Green Living, Holidays

O (Environmentally Friendly) Christmas Tree

Your Christmas tree is the focal point for making your holiday special. Decorating the tree is a cherished family tradition in many homes, even if the kids do argue over who gets to put the star on top of the tree this year. Unfortunately, it can also be a big part of your Christmas carbon footprint! Here are a few tips for making sure you choose the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree available.

Artificial Christmas trees aren’t the most environmentally friendly Christmas choice, due to the petroleum energy that goes into making them and the plastic materials they use. However, if you choose wisely, an artificial tree can be something you’ll use for years and years to come – reducing the impact it will have.

If you choose to go the artificial route then make sure you buy a quality tree that will last. You’ll also need to have a place to store it in between Christmases. If you really want to reduce the impact your tree has, try finding a second-hand reusable artificial tree for sale. Goodwill, the Salvation Army and many thrift stores might have one this time of year from people who are upgrading.

Cut trees are still a favorite choice for many people. Picking your own tree is always fun and, once you have it at home, it’ll give off a wonderful smell! Not to mention the fact that you can choose the exact kind of tree you want. Norway Spruce is a favorite, but my personal favorite is Balsam. Here in Maine, we have some on our property and I love the smell.

Unfortunately, cut trees aren’t always a great choice for the environment. Cut trees cannot be used year after year, and they will eventually start to die and drop needles no matter how careful you are to keep the water level up in their stand. However, if you buy your live tree from an organic Christmas tree farm, where they replant a tree for every one they cut down, you’re getting the best of both worlds. And if you recycle your tree, it’s even better. Many towns and cities offer this option. We live in a rural area, so our tree becomes part of a brush pile we’ve established for animal and bird shelter. If you still want to buy a cut Christmas tree then you can at least reduce the negative impact it has by recycling it once the holidays are finished. For example, you could use the tree for projects in your home that require wood, or you can turn the tree into mulch using a local Christmas tree recycling service.

A far more environmentally friendly Christmas tree choice would be to choose live trees that can be planted outside once the holidays are over. This is far less wasteful than buying a cut tree, as it keeps on growing even after the holidays. There are some drawbacks, though, such as the fact that you’ll need to hide the roots in a suitable container while you’ve got it inside, and it’ll cost more. You have to live in a climate where you can still plant a tree in December, and you’ll have to be careful that your home isn’t too warm for the tree to live healthily!

Choosing an environmentally friendly Christmas tree really is a big decision, and will take some advanced thought. Weigh up the pros and cons and do the best you can in your situation to help minimize the environmental impact of the tree you choose. Then, relax and enjoy the holiday. What you do the other 364 days of the year to help the environment has a bigger effect on our world than what kind of Christmas tree you choose. Reduce, reuse, recycle and enjoy Christmas and every day of the year.

Author: Brittany Wilson. If you are struggling to find the best Christmas present for your boyfriend’s parents, I am here to help! I am determined to gather the most affordable options for you! You can find the amazing Christmas gifts ideas on the www.whattogetboyfriendsparentsforchristmas.com website! But this is not all. You can find useful tips to integrate your boyfriend in your family as well. We all know relationships are challenging, and in times like Christmas, it should all be about happiness. That is why we will share our best site with you and guide you toward a magical holiday!

activism, Eco-Conscious, Green Living, In the News

Fishy, Froggy and Frightening

I just read a brochure outlining Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish and Shellfish in Maine. It’s put out by the state of Maine, where sport fishing is a big part of the economy. In it, Maine environmental officials urge that pregnant women and children under 8 limit their intake of some fish to two meals a month.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a warning like that, it doesn’t make me run right over to the calendar and circle the two days I’m going to put PCB‘s, Dioxin, Mercury and DDT on the dinner table.

Nope, freshwater fish caught in Maine have been off our menu for years. Ditto for fish caught offshore near the estuaries where toxins accumulate in shellfish, lobsters and fish.  We do eat wild-caught salmon, chunk light tuna on occasion and shellfish from unpolluted waters.

You might want to check your state’s advisories on fish and anything else you might eat that comes from fresh or saltwater. Also, none of these advisories take into account any of the other toxins our bodies imbibe from water, air and food. This stuff is cumulative and also most likely has a synergistic effect when combined.

