many caring people, but the following are some I especially want to thank:

I LOVE this blog post by David McKay at:
I also want to give a shout out to Ryan Elizabeth Cope's thought-provoking blog (I think he is on course to be the Jamie Oliver of the 'plastic revolution'):

And to my own Mom, who has a beautiful new blog:

 To Green Lifestyle Consulting for their wonderful blog:

 And Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish:

 We always hear 'Let's make Earth Day every day' and this year I think there are enough people carrying the wave that it will keep rolling.....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Environmental Toxins

Wanted to pass on this great link,28804,1976909_1976908_1976938,00.html from .

It's Time magazine feature on environmental toxins and the perils of plastic.

How do you feel about plastic in our everyday lives?  Any issues jumping out that you'd like to ponder, share or discuss?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Supersized Everything - Waste Included

Glad to be back after a bit of a break!  I'm in MD staying with my parents.  I am finding a lot of food for blogging down here, though! :)

We stopped at McDonald's for ice cream cones last night.  For 3 ice cream cones, they gave us 27 napkins!  Not an exaggeration and not a misprint!  Here's a picture:

Now my boys are messy, but even they don't need 9 napkins for 1 ice cream cone (a very tiny ice cream cone at that)!

We visited Applebee's and the boys were given the plastic kids' cups with lids and straws.  When they asked for a refill and tried to give the waitress their cups, she set them down and brought them brand new plastic cups....?!?  So instead of 3 plastic cups, lids, straws (which was bad enough), we ended up with 5 of each...for 1 visit.

And then there was our visit to Walmart.  We all love low prices, but sometimes you have to wonder at what price these low prices come.  But now TerraCycle has partnered with Walmart, so it makes me want to give them a chance.  Well, the Walmart that I visited here didn't have any TerraCycle items to be found and when I asked 2 of the workers, they looked at me like they had never heard of TerraCycle I wasn't off to a good start.  I did need some allergy meds., though, so I purchased a few things while I was there.  When I pulled out my reusable bag to ask the lady in the 'less than 20 items' lane to use it, she shook her head 'No' and told me to push my items up and she was shoving them as quickly as she could into her plastic bag.  All around me, I watched carts piling up with tons of plastic seems that Walmart has  a policy of only putting 5 items in a bag, no matter what their size.  Some people had what looked like 10 plastic bags for what I'm guessing was no more than 30 items.  ?!?  Did I mention that the entire Walmart store smells like badly offgassing plastic?  What is that all about?  They are not really doing much to improve my impression of them, although I do realize that their prices are hard to beat and there are many people who depend on them for cheaply priced items.  I have a love / hate relationship with Walmart.  I really want to love them, but I keep finding more reasons to hate them.  I guess this story is to be continued...

And I now have 3 letters to sit down and write.  I'm hoping they will be taken seriously.  Have you ever written a letter to a company and gotten a really great or satisfying response?

What's your Walmart story?  What do you think about fast food and restaurant waste?  Lots more food for thought....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Fair Trade Easter....and Beyond

One of the truths behind our food that hasn't been in the big spotlight lately is that a lot of our 'treat' items that are available so cheaply and consumed so widely get to us via abuse, slavery, very poor worker conditions and many times this is happening to children, too.  Coffee, chocolate, sweat-shop clothing and more fall into this category.  I've been trying out Fair-Trade chocolate for the past few years and it's absolutely delicious.  It is more expensive, but I feel happy buying less and enjoying it more.  I absolutely believe that the small choices we make can make a huge impact.  This Easter (and beyond) will you consider replacing some of your non-Fair-Trade items with ones that are Fair Trade?  Maybe you can start small with hot chocolate that you drink only a few months in the winter.  Or pick a holiday and try to make all of the candy fair-trade.  While you're at it, think about things with less packaging that do less harm to the environment.  Have you found anything like this to share?  I've purchased coffee, tea, hot cocoa, nuts and chocolate from Global Exchange and I've been really happy with all of them.

