Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Celebrate Earth Day!

 

 

Mark your calendars for Earth Day next Tuesday, April 22, a day to commemorate the earth, celebrate green acts, raise awareness and work towards a more sustainable future.  If you read my blog regularly, I imagine you already practice green acts.  Earth Day is a good time to commit to adding new green habits.

 

What else can you do?

 

  • Adopt “meatless Mondays”. The meat industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Spring is a good time to start composting your kitchen waste.  This time next year your compost pile will have turned into dark, rich compost with which to pot your spring plants or to spread on trouble spots on your lawn. By contrast, when food goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • In addition to your reusable water bottle, bring along a reusable mug when you buy a coffee or tea (Many coffee shops charge you a reduced price when you do so.)  Paper cups are less toxic than polystyrene cups, but they still use a significant amount of resources.  Twenty million trees (a renewable resource) are cut down annually to manufacture paper cups, most of which are coated with a fossil fuel-derived plastic, and 8,095 gallons of water are used to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves.
  • Think about the amount of electricity you use every day – the coffee maker, blender, hair dryer, hair straightener, electric toothbrush, iron, computer,  printer, tv,  air conditioning, lights, etc.  Try and reduce your usage by unplugging your appliances when not in use; consider power strips to help control  vampire energy.  Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • Test drive a hybrid or electric car when you are next in the market for a new car. I drive an electric car and feel so good driving my carbon emission free car and love not paying those high gas prices!  (It doesn’t significantly increase your electricity bill.)
  • Start an Earth Dinner tradition serving local, organic foods, using real cutlery and cloth napkins, and eating by candlelight to save energy.  Find out who grew your food and the history of the recipes you are cooking from.  Connecting to your food makes the experience more meaningful.  Of course you will be washing your dishes with non-toxic detergent, right?

 

With every passing year, I notice greener living  becoming the new way of life.  That’s encouraging!

 

Want to know your ecological footprint?  Click here to find out (and how to reduce it).

 

http://www.earthday.org/footprint-calculator

 

Some information compiled from earthday.org.

 

A Holiday Thought…..

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Dr. Seuss 

photo-1

This year, slow down and take pleasure in the simple beauty of the season – baking holiday treats and meals, listening to Christmas carols in front of a roaring fire, decorating your home with special ornaments and lots of winter greens and berries, “green” wrapping your gifts, reaching out to those in need, and of course spending precious time with family and friends.  Celebrate with old traditions, embrace new ones and be grateful for your blessings.

I’m definitely taking pleasure in my kids’ visits who come from far and wide, and as much as I love blogging, I don’t want to miss a minute with them.  So, I’ll resume sending you exciting new green tips after the New Year.  For green holiday ideas, check out last year’s Green Your Holidays. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and look forward to a green and healthy 2014.

Go Greener with Your Cleaner!

‘Tis the season of non-stop holiday gatherings with family, friends and co-workers when we bring out the “party” clothes.   Perhaps you spill sticky holiday punch on your new black velour pants or your husband’s silk tie dangles in the smoked bluefish pate and they need dry cleaning.  I go to an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, one that uses a safer alternative to perchloroethylene or perc. (Eighty-five percent of dry cleaners use the solvent perc classified by the EPA as a toxic air contaminant and possible to probable human carcinogen.)  I reuse some of the plastic bags the clothes are returned in when I travel and wrap nice pants or a dress in them.  Or I return the bags to my cleaners for recycling.  But there are so many!    I’ve always wondered about a better alternative to all that plastic!  Well here it is…

English: Many dry cleaners place cleaned cloth...

It’s called the Green Garmento, an eco-friendly, recyclable, breathable laundry bag that can be a hamper, duffel to carry your clothes to the cleaner and a garment bag in which your dry cleaner can return your clothes instead of plastic!  It holds 10 – 14 garments with a full-length side zipper for easy access.  It is machine washable and has a clear window for an ID or a dry cleaning ticket.  What’s more, it’s only $17 for two (or $9.99 for one) so that you can rotate them between home and the cleaners.  The green garmento makes a perfect holiday gift. You can order it online at thegreengarmento.com.

There are an estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning bags that unless recycled end up in landfills, leaching chemicals and threatening marine and wildlife, every year.

It’s time to make a change to safer and more eco-friendly dry cleaning , don’t you think?


