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!

Movie Night!

Whenever (and it is rare) I find myself with a night of nothing to do, I always think: well, I should watch a movie! But then I am overwhelmed by my Netflix choices. Sometimes I want to be entertained and sometimes I want to learn something, a lesson, some facts, etc. Actually, this weekend I think I have a night that I’ll be able to watch a movie…so what will it be?

I often turn to a theme I personally love: Sustainability. And there are a lot of sustainability-related movies available today. One of the first times I remember when I made a conscious connection to enjoying  a cartoon and learning an eco-lesson, was FernGully: the last rainforest, in 1992. But it was, according to Karl Burkart of, 1973 that the environmental film-making was born. That year, Chinatown and Soylent Green both hit the big screens. From there, we’ve enjoyed (and possibly been frightened by or disgusted by): The Day after Tomorrow, Whale Rider, Avatar, Erin Brockovich, WALL-E, March of the Penquins, and Happy FeetEven Finding Nemo has an sustainability-story as viewers explore the exotic fish trade, diversity issues, and water/ocean pollution.

and then there are the eco-mentaries, more documentary than entertaining and mostly fiction like: Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, Who Killed the Electric Car, Food, Inc., Crude, Forks Over Knives, King Corn, and The Cove just to name a few.

Want more? There are repeats of above, but there are some others not yet listed in the following articles and lists.

Here’s a list of the Huffington Post’s top picks for the 2000-2010 decade.

And, Jill from OdeWire, asks “Are These the 11 Most Inspiring Eco Movies Available Online?

Mother Nature Network shares several movies in this entry:  The best of 2010: environmental picks that include documentaries, fiction and even kid movies., one of my go-to-favorite sites for a lot of really useful green info, shares this top 11 eco-flicks the kids and adults can enjoy together and then this top 5 eco-documentaries they think are must-sees (I have to agree) that are all available on Netflix!

So what’s your top eco-flick? Have you watched any of these listed here? Have a suggestion for something missing? Head on over to the Moraine Valley Sustainability Facebook page and let us know.

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!

Eco-friendly summer drives…

It’s summer time. Time to roll down the windows, turn the radio up and take a long ride, blasting the summer hits and letting the warm air blow through your hair… I love summer rides, really I do. I wish I could do it with less of an eco-impact though. In the future this should be no problem- if we keep letting industry be innovative and also act to push and create market-demand. Until then, I’ll dream along with the dreamers.

Dreamers like who ever invented this – Wow! When can I get one of these?

If you search YouTube for other green, future cars you can find a lot of neat, flashy and really out-of-this-world (or under it?!) concepts. However, I think the idea from Honda above is actually realistic. I mean, it looks so easy and comfortable, it’s like a seated-segway! It’s exciting to me industry is developing more options for green individual modes of transit, like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt.

And industry leaders like Nissan, Chevy, Honda and Ford are continuing to explore other new and exciting ways to help us get around. But students in higher education are getting in on the action to create our future transit options, too. The US EPA has a competition called EcoCAR Competition where teams compete to create the coolest, most innovative and least environmentally impacful car possible. You can see several of the winners on this YouTube page.

Still, some of those futuristic concept cars are pretty sweet and fun to dream about…

Happy Summer!

Food labels, what do they really mean?

I sometimes find myself in the grocery store saying, “What the heck does cage-free mean, anyway?” And then, what does free-range, farm-raised, etc… I have a clue, but probably not 100% of the correct information. Well, now there’s a great resource for me to reference when I get confused. I thought I’d share it with the readers of this blog, too.

This is the green blog, right? So what does food have to do with being green or sustainability? A lot. We need to eat, there’s no denying that. However, with every choice we make when considering “What’s for dinner?” (or any other meal) there is a direct impact on carbon emissions, land use, water use, clean air, waste and equally importantly – your health.  This label resource will also help you understand the impacts your diet may have on your health and your environment. We all know to eat less fat and high fiber. Eat some fruit and so on. But really, what do we know about what foods to choose if we also want to take care of the planet? Which is something we all need to consider, since our food- be it beef, greens, fish or tacos- comes from the planet. Without it being healthy- clean water and air, plentiful healthy soil- we will not be able to grow the food we need to survive.

Check out this link. What do you think about it? Does it influence your future food choices? Did you already know these things? This is only one of many really useful resources out there on food. If you want to know more or have a conversation or check out a book, article, etc. Stop by the Center for Sustainability in L242 or drop a line at

Our Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades

Solar Bill Signing

(re-post from September Prairie State Protector eNews, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club)

Illinois’ future got brighter August 17, 2010, when Governor Quinn signed our solar bills HB 6202 and HB 5429 into law. House Bill 6202 requires Illinois’ regulated utilities to start buying some electricity from solar power plants starting in 2012, with steadily increasing amounts until 2015, when 6% of renewable energy purchases must come from solar power plants. By creating a stable market solar industries will be willing to invest in Illinois and as a result 5000 new jobs are expected to be created in the state.

