Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh the weather outside is .... drying my skin!

I love fall and winter but as the temperature drops in my area, so does the humidity and that means dry skin. Reaching for a bottle of lotion may seem like the right solution but it can actually make the situation worse in some cases. And some lotions are full of bad-for-you ingredients. So, let's talk about some Eco-friendly ways to keep our skin supple and soft.

Begin on the Inside

  • Drink water! Yep ... good, old-fashioned water. Water keeps us healthy in many ways ... our brains function better when we're properly hydrated, our organs work efficiently and our skin stays lush and beautiful. So ... drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. What we put into bodies affects our skin so eat well-balanced meals every day. Be sure to include plenty of foods which contain the following vitamins which are particularly beneficial to skin:
C (for example, leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits)
A (carrots, spinach, dried apricots, etc.)
B (found in bananas, oatmeal, etc.)
K (try asparagus, kale, okra, etc.)
E (almonds, sweet potatoes, wheat germ oil, etc.)

On the Outside

  • Love long, hot showers or baths? While they are relaxing and luxurious, they aren't good for skin. Avoid hot water and opt for short showers (it also saves water and energy which is very Eco-friendly).

  • Use a mild soap. Harsh detergents dry out the skin.

  • Moisturize immediately after a shower when skin is most able to absorb. If you use a commercial product, look for natural, healthy ingredients (we'll talk about ingredients to avoid in a bit). Also look for third-party endorsements ... some reliable groups to look for are: Ecocert, USDA Certified Organic, BDIH and the Leaping Bunny label.

  • Consider using olive oil, almond oil, avocado and even oatmeal to naturally moisturize your skin. Oils can be rubbed onto your body and oatmeal can be placed in a mesh bag then tossed into a bath where it will sooth and moisturize.

  • Watch the temperature of your home ... keeping it too hot will dry out one's skin.

  • Cover up. When the temperature outside drops, be sure to cover your skin when going out. Use gloves, scarves, etc. and apply moisturizer before facing the elements.

Ingredients to Avoid

When buying commercial lotions and moisturizers, check the labels ... some include ingredients derived from petroleum or natural gas which have negative health effects (and, being non-renewable resources, they aren't very earth friendly). Avoid these ingredients:

  • Antibacterials
  • Coal-tars
  • Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • 1,4-dioxane
  • Formaldehyde
  • Fragrance
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nanoparticles
  • Parabens
  • Petroleum distillates
  • p-phenylenediamine
  • Hydroquinone

Watch out for misleading terms which are not defined by the government or by independent third parties:

  • Fragrance-free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cruelty-free

The weather outside might be frightful ... but it doesn't mean our skin needs to be!

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A quick Monday tip ...

Yesterday we visited the recycling center. As I was tossing items into the "Mixed Paper" bin I noticed magazines ... lots of magazines ... magazines in great shape ... magazines on fitness, the home and cars. And I thought ... even though they are being recycled, what a waste that they were being taken out of circulation when they are in such good condition.

So, today's tip is quick and easy:

If you buy magazines (or books for that matter), pass them on to another before sending them to the recycle bin. And ask the lucky recipient to do the same.

Easy, right?

Yes, reading magazines and books online is more Eco-friendly than buying them but ... sometimes there's nothing better than settling in with a good "read" and relaxing.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beautiful Falling Leaves

I love this time of year ... the air is crisp and the fall colors are lovely. Every time that the wind picks up, leaves float to the ground ... a cascade of yellow, orange and red. The ground becomes nature's patchwork quilt.

Those beautiful falling leaves bring me to today's quick tips:

  • Leaves that fall in the yard and flower beds can be left to decompose and nourish the soil. They also act as mulch, protecting plants from winter temperatures.

  • Forgo the air blower or hose for walkways and decks ... grab a broom and get busy. The only energy you'll burn is your own ... and how healthy is that!!

  • Once leaves are gathered up from the driveway, walkway or patio, add them to your compost pile ... or start one if you haven't already done so. In the spring, you'll have rich soil for your garden.

  • I don't usually give you tips that say "Don't ..." but in this case I'll offer one: Don't burn leaves as a way to dispose of them. The smoke caused by burning leaves is polluting and compromises air quality.

There you go ... easy tips ... big environmental benefits.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009


"Climate Change" ... "Global Warming" ... they are words that we hear a lot these days. We're told that the polar ice caps are melting and that species, like Polar Bears, will die and become extinct. Other animal and plant life ... those able to move ... are doing so, changing our ecosystems. There is evidence that our oceans are rising and some say that they will consume land at lower elevations, like parts of Florida. Weather patterns have already changed, causing extreme conditions in many parts of the world. How often, lately, have we heard of an area suffering drought one minute and floods the next?

