Guilt-Free Green Tip #74: Bring Your Own Containers to Restaurants

Welcome to a regular blog feature called Guilt-Free Green Tips. These will be easy action steps you can take to be a little greener, and each mini post will feature one tip. Choose the ones that appeal to you, and learn what eco benefits a single, simple step can make.

This particular tip is one I used to follow and have since fallen away from, so I’m hoping that featuring this advice will inspire me to bring it back. It’s easy enough. I just toss several reusable food containers into a reusable bag and keep them in the car. The tricky part for me is usually remembering to bring them from the car into the restaurant!

I have had the pleasure of seeing startled expressions on the faces of waiters and waitresses when they ask if we want our leftovers wrapped, and I say, “Oh, I’ve got my own containers right here.” It’s kind of funny. And I haven’t come across anyone yet who has said it isn’t allowed.

How Does This Help?

  • You avoid using harmful plastics (#3,6 and most #7s) that many restaurants still use in food containers. Which means you’ve just saved your family from ingesting the carcinogens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins that can leach from these harmful plastics into your food. (Make sure the food storage containers you use at home are glass, stainless steel or plastics #1,2 or 5.)
  • You keep Styrofoam containers out of the landfills where it takes up about 30% of available space.
  • Through quiet action, you send an eco message to restaurants about the quality of their packaging and about reusability. Who knows? The lady at the table next to you may overhear your exchange and be inspired to bring her own containers the next time she goes out to eat!



5 Tips for Creating an Eco-Friendly Garden

This is a guest post by Rachel Jensen.

We live in a time where being eco-friendly and reducing our footprint is of the utmost importance. Many people focus on green technologies in the home, which typically involves a variety of factors. In the garden, the main factor you need to consider is space.

Here are five great and easy ideas for turning your yard into an eco-friendly garden.

Eco-friendly Garden Tips |

Create Your Own Compost Heap

A compost heap is a great way to control the waste your household produces. To create a compost heap, simply choose an area of your yard in which to confine any food waste and other organic materials that decompose (dried leaves, yard clippings, etc.). Keep the pile moist by adding water every now and then, and make sure it is aerated by turning it over with a pitchfork.

If you’re a keen gardener, a compost pile becomes a bonus, as it will eventually decompose to become excellent, nutrient-rich soil for planting. A good compost pile can also help to control plant diseases and to distract insects that may want to eat your favorite roses.

Save Water with a Rain Barrel

It’s ridiculous how much water gets wasted on a regular basis. Through the simple use of a rain barrel, you can save and reuse water that would normally be wasted.

Rain barrels can be purchased for an affordable a price, or you can make your own. A rain barrel normally holds 50 to 80 gallons of water. Most have a built in spigot that you can use to fill a watering can or connect a hose. A rain barrel is an easy way to obtain free water for your garden.


Plant a Tree

This is a simple tip, but also one of the best things you can do in your garden.

The benefits of planting a tree are many. Since trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, you’ll be combating greenhouse gases. Trees are also beneficial to wildlife. Insects will congregate and live off the tree. Birds will be attracted to the food. A tree can be a great source of shelter for creatures and a welcome source of shade for you while tending to the garden.

Grow Your Own Food 

Growing your own food isn’t as daunting a process as you may expect. Peas, green beans and lettuce are just a few vegetables that anybody can easily grow. There are plenty of fun ways to garden with kids, too. Make sure you research each plant’s growing requirements, whether it be full sun or a trellis, as well as how much water they need to flourish.

You’ll find that gardening is great outdoor exercise and that homegrown veggies taste so much better.

Once you’ve produced your first vegetables, you may try your hand at canning or otherwise preserving them. Homemade food makes for great birthday or holiday gifts.

Keep Honeybees

Honeybees have been dying over the past few years, and nobody is quite sure why, but it presents a big problem. One-third of all vegetables and fruits that are produced are actually pollinated by bees; this is also how flowers prosper.

It’s common misconception that you need a large expanse of land to keep bees. Sure, the larger the space, the easier it can be, but even in London people are using terraces to raise their very own bees. Not only are you contributing to the existence of bees, but, you can harvest your own honey. Like your own vegetables, beeswax and honeycomb make great presents for special occasions.

