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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!