All of these reports have a couple of things in common ... they are dramatic and they usually tell us that we must act now. But how? They don't tell us what we, individuals trying to do our best, can do to make things better.

Some climate change is part of our planet's natural life cycle. Throughout history, the earth has experienced events such as volcanic eruptions and changes in our orbit. We've gone through ice ages and long periods of warming. All of those events have had an affect on the earth's climate. But in the late 18th century, man got busy with the Industrial Revolution and became the largest contributor to global warming. Humans started burning fossil fuels (coal and oil) and started cutting down trees (deforestation). These activities kicked global warming into "over-drive" by causing a huge increase in concentrations of heat-trapping gasses in our atmosphere.

What does that mean to us? Well, when we use oil products or electricity, we release greenhouse gases. Growing food, burning wood in our fireplaces, raising livestock and tossing out garbage all release greenhouse gases. In fact, everything we do contributes, in some degree, to climate change. So, the way we can "act now" is to live "green" ... to put into action all of the ideas we've talked about in this blog and the suggestions that can be found throughout the blogosphere. We can pay attention to our every action and take the route with the least environmental impact. Every time we reduce our consumption (of everything), reuse things instead of tossing them out and recycle everything that can be recycled, we take a positive step towards slowing global warming.

I'm not a scientist or an expert on climate change. I'm just a person who wants to do the right thing. Perhaps it's true that the earth's course is set ... that there is nothing we can do to stop global warming. On the other hand, perhaps there is a lot we can do. If there is a chance ... even a small chance ... that my actions can help the earth and improve the quality of life, then ... I'm going to give it my best effort.

Won't you join me?

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Seven Green Tips for the Kitchen

Let's think about our kitchens for a moment. They use a lot of energy ... refrigerators, stoves/ovens, counter-top appliances, etc. They are gathering places, often doubling as a recreation area (think of playing board games at the kitchen table), an office (where kids do homework, adults pay bills and often the location of a computer), and sometimes a comfortable spot to entertain guests. So, what better place to focus our "green" efforts? Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. If you use a dishwasher (other than your spouse or kids), run it at off-peak hours ... for example, at midnight. Power plants generate electricity more efficiently during off-peak hours. And here's a bonus ... they usually sell it for less so ... you'll save money as well as energy.

  2. When thawing frozen foods, consider thawing in the refrigerator rather than using a microwave or letting the item sit on a counter. It takes a bit longer but you'll save energy, both by not using an appliance and by using the item to keep the refrigerator contents cool.

  3. Thinking of buying a cutting board? Consider bamboo. Not only is it a sustainable material, it is strong, hard and resists bacteria better than wood.

  4. Rather than use ice to fill a cooler or "shock" vegetables (stop them from cooking after they've been removed from the stove), try using a freezer pack. It's reusable and you'll save water.

  5. Collect rinse water and give it to your plants. Or, leave it in the sink and use it, instead of the faucet, to wash hands.

  6. Want some fried food tonight? Consider stir frying ... since stir fried foods are typically cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked at high temperatures, they cook fast which means they use minimal energy. Here's a bonus ... stir frying uses less oil than traditional deep frying so it's also a healthier alternative.

  7. If the kitchen doubles as a computer room, remember to place the computer and any desktop lamps, etc. on a power strip ... and then, turn them off when not in use.

There are many ways to "green" a kitchen ... these seven ideas are good places to start.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why trees are important ... by Little Miss Green

As you might remember, one of our recent Change The World Wednesday challenges was all about kids (you can read that challenge HERE). While I was impressed with all of the articles written about that challenge, I was particularly impressed by the stories of children who take it upon themselves to live a "greener" life. They are Eco-Stars and the hope for our future.

One such Eco-Star is Little Miss Green, the eight year old daughter of Mrs. Green who writes a fabulous blog called
Little Green Blog. Little Miss Green is amazing ... she seems to consider all of her actions and judges them according to what is best for the earth. So, I thought it would be fun to hear from her. She (with the approval of her mom) kindly agreed to write something for us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Why trees are important

One of the things I love most in the world is trees.

I live in an area surrounded by trees and we have some in our garden too, so I'm very lucky. Trees, along with water are the most important things in the world because we need them to live.

I enjoy climbing them and if they all get cut down to make paper I won't have any to climb.

