5 candles

Tonight is the last night my “baby” is three – tomorrow is her big 0-4.

What are we doing to celebrate?

We’ll begin the day by singing “Happy Birthday to You” at the top of our lungs and then going downstairs for pancakes in our pajamas. We’ll go for a walk on the trails near our home and pick blackberries. Along the way we’ll remind our birthday princess time and time again how grateful we all are that she is here. We’ll join her two sets of grandparents and her best four-year-old friend at the local tea house for a good old fashion tea party, complete with porcelain plates. Afterwards, if it’s sunny, we’ll go for a swim in the pool. Then we’ll bake a cake together and after it’s cooled, we’ll take pictures as she blows out her five candles (one for good luck). She’ll open presents – one from her mommy and daddy, one from her big sister, one from each set of grandparents. As the day winds down, as her eyes are getting tired, we’ll say goodbye to the grandparents, read a favorite book or coo over some photos from the day she was born, and end the night with a more subdued rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” than we sang at the start of the day. We’ll tell her once more that we love her more than all the stars in the sky and turn out the light.

When it’s all said and done, will our child have had a happy day?

We believe simplicity is one of the keys to going green successfully, not just because it is easier on the Earth, but also because it can bring great joy into our lives. Joy, in return, means that we’re more likely to repeat our actions, which in the case of simplifying would be a pretty darn good thing. Likewise, when our children take joy in simplicity, guess what they’re more likely to do? … and on and on it goes:

Less stuff, simple choices and people-focused traditions. These are gifts to us all.

Here we are enjoying our daughter’s tea party today.

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August 20, 2008 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

Summer resources

By Lynn

We’re half way through the summer and we hope you’re enjoying your everyday celebrations like picnics, barbecues, family reunions and, if you’re like us, a number of birthdays. Continuing with Corey’s last theme, here are more eco-friendly ideas for enjoying summer.

Recycling when away from home is easy when you provide the container. Check out the cute portable can and bottle bin from recyclingbin.com. It’s perfect for small group picnics where other recycling bins are not available. It folds flat for carrying and, according to the website, is practically indestructible.

Spur of the moment picnics come together easily when you keep everything but the food assembled and ready to go. Keep a basket stocked with utensils (for added fun, try bamboo utensil sets from to-goware.com), cloth napkins (I use washcloths), tin, stainless steel or bamboo plates (for the former, check out camping stores and for the latter, take a look at bambuhome.com), a blanket and DEET-free bug repellant.

Great summer activities for kids that offer painless lessons in green living include making newspaper hats from the traditional triangle to a fun party number, teaching them the traditional Maori stick game from New Zealand, pressing flowers for use on craft projects and spending time outside at night looking at the stars and listening to the sounds of nature.

Stay cool by making quick, healthy homemade ice cream on sticks. Assuming you don’t want to use paper cups that must be tossed after using, you can try making the popsicles in small glasses (make sure the glass is thick enough not to break in the freezer) or purchase silicone molds that can be reused for many summers to come.

July 31, 2008 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Fun in the sun

By Corey

Beyond Independence Day, summertime brings with it numerous reasons to celebrate – some of which may be official (i.e. 4th of July), while others are hush-hush (can you say “sick day?”) – but all of which deserve a consideration of our health and dear planet.

Some of our green tips for celebrating in the summer months are more obvious: use reusable, compostable or recyclable plates and utensils for picnics; consider vacationing closer to home; and always choose certified organic meats for your barbecue – or better yet, go veggie.

But had you thought about the reasons why the one thing all of your outdoor-party guests should be wearing is mineral-based, micronized sunscreen (especially if you just happen to live by coral reefs) and why an ideal birthday gift for your surfer niece, Betty, is an ecologically-sound wetsuit?

Or how about the fact that parking in the shade (while waiting for your boss’s surprise retirement party to begin) will reduce fuel evaporation, or that the EPA recommends that you kindly refrain from tossing the leftover crusts from your son’s sleep-over pizza down the drain for your garbage disposal to chew up?

