Monthly Archives: August 2012

Kid-Friendly Green Activities

By Leah Kaminsky

There are two questions that drive parents up the wall: “What’s for dinner?” and “What should I do?” There are a variety of eco-friendly answers to this second one, and they’re likely to be just as interesting to you as they will be to your kids. That’s because going green, at its best, involves getting a little creative.

Having your kids help with yard work on a sunny day is a great way to keep them entertained.

If you’ve got a crafty kid on your hand, have your child scour the house for old, unused materials you can repurpose into something new. Egg cartons can be turned into mobiles and that old tin of beans can become a great place to grow a small plant. Run out of space on the fridge for proudly displaying your child’s artwork? Make room by turning that old artwork into a fun bookmark that will get them crafting and reading. With an inventive mind, you can even build a robot from recycled materials.

Another great idea is to coach your child on growing his or her very first garden. This can be something as simple as planting a seed in a cup and watching it grow on the windowsill to building a raised bed for your deck or even planning for lots of vegetables you can use all year round. Or foster a sense of community by volunteering at your local community garden or at your CSA ­- local, subscription-based farm organizations that encourage eager members to help with the farming..

Learning green cooking principles can be another great way to both entertain your child and teach them important life lessons. Discuss why it’s important to eat in-season before brainstorming tasty recipes and checking out your local farmer’s market. You’ll be killing both the dinner and the entertainment question with one stone.

There are many more ways to have fun in classic green style, just as long as everyone involved gets a little bit inventive. And if all else fails, there’s nothing quite so green as, “Go outside and entertain yourself.” Right?

Make Your Summer Hours More Green

By Leah Kaminsky

Are any of us actually productive on a sunny day? We didn’t think so. That’s why so many kind-hearted and wise companies switch to summer hours during sun-kissed months, allowing employees to skip out early just as long as they get all their work done on time.

Summer is a great time for rest, relaxation and fun, but for the eco-minded office worker, it can also be a time for green activities. Here are our top three picks for the best green ways to spend those extra summer hours.

1. Go berry picking

Whether you’re on a mission to recreate the children’s book Blueberries for Sal, or you just can’t resist a freshly picked strawberry, berries are an irresistible glory in the summer months (as are all summer fruits). Do a little web research into what kind of fruit will be ripe in your area, skip out on that lunch meeting and head out to a local farm. You’ll have plenty of pie-making and canning opportunities waiting for when you return home.

2. Make a Rain Barrel

There are few things greener than water conservation, especially if you live in one of the many areas around the country that experiences terrible droughts. Make a rain barrel out of an old trash can and use what you capture to water your plants, garden, trees and yard. It’s easy and fun to do, especially for kids.

3. Go for a Hike

One of the best ways be green is to be out in green. Pick the kids up from summer camp, lace up your boots and head out to a local trail. Use your hike as an opportunity to teach kids about wild life and plants, or perhaps even as a lesson in how to forage. The whole family will get a good dose of fresh air and maybe even a lifelong love of the great outdoors.

There are more green summer activities than there is time in the day. Use your extra summer hours to their eco-max.


The True Benefits of Organic Produce

By Leah Kaminsky

Earlier this week, I stumbled on a blog post in Scientific American supposedly busting top myths about organic produce. Then I fell into a wormhole reading all the articles calling the myth buster wrong (see references), until my brain was no better than a scrambled egg. An organic one, of course.

All of this got me thinking: what are the differences between organic and non-organic produce anyway?

If your first answer is, “Pesticides, of course!” you’re right. And wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, organic farmers do use pesticides. There’s no way to feed the entire world if we don’t keep the pests away. The difference, however, is that organic pesticides are derived from natural sources, not made synthetically in the lab. Though they don’t appear to be quite as toxic as their synthetic counterparts which count endocrine-disruption and birth defects among their lovely side effects, they’re still not great to consume.

But whether or not this is problematic depends largely on the grower. What if an organic farm sprays its crops three times a week while a factory farm sprays with synthetics once a year? It’s very likely that the produce raised with synthetic pesticides would, in the end, contain less pesticide

Still, this could seem like a case of lax or confused guidelines and a lone farmer looking to capitalize on the organic trend rather than a problem with organic produce itself. Synthetic pesticides take much longer to break down both in our bodies and in the environment than natural ones, causing damage during those elapsed years.

These arguments also seem to ignore the social aspect. Organic farmers, after all, tend to be movers and shakers – at the cutting edge of the newest farming technology. They’re far more likely to diversify and rotate their crops to prevent monoculture and promote rich soil, both essential elements in creating sustainable agriculture.

So, the question remains: is organic produce still worth the expense for you as a consumer? Yes. Just make sure you know what kind of farmer you’re buying from.

Mixing Up Natural Bug Repellant for Peace of Mind

By Leah Kaminsky

Raise a hand if you’ve experienced this before: you want to sit outside on an idyllic but mosquito-filled summer’s night. You reach for the bug repellant and your eye falls on this abbreviation in the ingredient list: DEET, a chemical linked to neurological problems, skin and eye irritation, and who knows what else. Not to mention all the other big chemicals you can’t pronounce. You opt for the screened-in porch instead.

Sound familiar? Well, don’t pack those lawn chairs up yet. There’s a solution around the corner, and its name is essential oils.

As you may have noticed, insects aren’t like us. While we pay extra money to get massaged with essential oils, bugs like to stay as far away from them as possible. Mix just a few potent drops with any household oil (olive, vegetable, etc.) or in rubbing alcohol and those bugs won’t touch you.

Different essential oils repel different bugs, so choose yours based on the worst culprits in your area. For mosquitoes, try cinnamon, citronella or castor oil. Lemon or regular eucalyptus oil is also great for mosquitoes, ticks and lice, while rose geranium oil is only effective on ticks and lice. If you’ve got more than one of these pests, try a mix n’ match approach. Carpet-bombing can’t hurt anyone except the bugs.

As a general rule, go for one part essential oil for every 10-20 parts oil or alcohol. Add aloe vera for a lotion-like feel.

Apply your natural bug repellant like you would any other, avoiding sensitive areas like your eyes. Store what you don’t use in a dark bottle and keep it out of the sun.

So there you have it. Mix together a few oils and you’ll have your completely natural route to total bug aversion. Bugs beware!