 

Healthier Holiday Baking

 

What’s the holiday season without cookies, cakes, candies and other unhealthy treats!  Baking holiday goodies is part of the tradition, and a perfect family activity. While I totally believe in a little splurging, there are healthy baking substitutes where no one will know the difference.  I’ll skip the tip about substituting black beans and dates in place of chocolate when making brownies!  (However, if it sounds appealing, email me and I’ll send you the recipe – my husband loves them!)

 

Supermoist banana and almond cake.

  • Use coconut oil in all recipes calling for butter, shortening or vegetable oil.   It’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil and has 100% less cholesterol than butter.   It contains the same medium-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk essential to optimum health and disease prevention.
  • Olive oil is a good cooking oil too and makes a delicious, guilt-free dessert.
  • Substitute flours made from nuts and healthy whole grains, like almond meal walnut meal or quinoa, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods due to its high nutritive value, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Nuts are super high in Omega 3’s, the right fats your body and brain needs.
  • For recipes calling for peanut butter, try healthier almond butter instead.
  • For a more nutritious sweetener, use honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses or organic cane sugar instead of refined white sugar.
  • Use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
  • When baking with chocolate, try chocolate with at least 60% cocoa powder– it’s healthier and rich in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.  Organic is preferable too!  (Cocoa powder is chocolate pressed free of the fat of cocoa butter.)
  • Moisten cakes and cookies with applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed pumpkin for extra nutrition.  Add nuts, dates, and other dried fruits to your baked goods.
  • Nutrient-rich chia seeds are a good thickener and make a yummy pudding!

Feel a little better indulging this holiday season with some of these baking tips.  Email me your healthy ideas too!  Have fun!

 

Listed below are three simple recipes for healthier holiday treats.

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing (don’t use extra virgin)

6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons best vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal (flour) or 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

1 cup superfine sugar (or organic can sugar)

eggs

1 X 9-inch springform cake pan

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the pan with a little oil and line the base with parchment paper.

Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or pitcher and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, just runny, paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.

In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) with the baking soda and pinch of salt.

Put the sugar, olive oil, and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes, until you have a pale-primrose, aerated, and thickened cream.

Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very center, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.

Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its pan, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the pan. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm. Delicious with ice cream too!

 

Coconut Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded coconut, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  Blend coconut oil, eggs, sugar, and almond extract.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Flatten balls to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until pale tan. Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Each cookie contains 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil.

 

Date Balls

Simple to make and just as satisfying as a usual holiday cookie, date balls are perfect to bring to a party.  They are a great energizing snack too!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups raw almonds
6  dates
1 – 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (add 1 tsp at a time until there is a light vanilla flavor)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional to roll balls in after; sesame seeds are good too)

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor outfitted with an “S” blade, or a heavy-duty blender, process almonds until coarsely ground. Add the dates and extract and process until mixture sticks together. Form the mixture into tablespoon size balls and roll in coconut or sesame seeds.

From deliciouslivingnutrition.com.

For more green living tips, go to greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

Prepare your Thanksgiving Feast with Safer Cookware

 

As you start your Thanksgiving preparations, pull out your grandmother’s old cast iron skillets you found in the attic!  They are much safer than non-stick cookware, and when seasoned properly, cast iron pans are as nonstick as other coated pans.  Conventional non-stick pans can off-gas toxic fumes over high heat.  Even if the pans have labels claiming  “green” or “not non-stick”, chances are they are still coated with toxic chemicals; manufacturers do not have to release their safety data.

English: A cast-iron pan.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cast iron pans have other benefits too.  They are an ideal heat conductor, cook evenly and consistently, and are better able to withstand high heat.    They go easily from stove to oven, don’t warp and are easy to clean.  Simply wash with a mild detergent and dry thoroughly.  Foods cooked in a cast iron pan also absorb iron, a valuable mineral that the body needs to produce red blood cells.

To season your cast iron pan, brush the surface evenly with a vegetable oil; bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour, then cool in the oven.   Repeat occasionally and your cast iron pans will last for generations.  In fact, they will just get better with age.  You can purchase new ones pre-seasoned and ready-to-use however.

