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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Planet-friendly Parties

Green Goes Simple

By Elizabeth Barker for Green Goes Simple

By making a few easy changes to your party-planning strategy, you can cut back on waste, reduce your use of natural resources and even slash your spending budget. Here, Green Chic author Christie Matheson serves up eight tips for eco-fabulous entertaining:

1. Ditch the disposable goods and use your own tableware. Not enough to go around? Consider renting what you need or borrowing from a friend. You can also check your local chapter of Freecycle.org, an online community where members give away used household items.

2. Hold off on shopping for new serving platters, punch bowls and cocktail plates. "Before you buy anything for your party, see if you can borrow what you need from friends or unearth any hidden treasures from that box of stuff your grandmother gave you," suggests Matheson. If you do need to hit the store, swing by your favorite thrift shop or purchase new pieces made from sustainable materials (such as recycled glass or reclaimed wood).

3. For decor that's green and gorgeous, brighten your home with fresh flowers. They’re more eco-friendly than decorations you throw out at the end of the party -- plus they’re often cheaper! Pick up some freshly plucked blooms at your local farmers market or simply hit up your backyard.

4. To ease up on your energy use, illuminate nighttime parties with candles. "Candlelight creates great ambiance and makes your guests look good -- and you can keep most of your lights off," says Matheson. When selecting candles, look for lead-free wicks and either soy wax or beeswax (rather than paraffin, which is derived from petroleum, a no-no in the green world).

5. As you're planning your party menu, choose locally grown, in-season veggies and fruits. By getting your ingredients close to home, you cut down on the carbon emissions of carting them from far away -- and when they’re in season, it means less energy’s been expended to keep them fresh.

6. Curb your spending and control waste by changing up your food-serving strategy. "There's no need to have twice as much food as your guests are likely to eat," says Matheson. For dinner parties, she suggests opting for a sit-down meal over the buffet approach. And for cocktail parties, let the event's timing dictate the number of hors d'oeuvres to be served: At early-evening, pre-dinner gatherings, three to five pieces should suffice. But for soirees that take place around dinnertime, you may want to offer anywhere from six to 10 selections.

7. Serve filtered tap water instead of bottled water to go green and save money. "Bottled water is a huge waste of environmental resources," notes Matheson, who recommends hydrating with filtered tap water. Fill up several pitchers and enhance your water's flavor by adding fresh-cut strawberries, oranges, lemons or cucumbers.

8. When it's time to clean up, recycle all bottles and cans and consider composting your leftover food. "It's often tempting to toss everything into the trash when you're tired after a party, so make sure to have your recycling and composting receptacles ready to go," says Matheson.

Elizabeth Barker is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and executive editor of fashion blog NoGoodForMe.com. Her work has appeared in Body + Soul, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Variety and Kiwi.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Quest for Eco-friendly Toys


By Marisa Belger for Green Goes Simple

For the first year and a half of my son’s life, he was content to play with an empty shoe box or a handful of crinkly scraps of wrapping paper.

This didn’t stop me from filling his shelves with a variety of green toys -- that is, toys that are made in a sustainable manner. I’m always in search of the next great multitasking moment, and green toys simultaneously satisfied my desire to protect the planet -- they’re made with natural, recycled or reclaimed materials -- and my child.

Since babies experience things by biting, sucking and drooling on them, I looked for playthings that were made without toxic glues, paints or varnishes and that were composed primarily of natural fibers or wood. It turns out that greener toys also often encourage kids to use their imaginations: Without flashing lights, music and sparkling colors, a little one is left to stretch his creativity.

Green toy companies like Plan Toys (PlanToys.com), MiYim (MiYim.com) and Sprig (SprigToys.com) continue to be at the top of my wish list.

Marisa Belger’s work has appeared in Travel + Leisure Family, Natural Health, Prevention and on the TODAYShow.com. She was a founding editor of Lime.com -- which specialized in wellness and sustainable living -- and she collaborated with author Josh Dorfman on his bestselling books, The Lazy Environmentalist and The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Here's Our 2010 Green Gift Guide Just For You!