If you’re afraid of bee stings and don’t want to invest in special clothing, there are stingless bees that you can keep. They produce a different kind of honey, but still act as pollinators without the aggressive stinging.


Image from Shutterstock.

What other eco-friendly garden ideas would you suggest? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author: This blog was written by Rachel Jensen of  the Green Deal Shop, the one-stop shop for all of your Green Deal needs.  

This post is shared at Natural Family Friday.


Guilt-Free Green Tip #103: Reduce Your Junk Mail

Welcome to my blog feature called Guilt-Free Green Tips. These are easy action steps you can take to be a little greener, and each mini post will feature one tip. Choose the ones that appeal to you, and learn what eco benefits a single, simple step can make.

How to Eliminate Junk Mail

Your mailbox is bombarded with catalogues, credit card offers, store promotions and direct mail advertising. Aside from being annoying, that’s a lot of wasted paper. You can choose to reduce or eliminate the amount of junk mail you receive.

How to stop junk mail |

By Dvortygirl CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a list of places that will do it for you (most are free). It takes just a few minutes online to sign up for a service, although it may take 60-90 days to be fully junk mail-free.

How Does This Help?

  • You save money. (Americans spend about $370 million each year to dispose of junk mail that isn’t recycled.)
  • You save trees since about 100 million are cut down every year to make junk mail.
  • You help keep landfills free of junk mail (about 44% ends up there unopened).
  • You get back 8 months of your life (or about 70 hours a year) that’s typically spent dealing with junk mail.

Top 6 Eco Alternatives to LEGOS

Everyone loves LEGO. Their popular brick system has been around since the 1950s, inspiring creativity in generations of children. Still, they’re made of plastic, which takes an environmental toll.   

While the LEGO company does get kudos for making long-term sustainable plans — they aim to manufacture their products close to the point of sale to reduce transportation emissions and to operate energy-efficient factories, including renewable energy sources like a wind farm in the process of being built — their current partnership with the Arctic-drilling Shell oil company flies in the face of those values.

Greenpeace LEGO video |

Click here for an awesome and affecting LEGO MOVIE-inspired video from Greenpeace to spread awareness about drilling in the Arctic — then sign the petition. 

We forget that LEGO is not the only constructive toy out there. Perhaps you want your kids to play with safer and greener toys. Maybe you’re tired of supporting a hugely profitable, mega toy company. Or maybe you’re a bit like Wyldstyle, seeking something different. In my research, I discovered some unique and eco-friendly LEGO alternatives sure to ignite your child’s imagination.

Eco-friendly LEGO alternatives |

  1. Earth Blocks from Colors Tokyo

    These blocks are made from cedar tree bark, coffee beans, green tea leaves and compressed cedar log dust. They come in natural, earth-colored hues and may even emit a natural fragrance of coffee or sawdust.

    Earth Blocks |

  2. YOXO by Play from Scratch

    Their philosophy is about using recycled raw materials to inspire kids’ creativity. Every toy they make includes recycled material and is recyclable. They provide a variety of kits, which include links, connectors and stickers to use with raw materials from your own home (toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, etc.).

  3. EnviroBLOX from Cadaco Toy

    EnviroBLOX is a 100% biocompostable building system that you could actually eat because the pieces are made from corn starch colored with food dye. Similar in shape and texture to foam packing peanuts, these “blocks” can be compressed, cut or twisted into various shapes. To build something, simply dab the block’s end in water (or lick it) and stick it to another piece.

  4. Triqo

    These Dutch-designed construction toys are made of fully recyclable polypropylene in only two shapes (square and triangle) for endless creative possibilities.

    Triqo castle |

  5. Togetherfarm

    Their recycled plastic blocks are meant for gardens but can also work great as large-scale building blocks. BPA and phthalate free, they are manufactured in the USA and 100% recyclable.

  6. Dobney Blocks

    You can’t go wrong with classic wooden blocks. Dobney’s unique interlocking block systems are hand crafted from sustainably grown New Zealand timber and packaged in recyclable cardboard.