If you don’t have any cast iron pans (but hoping to get some for Christmas) and are still using non-stick pans, follow these simple tips to reduce the possibility of toxic fumes:

  • Never heat an empty pan
  • Don’t put it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees
  • Use your exhaust fan over the stove

Oven safe glass and stainless steel are other safe alternatives to non-stick pans. Be greener this Thanksgiving – click here for more green holiday ideas.

Enjoy your family and friends this Thanksgiving and remember this Native American saying, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” 

Information compiled from ewg.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween!

From Ghoulies

And Ghosties

Long Leggitie

  Beasties

And Things That

Go Bump In The

Night

 

Good Lord Deliver

 Us!    

Old Scottish Proverb

Jerome Grand Hotel Lobby Ghost

Jerome Grand Hotel Lobby Ghost (Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 Make your Halloween greener this year!

Click here  to find out how.

Summer’s Extreme Weather

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not
~Author Unknown

Here in the Northeast and in the Mid-west, we’ve been experiencing more than our fair share of cloudy days and rain, intense thunderstorms, flood and tornado watches and high humidity.  Since there really is nothing you can do about the weather (other than lead a greener lifestyle and hope other people will too), try not to let it get you down.  Eating certain foods can relieve weather-related depression.

Omega 3 fats found in fish oil, salmon (and other fatty fish), walnuts (and other nuts), flax seeds, olive oil, chia seeds and avocados, are essential for proper brain function.  When the brain functions properly, it’s hard to get depressed for long.  Studies have shown that just a gram of fish oil a day can decrease symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, unexplained periods of sadness, etc.  Omega 3 fats also lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular function.

Fruits like dates, papaya, bananas, strawberries*, mangoes, pineapple, grapefruit, peaches and apple* also help fight depression!  They contain the best natural sugars your body can process, as well as essential nutrients.  They hydrate too!

Out west, the weather is unusually hot and dry and they are experiencing less than normal rainfall!  Protecting your skin is essential, not only with sunscreen but with food too.  The following three summer fruits are cooling and may protect your skin from sun damage during the hot dry summer weather.

  • Cherries contain inflammation-fighting anthocyanins and melatonin, which may boost UV protection and encourage cell growth, both great ways to fight wrinkles.
  • Nectarines* contain nutrients that help correct sun damage from the inside out.  They contain vitamins and minerals that help control inflammation and free radical damage.
  • Watermelon has high water and lycopene content, which helps protect and preserve skin cells so the skin is tighter, smoother and better able to retain moisture.  Lycopene, also found in tomatoes, is a powerful antioxidant and may help ward off sunburn too.

Extreme weather conditions are hard on the body and the spirit, but eating whole, nutritious and seasonal foods can help.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July!  Stay cool!!!

* Foods that you should always eat organic!

Information compiled from:

http://www.sharecare.com/health/diet-nutrition/article/eat-these-3-fruits-for-great-summer-skin; http://voices.yahoo.com/foods-fight-depression-eat-way-happiness-2710221.html and http://www.naturalnews.com/020611_depression_nutrition.html#ixzz2XtsDD1aP

 

Earth Day 2013

   April 22 is the 43rd annual Earth Day.  According to earthday.org, more than one billion people take part in Earth Day – individuals, communities, organizations and governments from around the world.  This year, earthday.org is collecting and displaying images of people, animals and places directly affected by climate change as well as those helping to do something about it.

I hope you will participate too!  There are lots of easy and meaningful things you can do.  You can:

  • It’s spring – plant a tree
  • Sow some seeds for your garden
  • Visit a local farm
  • Change a conventional light bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED one
  • Pick up litter on the beach
  • Take part in a trash pick-up
  • Use a travel mug rather than a paper cup for your coffee-to-go
  • Drink from a reusable water bottle rather than a plastic one
  • Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans
  • Start a compost bin in your backyard for kitchen waste
  • Make a commitment to drive less and carpool or walk more
  • Take public transportation
  • Shorten your shower by one minute
  • Shut down your computer for one hour
  • Attend an Earth Day event in your area or volunteer
  • Include your kids and grandkids and teach them about the importance of protecting our beautiful earth

End the day with an Earth Day Dinner Celebration with foods that are grown locally if possible and are gentler to the earth – organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed, grass finished beef, free-range chicken or sustainably harvested fish and raise awareness about the origins of our food at the same time. You could host a potluck dinner with regional specialties, plan an earth dinner fundraiser for your favorite local organization, and have an earth day party for kids or a simple supper with your family or friends.  If the weather is warm, try an earth day picnic.  Use real cutlery, not plastic, real plates, not paper and cloth napkins.  Seed packets make great place cards.  For a more festive dinner, eat by candlelight and save energy;  wash the dishes with non-toxic detergent.