I took the following from :

"Celebrating Easter and the innocence of childhood go hand in hand. Joyful children dress sweetly in fancy Easter clothes, and relish the suspense and fun of Easter Egg Hunts for chocolate and other sweet treats. This year, your Easter Egg Hunt can also bring freedom and joy to children on the other side of the globe. Much of the chocolate candy on the market for Easter (and year-round) contains cocoa produced with grueling child labor or slavery, which is not in the spirit of Easter.

There is an alternative. Fair Trade Certified chocolate comes from cocoa farms that are inspected annually to ensure there is no abusive child labor or slavery.  Fair Trade farmers also receive a more equitable price for their cocoa, allowing children to go to school, visit the doctor, and have enough food to eat.
What can I do to make my children's Easter Egg Hunt Fair Trade?

  • Use Fair trade chocolate! Fair Trade chocolate is available at stores near you and Global Exchange's online store!!
  • Explain to the kids about Fair Trade and why it is important. Read Global Exchange's Fair Trade chocolate activity book to the kids and let them color the pictures! Or just give a short explanation of Fair Trade before the hunt. Browse Global Exchange's Fair Trade cocoa pages for more information. Be sure to educate the grownups, too!
  • Have the kids color and sign Global Exchange's Fair Trade Easter cards, addressed to World's Finest Chocolate, asking the company to start sourcing at least 5% of their cocoa as Fair Trade! Click here!"

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Grass is Greener?

Ever since I moved into our suburban NJ neighborhood, I've felt out of place.  Our neighborhood has rows of neatly manicured lawns with little plastic flags flying throughout the year, declaring their freedom from weeds and pests.  And then there's my lawn, welcoming to "pests" and dandelions happily shining their sunny faces in the breeze.  But I hate walking past those little flags with my kids, with their warnings to keep kids and pets away, as though we are intruding on a space where we don't belong.

I just started reading the book Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart.  So far I'm thoroughly enjoying it.  Imagine my delight when I came across their description of a modern lawn on pg. 33:
"The average lawn is an interesting beast:  people plant it, then douse it with artificial fertilizers and dangerous pesticides to make it grow and to keep it uniform -- all so that they can hack and mow what they encouraged to grow.  And woe to the small yellow flower that rears its head!"
 The saddest part of my lawn is that the more natural I try to let it be, the less marketable and desirable our house becomes.  Most people who live here don't seem to be into the natural state of things very much.  I have already had neighbors' lawn companies sprinkling their chemicals onto my lawn so that nothing from my wild side spreads to their tamed one.  So before I start with my xeriscaping plans, I need to be sure that we will be living here long enough to make it doable.

But every time I pass a dandelion, I will smile and cheer and be thankful for its sunny disposition and the fact that it is a fighter and a survivor.  And I'll hope it's naturally sunny disposition starts to spread....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reusable stickers and a few green notes

Do you have name labels sitting around that you will never use?  I don't get these too often anymore since I cancelled a lot of direct mail being sent our way (you can do this at ), but the ones I do have, that I will never use, are being repurposed as yard sale stickers, mini calendar stickers and stickers for the kids.  All you need to do is cut the address part off and often you'll have enough white space leftover to make great yard sale price stickers (or labels for your file folders, or whatever else you could use a little label for).  Most of the time there are also little pictures on the labels which make great stickers.  If you have a local organization that sends things to kids overseas, they might take these, too.  We had a collection for them at our school and were told that the kids really loved and appreciated the stickers.

Tomorrow night at 8:30 pm is Earth Hour. According to their website, ,
"On Earth Hour hundreds of millions of people around the world will come together to call for action on climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. The movement symbolizes that by working together, each of us can make a positive impact in this fight, protecting our future and that of future generations."  I did it last year...for me, it was a time to think about how we use electricity in our house and try to take inventory and figure out ways to use less.

Mother Nature Network just put out some new green inventions.  I love Corky the little brown mouse.  You can check them all out here:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Love (& Music) Makes the World Go 'Round

I was sitting at my son's Suzuki piano lesson last night and picked up a copy of the magazine put out by the Suzuki Association of the Americas.  The editorial was so interesting and had a description of some comments made by fellow teachers at a recent Suzuki conference about the ideas behind the Suzuki philosophy.  Unfortunately, I didn't capture them all, but here are a few:
  • "Capture the heart of the child."
  • "Each person has a wonderful living soul."
  • "We need to be respectful of every human being."
 The editor goes on to state that this is why she loves the Suzuki philosophy.  I love it, too!  In Dr. Suzuki's own words, “When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”

I love the fact that Dr. Suzuki sees the potential in everyone and works so gently to bring forth the best in others.  There are so many lessons to be learned from this.  Personally, I have grown as a parent and a person by being involved with this practice.

