Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009.....

2009 is quickly coming to a close and it's time to decide on your resolutions for the new year.... right?
How about making a resolution to make a slightly smaller impact on our Earth... whether it is driving your car one less day a week, buying less plastic, or building a compost bin. Make sure that your resolutions are not so grandiose that you will get frustrated and give up by the end of January, but also make sure that they are challenging enough that you are aware of the difference you are making.
And, today, make sure to look back and smile upon your fond memories of 2009 and be excited to begin a new year of growth, happiness, and adventure. Pin It Now!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all you moms and dads out there a holiday filled with peace, joy, and hopefully some relaxation!
(Picture courtesy of my awesome mom!) Pin It Now!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

DIY Snow Globes!

This is a great craft for kids old enough to use a hot glue gun (with adult assistance of course!) and would make a great present from the little ones!

What You Need:
- an empty baby food jar or other jar with tight fittinglid
- something waterproof to put in your jar (I chose a plastic christmas tree that had broken off an ornament, and a plastic dinosaur that had part of it's tail and a leg broken off)
- florists clay (I didn't use this, but it would have made the globe 10 times better)
- glitter
- water
- hot glue gun with glue

To Make Your Snow Globe:
- Make sure your jar is clean and the lid is dry. Use the clay to make a base on the inside of the lid for your object to stick to (and to raise it up into view). I did NOT use clay, and my object is not as visible and not as sturdy!
- Use the clay to attach your object to the inside of the lid
- Fill the jar almost to the top with cold water (warm water can cloud!)
- Put in about 1/2 tsp of glitter (more or less depending on your jar size.... but don't put too much or you will ruin the effect!)
- Place the object (upside down) into the jar and screw the lid on
- Seal around the edge of the lid using the hot glue gun.
- Let dry and shake! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reuse that Wrap!

HoHoHo! Don't throw away that gift bag! Save that bow too! My family always save gift bags, bows, ribbon, tissue paper and use them again and again and again. It not only keeps waste out of landfills and saves trees, but it also save you cold hard cash! If you wrap the majority of your family presents in gift bags, you can buy them once (or save them from gifts you receive) and continue to use them year after year.
Or, if you are even more motivated (and this in on my to-do list, but I havent quite gotten there yet) how about sewing up some gift bags out of fabric? You could use material from clothes you were going to give away, old sheets, or even hit up the fabric store a few days after the holidays and get some great deals on holiday fabric. Then you truly can use those gift bags forever. And, what a great bonus to a holiday gift!
I admit, it is pretty cute to see kids tear into a wrapped present to find out what it is, and gift bags may not be quite as exciting.... so maybe wrap a few of the kids presents in a re-purposed and decorated brown paper bag or in a holiday section of newsprint. Or have a roll of wrapping paper around for a few special presents and make sure it gets recycled after they are opened.
Americans increase their landfill waste by about 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years! Try not to contribute to that statistic! Pin It Now!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Wishing everyone a very happy winter solstice! Starting tomorrow, the days will be getting longer, and there will be more light! The cycle of the seasons is starting anew! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DIY Handmade Rag Dolls

Trying to find something to make for that cute kid on your holiday gift list? How about one of these super cute rag dolls. They are fairly easy to make, although they took a bit longer to make than I had anticipated. To make a doll like this, check out the free pattern at From my own experience, I would advise you to make the arms and legs wider than the pattern, as following the pattern will make for teeny-tiny appendages. However, don't make them too fat or else you will have trouble making the body in the required 'inside-out' fashion (check out the pattern if you have no clue what I am talking about). Also, the head needs way more hair then you think; I have found that the hair moves around easily and exposes the stitching on the top. But, overall this project is easy, inexpensive and the dolls are pretty darn cute! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Carbon Offsets for Christmas?

Did you know that some cities (like Portland and San Francisco) have companies that will rent you live, potted christmas tree for the holiday season. Delivery and pick-up is included, and once your tree is picked up it will be planted and will continue to remove carbon and pollutants from the atmosphere for years to come!
Unfortunately the service is a bit more expensive than buying a cut tree (it is about $80 for tree rental in Portland), but if it fits into your budget, I would say it is a worthy cause. In Portland, check out the Living Christmas Tree website for more information. In other cities, tree doing a google search for "christmas tree rental".
If you don't have an $80 budget for a holiday tree, how about finding a good way to recycle that tree when you are done? Some cities will offer pickup services for a small fee, and then your tree will be chipped and used as mulch. Many non-profits will do the same thing for a $5 or $10 fee, and you are also supporting a good cause. Or, if you have access to a woodchipper, how about chipping that tree to use in your own yard as a winter mulch! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Packaging is essential is today's consumer-driven world, but I think the industry has gone a bit overboard, don't you?Anytime I buy something packaged in hard plastic, I spend the rest of the day trying to open the stupid thing. And then, all that packaging, made from non-renewable fossil fuels, goes right into the trash.
1/3 of the waste in US landfills is packaging waste. In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 Million Tons of packaging... that equates to about 520 pounds per person in just one year! Yikes! Plus, more packaging means higher costs for you- approximately 10% of the cost of an item is due to packaging.
So, what can you do? Here's just a few ideas:
-Buy less! Do you really need it?
-Buy in bulk. Yes, that is completely contradictory to my last suggestion, but if you are going to need a lot of something, like flour, why not buy in bulk and use less resources.
-Buy used items which don't have any additional packaging.
-Choose items with the least packaging possible (hello Trader Joe's produce section... cool it on the plastic, people).
-Save packaging that is reusable (like bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts) and use it again- at least give these items a long life before they hit the landfill. Pin It Now!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Toy Safety for the Holidays

Looking for some great toys for the holiday season? Before you shop, check out Mothering Magazine's website that has links to several articles on the topics of toy safety, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), toxins in toys, as well as where to find safe, natural toys for your children. Now you can shop with peace of mind! Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Become a Locavore!