And while we’re floundering around in murky waters, let’s not forget to help out our froggy little friends who are sinking fast. Fish and shellfish aren’t the only species that are facing extinction. Take a minute and hop over to Save the Frogs where you can learn more about why we can’t wait to do something about the threat that hangs over the future of whole species of frogs and toads.

Kids will like Cool Facts About Frogs and you can print out posters, donate to the non-profit organization or surf the links to other amphibian resources. Or just revel in the many beautiful pictures of these amazing little creatures and find out what a Caecilian is when it’s at home. Hey, my spell-check dictionary didn’t know what it was, do you?

Authors Bio: Patricia from Stephaniereinhardt.com. Bornand raised in the Saginaw Bay Region of Michigan, I have always been the generally curious sort (sometimes too curious – sorry Mom and Dad!). When applying for jobs in high school, I begged my parents not to make me turn in any more applications until I’d heard back from the public library about a page position. Fortunately they called me back, and it set me upon the path toward librarianship…

Green Living

How Natural Is That Natural Fiber?

My daughter needed a sheet set for her new full size bed, so off we went to one of those linen stores where aisles full of sheets in all sorts of fibers quickly had us totally confused. She’s ten, so the main thing she cared about was getting the color she wanted in her bedding – something that would match her new Pink Webkinz frog. I’m a little older and wiser, so I was concerned with getting sheets that didn’t contain toxic chemicals.

I was delighted to find some very pretty pink Modal sheets with a tag that assured us that they were made from beech trees from sustainable tree farms where no pesticides or toxic chemicals were used. They were wonderfully soft and silky and my daughter fell in love with them, so we took them home, washed them and put them on her bed.

I was so happy with our purchase that I told a friend about it and she asked me if I’d looked up Modal fiber on the net or done any research on it. I was ashamed to admit that I hadn’t. (Sheesh! I do research for a living.) I was even more ashamed to admit that I’d trusted a tag on a sheet, rather than doing my own investigating.

So I looked up Modal and found that it isn’t quite as innocent and natural as the tag implies. Yes, the beech trees are raised without pesticides or other synthetic chemicals if the Modal comes from the EU. (Ours did.) But the manufacturing process includes using caustic chemicals to break down the fibers, similar to the way rayon, another “natural” but not organic fiber, is made. True, there were probably no residues in the sheets, but there was also no assurance that they hadn’t been dyed with harsh, synthetic dyes either.

Some Modal is dyed with non-toxic dye and some isn’t. As a skeptic, I tend to think that if it doesn’t say non-toxic dyes, it probably was dyed with synthetic ones. Unfortunately, our sheets didn’t say they’d been dyed with non-toxic dyes, so I’m just hoping that whatever dyes they used don’t leach out of it over time. Obviously, I have some more investigating to do, although the sheets are on the bed. They were very expensive and I’m convinced that they have to be healthier than non-organic cotton or polyester.

All this research led me to wonder about other so-called natural fibers like bamboo, hemp and Tencel, which is made by the same company that makes Modal. From what I can glean from the Net, unless the garment is certified organic, there’s no guarantee that it’s any more natural than any other fiber that is produced through a chemical process that uses chemicals – usually caustic chemicals – to break down the fiber into a pulp that is then spun into threads. The company that makes both Modal and Tencel touts its award-winning manufacturing process which – in the case of Tencel – recovers 99.5% of the solvent, but then where does the other .5 percent go? Into the fibers?

I understand that there are two types of bamboo fabric and fibers – one that is made from whole bamboo that is spun into fibers and one that is processed into pulp first. The former is considered more natural than the latter. Tencel is reputed to be made with fewer chemicals than Modal, but still uses a solvent in the pulping process. Hemp, cotton and bamboo are only really “natural” when they’re certified organic and untreated with formaldehyde or flame retardant or any other VOC.

It’s a case of “caveat emptor” but when hasn’t the buyer had to beware of misleading claims. All I know is that I’m going to be much more careful from now on when I’m choosing fabrics for clothes or bedding. If it’s not organic, I’ll assume that it has something in it that I don’t want next to my skin or on my family’s beds. Hmm, sounds like I’m going to be waiting for sales to be able to afford any future natural fibers, because organic garments and bedding are really pricey, and now I have a better idea of why they cost so much.

Green Living, Holidays

Tis the Season For Giving – Got 15 Minutes?

The holiday season reminds us of how much we have. Even if we don’t live in a mansion or own a Mercedes, most of us are rich in material goods compared to many other people. My elderly house, which looks kind of like a summer camp on steroids because people kept adding on to its three rooms until there were nine, none of them with a square line to its name, isn’t fancy, but it keeps out the weather. It’s warm, in season, has a fridge full of food, hot and cold running water and acres of private land around it, although we share it with hunters, hikers and fisher folk. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy daughter, a son who is launched on his own path but still stays in touch and a husband who has a job and a sense of humor. Maybe that’s why, even though I don’t celebrate a traditional Christmas, I do a lot of the things that people who DO celebrate Christmas do at this time of year.

One of the things I find myself doing more during this season is giving and thinking about giving. It’s easy to forget how many people you can help by just giving away a little bit of time. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our busy lives that we feel as if there’s just not another hour in the day to do something to make a difference in someone else’s life and that’s just not true. What if we all set aside just fifteen minutes a day to do something for someone else? What could we do?

Well, one thing anyone can do is knit for charity. Small woolen socks that a little boy or girl will wear in a cold orphanage where a pair of warm socks might be the only warmth they feel some days. A pretty hat, a shawl for an elder on a reservation or even a very small shroud for the grieving parents of a baby who was lost at birth or very young. Small gestures, but if you think back to times when you were really cold or really sad, I’m sure you’ll remember some little comfort – maybe a hot cup of tea or a blanket tucked in around you – that warmed you and let you know that someone cared.

If you knit or crochet or sew, there are many, organizations that could use your talents. Some of them will even provide the materials and instructions. Some of them are local – maybe a hospital or nursing home or shelter near you. Some of them are international. Here are links to some of them, but you can find more on the Net by searching on “charity” and your hobby of choice – knitting, crochet, sewing, and probably other crafts or hobbies that I haven’t thought of.

If you know of other charity craft organizations, send them along or put them in a comment and I’ll add them to my list of links. And, speaking of things you can do in 15 minutes, I need to go make a loaf of bread and some yogurt for tomorrow. Next time I have an extra fifteen minutes, I’ll post the recipes for how to do that, and you don’t even need a bread-maker or a yogurt maker.

AuthorsJenny Pullen from Articlehack.com

Green Living

Detox Tips for Xenoestrogen Overload

Xenoestrogens are so pervasive in our world, that no one can avoid them. So, how can you detoxify your body and eliminate them as much as possible? Luckily, there are many natural xenoextstrogen detoxifiers to add to our diet or supplements.

Phytoestrogens are probably at the top of the list. Why would you want to put MORE estrogen into your body, you ask? It’s because phytoestrogens, found in plants, bind to the receptors that xenoestrogens bind to and keep them from accumulating in your body.

These weak estrogens, found in beans, leafy green vegetables and oils, are a very good way to detoxify and remove xenoestrogens naturally. Another good detoxifier and cancer preventive is Indole 3-Carbinol found in cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage and broccoli.

You can find Indole 3-Carbinol in capsules, but getting it from vegetables also gives you the rest of the plant’s nutrition. It helps your liver remove xenoestrogens and also provides vitamins and minerals that enhance your body’s immune system.

One thing that may NOT be good for reducing xenoestrogens is coffee. Some studies show that caffeine boosts estrogen levels at more than a single cup a day. Of course, there are many more foods and drinks that contain caffeine, so it would be wise to be aware of this when choosing beverages and meals.

By choosing natural foods and personal care products and avoiding plastics, it’s possible to cut way down on the xenoestrogens that enter your body, but you can’t eliminate them entirely. To avoid the weight gain and health risks they pose, use the tips in this article to detox naturally.

Green Living, Recipes

Fall is For the Birds

This beautiful blue jay joined us for breakfast this morning. We had pumpkin cranberry muffins (recipe follows). Blue Jay had our home made wild bird treat of suet studded with peanuts, cranberries, raisins and millet. We buy the suet very cheaply throughout the year. Then we mash the additions into it with a potato masher or a meat pounder. If you put several pieces of suet together and add the additions as you go, you can get them to stick in between the sections so that they’re all through the suet. Before we freeze it, we shape it to fit our wire suet cages and wrap it individually.