These hot tips can’t be found at just any old blog!

What ideas do you have for green summertime celebrating? We’d love to hear about them…

July 11, 2008 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

Hooray for the red, white and GREEN!

By Lynn

For many Americans, summer officially begins on the 4th of July with a picnic or barbecue and, of course, fireworks. Here are some reminders to ensure your summer gets off to an eco-friendly start and stays Green, at least until Labor Day!

* Choose a location as close to home as possible for as many of your guests as possible, then encourage them to carpool.
* Because giving back is a part of our definition of living Green, ask guests to bring some canned food that can be donated to a local food bank.
* Use your own dishes, glasses and utensils instead of buying picnicware. But if you must use the disposable kind, choose recycled plastic or items made from bamboo or compostables like corn or sugarcane.
* Purchase organic foods; they’re better for you and the planet.
* Buy as much of your menu as you can locally. If you’re having a potluck, ask guests to do the same. You could even have a little contest with a prize for the most creative dish made from the most locally grown ingredients.
* Set up clearly marked recycling bins for all leftovers. Encourage kids to collect trash and dispose of it properly. If you or someone you know composts, be sure to have a bin to collect appropriate food scraps.
* Most everyone loves the smoky flavor of barbecue, but burning wood or charcoal releases greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide, soot and particulate matter. Gas grills are less harmful to the environment, but run on a non-renewable resource. How about making or purchasing a solar or hybrid oven and add the barbecue flavor with sauces? Directions for making solar grills can be found online and cost almost nothing. Making them could be a fun holiday activity for a crowd.
* If bugs are bugging you, try all-natural bug sprays and traps like those offered by Planet Natural.
* Choose décor that comes from (and can be returned to) nature, such as vases of red, white and blue flowers or edible centerpieces made from red and blue berries.

Fireworks, unfortunately, are an eco-problem. Colorful overhead displays are fueled by a mix of toxic chemicals that fall into the water and onto the land as well as on the people watching. In addition, most fireworks come from China, a source of child labor issues. Maybe next year, you’ll be able to convince your town to replace fireworks with a laser light show, but in the meantime, follow these tips:

* Avoid sitting right under where fireworks are exploding or downwind from them, especially if you have breathing problems. In fact, anyone with chronic lung problems such as asthma should probably watch fireworks from inside.
* Purchase and use ear plugs.
* If residue from fireworks lands on your property, pick up and dispose of it properly.

July 2, 2008 at 5:12 pm 1 comment

A simple celebration to welcome summer

By Corey

Here in the Pacific Northwest, our spring was unusually gloomy. This might have been tolerable had it not been for the awfully gloomy winter and utterly gloomy fall. We’ve been living in grey for a solid nine months.

To celebrate the arrival of summer (and to conjure the rainbow of color sunshine brings), my daughters, seven of their friends (and friends’ moms), and I had a silk dyeing party.

Here is what we used:

  • Plain 100% silks in various sizes from Dharma Trading Company
  • White vinegar
  • Kool Aid in a variety of flavors

Here is how we did it:

  1. Soak silks in hot water for 20-30 minutes
  2. Fill large pots (non-aluminum or non-cast iron) about 3/4 full and heat to just under a boil
  3. Add 1-3 cups of white vinegar and a few packets of Kool Aid (of the same color)
  4. Stir until Kool Aid is dissolved
  5. Remove 1-4 silks from hot water, squeeze out and stir into dye
  6. Simmer for 20-45 minutes, until dye is absorbed into silks, stir often
  7. Let cool a bit and remove (carefully) with tongs
  8. Hang outside from clothesline or tree-limbs, let dry in the breeze
  9. Use silks for dancing, dressing up, imagination play, wrapping gifts, or anything else your heart desires.

The event was such a hit with kids and moms alike that we’ve already committed to making this an annual end of spring tradition. However next year we’ll dump the Kool Aid and try beets, marigold, coffee and other of-the-Earth-dyes…

Happy, Happy SUMMER!