Have you ever tried any of these toys? Are there other building kits that your kids love?

 This post is shared at Natural Living Monday, Natural Family Friday and Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop.


Natural Parenting Convention: #MommyCon2014

About MommyCon

MommyCon is back for its second consecutive year! If you’ve never heard of MommyCon, it is a boutique-style convention focused on natural and organic parenting methods. But you don’t have to be an über-crunchy mom to attend… The organization prides themselves on being a judgment-free environment open to all parents or parents-to-be and a variety of perspectives. All you really need is to be passionate about parenting.

2014 events are being held in several cities across the U.S. Upcoming ones include Boston (Aug 2), Memphis (Aug 23), Philadelphia (Oct 5) and Newport Beach (Nov 1). While each city’s program differs, this year’s seminars and workshops generally cover the topics of breastfeeding, babywearing, car seat safety, cloth diapering, green-proofing and natural medicine.

Click here to check out each city’s schedule and to purchase tickets. **Use the promo code: ECOMOTHERING at checkout for 10% off your ticket!

MommyCon 2014 |

MommyCon events are family friendly. You can bring your kids (those under age 16 get in free with a paying adult), bring snacks (some snacks and toys will even be provided), try on a myriad of baby carriers, meet like-minded moms, shop baby gear vendors and listen to fabulous speakers such as Dr. Jay Gordon, Jessica Martin-Weber of The Leaky Boob, Bunmi Laditan of The Honest Toddler and Jennifer Labit of Cotton Babies. You’ll also be eligible for some of the organization’s $10,000 in giveaways and gift bag goodies.

MommyCon 2014 |

MommyCon Boston

Since I’m headed to the Boston event, I’ll tell you a bit about that one. The seminars will be held Saturday, August 2, but if you head into town the night before, you can check out the parentally incorrect comedy show, “Pump and Dump.”  This adults-only show features musical hits such as “Eat Your F-ing Food” and “When I Die, I Want to Come Back as a Dad.” (ha!) Click the graphic below for a preview of their humor.

MommyCon 2014 |

The Boston Saturday program kicks off as mothers unite to set a breastfeeding world record and normalize breast pumping by pumping in a public display. Hurrah!

MommyCon 2014 |

Ticket Giveaway (now closed)

MommyCon has given me two tickets (an $80 value) to the 2014 city event of your choice. Tickets are general admission for the one-day convention only. Any VIP events, the Pump and Dump Show and lodging are at your own expense. Giveaway ends July 18, 2014. Enter below.

**Remember, if you’re not a winner, you can still get 10% off your ticket by using the promo code ECOMOTHERING at checkout.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop, Natural Living Monday and Natural Family Friday.


July’s Top 5 Eco Crafts

Welcome to my monthly installment of eco-friendly arts and craft projects gathered from around the Internet. While some projects require adult supervision, they are a fun, educational and green hobby for your kids to enjoy this summer.

  1. Tin Can Outdoor Lantern from Inhabitat


  2. Sea Shell Mobile from I Love Shelling


  3. Paper Bag Kites from KinderArt


  4. Animal Flower Pot from Crafts Unleashed


  5. Egg Carton Fairy Lights from Red Ted Art


8 Green Tasks Your Toddler Can Do

Getting kids on the road to a low-waste lifestyle can begin at birth since little ones observe and mimic what we do. Here are eight simple ways to get them involved early on.

