Simple Tips (& Why) to Green Your Holidays!

Stores staying open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday hype, Christmas ads already blaring… enough! It’s STRESSING me out! And that is not healthy.

I want to relax and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. And I want the experiences to be healthy for me, them and light on environmental impact.

Two things I like to consider to help me be less stressed & promote health for my peeps and my (our) planet: 1. Greening Gifts
2. Greening the Menu

1. On Gifts (and avoiding the crazy, stressful shopping wars!) I’m steering clear of all that hub bub and instead will be home, warm and cozy, preparing my craft room to make my gifts. I love making things! It helps me unwind, plus I know I’m pouring love into the gift and so does the recipient. Win-win!

Not everyone is crafty or inclined to make gifts. But if you are! Here’s a blog with a few ideas I really like and maybe you will, too. 38 DIY Gifts People Actually Want

If you’re not crafty, no problem. You can of course still pour love into bought items, too. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the perfect gift for that special someone. It’s perfect because not only do they need the item, it is helpful to them, won’t make them sick and is also created in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Perfect!

I realize some of us will still want to get out and shop for some great deals… have you heard of Small Business Saturday? A lot of Chicagoland businesses are participating and shopping local is really a great way to encourage local economic recovery!

2. On the Menu: Eating lower on the food chain is a great way to make a difference for your health and the planet. It’s easier than you think, too. Do you have to give up the Turkey? No!! But treating it more like a condiment and enjoying more of your favorite vegetable based sides is a great start. Also, everything doesn’t have to be organic, but I do look out for certain food additives to avoid as well as where and how the veggies or fruit are grown for health concerns.

[On meat: If I did eat meat I would want to buy it from a local farmer where I know the animal was cared for, ate the right foods and slaughtered in a manner that was ethical.]

What’s on my menu? Well, I’m not hosting….but this is what I am bringing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic Reduction
Kale, Pumpkin Seed, Cranberry Salad
Apple, Turnip, Sweet Potato Saute

Final Greening Holidays tip from me to you… When making your list to give people this holiday season, it helps to consider the following:

  • WHAT will be the impact on the person I’m giving this gift to? Will it improve their live in a meaningful way?
  • WHERE does this gift come from? Is it locally crafted and supporting local economies?
  • WHO made it? Are they paid a living wage and have safe working conditions? WHO profits from me buying this gift? Does it enrich some corporation whose values I do/don’t support?
  • HOW was it made? How does the resource and manufacturing impact on the environment?
  • WHY? Why should I give this gift? What NEED does it fill?

It’s important to consider these questions so that not just at a personal level, but at a global level you are fully aware of the impacts of your gift-giving decisions.

Happy Holidays!

So MUCH To Do, APRIL 2014

Happy Earth Month, Y’all!

Everyday is Earth Day, of course, but this is the month we take extra time to celebrate all that is wonderful on this big blue planet, how we can behave to support its health and ultimately our health as communities and individuals.

Check out all the great events happening this Earth Month here at MVCC.

Also, there’s a really cool energy reduction challenge happening in Crawley Hall! You can watch real time energy demand and see how the building users are doing as they attempt to reduce their energy demands!

And here’s a bit from the US EPA on how to stay involved nationally and digitally. They have some pretty cool campaigns this month; definitely worth checking out.

Happy Earth Month from EPA!

April 22 is Earth Day, but we’re celebrating all month, sharing a new tip each day to help you act on climate change.

Below, we’ve listed many ways you can take action yourself and spread the word to your friends and family. Try one or many, but either way, let’s all #ActOnClimate!

Help us get the message out
Please help us share a message at noon on Earth Day, along with the link to a page full of things everyone can do to act on climate. We’re using a new system called Thunderclap to coordinate, so a message will go out from everyone at noon on Earth Day. Here’s the catch: we need 500 people to sign up or the message won’t go.

The message is: “For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! #ActOnClimate http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/

We need your help, both to send the message and to invite your friends to send it, too. Join the effort or if you want more information about how it works, see our blog post.

Share daily tips through our website and social media
We’ve created 30 daily tips to act on climate, and we’ll post one each day. Help us get them out there:

Join a Twitter chat about climate issues
We’re going to have EPA experts available to discuss various climate issues on our @EPAlive account every Tuesday in April:

  • April 8, 2:00pm EDT – What can I do to act on climate?
  • April 15, 2:00pm EDT – What is EPA doing to act on climate?
  • April 22, 2:00pm EDT – EPA Research and Climate: What does the research show about climate change and what we can do about it.
  • April 29, 2:00pm EDT – Why is climate action important for our water?

How can you join the conversation? Just follow @EPAlive and the #ActOnClimate hashtag on Twitter. Ask us a question or share your ideas, or just read along with the conversation. In addition to using Twitter, we’ll publish a blog post for each chat, and you can ask your questions or send your thoughts as comments on the post. Here’s the first one: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/04/lets-chat-about-how-to-act-on-climate/

We look forward to working with you to #ActOnClimate!

Happy New Year- Now what to do with that phone book?

With a new year comes a lot of new things- new commitments and goals, maybe even new presents from the holidays, and…new phone books! I know I just found mine last night waiting at my door when I returned home from work. Yours is probably already delivered or will be soon, too.

Maybe you asked the same thing as me: But we have the internet?!?! What do we need a phone book for?