Check your local newspaper or go online for Earth Day events in your town.  Make Earth Day and Earth Dinner celebrations your new tradition.  Never forget that simple steps really do make a difference!

 

HEALTHY ORGANIC FLOWERS AND CHOCOLATES FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

Image by blueathena7 Flickr.com

Before you send your sweetheart a romantic bouquet of flowers, think about sending organic flowers instead.  Most flowers are grown with highly toxic chemicals. Even the floral foam used in floral arrangements contains toxic elements; there is an appalling lack of toxicity regulation in the flower industry.  Colombia, the world’s second largest flower exporter after the Netherlands, douses the plants in pesticides to prevent diseases and blemishes.  During peak season, the workers (many of whom are single mothers and even children) work long hours with low wages and a steady exposure to herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.  Many suffer work related health issues as a result.  The soil and the ground water are contaminated and the soil is depleted of biology. Flowers grown in the US are partially regulated by the EPA, mostly concerning the safety issues for the growers.  The possible dangers, including allergic reactions, from chemical residues on flowers passed onto consumers however, are not addressed.

The market is growing for organic flowers – the more the demand, of course the more available they will become.  With each purchase, you know you are helping the life of a floral farm worker.  Visit organicbouquet.com, which according to the Sierra Club, is a carbon-neutral company that not only sells pesticide-free flowers but also gives their workers in underdeveloped countries zero-interest loans, healthcare, and education.  Another option, if possible, buy seasonal flowers from a farmer’s market, pick them from your garden or consider a potted plant.  Potted orchids are a lovely Valentine’s Day gift.

My favorite Valentine’s gift is chocolate and happily the health benefits of dark chocolate are becoming well-known.  Besides tasting delicious, dark chocolate, which is at least 65% cocoa, contains a large number of antioxidants, nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries. The flavonoids help relax blood pressure, have been shown to lower cholesterol by up to 10%, may protect arteries from damage and fend off heart disease.  Dark chocolate stimulates endorphin production, or the feel good hormones, and contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.  It may even help with tooth decay.   Like coffee, it contains caffeine, a natural stimulant.

This year, get your Valentines organic, fair trade chocolate… Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry lots of varieties, and I noticed CVS carries some too.  Dark chocolate still contains sugar and fat, so indulge moderately!  (Unfortunately, milk and white chocolate do not contain the same benefits.)  Yes, even Valentine’s Day can be green!

English: Dark chocolate. Español: Chocolate negro.

Image by sweet mustache Flickr.Com

Some information compiled from greenamerica.org and sierraclub.org

Green New Year’s Resolutions

2. New Year's Resolutions

2. New Year’s Resolutions (Photo credit: lism.)

The New Year is a time for starting fresh and making resolutions, some of which we keep and most of which we don’t.  This year go beyond the “lose weight, exercise more” typical resolutions and add some “green” ones.  Think back over the year to your newly acquired green habits and add to them.   For example, add one new item to your recycling that you have previously not recycled, like printer cartridges. (Staples recycles old printer cartridges and you can download mailing labels from HP to send back used ones.)  Recycle plastic bags at Whole Foods.  I keep a bag handy to store plastic bags and take them to Whole foods whenever I shop there.  Simple!  If you are not already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, then start doing so.  If you are, add reusable produce bags, or bring reusable shopping bags on other errands as well.

Lower your carbon footprint one day a week by walking, biking or taking public transportation instead of driving.  Replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient CFL or LED lights.  One day a week eat vegetarian, a completely local dinner or even a raw meal. Try cutting out processed foods from your diet.  One day a week cut down on your appliance and technology usage or better yet, don’t use them at all.

Replace one of your conventional cleaning products with a non-toxic one.  Check out greenwithbetsy.com for simple recipes to make at home.  They work just as well and you will feel good knowing you are not breathing in toxins!

It only takes three weeks to make or break a habit, so start  your green resolutions now and they will soon become part of your daily routine. You may find you lose that weight and are exercising more simply by being more green!

Happy 2013!!!

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