Last year, I scoured the internet to find the best green gifts and shared the coolest ones with you!  I've updated the list to include some really cool new finds.  There's something for everyone on this list.  I've included links so that you can buy online (the greener way to go!), so enjoy!
Natural Bamboo Utensil Set

Under $10
  1. Natural Burnished Bamboo Utensil Set (pictured)- a great eco-friendly household gift.      
  2. Natural Handmade Soap - Great to have around the kitchen.  This soap removes offensive odors left behind by onions, fish, garlic, etc. 
  3. Organic Bath Salts in Lavender- A lavish earth-friendly treat.  Lavender is known for its soothing powers. 
  4. All Natural 100% Vegan Soap- This moisturizing soap contains shea butter and coconut oil and comes in delicious scents like lavendar and peach.
  5. Recycled Album Cover Notecards- This is a really unique stocking-stuffer for the music lover in your life.  They have a range of artists- from Stevie Nicks to Marvin Gaye.
  6. Recycled Glass Earrings- You don't have to sacrifice fashion to be eco-friendly. 
  7. More Green Stocking Stuffers from Give a Green Bag!- This site offers a range from biodegradable pens to soy candle.
  8. Fair-trade Divine Cocoa Powder- What better way to enjoy your green Christmas, than with a hot cup of fair-trade cocoa?
  9. African Black Soap (Nirvana by Natalie M.)- A great product that can be used for face, body and hair.  It comes in the following sizes: 8 oz. ($10), 3 oz. travel tube ($8).    
  10. Healthy Hair Butter by Nirvana By Natalie M.
  11. Healthy Hair Butter (Nirvana by Natalie M.)- I've actually used this awesome product!  It contains: shea butter, mango butter, avocado butter, olive butter, jojoba butter, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, olive oil, tea tree oil, lime essential oil and vanilla.              

Under $25
Camelbak Better Bottle
  1. Bamboo Earbuds and iPhone 3G Case- For the green techie in your life.   
  2. Candy Wrapper Coin Pouch (pictured)- For the fashion-conscious diva in your life. I love this one!     
  3. A Cool Way to Drink Water- Literally!
  4. Hand Blown Glass Sets- they even have shot glasses.
  5. Living Green Page-A-Day Calendar 2011- Great stocking stuffers or for co-workers or clients.
  6. Six Pack Tote- a great gift idea for a sports or camping enthusiast. 
  7. Bedol Water Powered Clock- It's not just eco-friendly, but looks great, too.
  8. Calling all chocolate lovers- a decadent treat for yourself or as a gift.
  9. 100% Organic Body Scrub: Coconut- this body treat is 100% organic and 100% vegan.
  10. Plant A Tree In Costa Rica!  A very affordable way to be eco-friendly, one tree at a time.  There are also several other ways to contribute that are under $25.00.  It's also tax deductible! 
Under $55
Eco-Me 100% Natural Dog Kit
  1. Coolest (or Hottest, whichever you prefer) Lunch Bag Ever- You'll be the envy of all the brown baggers at the office.
  2. Bamboo Towel Set- These are sooo much better than cotton.  I'd love to have a set of these (hint, hint)
  3. Set of Tumblers- made from recycled glass.
  4. Doggie Stuff- Don't forget about your best buddy.  Buy this kit and learn how to make eco-friendly products for your dog.    
  5. Amazing T-shirts- buy one of these funky T's and 50% of your purchase goes directly to help people in need around the world.
  6. Give an experience!  Do you need a gift idea for someone who has everything?  Give them a gift they won't forget- an experience.  Choose from white water rafting to climbing.  There's something for everyone.
  7. Give them a gift that will save them money for years to come!  This gadget eliminates the usage of standby power and lowers your power bill.
  8. Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker- Brews coffee with cold water to reduce the acid in coffee by 69.6%, using no heat or electricity in the process.
  9. Water-Powered Alarm Clock- Keep toxic batteries out of landfills by using this alarm clock powered by H2O.
  10. Wind N' Go Freedom Shaver- This razor doesn't require any batteries or electricity!
Just For the Kids:

Under $10
  1. Reusable bags by Envirosax Kids series (pictured on the right) - These are so adorable!   
  2. Eco-Dough is a green alternative to Play Doh.  It comes in many different forms, sizes as well as, scented and unscented.  It's made with plant, fruit and veggie extracts.         

    eco-dough® http://shop.ecokidsusa.com

  3. Soy Crayon Rocks- Made from renewable soybeans grown in the U.S. and get their pigment from natural mineral powders.
  4. Maple Landmark Mini Disk Rattle- This rattle will be safe in little hands and mouths.  It has a non-toxic color finish and is made of sustainably harvested local hardwoods.
  5. Recycled Plastic Jump Rope- The handles are made from 100% recycled milk jugs and are phthalate- and BPA-free; rope is made from 100% cotton. Made in the U.S.A.