If you'd like to learn more about Suzuki, please visit 
You can also pick up a copy of the book Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki.

It's nice to have things in our life that remind us to keep the Golden Rule at the heart of it all and help us to remember that "love is all we need".  For me, it is sometimes a challenge to put love first, above anger and other emotions that come to the surface in daily life.  Our family is Catholic, so in this season of Lent, we are reminded of Christ's deep love for us and his messages to us of the importance of love.  What things do you hold dear in your life that keep the Golden Rule close to your heart?  In the busyness and business of everyday life, is there something that helps you stop and remember to spread the love, even when you might not be feeling it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easter Basket Reuse Craft

When my middle son went to preschool at St. Andrew's in Cherry Hill, he had such wonderfully creative teachers, Mrs. Huff and Mrs. Minardi.  They gave out Valentine baskets and I thought they were fabulous!  They made them out of 1/2 gallon ice cream containers (after the ice cream is gone and they are washed out, of course!), tissue paper and decorations.  I stole the idea and gave it a twist:  Easter baskets!

I love them because they are taking some stuff that would otherwise end up in a landfill and giving it a cool new life!  You can have everybody on the block saving their ice cream containers for you and you will end up with enough to give out to a whole classroom full of kids!

Here's what you need to make one:
  • 1/2 gallon ice cream container - washed out
  • 1 sheet of tissue paper (this can be reused, too....lots of times you have used tissue paper from gifts sitting around and for this project, it doesn't matter if it's crinkly or not!)
  • Another small scrap of tissue paper for the inside bottom.
  • glue (I just use Elmer's glue in a big bottle, but rubber cement would work well for this, too)
That's it!  First, you glue the small scrap of tissue paper to the inside bottom of the ice cream container.  It will go up the sides a little and that's good!  Next, you set the ice cream container in the middle of the sheet of tissue paper and bring one side up and around the ice cream container and glue it to cover the inside.  From there, you just continue around the ice cream container until the tissue paper is all glued - sort of like wrapping a present, but you are gluing, too.  This will get easier with practice and you will figure out better ways of doing it each time!  The ice cream container will be wrapped in tissue paper. 

Now you can decorate to your heart's content.  You can add a handle by stapling a stiff piece of paper or paper board to the sides of the container and decorate the handle however you want.  I added little scraps of ribbon that I had left over from some balloons we were given (balloons usually have such pretty ribbon attached to them and it's usually pretty long, so it can live another life if you cut it off before you get rid of the balloon).  Mrs. Huff & Mrs. Minardi used glitter glue to decorate theirs.  They didn't have handles, but they decorated the lids so the kids could close them up later (this is a little tricky because sometimes the lid rips the tissue paper or doesn't fit because of the tissue paper).

You could use this idea for any special basket and it makes a cute little container to give a gift, too, if you also save and decorate the lid.

Here are some pictures of the baskets I made last year for my son's preschool class (purple for girls, blue for boys):

Here are the ones I made this year for my religious ed. class (green for boys, purple and pink for girls):

I hope you have fun with this craft!  I'd love to hear what reuse crafts you make!

Monday, March 22, 2010

WWW: World Water Week

Today is the start of a week to bring awareness to global water issues.

It's a good time to think about how we use water in our daily lives.

From RARE:  "It takes 3 litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water & in the USA alone an additional 17 million barrels of oil. via @UNEPandYou"

Something easy we can all do today is say 'No' to bottled water!

Here's a cool video about it:

You can calculate your water footprint from here:

Here's a petition for the right to clean water (one of many petitions floating around on this topic):

Here's an effort to help Haiti:

Interesting paragraph about water and meat production here:

This year I'm looking into rain barrels.  Do you have any experience with these?

What do you do to save water?  Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BYO Utensils? Bags?