OK, OK. I know that I am touting the importance of local eating every chance I get, but I thought I would just remind you all once again. EAT LOCAL!
Eating local is good for so many reasons including:
1. keeping money in your own economy
2. eating food that is fresher (because it hasn't been traveling for days) and therefore more packed with nutrients
3. decreasing your carbon footprint by needing less fossil fuels to get your food from the farm to you.
4. keeping tabs on how your food is grown; if you are eating local you can visit the farms and talk to the farmers. Plus, it is much easier to influence your local growers to keep the ideals of the community in mind
5. eating seasonal will make your try new foods, vary your diet throughout the year, and appreciate what your local environment has to offer.

I know that eating local can be tough; sometimes it is more expensive (because it is not mass-produced) and some of us live in climates where we would starve in the winter if we did not eat food from other regions (unless we are very motivated food preservers!).
But, YOU CAN eat local more! Start reading produce labels and packages. If you have a choice between an apple from Washington or New Zealand, is there really even a question there? I would much prefer the apple that has not traveled across the world to get to me. When you have an option, choose the local one. When the item you want (need!), like coffee, cannot be grown in your region, make sure to choose a sustainable grower that supports it local community, and try to use less of the product to compensate for the long distance it has to travel.
Lastly, encourage your local eateries and favorite restaurants to support local foods. A company can make a much larger impact than an individual, so the more businesses that climb aboard the local train, the better off we will be.
To find a list of products grown in your community, as well as farmers markets, CSAs, and more goodies, check out: and Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to be thankful for everything you have, especially your family and your friends! Happy Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turn off that Faucet!

Did you know that approximately 1.1 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water? And we use our pristine groundwater for the inside of our toilet bowls. Make an effort to cut your water usage by taking shorter showers, doing larger (and fewer) loads of laundry and turning off the tap while you brush. Reuse your water. And check out the Water Use It Wisely website for a list of 100+ ways you can conserve water. Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some Words to Ponder.....

"One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards."

- Edward Abbey Pin It Now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Green Your Thanksgiving!

This year, how about trying to give thanks for everything you have, including your Mother Earth? Try to make your thanksgiving meal more sustainable by choosing locally raised turkeys that are free of antibiotics and hormones and by trying to choose foods that are in-season, and grown locally when possible. Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The World According to Monsanto

If you have read my last blog on genetically modified foods (GMOs), you can probably tell that I have pretty strong feelings on the subject. If you have any interest in GMOs, or the future of our food system in the United States, I urge you to watch a film entitled The World According to Monsanto. It discusses the history of the Monsanto company, from the creation of agent orange, to the pollution of drinking water in small towns, and talks quite a bit about GMOs, including rBGH (bovine growth hormone, which is found in many conventional milks on our supermarket shelves). This movie can be hard to get your hands on; netflix does not currently own it, and I have not seen it at any video stores. I have checked it out from my local library, but I did have to wait a few weeks to get my hands on it. One of my students did find a link to watch the video, in sections, online. This movie is worth the watch. I bet after viewing it, you will join my campaign to remove Monsanto from controlling our food!
Watch The World According to Monsanto here! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is REALLY in our food?

Most of you have probably heard the words 'genetically modified food' before, but most of you may not understand the huge impact these plants are going to start having on our lives. Genetically modified foods (GMOs; also referred to as biotech or bioengineered foods) are plants that have actually been genetically altered to posses some trait that they normally would not have. For example, putting the genes from a bacterium into a corn plant to make it resistant to a certain disease or pest, or putting genes from a flounder into a tomato to help it withstand cold temperatures.
GMOs were created for a few reasons, and although the biggest push behind them has likely been money and power, in theory, they do posses some good qualities. Creating foods that are resistant to certain environmental factors (droughts, floods), creating food that contain higher amounts of vitamins (like golden rice which, unlike any other rice, contains vitamin A and can help prevent deficiencies in developing countries), and creating food that have a built-in resistance to pests so that less pesticide needs to be used. However, the evils of these GMOs far outweigh the goods in most scenarios. Let's discuss....
So, as previously mentioned, genetically altered foods have genes from a different organism implanted into them. If any of you have food allergies (like me) you can see what a potential nightmare this could become. For example, what if you are allergic to fish and unknowingly ate the flaversaver tomato (no longer being grown) which had flounder genes implanted into it? That could result in a potentially fatal tomato encounter. Well, you are probably thinking, just don’t buy the genetically modified tomatoes, right? Well, unfortunately, in the US, GMOs are not required to be labeled. That means that any non-organic food item that you buy could be or could contain GMOs. In fact, it is estimated that around 60% of all food in the typical American grocery store has been genetically modified in one way or another! A large part of this results from the fact that much of our corn and soy is genetically modified, and corn and soy are abundantly found in the multitude of processed foods most Americans put into their bodies every day.
Another issue of GMOs is the issue of safety. GMOs are relatively new on the food scene, having come into the mainstream beginning in the 1990s. Manipulative food laws of the FDA called GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) allowed these new food items to come directly onto grocery store shelves with little to no safety testing. So, in essence, neither the government nor you has any idea what these GMOs may start to do to our health over long time frames (although the test that do exist definitely show questionability of the safety of GMOs.)
So now that we know that GMOs could pose some serious health threats, what about the environment? Glad you asked. GMOs can affect populations of beneficial insects by killing these insects when they land on plants that have been genetically altered to kill pests. These also exists the potential for the creation of superweeds. Superweeds are weeds that have genetically crossed with crops genetically modified to be immune to herbicide. If these crops cross with weeds, it can create weeds that can no longer be killed with herbicides. Furthermore, the more and more fields we plant with GMOs, the more and more contamination of our non-GMO crops through crossbreeding. Creating huge GMO monocultures where every farmer is growing the same exact strain of a crop will essentially wipe out all diversity, and will lead to all of our food being genetically altered. Yuck.
Now we move on to the social issues. First off, Monsanto (the company who rules the game of GMOs) has introduced a terminator gene into their altered crops. This terminator gene makes the seeds from the next crop sterile, meaning that farmers who grow GMOs can no longer save seeds and need to purchase new seed each and every year. This not only gets pricey for the farmers (making our food costs go UP) but also give Monsanto a monopoly on the seed world. Not to mention that Monsanto has a patent for all of these GMO seeds that it creates. And, due to some crazy patent laws and some bad rulings by US judges, any farmer (or anyone for that mater) that is found to have Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds on their property without paying for it can be held liable. This means that if GMO seed accidentally blows from one field and contaminates another, even if that farmer doesn’t want that GMO seed in his field, that farmer can be sued by Monsanto for having their property in his field. Sounds ridiculous, right? It is, but sadly it is TRUE.
Everyone out there needs to watch The Future of Food. It is a wonderful documentary that gets more into depth about this subject than I can get here and explains the technology, the law and the effects behind GMOs.
So, what can you do to stop GMOS? First, educate yourself. Learn more about GMOS and watch The Future of Food. Second, find out where your food comes from! Organic food, by law, cannot be genetically altered (however, this may become problematic as our organic crop field become contaminated with GMO seed). So, buy organic. Shop at farmer’s markets and talk to the farmers. Shop at your local grocery (not the big chain stores) and tell them your concerns. Ask where they source their food from and make educated decisions. Lastly, get the word out! Tell your friends and neighbors about this GMO craziness that is happening. Write your local, state and federal representatives and tell them you DON’T want GMO food in your grocery stores. Call your children’s schools and urge them to not serve GMO food for school lunches. Network and see what you can do.
Seems like a lot of work, right? But this is the health and future of our environment, our agricultural system and our children. Europe has passed laws mandating the labeling of GMO food, so why cant we? I surely don’t want my son eating a food that is so toxic to pests that the food itself is registered as a pesticide, do you? If not, join me in this fight against GMOs and spread the word. Together we can make change happen. Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

