Friday, March 27, 2009

Family Night Activity: Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2009 is upon us and I wanted to encourage you all to enjoy a family night celebrating Earth Hour. Earth Hour is March 28th from 8:30 PM-9:30 PM this Saturday.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote.

Our family celebrated Earth Hour last year and my son still talks about it. It was definitely one of our favorite family nights ever and a great way to share about caring for the earth.

I had been looking forward to Earth Hour all week and sharing this experience with my family. We talked to Ethan about why we were celebrating Earth Hour and how much fun we were going to have. Since Earth Hour was between 8-9 PM last year, it was a special treat for the kids to stay up late and spend the hour with us.

The kids took a bath by candlelight, which they thought was a super fun treat! We filled the tub with lots of bubbles and threw in a couple of whisks and spoons from the kitchen. They whisked up bubbles to their hearts delight and sang fun songs by candlelight.

Ethan thought he looked pretty cool in front of the candles so he took some time out of his busy schedule to pose!

After our baths, we enjoyed a yummy snack while Ryan & I made shadow puppets on the wall for the kids. They thought these were hilarious and super cool!

Ethan had so much fun, he asked if we could celebrate Earth Hour every day! This gave me an opportunity to share with him easy ways he could celebrate AND save the earth. We talked about doing our recycling, turning the lights off when we aren't in a room, and not being wasteful. Since this family night was such a hit, I hope we can do it with the kids again. Not only did the kids have a blast, but it was super frugal, while being extremely memorable for all of us!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Miscellaneous Post of Thrifty Holiday Ideas

The gifts are wrapped and tucked beneath the tree. I opted for reusable grocery bags in lieu of the traditional gift bag this year. I am such a fan of the Target bags and the clever designs that they implement into their bags. These fold up into the size of a small cosmetic case and had a pocket in the front too, perfect for tucking a gift card or a note of appreciation to someone. These were only $1.50, but everyone was so excited to get these this year. There are just a couple of pieces of tissue paper at the top, but the bottom was stuffed with newspaper that would have gone in our recycle bin. The newspaper helped these stand a little more upright since they were not flat-bottomed. I felt proud about my eco-friendly alternative and am hoping to convert some of my plastic-bag-lovin' family members over to the joys of reusable bags.

We did not buy any new decorations this year, but I opted to decorate with what we already had instead. This wall of pictures behind our Christmas tree needed some sprucing up so I covered the photos with some leftover holiday wrap and bows. I thought it tied in the Christmas spirit beautifully and look forward to doing this each year!

I did my annual gift exchange with my best friend. Do you recognize the pom pom? It is made from Target bags and was featured in our notebook. She was so proud to give it to me and I was so excited to see how her "notebook experiment" turned out. Tucked inside was Better Homes & Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book, 2-at-a-Time Socks, a gorgeous teal velvet blazer (found at the thrift store), and a set of note cards with shoes on them. Now THAT is a friend that knows you well! We put a $20 dollar limit on our gifts and always try to outdo each other with our thrift store finds and killer deals.

We worked on mailing and addressing all of our holiday cards for the year. Ethan helped me put on the stamps and we created an assembly line of stamping; he stamped with his stamps and I stamped a snowflake rubber stamp on each and dropped them in the mail. I mailed off my friend's baby blanket and noticed that shipping costs have been reduced for people who do online mailing versus bringing your items into the post office. I was able to save some change on the mailing and was once again very thankful for my handy little postal scale.

Ethan had his holiday show where he sang a beautiful song about snowpants and a song about special, special,special me. He invited Ryan & I to come to his show where he would "dress up fancy and sing special songs." He was so proud of his song and to give our cozy holiday gift (tucked in a reusable bag) to his teacher. We celebrated his special, special, special performance with a budget-friendly Junior Frosty from Wendy's.

Instead of our holiday photo books this year, I decided to make a DVD of our year for each set of the grandparents. I set it all to holiday music and sent it off to our out-of-town relatives with a message for each of them about how special they were. Shipping costs were greatly reduced and it is something that they can view over and over again or share with their friends.

What is your proudest thrifty holiday idea this year? Did you do anything out of the ordinary to save a buck? Please share!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Storage for Thanksgiving Leftovers

I am saving all of my yogurt, sour cream, and whipped topping containers for our Thanksgiving feast. I found a bunch of them in my fridge with a scoop of this and a dab of that in them.

These were run through the dishwasher and are now waiting for all of those Thanksgiving leftovers. I am sure our guests will want to take home some of the leftovers from our feast so I am making sure we are prepared this year. No one likes the burden of returning a dish so these will make the perfect containers to send home all of the goodies without the hassle. Best of all, we are putting these containers to good use rather than adding them to the recycle bin.