Besides blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, woodpeckers and even grackles visit our suet. We also put out sunflower seeds and mixed seed as soon as the first frost kills the vegetation under the feeders, where the cats hide. It just wouldn’t be fair to invite our feathered friends to a buffet where their worst enemy had a seat at the table. We also clear out an area around the feeders so that the seed that falls will be accessible to the groundfeeders. Mourning doves, sparrows, siskins and an occasional wild turkey appreciate this.

We live in a very rural area of Maine and there’s a swamp on our property, so it’s very good habitat for many species of birds. We hear owls calling at night, watch ospreys and eagles have aerial “dogfights” and, once in a while, have to rush out to chase a shrike away from the feeders or warn the songbirds that the peregrine falcon is sitting on the telephone pole, looking at the menu.

Here’s something you can put on your menu this fall. Make them while fresh cranberries and pumpkins are available, but if you can only get canned pumpkin, it’ll work just as well.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Two cups flour (white whole wheat flour works well)

1/2 cup Sugar

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 to 1 Tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 cup oil, melted butter or applesauce (I use half oil, half applesauce)

1 Egg

3/4 to 1 Cup Milk (Soymilk or water may be substituted)

1 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin

1/2 cup chopped cranberries

Put dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl and mix well.

Put oil, egg, milk or water and pumpkin puree into smaller bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add, all at once, to dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. When almost mixed, add cranberries and fold in. Fill muffins cups 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, if they last that long.

Green Living, Holidays, Recipes

5 Ways To De-Stress Your Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least here in Maine. Snow is falling on the pines. The chickadees are flocking to the suet and sunflower seeds. Shoppers are mobbing the mall, although I’m not sure where they’re getting the money to shop this year, which leads me to the subject of why this season can be stressful and what you can do about it.

  • First of all, take a few deep breaths and think about what YOU want this time of year to be like. Never mind what your family, your friends, you Facebook friends and your Twitter tweeps think Christmas and the holiday season should be. What do YOU want and expect this season? I think that one of the biggest sources of stress, this time of year, is when our wants and expectations don’t match up with the reality of the season. No matter how old we get, we’re still that three year old who really expects a pony under the tree on Christmas morning. And when we get a sweater instead, we’re seriously disappointed, even if Aunt Joyce DID knit it with her own two loving hands. It’s not a pony and we wanted a pony and not getting what we want just doesn’t cut it at Christmas, does it? And that applies to 3 year olds all the way up to 83 year olds and beyond.

 

  • The second source of stress is that we try to do too much at Christmas. We over-shop, over-bake, over-buy and wear ourselves to a frazzle, until we’re complaining about all we have to do and feeling pressured to do more. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your holidays as simple as you can and leave plenty of time for unplanned changes, both good and bad. It’s the time of year when people get colds and flu, oftentimes right before a school concert or a family get-together. If you expect this and have an alternate plan for these kind of speed bumps, it will be a lot easier to cope with them, instead of making it up as you go along or taking a sick kid to a social gathering where he – and the people around him – will be uncomfortable every time he coughs. (Natural Care for Colds and Flu – a free guide can help with those nasty bugs too.)

 

  • Enjoy old traditions, but make new ones too. It’s wonderful to have family traditions and the holidays are a time when we unpack the old ornaments, catch up with old friends and bake our old favorite cookies. It helps families bond and it reassures us that – even though it seems as if everything changes – some things stay dependably the same. Just don’t forget to leave yourself open to starting a new tradition, which is how all the old traditions started, after all.

 

  • Make it easy on yourself by letting some things slide. Do you really have to clean your house completely because you’re having company? They’ll be focused on the friends, the food and the Christmas decorations, not the dust bunnies under the beds. Just organize the clutter a little and don’t apologize for disorder, because that just draws attention to it. Tell yourself that you’re just into relaxed housekeeping and leave it at that while you enjoy your guests and your family.

 

  • Balance the extra baking you’ll be doing with easy meals that can make themselves or make-ahead meals that can be frozen for future use. I’ve finally started to organize my recipes on Lill’s List and will be adding to them on a regular basis, so try one out in your crock pot and don’t forget the easy no-bake cookie recipe. The delicious, fruity little round cookies keep for up to two months in the freezer, so you’ll never be caught without goodies for drop-in company.

Most of all, remember to savor the season, slowly and comfortably, at your own pace. Instead of dashing through the snow, 24/7, take some time to sit by the fire and sip a cup of hot chocolate from time to time.