BPA Research Update

I have previously blogged about the dangers of BPA, especially when used in items designed for children. For a link to articles that discuss these dangers, check out the Oregon Center for Environmental Health's webpage on current research on BPA. Pin It Now!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sustainble Shower

Getting ready to have a new baby? Most moms-to-be have a baby shower which is a wonderful time to share good food, connect with friends, and, of course, get all of the baby supplies that you will soon be needing.
Baby showers are great and I was lucky enough to have family throw one before my little guy was born (thanks family!). However, looking back, I wish that I would have requested a more sustainable shower. Most of the gifts that you get for your shower are items that could easily be purchased used. If you think about how much wear a baby will put into 0-3 month old clothes, it isn't much. Many of these items are given as gifts, used for a few months, and then become trash. However, a sustainable shower ask guests to try and find the items you need used (via used baby stores, goodwill, craigslist, garage sales). This reduces the number of new items that are purchased, gives old things a new home, and cuts back on waste from packaging. It also saves money meaning that your guests can spend less money or get more for the money they will spend. You can also encourage guest to use more sustainable forms of gift wrap (a reusable gift bag or for baby gifts I love to wrap the gifts in a baby blanket).
You may have trouble convincing all of your friends and relatives to buy your gifts used (those teeny tiny baby clothes in the stores are super adorable), but if you get the word out that you prefer used items, hopefully most of your guests will respect your wishes. And, some items may be better purchased new unless you know the original owner; for example, if a car seat has been in a wreck, it may not work properly. You would want to confirm that a used car seat is still in perfect working condition before you put your newborn baby into it!
And, sustainable shower or not, remember to pass along items that you no longer need to a friend or to a donation center so they can be used again (and again and again!). Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan (author of Omnvivore's Dilemma) has written a wonderful book entitled The Botany of Desire. PBS has made this book into a movie that follows the book quite closely (although emitting many of the details). You can watch the movie for free at Click here for the link.
The book and movie discuss 4 plants that have been important throughout the history of humans: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He talks about how these plants have evolved over time to meet human need and desires and questions us to ask if we are manipulating the plants, or if, in some sense, they manipulating us.
The book and movie discuss some interesting facts that anyone with an appreciation for nature or a love for food would enjoy. From the reproduction of apples (did you know that all apples we eat come from clones of trees and NOT from seed?), to the huge popularity of the tulip that resulted in outrageous prices for a single bloom, to the use of genetically modified potatoes and the effects that can have on ourselves and our environment. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those with an interest in gardening. And, if you can't get to the book, or have already read it, this movie does a great job of discussing Pollan's big ideas. Pin It Now!

Monday, November 9, 2009


For great tips on natural parenting, check out Mothering magazine. You can get an online subscription at for only $4.95 per year! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a great time to re-purpose old objects, dig through that recycling bin and get creative! Here is my little recycle-robot, who's costume was made mostly from items that would have been trashed/recycled. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Freezer Paper Stencils

Looking for a great new craft? Freezer-paper tees are super easy and look really cute (see above!). Click here for some easy-to-follow directions on how to make your own freezer-paper t-shirt.
In addition to the directions included on the link, I would add a few comments of my own:
  1. Make sure to move the brush from the stencil onto the shirt. If you paint the opposite way, there is a chance you could push paint underneath the stencil, which will mess up your design.
  2. Put at least 2 coats of paint on and (this is the hard part) make sure to let it dry completely in between layers. If you don't do multiple coats, your paint will be more likely to crack after several washings. And if you don't let it dry in between coats, your new layers won't really stick.
  3. If you are painting onto a dark fabric, make sure to get paint especially designed for this. Otherwise, your deisgn will not stand out against the fabric.
  4. Iron the design onto the shirt before wearing or washing. Even if the instructions on the paint say to only iron the inside of the shirt, iron both sides. If you don't, your paint will run in the wash, ruining your new creation and possibly your other laundry (hmmm, do I still sound annoyed about that one?). And, just as a common courtesy, if you are giving this as a gift, you should wash the shirt before painting (to prevent shrinkage and cracking the design) and wash it again after your paint is dry and set. Then, on the off-chance that something went a muck and the paint didn't set, your gift did not ruin someone else's load of laundry.
Be forewarned, this really is addicting! But, it is a great way to make gifts for new babies, birthdays or holiday gifts. Pin It Now!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Enjoy Fall 's Bounty

Fall has arrived and has brought beautiful colors with it! The leaves on the trees are starting to change and the local markets have squashes in all hues of orange, yellow and green. Fall is the harvest season and your local farmer's market will have lots to offer. So, support local agriculture and bring some of fall's colors back home with you.
This time of year is also a wonderful time to stroll through your neighborhood with your children. Changes are happening everywhere, and the more you are out, the more you will notice! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gingerbread Pear Muffins

Fall is here and pears have arrived! We went to our neighborhood farmer's market last Thursday and got a big ol' bag of pears. I decided to try out a new recipe for gingerbread pear muffins. These are super tasty, although if you are not a fan of gingerbread, don't bother. But, if you are a fan of molasses, like me, then you had better double up on this recipe!