If you were feeling ambitious, you could cover them with scrapbook paper. I, however, feel hosting Thanksgiving dinner is ambitious enough and I hope our guests will appreciate the thoughtful gesture of having these containers to enjoy a little of the feasting in their own home.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Gorgeously Green: Green Your Personal Care

We are ready to tackle the second chapter in the Gorgeously Green book for discussion. In the first chapter, we discussed setting an intention towards doing the right thing and today we will discuss greening our personal care items.

I honestly wish that this was not the second chapter in the book and I hope that I won't scare anyone off from this discussion. I think it would have been great to work our way up to personal care, but I know that this is an important topic that needs addressing.

Are all of my personal care items green? No. I am very interested in heading more towards this direction though so I want to share with you some of the tips from the book and from other bloggers on how to begin greening your personal care routine.

There are seven deadly sins and seven ingredients that consumers should be on high alert for, according to the Environmental Working Group. Here are the ingredients that you do not want in your personal care products.

1. Coal tar- used in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams
2. Fragrance- This word is used to mask hundreds of ingredients, including phthalates
3. Hydroquinone- Fund in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers
4. Aluminum- Often used in eye shadow as a color additive and used in deodorants
5. Triclosan- Used in antibacterial products including soap, toothpaste, and cosmetics
6. P-Phenylenediamine- Found in hair dye
7. Lead & Mercury- Lead can appear in toothpaste. Mercury is found in a cosmetic perservative called thimerosol.

To check the products that you already have, you can check the Cosmetic Safety Database and perform a search by product, ingredient, or even company.

The author suggests chucking out any products with those seven ingredients listed and just using up the rest of the stuff you have and making wiser choices the next time you buy products. You can download a handy cheat sheet to help you on your next trip to the drugstore. Print this out and keep it in your purse!

What are some alternatives and green choices you can make towards your beauty regime? The author lists some online resources for buying green cosmetics, but I prefer to take a more frugal approach towards this category.

1. DIY Beauty- I love to make my own beauty products because it saves me money and also happens to be more environmentally friendly. I have listed the recipes that I use here and would highly recommend trying some of these. Want to give an environmentally-friendly and fun gift? DIY Beauty can be shared with others too. I am planning to put together some sugar scrubs to give as gifts for birthdays this year.
2. Replace Facial Cleansers With Oil-I have been thinking of replacing my facial cleaners with the oil cleansing method. I have been reading other bloggers who are trying the same thing and it makes sense to me. I have extremely dry skin, fragrances and chemicals easily irritate me, and I would love to take a more natural approach towards caring for my skin.
3. Go Shampoo Free- This is something else I find quite fascinating and have read a lot about. I actually have wavy hair and read "Curly Girl," (which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone with curly hair) and it had suggested only shampooing once a week. This blog entry will explain how to transition towards going shampoo-free, a very interesting idea indeed! That would certainly help save you some money and I have heard that it really helps with the greasy hair syndrome.
4. Epsom Salts- These are AMAZING and can be found at all of the dollar stores. I use Epsom Salts for everything and I also mix up my bath salts to give as gifts. You can mix these with a few drops of lavender essential oil and it makes the most soothing bath ever. I also use these to soak my feet in. What you might not know about these is that they stimulate serotonin which helps to elevate your moods. and that a soak in these can also lower your blood pressure, alleviate headaches, and flush toxins from your body. All that for a dollar a box- you can't beat it!
5. Feminine Products- I switched to the Diva Cup (bought new in the box off of eBay) and it is fabulous and has replaced this category altogether. I would highly recommend this product or their Luna Pads to replace your feminine products.
6. Deodorant- I can't picture getting rid of this. Sorry! The author recommends Dr. Hauschka's Roll On as a great substitution ($19.95). She mentioned that she had tried the crystal and it did not work for her.
7. Shorter Showers- Well, if you aren't shampooing your hair or washing your face, you might as well take a shorter shower. Crunchy Domestic Goddess is posing a five minute shower challenge to help conserve water. Check it out!
8. Green Your Baby- Make sure to check this Parent's Buying Guide for information caring for your little ones and how to chose safe products for them. You can also check out our article on cloth diapering your little one to help green your routine a little more!

Sound Off: What are some green choice you have made towards your personal care items? Any products or recipes you could recommend?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gorgeously Green: Becoming Aware

I am so excited to begin diving into a new book this week and to discuss how we begin our journey towards being more green. Our book this month is, "Gorgeously Green," by Sophie Uliano.

I am a newbie to green living, but have been trying to do more things that will have a more positive impact on our earth. It has also been important to me to share this with my children as well. We are always talking about why we do the things we do and how we are trying to do our part to make the world a little better. Right now, I think Ethan thinks everyone is like this, but someday I hope he realizes how different we really are and how much we cared about the planet we are living on.

In the book, the first step towards leading a green lifestyle is simply becoming aware of what you are doing and how it is impacting the world around you. It sounds simple enough, but thinking back to my youth, I can recall many stupid things I did that have impacted our earth in a negative way. I became more aware of what I was doing after I had children and also when looking for ways to save our family money.