June 23, 2008 at 4:46 am Leave a comment

Green gifts for grads

It’s that time of year again when – from coast to coast – gowns are donned, Pomp and Circumstance plays, and flocks of caps soar triumphantly into the air.

Whether buying gifts for someone completing high school, trade, college or graduate school, giving green lets grads know that you care about them and the future they’ve worked so hard to prepare for.

Here are a few of our suggestions for great green gifts for grads:

June 14, 2008 at 3:24 am Leave a comment

Meaningful green for Father’s Day

by Corey

For Father’s Day 1981, my little brother, Chip, constructed a poster-sized collage from old pictures that were not good enough to save in albums but were too precious to be thrown away. The gift was not only imaginative, it was expertly crafted, depicting dozens of images of my dad – camping, coaching, eating, getting married, singing, laughing – all giving the viewer the undisputable notion that my dad was the greatest guy on Earth, which of course, he was. I remember my father beaming with joy when he saw what my brother made for him and (to be honest) I felt a little jealous that my gift – a mini potted saguaro cactus with sunglasses and a sign that read, “cool dad” was, well, not as cool.

 

Chip and I had plenty to be competitive about, so the points Chip earned that Father’s Day were soon forgotten until one day in 2005, when that photo collage reappeared while helping my parents unpack form a recent move. Okay, not a problem, I thought, my cool cactus must be around here somewhere…

 

Had I not since become a parent myself, I might have taken my MIA cactus as a sign that my dad did indeed love Chip more than me. But since I knew this couldn’t possibly be true (my dad did always call me his “favorite daughter” – although come to think of it, I’m his only daughter), I deduced that the photo collage was saved all these years because it was special. Thoughtful. Meaningful. Okay, much cooler than a cactus.

 

The moral of this story?

 

If you think Dad’s dream Father’s Day gifts include golf outings, barbeque gear and flat screen TVs, you might be right, but what might be even more cherished (and surprise, surprise less impactful on the planet) are gifts that show Dad just how much he is loved.

 

Gifts that don’t cost a dime (or the Earth) but will mean the world to Dad:

  • Art sculptures inspired by Dad, made only from items in nature.
  • Write and recite a humorous (or not) ode to dad
  • Breakfast in bed using only foods that are Dad’s favorite color.
  • Take Dad on a Geocaching or Letterboxing hike or camping trip. Or plan your own, smaller scale treasure hunt for little gifts, or even memories, “Dad-gratitudes” or similar on slips of paper.
  • Bake an organic, cake sized cookie, made by you (and/ or your kids) and use homemade frosting to write a pro-Dad message.
  • Get an autograph from one of Dad’s favorite athletes, authors, artists, politicians, etc.
  • What does dad need? Lawn mowed, garage organized, gutters cleaned?
  • Write down 10 great day-trips on slips of recycled paper, place in a bowl and have dad choose. Have your bags and a lunch pre-packed.
  • Photo video of the kids at different locations, holding signs that tell one reason why they love their dad.
  • Decorate dad’s chair and let him be “king for a day.” (Don’t forget to call him “Your Highness”.)
  • Get hold of dad’s calendar (whether paper or PDA) and write a loving message one day a month for the rest of the year.
  • Make him a pillow out of old neckties, a meaningful t-shirt or other piece of favorite, but no-longer-worn, clothing. (Avoid buying new pillow forms. Either recycle one you have or use other fabric for stuffing.)
  • Borrow one of dad’s favorite movies from the library and turn Father’s Day evening into a movie night
  • Make him a sign for his office or workspace that says something fun like, “Best dad in the world at work.”
  • If he likes to barbecue, convert and old shirt into an apron (this one in the link could simply be made shorter for a man) and if you like, paint on a saying like, “King of the grill.”
  • Create a photo collage that dad can use as “wallpaper” on his computer.
  • Decorate a glass jar or tin can, then come up with some jokes or loving phrases about your Dad. Write these on strips of recycled paper and put them in the jar that he can remove when he needs to be reminded of how much you think of him.

June 2, 2008 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

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