What You Need:
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or substitute 1/8 cup agave syrup for 1/2 of the sugar, or 1/4 cup agave syrup for all of the sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup milk (can sub rice or other non-dairy milk if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup backstrap molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 small to medium pears, peeled, cored and finely chopped or pureed
What to Do:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin tray.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into large bowl.
3.Combine milk, oil, molasses and egg in medium bowl. Stir in pear. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until moistened.
4. Spoon evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.
5. Bake 20 minutes, remove from oven, cool on wire rack and eat!
Makes 12, very yummy, regular sized muffins. Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Sticker-Glue Blues

My almost 2-year old son is infatuated with stickers. Stickers can be loads of fun, sure (I am in my 30's and still have a box of MY, I repeat, not for my kid, but MY stickers) but when they get forgotten on clothes, and then thrown into the washer and dryer......the adhesive they leave behind is a gooey mess.
I recently had my first struggle with forgotten-sticker crisis. My son left a sticker on his brand new dinosaur shirt that I made and it went unseen until I pulled it from the dryer. There was a huge sticky-gross mark on the top center of the shirt. Ugg. So, I began my internet research for a technique that a) was non-toxic b) did not cost money and c) did not involve making a bigger mess than the one that had already occurred. That left me with one good-sounding solution, which I tried, and it worked.
Get out your iron and a paper towel. If you are like me and do not keep paper towels in your house, go to the nearest coffee shop, sit and drink a tea, and steal a paper towel on your way out. Once you get home, turn the iron onto a dry heat, put the paper towel over the spot of sticker adhesive and press the iron down. Voila!
In my attempt, the adhesive did not all just stick to the paper towel in the magical way that the internet posting I read had declared, but it did remove most of it, and the rest I could scrape off with my fingernail while it was still warm. Good as new, and I did not have to buy anything or use any questionable products. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Natural Childbirth

Natural childbirth is an AMAZING experience. I always knew that when I had children I would want to have them without any drugs and with limited medical intervention (mostly because I am deadly afraid of IVs), and I feel extremely blessed and lucky that my birth (and my midwives) provided what I had hoped for. Many mothers that I know who had intended to give birth naturally were unable to for a wide array of reasons. For some women, this sort of experience is non-essential. But, for others, not having the birth they dreamed of can take a long, long while to get over.
Natural childbirth has many advantages for both mother and baby. For one, if birth happens naturally, the baby is not flooded with chemicals before entering the world. The placenta does block a portion of the chemicals from reaching the baby, but about 70% actually make it to the fetus (aka soon to be your kid!). These drugs can slow the baby's heartbeat and affect the respiratory system and remnants of these drugs remain in the baby's system for weeks, potentially causing sluggishness in the weeks after birth. The long term effects of these drugs on the baby is still an unknown.
As for the mother, we can all imagine that epidurals, c-sections and other medical interventions carry some sort of a small risk. The biggest problem with these interventions is that one intervention oftentimes leads to a whole host of further interventions with the end result being a c-section, the furthest things from a natural birth that there is. For example, pitocin, which is used to stimulate labor/increase contractions make the contractions worse and often causes the women to need an epidural. The epidural slows labor back down, and requires more pitocin to be put into the bloodstream. The cycle usually continues on and on until the doctors decide enough is enough and the birthing mama gets sent in for a section. Ugg. These drugs can all have a slew of potentially negative side effects to the mother (from headaches and backaches to huge drops in blood pressure, respiratory problems and even death). The more drugs and different drugs that are used, the more potential for a negative reaction!
Lastly, that first interaction between mama and baby can be seriously altered when labor drugs are involved. Mama and baby can both be drowsy and out of it (or still under medical supervision and not even near one another) making that initial bonding, as well as breastfeeding, harder to establish.
How to avoid all of this? If you are a low-risk pregnancy, consider having a birth at home or at a freestanding birth center (where no doctors are involved). I had my birth at Alma Midwifery, in Portland, and had a magnificent experience. It was a free standing birth center, with patient midwives, and no available pain medication. So, if I changed my mind and wanted drugs.. too bad! Risky you say? I would have to disagree. My midwives were wonderful and we had a backup plan for a hospital trip if ANYTHING did not go as planned. Birthing was painful, but not nearly as bad as I had imagined it to be, and I never even thought about wanting drugs. I loved being present and involved in my birth and it was THE most empowering thing that I have ever done. The picture shown above is in the room where my son was born less than an hour after his birth.
Natural childbirth is not for everyone, I understand, and I would never, ever look down upon any women who chose drugs because I know that everyone experiences pain differently. Every women should be congratualted for her birth no matter how the baby arrives. But, for those of you who would consider having a drug-free birth, I encourage you to look into that option. You are a woman and you are strong. Your baby will thank you!
If you haven't already seen Ricki Lakes' 2007 film The Business of Being Born, it is a MUST see. Ricki talks about some of the misconceptions of homebirths, tells her story of a homebirth and follows a mother along her birthing journey. Empowering, powerful and amazing. Every women should HAVE to see this before choosing where to birth.
Also, the September-October issue of Mothering magazine has some great articles on natural childbirth.
Birth-on ladies! Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recycling Facts

I recently blogged a bit about some recycling basics. Since then, I have found a couple of statistics about aluminum recycling that I thought were share-worthy.
  • Making beverage cans from recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy and produces 95% less GHG emissions than producing a can from new material.
  • 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use.
So, drink that well-deserved beer, but make sure to recycle your can!
Check out Novelis for more information about recycling. Pin It Now!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ride More, Drive Less