House Bill 5429 or the Solar Bill of Rights removes barriers by homeowner and condo associations to placing solar panels on your roof. Removing those barriers is key to the future of solar, as installing small units on homes, businesses and reducing electricity losses through transmission are the areas for the greatest potential growth in the solar sector.

Illinois Sierrans pulled out all the stops to help get these bills passed. You visited and called legislators or took action through previous Prairie State Protectors. Consequently, we are one step closer to transitioning from the dirty fuels of the past. Thank you for being part of this victory for Illinois’ energy future.

It’s Official, Summer is here~ Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the summer solstice, the day that the sun reaches it’s highest point in the sky over the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the longest (sunlit) day of the year. So it’s official, summer is really here! And we should celebrate and spend time outdoors and visit national parks and natural areas and have bbq’s and pool parties… but we should do this with sustainability in mind.

Remember that our individual actions add up; there are a lot of individuals trying to make a difference. They make small changes, that might be the same you’re making…so if you recycle and your neighbor recycles, and the rest of the neighborhood recycles…well that certainly adds up! So as individuals we really can make a difference.  This summer, keep in mind how you travel, what you’re eating, how you’re cooking it, is it really hot enough to run the AC or does the fan suffice?…make individual decisions and changes and be confident others are too (I know I will be!).

What sparked this need to share and encourage you to have a fun, green summer? This article:

Summer Solstice Meets Record Low Arctic Ice

In summary, this article helps us understand how over thousands of years we, people, have been following the sun and seasons and how we’ve recorded changes over those years. And what that information is telling us today.

“The solstice always keeps a steady beat; but lately, the rhythm of summer has been increasingly out of sync. As the climate has warmed over recent decades, high temperatures have arrived earlier on average, and a symphony of seasonal events along with them, from plant blooming dates to animal migrations to peak flow levels in snow-fed streams. Nowhere is this quickening more evident than in the Arctic — the fastest-warming region on the planet.”

Interesting about this article is that it examines the impact of the arctic melt vs. that of Greenland and how that might affect the United States. In my opinion, too often we’re told, think of polar bears!! Well, honestly that’s hard to do when we don’t have any here in the US or the Midwest for that matter…So, it’s good to get a perspective of things relative to the way we live.

“But why concern ourselves with the frozen crust of a distant ocean? The big question for Americans, as we move toward a national debate on energy and climate policy, is what comes next.”

I’ll let you read the article to find the thoughts about that question… and for now, I’ll bid you a  safe and fun Summer!!  But remember to keep in mind how you can make your summer activities green, be the 1 individual of the thousands of other individuals trying to make a difference! Of course if you have questions about how to green your summer, you have a resource in Moraine Valley- – email anytime with thoughts, questions, ideas for you or our community.

Happy Solstice!

Don’t forget your protection, not poison, when enjoying the summer!

Summers in the sun is great! But sunburns are not good at all. They are dangerous, cause aging, spots, wrinkles and sometimes cancer! Sure, we know that. And we know, well just use sunscreen silly. Right? Well it’s not so easy does it actually. A recent study of 500 different sunscreens found only 8% to actually be safe- meaning not expose you or loved ones to potential harmful cancer causing chemicals!!!

Here’s an excerpt, then read the whole article here and find a good sunscreen here:

The fourth annual Sunscreen Guide by Environmental Working Group (EWG) gives low marks to the current crop of sunscreen products, with a few notable exceptions. EWG researchers recommend only 39, or 8 percent, of 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this season.

Full report here:

The reason? A surge in exaggerated SPF claims (SPFs greater than 50) and recent developments in understanding the possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients, in particular, new government data linking a form of vitamin A used in sunscreens to accelerated growth of skin tumors and lesions.

Please pass this on and share with others so we can all enjoy summer in the sun safely.

Celebrate 40 Years of Earth Day w/ Moraine Valley

Moraine Valley Community College has an active Green Team that’s been in service since 2007. This year the Team decided to ramp up Earth Week in honor of 40 Years of Earth Day- April 22, 2010. The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970 in which millions of Americans participated in random acts of sustainability all across the country!

Join us at Moraine Valley any day of the week April 19 through 24 toparticipate in an eco-friendly events. Each day there will be at least one free, fun and educational activity for students, staff, faculty and community members.  Check our website, for details.

Here’s an abbreviated sneak preview – Tree Campus USA Tour, Taste of Moraine, Green Cleaning Infomercial, Social Justice Lecture, Native Plant Walk & Learn, Free Cocoa Mulch & Green Living Workshops!!!

Call 708-974-5412, email or visit for more information.  See you there! 

Earth Week 2010 Poster, MVCC

AThanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25 %.

8 Easy Green Thanksgiving Tips

(repost by S Presseller, 11/20/2009) originally by Lauren Hasler

The holiday season is officially in full-swing, and Thanksgiving marks the beginning of big family dinners, extensive gift shopping and elaborate decorations.

But the season isn’t all turkey, stuffing and pie. According to RecycleWorks, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent.

So, start off your holiday season on the green foot by making a few small, eco-friendly changes this Turkey Day. It’s easy to get the entire family involved, have fun and decrease the burden on your wallet as well.

click here to learn more: