Easy Green Tips for Kids!

 Image by woodley wonderworks
It’s never too early for kids to make environmentally responsible practices a part of their daily life. To protect the future of the earth, kids must get involved.  That’s how change happens. Below are simple, money-saving, kid-friendly ideas that make a difference.
  • Start recycling and encourage your friends to recycle too.
  • Start composting kitchen waste and encourage your friends to do so too.
  • Buy green school supplies – pencils, notebooks with recycled paper and reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • Save water by turning it off when brushing your teeth.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Turn off video games and computers when not in use.  Better yet,cut down on video game time, which uses more energy than computers or tv.  Play outside instead.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your toys and buy well-made toys that last.
  • Plant a little garden – lettuce and radishes are quick, easy to grow crops.
  • Reduce use of throwaway cups, plates, utensils and use washable dishes and cloth napkins instead.
  • Use reusable, BPA-free water bottles instead of plastic ones.
  • Use a recyclable or reusable lunch bag and put your snacks in reusable containers rather than buying small, throwaway ones.
  • Celebrate Earth Day on April 22!

Click on the link below to watch a brief video created for children on the importance of recycling and the positive effects of doing so.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Turn Your Kitchen Waste Into Gold!

One more Vitamix advantage that I neglected to mention in last week’s blog – When making a smoothie or juice drink in your Vitamix, the whole fruit is juiced, which includes the juice and the fiber.  The fiber contains valuable nutrition that is missing in extracted juice, making your Vitamix drinks even more nutritious!

Several of my readers have asked me about composting.

Composting means recycling food waste or organic material to the soil, which is then broken down by natural bacteria and turned into compost or a dark, soil-like humus and an incredibly rich (and free) organic fertilizer!  Compost adds nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure, eliminating the need for high nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, and produces thriving, pest resistant plants.  Compost is unbelievable fertilizer for your gardens and lawn.

Composting is just as important as recycling cans, bottles, papers, plastics or anything else.  According to the EPA, “ In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only four percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.” When food is thrown away and goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You can compost all organic matter – kitchen waste including fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags, (but avoid meat and dairy which turn rancid and attract scavengers and citrus which is toxic to the worms); grass clippings; and yard waste including leaves.  Do not add weeds or chemically treated grass clippings.

I keep a compost bucket with a charcoal filter (to prevent odors from escaping) in my kitchen sink, which I then empty into the compost pile in the backyard. You can buy compost bins online or from garden centers that cost approximately $30 – $100, but you can easily build your own. It takes about a year before the organic materials are broken down into compost and ready to add to your garden soil. Regularly turning the pile and occasionally adding a compost inoculant to help break down organic material speeds up the process, but isn’t necessary.

For Apartment Dwellers

Some cities like San Francisco and London offer kitchen waste pick up service, but most don’t.  You can still compost however, even without access to a yard.  There are two fun options.

One is vermicomposting, or composting with worms.  Vermicomposting involves buying a shallow worm container and lid (punch holes in the top and sides for drainage and ventilation), making a bed for the worms using torn newspaper mixed with leaves and potting soil, then adding kitchen waste (it works better if it is small pieces) and about 2000 red wriggler worms, sold at garden centers or ordered online through commercial growers.   Leave the lid off so the worms will burrow underground; they are sensitive to light.  In two to three months, your worms will produce dark, rich, nutritious worm castings or organic fertilizer, which your plants will love.  Click here for more information.

A second option is bokashi bin composting. Bokashi means fermented organic matter in Japanese.  This method uses a mixture of “effective microorganisms” in a medium like wheat bran.  You simply add your food waste to the bin and then sprinkle the microorganism mixture on top.  The microorganisms help to break down the scraps and if managed properly, there won’t be any smell.  This system works fast – it makes compost in two weeks!

With both indoor systems, be careful not to compost too much food waste at once.

I never stop marveling at the beautiful rich soil transformed from my kitchen waste.  It’s another one of nature’s miracles.  Get ready for spring and start composting now!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from www.bokashicomposting.com, http://www.howstuffworks.com, epa.gov, and www.ecolocalizer.com

 

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY QUOTE

Originally posted on What's Green with Betsy?!?:

Image by patrizia-ferri Flickr.com

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Charles M. Schulz, “Peanuts” cartoonist

This Valentine’s Day, indulge  ——– in a little chocolate, dark, organic, fair trade chocolate that’s actually good for you and good for the planet!  Click here to read more.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!!!♥♥♥

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Vitamix Bliss!