Green Tasks for Toddlers |

  • Recycle household items. Easy peasy. Hand your toddler a washed-out yogurt container, and see if he can drop it into the blue bin. Let him pick up yesterday’s newspaper and toss it into the green bin. Kids learn color differentiation as well as what items are recyclable. Learn more tips on making recycling fun for kids.
  • Hand you wet clothes from the laundry basket as you hang them on the clothesline. There are both eco and cost benefits to air drying your laundry.
  • Throw dryer balls into your dryer. (aff link) Wool dryer balls are a chemical-free, cost-efficient alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners (they’re especially great for drying cloth diapers). They also reduce static and increase fluffiness. You can even learn to make your own dryer balls.
  • Dig in the garden. You can either allot your toddler a small area to do what she wants or have her work alongside you turning over the earth. Since dirt and water is a natural playscape for toddlers, encourage their curiosity and desire for exploration instead of worrying about the mess.
  • Draw on scrap paper. There’s no reason to shell out dollars for brand new sketchbooks. As you well know, toddlers are happy to scribble on anything. Demonstrate early lessons about paper waste by giving them the backside of computer paper or giftwrap, envelopes from junk mail, store receipts… they’ll love the variety of paper shapes and sizes.
  • Dry dishes. Whether you’ve used the no-heat dishwasher cycle or washed by hand, your toddler can use a towel to wipe down unbreakable items such as pots and pans, plastic storage containers or spoons.
  • Toss food scraps into the compost. We keep an old plastic container on the kitchen counter, and take it out to the compost bin when it’s full. So while you’re chopping fruits and veggies, leave the scraps for your toddler to put into your countertop container. It’s an easy early education on what types of items can be composted, and your child may delight in the idea of giving food to the bugs who will then “magically” turn it into garden dirt.
  • Clean the house. If you use natural cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar, your toddler can help clean without worry of harmful ingestion. Wet a cloth rag with water and a bit of white vinegar, and let him go to town wiping tiled floors, refrigerator shelves or even the bathtub while he’s in it. Give her a scoop of baking soda to pour over the carpet before you vacuum it. Hand him a spray bottle of highly diluted vinegar to spray and wipe down outdoor play structures and toys. Offer your child a natural broom and you’ll soon find her sweeping the patio, porch or driveway. (The broom may serve double duty for flying once she enters the Harry Potter years.)

This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop and Natural Living Monday.


Top 5 Tips for Eco-Friendly Summer Entertaining


Along with summer comes outdoor gatherings and backyard barbecues. While being outside may already seem green, here are five ways to go easy on the earth (and save yourself some bucks) when entertaining.

Tips for Eco Entertaining |

  1. Dine on Bamboo and Sugar Cane

    Several companies — including BAMBU, EATware and Treecycle — now make biodegradable or compostable plates, bowls and cups made from items like recycled plastic or sugar cane. When our parties aren’t too large, we prefer to skip the disposables altogether and use our regular dishes. If you don’t have enough, comb thrift shops and yard sales to create a funky collection of colorful tableware for entertaining. Dress it up with pretty cloth napkins or items from nature for a tablescape right out of HGTV.

  2. Drink with Less Packaging

    Fill glass pitchers with water, lemonade or iced tea instead of buying individual bottles. (They also look nicer on the table.) Nix the juice boxes for large bottles of juice poured into reusable cups. If you have a lot of beer drinkers, a mini keg is more sustainable and cost-efficient than a myriad of bottles or cans. Always locate recycle bins in convenient places for the guests.

  3. Grill with Gas

    Studies have shown that gas grills are more eco-friendly than charcoal because the liquefied petroleum burns more efficiently and releases half the amount of carbon emissions — with less worries about asthma-inducing soot and VOCs. If you’re dead set on charcoal, look into sustainably produced options such as Wicked Good Charcoal, which is made from industrial scrap wood.

  4. Conserve Energy

    Rather than filling a house with hot bodies and cranking up the air conditioner, go with the flow of nature. Plan your party around the weather and time of day. In the heat of July, an evening soiree will be naturally cooler. During the daytime, a shady park or lakeside location will cool off guests and tempers. Instead of having kids run through sprinklers (which can use 265 gallons of water per hour), toss ice cubes down their shirts or keep washcloths in the freezer for wrapping around little necks. It feels great!

  5. De-Bug Naturally

    If you plan ahead of time, you can landscape your outdoor entertaining area with plants that naturally deter mosquitoes. Pots of marigolds, lemon balm, catnip or citronella (a perennial grass) can act as a bug-deterring border on the patio. For the kids, seek out safer alternatives to DEET such as natural bug repellents that use essential oil blends like geranium, rosemary, peppermint and lavender.

This post is shared at Natural Family Friday and Natural Living Monday.