Actually, there are a lot of people still without the convenience of high speed internet at their fingertips. While attempts are being made nation-wide to change this, the phone book providers will still need to make assumptions that everyone still needs or wants a phone book.

But what if you don’t need it or want it?

You can visit the National Yellow Pages website and customize your delivery or opt out altogether. Choosing to eliminate or reduce your delivery means you’re helping to minimize waste, increase smart use of resources and lessen your personal CO2 footprint from the energy used to produce and transport them.

Ok, so it’s too late to stop the 2014 phone book, so then what?

Whatever you do, make sure your phone book doesn’t end up in the landfill. Less than 10% of all phone books printed are recycled, even though they can be recycled into everything from ceiling tiles to cereal boxes. 

Because they are mostly paper, phone books are typically accepted by curbside programs. You can search for the ebst local recycling option using Earth911’s directory, which a great tool for other recycling questions, too!.

Earth911.org reminds us this useful tip: “In the event that your phone book arrives with any additional packaging such as a plastic bag or magnets, be sure to separate those prior to recycling.”

I always try to find a reuse for something before I just put it to the curb for recycling, which is often downcycling. So what am I going to do with my phone book? I’ll take the non-color sheets and shred them to make bedding for my worms! Worms love this kind of paper for mixing with the leftover food scraps I feed them…then they make me dirt for my garden. It’s a win-win.

What else can you do with them?

Here is one blogger’s ideas, including to use the pages instead of paper towels to pick up “icky things”…love it!

And some good crafty and gardening applications using the pages can be found here.

Also, in case you’re interested in trying something else new this year, here are some lovely vermi-composting resources:

http://www.urbanwormgirl.com

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/

A zero-waste holiday!? Yup!

Okay, zero-waste is really, really challenging (at first) so let’s take this one step at a time.

According to GreenAmerica.org, “Americans will spend a total of $586.1 billion dollars in November and December — and an average of $646 per person on gifts alone. The impact on people and planet of all our consumption is staggering. Pledge to shift 20% or more of your holiday spending away from cookie-cutter consumerism and one-use waste—instead supporting local, green, handmade and homegrown businesses!”

There are a lot of really great ways to reduce waste this holiday season. One way is to think about gift giving and all the potential waste involved. Here’s an example from my own holiday story:

My family celebrates Christmas. So we do the traditional gift giving for everyone in the family and special friends. Each year, there seems to be more and more folks for which I need a gift. It’s really hard to keep up! I should put thought and care into the gifts, right? Right. Another important point to make: On January 1st of this year, I pledged with my friends to Buy Nothing New for 1 Year. That includes things for others. So…

…this year I am making my gifts. A great way to reduce waste, indeed, since nearly nothing will have enormous amounts of packaging and nearly everything is coming second-hand or as a found object (except the cheese kit). I am making re-usable produce bags out of old, mismatched pillow cases for the families; washcloth puppets for bath time with the little kids in the family; I’ll be sewing a pair of Minecraft Sweeper Fingerless Gloves for my lil’ gamer nephew tonight; I scored a huge bag of colorful needlework thread at a rummage sale which will go to the eldest niece (she loves to make friendship bracelets and this stuff is perfect for it!); and the ladies will all get a lovely sugar-body scrub (Peppermint for some and Vanilla-Honey for others).

But for me, the men are the harder ones to cover…so, the gift of experience comes into play here. Except for Dad; for him, I’m making him a belt pouch to hold necessities while he works his farmer’s market stands (shallow front shirt pockets are no place for phones or spectacles when you’re in a hurry serving up fine cheese!). For one, I got a pair of movie tickets and a free night of babysitting for date night with the lovely Misses. And the last one is getting a cheese-making kit made with compostable packaging.

“Americans generate an additional five million tons of waste during the holidays. Of that, four million tons come from shopping bags and wrapping paper alone.

Everyone will receive their gifts wrapped in the funny pages or some cool, old map. Old sewing patterns make great wrapping, too! Plenty of resources to think outside the shirt-box for your wrapping needs here! And, of course, the cards will be handmade, too. But that’s really easy! Hard cardstock + fun magazine images + glue stick = viola! Custom cards for each of your loved ones.

What are your plans? Need some crafty ideas? Check out this page– I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the possibilities! Especially the Childhood page. Very cool ideas!

What other ways can we eliminate waste during the holidays (and beyond, of course)? Consider what will be on the dinner table, where you’ll be traveling or who will be traveling to you. I’m sure you can think of several ways to shed a few pounds of waste. Let’s hear about it!

Happy Waste-less Holidays!

Have a Green- And Cheap- And Happy Halloween!

Boo! Happy Halloween!

If you’re still working on your ideas for Halloween or want some ideas for next year, check out these sites to get you on the green-fright-train!

Top 10 Ways to Go Green This Halloween – The Daily Green

TheGreenGrok’s Top 10 Most Sustainable Halloween Costumes

25 Homemade Costumes from Recycled Materials

Remember, the best way to minimize impact is to minimize use and waste. If you can re-use something, that’s great! If your something doesn’t create a lot of waste, at least a lot of non-recyclable waste, even better! Candy and stuff is great and for special occasions it’s fine; but you could start the neighborhood trend of giving Fair-Trade chocolates (usually sans HFCS too!) and promote social justice during the holiday. What else can you do to green your Halloween? Go over to the Moraine Valley Center for Sustainability Facebook page and let us know!