The most important thing is they give us oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide which allows us to breathe.

Trees are houses for squirrels and birds, wasps and bees and they give us and the earth shade on sunny days.

They also provide us with food and if you're very poor this can be the only thing that keeps you alive.

If there are no trees, animals can start to die. If the bees start to die, we could start to die as well because they pollinate one third of all the food we eat.

Bees pollinate cotton too. Without cotton our clothes would have to be made from polyester. Polyester is made from oil and they cut Mother Nature's face open to get the oil.

Bees also give us beeswax. My Mummy uses beeswax to make me lipsalve to keep my lips comfy in the Winter and she adds manuka honey to make it extra special. She also uses beeswax to make creams to heal my skin if I cut it.

Trees are also very very important in floods. If we did not have trees you can have flooding when it rains. That is why there are nearly always trees around a stream. If there weren't any trees to drink the water the stream or river would flood and destroy the land.

When there is flooding and if it's on a steep hill, all the water would rush down the hill. If this kept happening, soon the soil would begin to roll down the hill too and might fall on top of houses and kill people.

I use tea tree, eucalyptus and neem oil to keep me healthy. Without these trees I would not have this special, safe medicines to use and I might have to use man made drugs instead.

Dead leaves turn into compost which makes the soil fertile. When the soil is healthy it can grow new things in it like more trees, food and pretty flowers.

I have six trees in my garden and I love them all.

Maisie lives by the side of the garage and shades my den. She blocks the entrance so no trespassers can get in. She has dark green leaves which make good collages.

Leafy is a tall sycamore tree which my tree house is built in. He is possible to climb but he is very big. I fly the helicopters which he scatters over my treehouse platform. He is the biggest of the lot. He protects me from the rain. There is a bees nest in him and whenever I go into my treehouse playing he gives off special messages because the bees never sting me.

Rose is the boss of all the trees. She is a rose tree with white flowers. Rose is unique and different from the others. She is quite stern and stubborn but as she is so different from the others I almost love her best. She is the smallest.

Maggie is a magnolia tree. She gives me lovely buds; when I was younger I used to think they were butterflies. She also gives me lovely sweet flowers and in spring until winter she is covered with lovely dark green leaves. Occasionally I pick off a small stem and it smells like lavender. I love Maggie; she is my favourite.

Buddy has lovely pink sweet-smelling flowers in the winter time. She is beautiful to look at with her dark green leaves. She is too small to climb and is more bush like. Her leaves have a red tinge to them which looks beautiful.

Apple is more difficult to climb. He gives me lots and lots of apples with red patches on which Mummy made into Apple and Blackberry pie. He has two branches leaning over my hammock which I swing on.

Grayling is a lovely tree for climbing. He's a cheerful happy lad who loves talking to me in his heart. At the very bottom of his trunk there is a branch which I get to bounce up and down on. My best friend likes him too because she learned to climb in him.

I love trees, they are beautiful to look at and give us so much. I don't like it when people cut trees down to be greedy and we should all take care of and love the trees.

Wasn't that wonderful? I don't know about you, but with the future of the earth in the hands of children, like Little Miss Green, I feel a lot better.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Artichoke Pesto Penne Pasta

One of the easiest ways to walk a little gentler on the earth is to eat meatless meals (read more about that HERE). So, once a month (on the first Friday of the month), I post a vegan recipe.

This month's recipe comes from my bloggy friend, Tracy, at Strawberry Hedgehog. Tracy is such a talented woman. I first got hooked on her blog when I saw recipes for vegan muffins, salads and even ice cream ... wonderful recipes which she shares, regularly, with her readers. As I got to know Tracy, I learned that she also makes vegan soaps ... luxurious, wonderful smelling soaps which she sells in her vegan bath and body shop. On top of all that, she's really a nice person. So, if you haven't visited Strawberry Hedgehog, I urge you to do so.

Tracy shared the following recipe with her readers a few months ago. I've made it a couple of times and we love it. I hope you and your family enjoy it, too!

Artichoke-Pesto Penne Pasta Salad


1 package whole wheat penne
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts
1 handful baby spinach
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 can artichoke hearts
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the penne according to the package directions, drain, and rinse with cool water.

Saute the garlic in a bit of olive oil until it starts to brown. Turn off the heat and toss in the pine nuts for just a minute. Put the garlic, nuts, basil, spinach, nutritional yeast, and lemon into your food processor and blend until smooth.

Drain and quarter the artichokes, mix them with the penne, and pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and enjoy!

Thanks to Tracy for this yummy dish!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!