My nephew and his adorable new bride inspired me to write a blog post with some simple recipes for the new Vitamix they received as a wedding gift.

If you don’t have a Vitamix, I highly recommend getting one.  Though similar to a blender, it’s far more powerful with endless possibilities towards delicious healthy eating! You can make beverages, soups, dips and spreads, sauces, breads, desserts, baby food, dressings and marinades.  The Vitamix is built to stand up to demanding commercial use and decades of use at home. With its ability to chop, blend, cream, purée and more, it’s the only appliance you need!  Another advantage? It’s self-cleaning.

I use my Vitamix at least once a day for my morning smoothie and usually more.  Click on the link for my smoothie recipe or search online.  There are several.  I will say however, I find that smoothie supplements like chia seeds are easily ground up with a Vitamix.

Almond Milk

I love using fresh, homemade, completely additive-free almond milk as the liquid base for my smoothie, and with the Vitamix, it’s a breeze to make.  Nut and seed milks are high in protein, contain the “right” fats and provide calcium.

I cup almonds, soaked 12 hours or overnight

4 cups purified or filtered water

Rinse and drain soaked almonds.  Place almonds and water in Vitamix and process on high until completely broken down.  Place nut milk bag (or cheese cloth) into large pitcher or bowl, positioning so that the bag stays open.  Pour nut milk mixture into bag, allowing liquid to drain through to container.  Gently squeeze with hand to press all liquid through the mesh bag.

Compost the pulp or freeze for later use in inventive recipes.  Have fun trying milk made from other nuts and seeds, or try blending different kinds.  Each has its own unique flavor. 

Homemade Peanut Butter

My husband spreads peanut butter on everything – toast, crackers, apple slices, and celery. Freshly made, and without additives, it’s not only nutritious, but has a special taste.

Ingredients:

3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts

  1. Place ingredients into the Vitamix container and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.
  4. In 1 minute you will hear a high-pitched chugging sound.  Once the butter begins to flow freely through the blades, the motor sound will change and become low and laboring.  Stop the machine.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

Attention: Over processing will cause serious overheating to your machine.  Try making other nut butters too!

Avocado Tortilla Soup

This soup can be made from start to finish in your Vitamix  – you can’t get any easier or quicker than that!

Ingredients:

2 cups chicken broth

5 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1/3 bunch cilantro

1 garlic clove

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ avocado, peeled and pitted

½ lime, peeled

½ cup canned black beans, drained

½ cup canned corn, drained (You can use frozen too but thaw first.)

2 ounces tortilla chips, crushed

  1. Place all ingredients except corn, beans, and tortilla chips into Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Blend for 6 – 7 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from vented lid.
  5. Reduce speed to Variable 2 and remove the lid plug.
  6. Drop in corn, beans, and tortilla chips through the lid plug opening.  Blend for additional 10 seconds.
  7. Garnish with a tortilla chips, sour cream, and a sprig of cilantro.

Vitamix’s powerful motor actually cooks the soup!

Strawberry Yogurt Freeze

Ingredients:

1-cup non-fat, plain, vanilla or strawberry yogurt

1 pound frozen organic, unsweetened strawberries

1/3-cup sugar (Coconut or pure cane sugar) (Omit sugar if using flavored yogurt.)

  1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Use tamper to press ingredients into the blades.
  5. In about 30 – 60 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds should form in the mixture.
  6. Stop machine.  Do not over mix or melting will occur.  Serve immediately.

Try experimenting with other frozen fruits and yogurt flavors!

The Vitamix is amazing and will change your eating habits.  Attending a Vitamix demonstration is extremely helpful in understanding exactly how it works and its possibilities.  Most retail outlets that sell them offer demos.  Visit Vitamix.com for more wonderful recipes.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Reboot Your New Year’s Resolutions!

Lately, I’ve been hearing about rebooting our abandoned New Year’s resolutions.  It’s only February after all, and way too soon to let those good intentions fall by the way side.  Hopefully your resolutions included adopting new green living habits, but if not, it’s never too late to add them.

What is the most important green thing you can do?  Think.      

  • Think about unnecessary packaging when you buy something.  Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • Think about where that product came from and under what conditions it was produced.
  • Think about refusing those ubiquitous, non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic bags at the grocery store and bringing your own reusable ones instead.  (Plastic bags are banned in some areas of the USA and in some countries.)
  • Think about bringing your own bags on all errands.
  • Before you throw something away, think about whether it can be reused or given away.
  • If not, think about our jam-packed landfills and the importance of recycling.  According to Recycling Revolution, “The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1609 pounds per person.  This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.” There is good news however. Efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle are paying off and landfill demand is diminishing.
  • Think about the seriousness of the record-breaking drought in parts of the country and what you can do to conserve water – turn off the water when you brush your teeth, shorten your showers and run your dishwasher only when full.
  • Think about consolidating your errands, walking or taking public transportation in an effort to conserve energy.
  • Think about turning off lights when you leave a room to save electricity.