The more you drive your car, the more fossil fuels you burn, which, in turn, leads to more and more global warming. In short, lots of driving = bad for the environment. Why not run some of your errands by bike? Biking is great exercise, does not require fuel inputs (except some snacks for the rider!) and is less likely to drive you insane.
My little guy LOVES going on bike rides. We have both a copilot bike seat (shown above) and a burley trailer, both of which we easily found used on craigslist. This allows me to ride my bike to the library, to get groceries, or anywhere else nearby, with my son happily in tow. Happily would be an understatement. He actually squeals and yells "fun!" practically the entire time we are riding. Plus, I can burn off the chocolate bar I am going to eat after dinner while riding to the store to buy it. Woo-hoo!
A few practical notes: make sure you and your kiddo have a helmet on and avoid busy streets. Portland (once again) is an awesome city because it has bike streets (which cars can drive on, but they are biker-friendly) . Go by bike! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moon Sand

Need a super easy non-toxic craft for you kiddos?
Make Moon Sand! You can buy Moon Sand at your local toy store, but it is pretty expensive (for what it is) and it is cheap and easy to make at home (OK, and a little bit messy).

All you have to do is:
  • Mix 1.5 cups of cornstarch with 3/4 cup cold water
  • Add glitter if you want
  • Add 3 cups of sand (available at your local hardware store..... or the beach)
  • Mix well (using your hands is best) until all sand is mixed in.
  • Play!
Warning: Moon Sand is pretty messy.. it is easy to clean once it is dry, but it does get all over the place when the kids play with it. I have made Moon Sand an outside-only toy, and it would be wise to have a wet rag available for hand-wiping so dirty hands don't touch door knobs and faucets. Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pants for Your Little Ones

Sewing pants for your toddler or baby is easy and quick. Once you get the hang of it, it only takes about 15 minutes to make a pair. Try using extra material you have around the house, or think about re-purposing an old t-shirt or skirt you have lying around.
You can simply use a pair of baby pants in the size that you want as your "pattern". Just be forewarned that cloth diaper wearing babies will need more room in the butt area than babies who wear disposables. If you don't leave enough material for the diaper, you will end up with 'low-rise' toddler pants. Ask me how I know this. And they are probably not what you are looking for.
For step-by-step directions on exactly how to make these pants, check out the rookie moms webpage.
A few more tips: When cutting out your pants, make sure you leave enough room at the top for the pants to get folded over the elastic-- this is where trimming it down too much could leave you with baby low-riders. Also, I like to double-sew the inside seam area, as I know how much kiddos move around. That way I am not back fixing them after 2 wears. Oh yeah, and make sure to wash your material first (if you are not re-purposing). You don't want the fabric to shrink after you have made the pants! Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guilt-Free French Toast

Ingredients :
  • 6 pieces of bread (whole grain is healthiest!)
  • 3 eggs
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • organic plain yogurt
  • fresh fruit
Heat a lightly greased skillet on medium-low heat. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat. Add vanilla and cinnamon to your liking (I like it VERY cinnamon-y!). Dip each piece of bread into the egg concoction and put onto the warm skillet. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until the egg coating is solid and the outside is lightly browned.
Remove from skillet and top with plain yogurt and fresh in-season fruit. Eat and enjoy! Serves 3.
Unlike normal french toast that is covered in butter and maple syrup, this version has no added sugar and it provides a serving of calcium. Plus, it is deee-licious!
For an extra touch, you can also heat the fruit topping before you serve. Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

You CAN can

Have you ever wanted to make jam or can tomato sauce but thought it was above and beyond your abilities? I did....BUT, this summer I learned that canning is EASY... especially if you are using foods that are acidic like fruits and tomatoes. Acidic foods do NOT need a pressure canner, but can be canned using only a hot water bath (which is simpler and much less expensive).
If you are interested in canning, you will need to invest in (or borrow) a pressure canner or a big stock pot with a tray that will keep the jars from resting on the bottom of the pot (that could make them explode!). Craigslist or garage sales are a great place to check for these items. You will also need: tongs, a wide-mouthed funnel, and a magnetic lid-remover. These items can all be bought separately or packaged together anywhere that canning equipment is sold. You will also need glass jars with NEW lids.
As for recipes and instructions, that is for you to decide, as the possibilities are endless. For good recipes or recipe-specific instructions, do a google search or check out You can find detailed instructions and tons of recipes for making your own jams, pasta sauces and more! Please be forewarned that if you are wanting to can non-acidic foods (such as green beans) you DO need a pressure canner and the instructions are slightly more rigorous.
Just think... all of these jars of jam will make a GREAT holiday present! Pin It Now!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Down Home Fritters

More zucchini than you know what to do with? Try out my down home fritters (note: my husband named these, not me!)

What you need:
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup cooked black beans (either cook dried bean in crock pot for several hours or you can use canned beans
  • 1.5 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • flour
  • A few tbl olive oil
What you do:
  • Shred zucchini. Mix in a bowl with black beans and goat cheese.
  • Add egg to mixture
  • Heat olive oil in pan over medium-low heat (I like to use a cast-iron skillet)
  • Form mixture into small patties and dip into bowl of flour
  • Lightly fry in olive oil until cooked, flipping halfway through (should be browned on both sides but not burnt.
  • Eat and enjoy!
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Here is another zucchini recipe, just in case any of you have as much zucchini as I do....

What You Need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar or substitute 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup agave syrup for lower glycemic bread
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
What You Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir in zucchini. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.
  3. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Film Review: The Corporation

The Corporation is a documentary from 2004 that I just had a chance to watch. The film takes a good hard look at corporations; how they are treated legally, the power they have, the mindset behind a corporation, as well as the endless impacts to society and the environment that many of these corporations have. After watching this movie, I couldn't believe that I had never seen it. It includes interviews with big names such as Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky (among many others) and does a great job at touching on all of the important environmental and social issues that are prevalent today: genetically modified food, water privatization, rBGH, and many more. My one complaint about this film is that many of the issues are not explained form the beginning. So, for example, if you don't have a basic understanding of the controversy about genetically modified foods, you may have trouble grasping all of the information they present. This makes me hesitant to show it to my intro environmental science class until we have discussed most of the issues. However, the fast paced nature of the movie makes it great for someone who is familiar with these big issues, and it allows for things to be kept exciting. I would strongly recommend adding this one to your Netflix list! Pin It Now!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Expunge your Sponge?