In the first chapter, the author suggests setting an intention towards becoming green. Set your intentions in the present tense and make a commitment to yourself. Some recommended statements are:

"I am ready and willing to make the changes necessary to live a sustainable lifestyle."

"I give and receive only the best."

"I am living in a way that reflects my deepest values. I'm walking the walk."

"I'm moving mindfully through my day and making choices that are having a positive impact on the environment."

"I'm enjoying living with a deep sense of purpose."

Part of my going green experience has just been trying to get my head out of the sand. All my life, I have kind of lived in my own little bubble of happiness and am blissfully unaware of the bad things that happen in the world. I rarely watch the news, I flip to the fun sections in the paper, I am not passionate about politics...shame on me, right?

When I had our children though, suddenly everything seemed heightened for me. "Why is the world like this? What can I do to make the world better? How can I do my part?" While I might be unaware of many things, I am slowly coming out of la-la land and exploring the world around me.

I can identify with the statement, "I'm enjoying living with a deep sense of purpose." My purpose right now is to be a good mother, a good steward of my money, and to share and do what I can to help other people do the same things. What I could add to that is to make more green choices in my life and pull my head up out of the sand and do things that will have a positive impact on the earth. For me. For my children. For their children.

Sound Off: What are you more aware of now that you have become a mom? What do you find is your purpose at this moment in time?

PS- Once again, I am having problems posting pictures on Blogger. Grrrr....



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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bad Side of Gardening

Our neighbors have the most beautiful yard on the block. The landscaping is impeccable and they are always working on their lawn. I can see them slaving away while I sit in my little lawn chair in my garage...which is why they have an amazing lawn and I have a so-so lawn.

Last week, I headed over there to chat with them and saw them sitting in a huge pile of overturned dirt that they had dug up. They were sifting through the dirt for roots to a plant that had been planted there ten years ago. The family had hired a landscaper to come and do their landscaping and he had the perfect plant for the side of their house...something called the Chameleon Plant (read another bloggers experience with it here).

Over the years, this plant has taken over their beautiful yard so my neighbor searched on the internet to see if she could find out more about this plant. Guess what? It is one of the most invasive plants in the world. So invasive, in fact, that New Zealand has banned this plant from their country.

Desperate to remove this plant from their yard, she has been in contact back and forth with the New Zealand government and they recommended she do the best she could to remove it. The roots to this plant can be planted deeply though and so they are trying to find all of the roots and are burning them because they don't want to put them in the landfill.

When she was browsing at a flea market, this past summer, she noticed that same plant was being sold in buckets for $6.99. She went over and spoke to the person that was selling it and asked if they knew anything about the plant, "It is a great ground cover," they said. She promptly informed them just how wrong they were.

I have heard of other plants taking over people's lawns too. Have you ever had any plant that you have planted that you would tell someone NEVER to plant? What has been your experience with invasive plants?

Now the good sides of gardening... Here are some great gardening reads to help you with your gardens this year:

Miles of Aisles of Chemicals- Except Now Their Green (@ Garden Rant)

BFP Garden Project: The $29 Kick-off (@ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity)

How Much Does a Garden Really Save? (@ Get Rich Slowly)

When Can I Harvest My Basil? (@ The Kitchn)

Free Mulch! (@ Frugal Upstate)

Garden Entertaining Tips (@ The Kitchn)

High Food Prices Lead to Growth in Backyard Gardens (@ ParentDish)

Focus on Garden Flowers (@ Chocolate on Cranium)

Food Gardening Is On The Rise (@ You Grow Girl)

Deck Makeover (@ CraftyPod)

Natural & Green Lawn Care (@ Nature Moms Blog)

Tips for Improving Your Garden Soil (@ Blissfully Domestic)

A Beginner's Guide to Organic Gardening (@ Mad About Martha)

Top 15 Frugal Gardening Tips (@ Thrifty Mommy)

The Makings of a Frugal Garden (@ Keeper of the Home)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Next Book for Discussion... Gorgeously Green

There was some interest in exploring another book together and there has also been some interest in discussing more green ideas on the site. I thought I would pair the two and we could work our way through the book, "Gorgeously Green," by Sophie Uliano.

I received this book from Harper Collins and I really liked the ideas and the message that you could begin starting your green journey with just one simple change. I think many people are scared of the total overhaul process, but we could all make a few simple changes to better our earth for ourselves and for our children.

We can start our discussion next week, but maybe you might like to put a hold on this book at your local library? In the meantime, the author has set up a website and a Gorgeously Green Girls Club that you can join to help teach you simple steps towards an earth-friendly life.

I want this to be a fun and friendly discussion. I know that not everyone is going to be on the same page with a lot of this stuff, but I want this to be a supportive place where you can share freely without judgment! Remember, many of us are still learning and exploring our green sides.

I am looking forward to a great discussion!

Sound Off: What earth-friendly ideas are you really interested in exploring? What changes have you already made in your own life?

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