Today I'm thinking about all of the plastic utensils that get thrown away every day in the U.S. - it must be a huge number!  What got me thinking about it today is that it was the day that Rita's Water Ice gives away free ice to everyone who wants it and since it was such a beautiful weekend day, the lines were HUGE!  So I was thinking about all of those spoons.....

When we eat out, I collect things to take home and recycle or reuse and our 5 yr. old son is so used to this now that today he asked me if we should collect the spoons that we ate our Rita's with "so the birds won't feed them to their babies and get sick and die" (You gotta' love the little guys!).  And indeed we did.  But I couldn't help thinking that it would have been so much better if we had brought our own spoons to use instead.  SO...after those 5 plastic spoons were washed, I packed them into my purse for future the next time I'll have them instead of always thinking what a great idea it would be.  I think I'll put some in the glove compartment, too.

That's how I kicked the plastic bag habit...I had to constantly load my car with reusable bags until it just became a habit to grab them on my way to the store.

I really applaud the restaurants that take the extra effort to not use disposable utensils and containers.  I need to start letting them know that I appreciate their efforts.  Maybe it will spur them on to do even better.

I've read that some people are now bringing their own containers to extra food home from the restaurant in - I love that idea!  Don't we all hate those styrofoam containers?  Usually the waiters just bring them to the table for you to load yourself, so why not bring your own?

What bring-your-own things do you do?  Let's talk BYO for the environment!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Local Eating - Composting and Starting a Garden!

Spring is in the air!  Does it make you want to get outside and garden?  It's pretty easy to grow at least a few veggies in your own yard, on your balcony or even on your windowsill.

Last year, we grew tomatoes, peppers and basil.  Our peppers never made it...too much rain?  But we enjoyed lots of yummy tomatoes and even had plenty to share with friends!  This year I'd like to try some new veggies like lettuce, carrots, zucchini...and the kids want to try watermelon!  If you are experienced with any of these and have tips to share, please do!  We have a compost pile and our tomatoes really loved the I fed them each a banana peel when I planted them! :)

Even if you don't want to have your own garden, there are probably local choices you can make.  Here's a quick article from Yes! magazine, but while you're there, you might find some other interesting articles on issues you care about:

Last year our family joined a local CSA and picked up veggies once/week.  We loved it, especially when the fresh NJ corn was in season!  It was a wonderful experience, especially for my 3 sons.  They LOVED going to the farm each week!  Sometimes we would get to go cut sunflowers to take home and sometimes we could pick beans.  We got tons of heirloom tomatoes...very interesting varieties that I never would have seen if we hadn't joined the CSA.  Together we learned about some new veggies that I had never cooked before.  We ate acorn squash for the first time and had a few fresh bitter greens that we never quite figured out.  How nice it would have been for someone like Jamie Oliver to teach me about some of those strange-looking veggies I encountered - but that was part of the adventure!

Do you have a garden?  Belong to a CSA?  What ways have you found to eat local?  Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Have Faith - Persistence Pays Off!

I love Tyler Perry and his latest e-mail message is so inspirational, I hope you will read it:

Rejection is painful.  I don't even tell anyone about my blog for fear of rejection!  But I do have a great friend who gave me a big boost today by telling me she'd care to read what I have to say.  What a kind statement!

What are you afraid of?  What things do you need to be more persistent about?  Who can support you and who can you support?

Thanks to everyone who supports me and makes me want to keep going!

Food Choices

We've been coming to a more global awareness about the food choices we make.  Last night on Planet Green, I watched an episode of 'Blood, Sweat and Takeaways' - so many great insights from that show (another topic) so if you get that channel, try to check it out sometime!

Oprah finally had her vegan-friendly show with Alicia Silverstone and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma among others - ).  People are watching 'Food, Inc.' and learning about where their food comes from.  It's awesome to have this information.  Knowledge is power!

Whether you are a full-fledged carnivore, an omnivore, a herbivore or anywhere in between, learning about others food choices can help you define your own more clearly.

Lately, I've been getting so much wonderful info. from Kind Green Planet that I have to give it a shout out here:
30 Missions Vegan at Heart Programs & Services Kind Green Planet

Don't let the vegan part scare you away.  This site is friendly and upbeat and I'm sure you will come away with some great ideas even if you are a meat eater!