Sponges are one of the nastiest places in our house; their porous surfaces are perfect places for food to hide and germs to congregate. This means that sponges, really, should only be used for a couple of days before getting tossed. But, if you ask me, that is a serious waste of materials and money. To clean your sponge (and get some more life out of it) you can run it through the dishwasher (top shelf only) or you can run it through the washing machine with your kitchen towels. If you really want to sterilize it (and kill 99% of the germs) you can put it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Just make sure the sponge is wet (or else it can catch fire) and be forewarned that it will be HOT when you remove it. Pin It Now!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

30-Minute Curtains

Need some inexpensive curtains in a hurry? Here is how:
  • Find out the dimensions for your new curtains by measuring the window you need covered. Add several inches to make sure the curtains actually cover the entire window, and to allow them to bunch up a little (which looks nice).
  • Now split your measurements in half vertically, as we will be making 2 separate panels.
  • Select a fabric that will work for your situation (ie; a light colored fabric will not block as much light as a darker fabric). For extra-darkening curtains, you will also want to get muslin (a plain, inexpensive fabric).
  • Cut 2 pieces of materials to the size of your measurements. If you are using muslin, cut 2 pieces of muslin to those dimensions as well.
  • If you are using muslin, sew a piece of muslin onto the back of each piece of fabric. It may help to pin the fabric to the muslin before sewing.
  • Now, sew all 4 edges of each panel under. After sewing them all under once, I like to go back and sew the top and bottom edges under again. This gives it a sort of cuffed effect.
  • Your curtains are almost done! Just need to add something to hang them with. Decide how far down from your curtain rack you want your curtains to hang and measure that distance. Now double that distance. We will call this new length "x"
  • I used thick (1-inch) pieces of ribbon to hang these curtains. But you can use other fabric or whatever else you can think of. Ribbon is just neat and easy, and looks cute in a kid's room.
  • Cut your ribbon into strips "x" inches long. I used 5 ribbon loops for each curtain panel (10 total) but you can alter this as needed.
  • On each panel, use a pencil to mark on the underside of the top edge where each of the ribbons should be sewn. I usually put one near each edge, then fold the panel in half to find the middle and put a mark there. Now find the halfway point between the middle and the edge of each panel and put a mark there as well. That gives you 5 evenly-spaced markers.
  • Now you will double over your ribbon to form a loop. Sew the end with the cut edges to each of your marks. Make sure the cut edges are sewn to the underside of the panel (not the front) so that it is not visible from the front.
  • Iron if needed.
  • Your curtains are ready to hang! Ta-da!!
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Make Your "Back-to-School" Toxin-Free

Summer is nearing an end and the new school year is right around the corner (yikes!) Before you go out and purchase new school supplies, it's time for a little run-down on the safety of these products. Many common school supplies are made from PVC (plastic #3). This type of plastic has a whole slew of health concerns and environmental problems that come with it, yet no one seems to talk about these serious issues.
I promise that I will blog about PVC very soon (it deserves an entry all of its own). But, for now, take my word on it that the less PVC in your life, the better.
Check here to see which school supplies contain PVC. And to sign a petition banning PVCs in school supplies, or to get more info on the dangers of PVCs, check out the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
In addition to buying PVC-free, also try to only buy what you need. Do you have markers and notebooks from last year to get you through another school year? What about making your own notebook from used paper? I have had success finding used (but still usable) school supplies at my local Reuse store and in free-boxes around town. Pin It Now!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Save the Heirlooms! Save the World!

As agriculture becomes more and more industrialized, we are starting to see fewer and fewer varieties of plants. In other words, where we used to have many different types of potatoes (or insert any crop here) grown widely across the US, now we only see a few types available commercially. This is hugely problematic and let me tell you why: more varieties of plants means more diversity. More diversity means more protection against disaster.
Disaster you ask? What do you mean? Well, think back to your history lessons about the potato famine in Ireland. The reason why there even was a potato famine was because the Irish were no longer growing the many strains of potatoes that they had traditionally grown, but instead had 'simplified' and were only growing one strain. Well, that one strain just happened to be very susceptible to the blight that came that year, which killed most of the potatoes and left a potato-dependent nation with little to eat. Other countries that had continued to grow a wider variety of potatoes did suffer some losses, but were able to survive on the other strains that were more inherently resistant to that particular blight.
If many varieties are grown instead of only one, you may lose some each year to a certain pest or a low rainfall, but with a large amount of diversity, you will never lose it all. Diversity is protection against a cold summer, a wet spring, an infestation or whatever else may come its way. The more diverse, the more chance some will recover and the better off you and your food supply will be. And this is not just for potatoes here; the same is true for every crop.
In addition to protection against losses, diversity is important for our tastebuds! Ever wonder why store bought tomatoes just don't taste that good? For one, they have been traveling for days or weeks to get to you, but they are also strains that have been selected not for taste, but for their ability to travel well. If you branch out and taste some of the older non-hybridized strains (aka heirlooms) that have been around (in small quantities) for centuries, you will taste exactly what I am talking about. These are the tomatoes that have been selected for taste, and not for travel, and you will be able to tell.
Unfortunately, as more and more farms grow fewer and fewer strains, we are losing more and more of that genetic diversity. So let's all keep our fingers crossed and hope that our entire food system doesn't get wiped out by a couple of years of bad pests and poor weather. You can help to keep these heirloom strains alive by planting them in your garden. Next year when you are selecting seeds, choose specifically for heirloom varieties. Increase the diversity of your yard and of your dinner plate. Pin It Now!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