Under $25
Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel
Sippy Cup
  1. Get rid of that plastic sippy cup with Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Sippy Cups (pictured at right)!    
  2. ImagiPLAY Rhino Puzzle is made using plantation-grown rubberwood, which is an environmentally-friendly hardwood.
  3. ImagiPLAY Weeping Williow Wood Puzzle- ImagiPlay visits every factory to make sure that workers are paid a fair living wage and there is no child labor.  Great company!
  4. Green Toys Fire Truck- made from recycled milk jugs!  Safe plastic (no BPA, phthalates, or lead).
  5. MiYim Organic Baby Victoria- This cute, pink bunny is made from 100% unbleached organic cotton, inside and out.
  6. Green Toys Building Blocks- These colorful blocks are made of recycled milk jugs.
  7. Sprig Toys Eco Shake N' Stack- Develop your baby's motor skills with the worry of their safety (these are paint- and phthalate-free).
  8. Green Toys Tea Set- This set is made from recycled plastic milk containers.
  9. Green Toys Tool Set- Cute tool set is made from 100% post-consumer recycled milk jugs.
  10. Number Snail- Colorful, wooden puzzle.

Under $55                                                                                                         

  1. Need to store all of those toys?  Try one of these organic cotton storage bins (pictured).  They come in cool styles, e.g., blue elephant, hippo, monkey, owl and pink elephant.
  2.  Global Green Pals Organic Dolls- These dolls are 100% Oeko-Tex certified organic dolls that are stuffed with 100% post-consumer recycled plastic PET bottles.  
  3.  Sprig Toys Dino Adventure- These are a parent's dream: safe, durable and battery-free!   
  4.  Uncle Goose Groovie Math Blocks- Kids can have fun while learning with these colorful blocks made with non-toxic, child-safe inks.    
  5. Indoor Portable Playhouse- Playhouse is light and easy to assemble.   
    Sprig Toys Dino Adventure

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dreaming Of A Green Christmas: Save More Green $ This Holiday Season

'Tis the season for spending!  Most of  us buy, buy, buy during this time of the year.  I'm challenging you to reduce, reuse and of course, recycle this holiday season.  In doing so, you'll not only have a sustainable Christmas, but you'll save money, too!
So, how do I have a "Green" Christmas?  Check out these green holiday tips below:

  1. Christmas Tree- Approximately 35 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States and Canada every year.  Wouldn't it be great if everyone recycled their live tree?  Check Earth911.com for your local resource.
  2. Cardboard boxes- Corrugated cardboard is used for packaging, shipping and most popularly, pizza!  Cardboard is naturally biodegradable, but also easily recycled.  Before you recycle cardboard, make sure it's not wet or soiled by food or oil.  In other words, you may be able to recycle the tops of your pizza boxes, but not the greasy bottom part.
  3. Gift Bags- You'll especially want to recycle the ones that get torn (as long as they don't contain foil, they should be accepted by your local recycling center, but you should check to be sure).  Otherwise, you reuse them!           
  4. Gifts- Let's face it, we can't always use (or like) the gifts that we receive.  Instead of shoving these unwanted items to the back of your closet, you can either re-gift (be sure that you don't re-gift to the original giver) or donate these items to someone who can use them.
Gratitude Gift Bags- www.gratitudegiftbags.com
  1. Gift boxes- Most gift boxes are made of paperboard, which is a thick, paper-like material that's often used to make cereal boxes.  It's easily recycled and accepted by most curbside recycling programs. 
  2. Gift bags- I love pretty gift bags, but they can be costly (some are over $10/ per bag)!  I save them and reuse them from year-to-year, this can save $100 or more.  
  3. Bows, ribbon and tissue paper- Tissue paper can be folded neatly and placed in saved gift bags or boxes for the next usage.  Bows should be placed in a box to prevent them from being smashed.  Ribbon can be wrapped around the cardboard toilet paper rolls, to prevent them from becoming a tangled mess.
  4. Wrapping Paper- Wrapping paper that doesn't get ripped off by excited kids can be folded and saved for the next season.  Considering the fact that most gifts are for the young (or young-at-heart), you may consider foregoing traditional wrapping paper altogether and reusing newspaper (try the comics section for the kiddies).  You can also use old wallpaper scraps.
  5. Ornaments- I know someone (who will remain unnamed....okay it was me) who used to have a different color scheme each year for her Christmas decorations.  One year, everything was silver, blue and white.  Another year, red and gold and so on.  Instead of going out and purchasing these different items from year-to-year, I decided to solicit the things I needed from relatives, friends and the thrift store.  I also keep the special ones, i.e., ones made by my children, for reuse every year. Also, you can list wanted items on a great (FREE) resource called Freecycle.  Join your local group today!
  6. Toys- Big-ticket items like riding toys (think Barbie Jeeps for girls and Tonka Trucks for boys) that are quickly outgrown, can cost as much as $300.00!  These items can often be found at your local thrift stores and consignment shops.
  7. Packing materials- Reuse packing materials for those gifts that have to be shipped.  UPS has a recycling program for packing peanuts, etc.  Visit their site for more information: http://www.ups.com/.