In our busy, fast-paced lives we usually don’t take the time to think through our daily habits.  They become rote.  It takes about three weeks to develop a new habit.  Make these simple green tips your new routine.  Then, take the time to think and learn about why the time is now to start living a greener life.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from http://www.usi.edu/recycle/solid-waste-landfill-facts; http://postcom.org/eco/facts.about.landfills.htm.

Safely Protect Your Baby’s Soft, Sweet Skin

All new parents want the best for their baby, including the skin care products they use on their baby’s soft tender skin.  Skin is our largest organ and it’s important to choose the safest and most non-irritating products.

Small, developing bodies are more susceptible to the dangers of toxins than adult bodies; their young organs are less capable of processing chemical additives, which can potentially cause damage or disease in the future.    Because they are so small, they are more exposed to chemical contaminants in the air, water, food and personal care products than adults.  Below are a few tips on how to choose the right products.

  • Read the labels and avoid hard-to-pronounce ingredients like Bronopol, DMDM hyhantoin and fragrances found in baby wipes, or BHA, boric acid and fragrances found in diaper creams. There are several safer and non-toxic or organic baby care products available, as well as lots of easy recipes online for making your own, like baby wipes for example.
  • Save your baby the exposure to so many ingredients (and yourself some money) by using fewer products. The fewer the better. Do you really need baby lotion, baby oil, baby powder (see the next tip on powder), baby bubble bath, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby wipes and diaper cream? It’s just marketing and cute packaging that makes us think we have to have a different product for each application.
  • According to the consumer watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, when it comes to baby powder, “skip it! Just like auto exhaust or secondhand smoke, tiny airborne particles can damage baby’s delicate, developing lungs.”

Those same tips are true for skin care products for all ages!  To check the toxicity level of the products you use for you and your baby, click here.

Feel good about giving your baby the best possible start to life!

Information compiled from ewg.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Clean, Fresh Babies

Lucie's baby JeanThere is no more special time in life than the anticipation of your first baby – pouring through baby development books, choosing a name, decorating the nursery, researching the best stroller and car seat, buying those adorable baby clothes, and finding the right laundry detergent that won’t irritate your baby’s soft newborn skin.  Many new parents wonder if it is really necessary to buy a specific, costly detergent like Dreft, just for baby clothes?

The answer lies in what kind of detergent you usually use.   If your detergent is loaded with dyes, fragrances, phosphates and optical brighteners, then yes.  But if you use a ”clean” laundry soap, or one without toxic additives, you don’t have to spend the extra money and run a separate load for baby clothes. 

Most conventional detergents now make a non-toxic product.  You can check out the toxicity level of your favorite brand or find the safest ones by going to the Environmental Working Group website, a well-respected consumer watchdog organization.  They analyzed over 2000 products and rated them according to concern for general ecotoxicity, biodegradation, and general systemic/organ effects.

Here are a few laundry soaps I recommend.

Seventh Generation products are fantastic– they contain plant-derived cleaning agents, soil disperants and non-animal derived enzymes; they are naturally biodegradable, phosphate-free and hypoallergenic. Seventh Generation products consistently score the safest rating and they are a genuinely eco-responsible company.

http://www.seventhgeneration.com/learn/video/brighter-way-care-baby

I like supporting local companies and cottage industries.  The Optimist Co, based on Cape Cod and run by a mother of two small children, makes fabulous laundry soap with 100% soap oil flakes and no chemical detergent. You can’t get much purer than the laundry soap she makes right in her own kitchen!  Shaklee, another eco-responsible company, offers a highly effective, chemical-free laundry soap as well, and for a non-toxic soap that does it all – clothes, dishes, body, hair – there is nothing better than Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castille soap.

One other thing, forget fabric softener which is highly toxic and full of harmful chemicals.  It also breaks down the fire retardancy in infant clothing.  Instead use dryer balls or add ¼ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Make the switch today to non-toxic laundry soap and protect everyone’s skin, especially your baby’s!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

Information compiled from : http://babyclothes.about.com/, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/stories/7-least-toxic-laundry-detergents

 

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