So, you're at the store trying to decide between a cleaner that is biodegradable and one that is all natural. Which one is better for the environment? What do those eco-friendly labels actually mean?
Sadly, many of these so-called eco-labels mean relatively little. A lot of the labels that can be put on food, cleaning products and personal care products are not regulated whatsoever, which means that you are simply taking the manufacturer's word as the truth. And when we are living in a "green-is-in" society, manufacturers know that they can squeeze more money out of a product that is labeled as environmentally friendly.
For example, meats labeled as "natural" can still contain artificial ingredients. "Free-range" animals often never go outdoors. Something labeled as "biodegradable" is not regulated as such and so there is a good chance it is not. If it is "certified biodegradable" however, that means it is a product that you can trust.
So what does all of this mean? First off, I personally think it means that the FDA is not doing that great of a job in protecting the American people and the world we inhabit. Labels should be enforced and customers should be able to know exactly what they are buying. But, until then, it is up to us, as consumers, to be informed on what we purchase, consume, and put down our drains. Check out the Greener Choices website on eco-labels where you can check what every label actually means, how it is regulated, and how likely that claim is to be true! Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Scoop on Recycling

Recycling is great, and hopefully all of you out there are doing your part to recycle whatever you can. Making goods from recycled materials take about 1/2 the energy of making them from virgin materials, and reduces all of the energy, carbon emissions and pollution that would go into extracting the raw material. Plus, the more we recycle, the less we have to put into landfills, and our need for extracting new resources from the Earth decreases. However, recycling is not the answer to all of our environmental problems.
First of all, recycling takes a LOT of energy, from collecting it and transporting it to recycling centers, the process of recycling it, and then moving the recycled materials to where they are used. Pollution and carbon emissions are produced in the process, and some nasty chemicals are often by-poducts as well. So, recycling is better than trashing something, but not having anything to dispose of or recycle is the ideal choice. Whenever possible, first try to REDUCE the things you buy and then try and REUSE what you already have.
Also, if you recycle, please support the industry and buy recycled as well. Without a market for recycled goods, recycling costs skyrocket, and many cities have to decrease or cut recycling programs all together.
Lastly, be careful what you put in your recycling bin. If recycling gets contaminated with non-recyclables, entire loads can be discarded. At the least, someone will have to pick out contaminates, which causes recycling costs to increase even more.
So recycle, but recycle smartly. And when you can, choose to reduce your purchases or reuse things you already have. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Safe CHEAP cleaner... right from your cabinet!

Tired of paying $3 (or more!) for a spray bottle of cleaner that you are just going to use up and then recycle? I was! So, save your spray bottles and refill them with a homemade all-purpose cleaner for a fraction of the price.
Mix about 1/4 cup white vinegar and a couple tablespoons of baking soda into your spray bottle and fill with warm water. I like to add a few drops of essential oil to give it a nice smell ( tea tree or grapefruit or a mix of the two works great). It is most cost-effective to buy the generic gallon-size jugs of vinegar (instead of the tiny jars meant for cooking). Viola! Now you have a cheap, effective, NON-TOXIC cleaner and you don't have to recycle yet another piece of plastic!
To clean glass or windows, just use a mixture of white vinegar and water. I usually use about 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Clean with an old newspaper for a streak-free clean! Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Get Your Herb On!

Calendula, part of the aster family, is a flower long known for it's anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It is great to use topically for cuts, scrapes, and burns or it can be taken orally for cramps, pain and minor swelling. Calendula is safe and has no side effects - I have used calendula topically on my son since he was born.
You can buy calendula salve or ointment at your natural food store, or you can get your herb-on and make a SIMPLE salve of your own.

You will need:
  • Calendula flowers (grows easily from seed and grows well in pots)
  • olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • mason jar
  • cheesecloth
  • beeswax (about 1/8 cups)
  • container to keep the finished product in (you can buy salve containers specially designed for this, or you can get creative and reuse old baby food jars, tins, or whatever you have lying around)
What you do:
  • Cut about 1/4 cup's worth of flower heads off of the calendula plants
  • Place in mason jar and cover with 1/2 cup of olive oil (quantity can easily be doubled or tripled if so desired). Make sure that all flowers get submerged in oil
  • Cover jar and place in a sunny window for a week or 2. Oil should turn a deep gold color.
  • In a week or so, your oil is ready! Put a couple of pieces of cheesecloth over the top of the jar and hold with a rubber band. Strain oil from jar into a small kitchen pan.
  • Add beeswax to the oil (you can also add any essential oils you wish at this point --but none are necessary!) and heat over medium heat until all beeswax is melted.
  • Pour into containers and let harden. Ta-da! See I told you it was easy!!
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Bees Please? Join the Great Sunflower Project!

Bees are some of our most important garden friends. While most people want to avoid bees (and their stingers) I am going to urge you to invite bees to share your garden. Bees are some of the most important pollinators (they pollinate 90% of our flowering crops) and without them, we would not have many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy. Without pollination, most plants do not reproduce, which means that they do not produce fruit.... and no fruit means nothing for us to eat.
In recent years, bee populations have been drastically declining..... and no one is sure exactly why. Maybe it is the over-abundance of pesticides, maybe it is genetically modified crops, maybe vast stretches of monoculture (think corn) or maybe it is cell phone use or a combination of these factors. Figuring out what is killing the bees could be vital in figuring out how to save them. And trust me, this is one bug we definitely want to save.
Want to do your part in saving bees? The best thing yo can do is plant a bee-loving habitat in your yard and invite the bees to come. To find out the best plants in your area to attract bees, consult your local nursery or do some research online. A great source for information is Berkley's Urban Bee Garden web page. They have loads of information of the importance of bees, bee-friendly gardens, and other random tidbits about these fuzzy little friends.
You can also join the Great Sunflower Project. Sign up online for next summer's planting. You will get a packet of sunflower seeds in the mail and you and thousands of other participants will be tracking bee activity in your yard. This way, scientists can have data on where bees are flourishing and where they are not, and can try and relate bee populations to environmental factors. You can be part of bee-saving research!
If you are bee-brave, you can also consider building bee habitat in your yard. Check with your local nursery to see what types of bees are native in your area and find out what habitat suits them. For many bees (not honeybees), a piece of wood with holes drilled in it works just fine. For those of you in the Portland area (or anywhere else that Mason bees are native) , check out this great information sheet on Mason Bees from Portland Nursery.
Bee Happy! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Bottled Water

I have already blogged about the problems of bottled water, but this is a relatively hot topic and I have recently come across a couple of worthwhile short videos on the subject. The first link is a video created by one of my students and won runner-up in a National Geographic contest. The second is by Penn and Teller. Both are worth a watch.
* Bottled Water Confidential
* The Truth About Bottled Water Pin It Now!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Extreme Ice Now: A Review