Energy consumption by:                 
    1. Upgrading to LED Christmas Lights.  Did you know that traditional Christmas lights can add over $50.00 to your monthly electric bill?
    2. Don't forget to turn your thermostat down when you're away from home.
    3. Turning off all lights, computers, other unneeded appliances when you're away from home, as well.
    4. When doing your Christmas cooking, make use of residual heat from your oven by cooking items back-to-back.  You can also bake a couple of items at a time to conserve energy.
    5. Make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded each time you use it.
Waste by:
    1. Send post card greetings instead of greeting cards and save lots of paper and postage, too.
    2. Buying locally-made, fair-trade or organic products can make one-of-a-kind gifts that will more than likely not require as much packaging for shipping.
    3. Try to use as many reusable (not disposable) dishes, as possible for holiday parties and gatherings.  If you need disposable items, you can purchase biodegradable ones. Styrofoam is the WORST thing you buy, as it's not biodegradable at all and sits in landfills for hundreds of years.
    4. Eliminate waste caused by wrapping paper by using fabric reusable gift bags.  Gratitude Gift Bags has some amazing ones!
I'm sure there are more really cool green holiday ideas out there, so please share yours by leaving a comment!  Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dreaming Of A Green Christmas? 8 Ways To Green Your Holidays

      1. Make your Christmas tree green!  The easiest and most eco-sound way to decorate your home for Christmas is to buy a living tree.  Once Christmas is over, you can either replant the tree, or recycle it.  Check Earth911.com for your local resource.
      2. Recycle your wrapping paper, cards, envelopes and boxes.  While wrapping paper that contains foil cannot be recycled, you can reuse wrapping paper from year to year if care is taken to neatly fold and store it until the following year.  You can also compost it, crumple it and use it in lieu of tissue paper.
      3. Switch to LED Christmas lights. Most of us know how super-efficient LED lights are, so why not use them for the holidays?  LED Christmas lights use up to 90% less energy than traditional lights.  That more than makes up for the initial additional cost!
      4.  Make or buy recycled ornaments.  Up through the mid-1800’s, almost all Christmas ornaments were handmade.  Families would make ornaments from pine cones, pieces of cloth, fruit and berries and pieces of wood.  Start a new tradition by making these types of ornaments together, or buy ornaments made from recycled materials which are sold at: Amazon.com, Greatgreengoods.com, and other online retailers.
      5. Give an experience.  Instead of giving a wrapped gift, give the gift of an experience, such as a gift certificate for services at a local spa, restaurant, golf course, etc. Cloud9 Living offers a wide variety of experiences, including sky diving!
      6. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle.  Tons of drinks are consumed during the holidays.  It’s a great opportunity to recycle glass, cans and plastic bottles. Also, check with your local recycling center to see if glass ornaments are accepted.
      7. Donate old and unwanted toys, clothes and gifts.  Start the new year off right- out with the old (and unwanted) and in with the new!  Dozens of local charities will be happy to accept your castoffs.  As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
      8. Recycle your packing peanuts.  Did you really take advantage of Cyber Monday?  If so, you’ll have tons of packing peanuts, and other shipping materials on-hand.  Most UPS Stores accept clean foam packing peanuts of all sizes, shapes and colors for reuse.  For more info, visit: www.ups.com.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shop At Payless? You Can Help Plant 1 Billion Trees!

'Tis the season for giving!  Most of us would be willing to part with two dollars for a good cause, especially if we got a little something in return.  When you purchase this cute, yellow and silver reusable tote for only $1.99, Payless will contribute $1.00 to The Nature Conservancy's Plant A Billion Trees Campaign.  Payless will give $1.00 for every tote sold between 1/1/10 and 12/31/10, so you still have time.  For 2010, Payless will make a minimum contribution of at least $100,000.00!
If you'd like to learn more about the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign, visit The Nature Conservancy's www.plantabillion.org.
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