I will talk more about food choices in detail in later posts.  Food for thought....What do you want to talk about?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Battery Recycling

Since yesterday was 'Spring ahead' day, I remembered that it's a recommendation to change your smoke alarm and CO2 alarm batteries at this time to make sure they keep working.  When we do that, I've noticed that our batteries are not completely dead.  They will still work for small toys or other small items that need them.  So I've been saving them up in a little container for when they are needed.

If they are truly dead, you can (and should!) recycle them.  Most Home Depot stores will take batteries for recycling (check in the tool dept. or at the front desk).  Many municipalities will also take these at their local recycling center (ours does - yeah!).  If neither of these is an option for you, check out .

Think about your battery usage and try to find ways to make it greener.  Please share your tips with us here!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

TerraCycle - turn your trash into treasure!

The very best way to eliminate trash is to use less and eliminate it at the source.  But let's face it:  we're not all perfect.  So there are things we throw away that can't be recycled.  But there's a big list of things that can be TerraCycled!  TerraCycle will take your trash and turn it into something useful...and they'll even pay your charitable organization for it!

This year, I started some TerraCycle brigades at our Elementary School.  If you don't want to start a brigade yourself, check with a local school (colleges included) to see if they have a program you could donate to.  

Here's what our school collects:
  • Juice pouches
  • Chip bags
  • Cookie wrappers
  • Energy bar wrappers
  • Yogurt cups
  • Kashi products
  • Huggies wrappers
  • Scott brand wrappers
  • Scotch tape dispensers and rolls
  • Candy bar wrappers
  • Elmer's glue containers
  • Bear Naked granola wrappers
  • Aveeno tubes
  • Neosporin tubes
  • Margarine/spread tubs
Whew!  There are even more brigades available.  You can check it out at .

I'd be willing to bet you have at least one of these items in your house during the course of a month.  If not, way to go - you are doing a great job at waste reduction!  If yes, wouldn't it be great to give your trash another life before it hits the landfill?  You can check out some of the cool things that TerraCycle makes at their website.  In April, they will have lots of their products on sale at WalMart stores across the country.

Our school has raised almost $50 for just a few months worth of trash (much more waiting to be sent in and counted!), but even better, we've saved hundreds of chip bags, hundreds of yogurt cups and almost 2,000 juice pouches from being landfilled.

Start TerraCycling today!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buying Less - No to Silly Bandz

Like most moms, right up there on my priority list in life is my kids and their future.  Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about what kind of world they will be left with.  Did you see the pictures of the birds after they've eaten all the little plastic garbage that's part of our everyday life in America?  Or see the work being done by groups like 5 Gyres?  It made me stop and think.  

And now our kids are obsessed with the latest craze:  Silly Bandz.  (I know these have been around for a while now...we are a little behind here in NJ!)  Not to single out one company when they are just a drop in the corporate bucket, but my kids came home asking for these, too.  So I wrote to the company asking what they were made of, was any of it recycled and could the used bandz be recycled.  The only response I got back was this:  "Sillybandz are made from 100% medical grade silicone."  A typical response, I suppose.  That's what worries me.  Most companies aren't thinking about these issues.  It's for somebody else to worry about.  

And who is that somebody else?  I think it needs to be us moms.  We are our children's protectors. We worry if they scrape a knee.  We want the best for them.  Is a world full of dead sea life, polluted waters and closed beaches what is best?  I don't think so.  

So I'm saying 'No' to Silly Bandz.  It's a first step....I will say 'No' to many others like them.  No....Not until you think about the product you are putting out into this world that belongs to all of us and our children.  No....Not until you take responsibility for becoming part of the solution instead of contributing to an ever-growing problem.  

To many, this seems like an extreme position.  Many will argue that these are harmless fun and kids need to follow the trends and have fun with their friends.  I just believe there are other (better) ways to do this.  Silicone doesn't biodegrade.  Do silicone bands really need to be packaged in even more plastic packaging?  Watching sea life and birds feed discarded Silly Bandz (shaped in their images, nonetheless) to their babies isn't's just sad.

What items have you said 'No' to because you were passionate about a cause?  Share your ideas here!