I recently finished reading Extreme Ice Now:Vanishing Glaciers and Changing Climate: A Progress Report by James Balog, which is a book that came out of the Extreme Ice Survey Project. This book is a short, easy read with some amazing pictures of glaciers around the world and how they are being impacted by climate change. This is a fantastic book for someone still learning about global warming, as it is broken up into very short chapters that each focus on one aspect of climate change. It gives some great topic summaries, data, and tips and the photographs are just amazing. Definitely worth checking out!
According to Balog, personal household consumption accounts for 27% of your carbon footprint and transportation is 19%. A couple of James Balog's tips to reduce your carbon footprint: support renewable energy, air-dry clothing, fix leaky door and windows, drive and fly less, stop drinking bottled water and eat local! Amen!
The author was also featured in a Nova/PBS documentary entitled Extreme Ice. Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Build a Solar Oven

Solar ovens use the energy from the sun to warm and cook food, saving energy that would normally be used to heat up your oven. Plus, they are just cool.
I made these solar ovens with my environmental science class last semester and we used them to heat up s'mores. It totally worked, and the day was mostly cloudy! I can only imagine the potential of a warm summer day! These ovens can get up to 200 degress!
This is a great project to do with children. Plan on making s'mores, an english muffin pizza, or some other tasty treat in them!

Supplies & Tools:

• 1 used pizza box
• newspapers
• scissors
• tape
• black construction paper
• clear plastic wrap
• aluminum foil
• ruler, pencil, stick or something to prop box up with

1. Draw an 8 1/2 inch x 11 inch square in the lid of the pizza box.
2. Cut out three sides of the square, and fold the flap back along the uncut edge.
3. Cover the inside of this flap with aluminum foil, using tape to hold the edges securely.
4. Line the inside bottom of the box with black construction paper. Use tape to hold the edges down if needed.
5. Create insulation by rolling up some newspaper (about 1 1/2 inch thick) and fitting it around the inside edges of the box.
6. Tape one piece of plastic wrap (stretched tightly) to the underside of the lid opening, to cover. Tape another piece on the top of the lid opening, to create a layer of insulation that will help hold the heat in the box.
7. Prop the box at an angle facing the sun. Use a ruler to prop the flap open.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How Important is Organic?

We have all heard the hype about eating organic, but how important is it really?
As more and more evidence is starting to show: it is pretty important. The pesticides and chemical fertilizers used to produce conventional (non-organic) produce have been shown to cause damage to both the environment and human health. These potent chemicals can harm insects and wild animals that use farmland (including birds and insects that help to pollinate the farm fields!). After heavy rains, these chemicals runoff of agricultural areas and eventually end up in our rivers and lakes where they can affect aquatic life, vegetation and wildlife hundreds of miles from where they were applied. Not to mention the fact that we often get our drinking water from these same sources that we have polluted with agricultural chemicals! Farm workers (who are often overworked and underpaid) come into close contact with these chemicals on a consistent basis, putting their safety in jeopardy for the sake of the farm's success. Last (but certainly not least) both pesticides and chemical fertilizers are petroleum-based, meaning that it requires fossil fuels (think oil, people) to make them. This only tightens our dependence on countries in the middle-east and furthers an addiction to an energy source that is on the decline.
Now let's talk about the effects on human health. Pesticides have been linked to headaches, nausea, birth defects, cancer, hormone problems and probably a whole lot of problems that are not yet directly linked to their use. The effects are more severe in babies and young children who consume more food per body weight than adults, and whose body's are still forming and therefore more susceptible to toxins.
That said, the economy is in the pooper and families are already struggling to support themselves and eating organic is not necessarily in the budget. However, some foods more readily absorb pesticides and chemicals than others, so some foods are much more crucial to consume from organic sources while other foods are less harmful when grown on a conventional farm. Here is "the list", which is also available from the Environmental Working Group.

The Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic whenever possible!):
1. peach
2. apple
3. bell pepper
4. celery
5. nectarine
6. strawberries
7. cherries
8. kale
9. lettuce
10. imported grapes
11. carrot
12. pear

The Clean 15 (these tend to hold the least pesticide residue):
1. onion
2. avocado
3. sweet corn
4. pineapple
5. mango
6. asparagus
7. sweet peas
8. kiwi
9. cabbage
10. eggplant
11. papaya
12. watermelon
13. broccoli
14. tomato
15. sweet potato

Now that you know which items are more crucial to buy organic, you can budget your grocery money to include organic items from the dirty dozen. And, of course, if you have access and the budget to buy all of your produce organically... even better! You are not only keeping pesticides out of your body, but you are keeping them out of the environment, away from the farm workers and you are supporting the organic movement.
If your budget does not allow to purchase any items organically, please know that it is better to eat conventional produce than to eat none at all. Remember to wash conventional produce well to remove as many pesticide residues as possible and talk to your local produce department. Many items may not be labeled as organic but may at least be unsprayed (no pesticides used). Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Build a Birdhouse

Here is a great project for a hot summer day. Build a birdhouse! This project has been adapted from the Super Duper Art & Craft Activity Book by Lynn Gordon.

What you need:
  • a milk carton, oatmeal container, or any other container that you can re-purpose before you recycle it (note: containers that have a waxy finish, like milk cartons, will hold up better in the weather). Make sure to wash out your container before building a birdhouse with it.
  • scissors
  • ribbon or heavy-duty string (thin hemp rope works great)
  • glue or rubber cement
  • brown paper bag
  • twigs, leaves, markers and anything else you want to use to decorate
  1. Cut a bird-size hole in your container about an inch or so from the bottom (see picture above)
  2. With scissors or a hole puncher, punch a hole in the top of your container and string your ribbon/rope through the hole. Tie a knot in the string so that you have a loop to hang your bird feeder from
  3. Glue pieces of the brown paper bag to the container to cover the labels. Decorate with twigs, leaves, markers, glitter, or anything your imagination can think up
  4. fill the bottom inch of the container with birdseed
  5. hang it up and watch for birds!
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