Monthly Archives: April 2013

How Can You Improve Environmental Awareness in Your Family?

Most people these days know that we ought to take better care of our environment. That doesn’t mean it happens. If you want your family to be more environmentally aware, you have to make the effort to help them. Here are some ideas that may help you get things moving.

Read About ItHow Can You Improve Environmental Awareness in Your Family?

Start when the kids are young with books such as The Lorax. Encourage them to read other books and read with them as they get older. Talk about what they learn from their reading.

Visit Environmental Websites

There are plenty of environmental websites designed for children. Check some of these out with your kids.

Eeko World
NASA’s For Kids Only Earth Science
EPA’s Environmental Kids Club
Recycle City
BBC Nature Online
Maggie’s Earth Adventures
Kids Planet


Teach your children how to conserve things like water, electricity, and other resources. Children can learn about as soon as they can reach the light switch that they should turn off the lights when leaving the room.


Don’t just dispose of things because you’re done with their original purpose. Think of new ways to use them, or consider if they’re still good for more use. Water bottles can be cleaned and refilled, although I prefer stainless steel bottles to disposable ones. Toilet paper tubes can be used in a variety of craft projects for kids. Egg cartons are great also.


Sort trash as appropriate into the recycle bin with your children. Kids don’t have to be very old to understand that most kinds of paper can be recycled, and you can work from there.


Whether you want to grow fruits and vegetables or some other sort of garden, it’s good for kids to learn to care for growing plants. Consider native plants and avoid invasive species as much as possible. Do what you can to avoid harsh pesticides and fertilizers, focusing on organic methods instead.


Teach your children that certain types of food waste don’t have to be thrown out – they can be composted instead, along with appropriate yard waste. They may be impressed when they understand that these scraps become something good for your garden.

Get Outside

You can’t appreciate the environment if you never get out into it. Go camping and hiking as a family. You don’t have to totally rough it, just go and experience nature for yourself.


As your children get older, get them involved in volunteering on projects to help the environment. There’s a wilderness area near me, for example, that has monthly cleanups that children 12 and older can participate in, so long as there’s an adult with them.

Set the Example

If you aren’t being environmentally aware in your own life, it’s not likely the kids will pick it up from you, no matter how you preach it. Be their example, so they know it as a way of life, not just something that gets preached and ignored.

The Preschool Water Pollution Experiment vs. the Zero Waste Snack

recycleWe’ve been having a lot of fun this week celebrating Earth Day in my daughter’s preschool class. The class has always done a lot of recycled art projects, but there has been some extra emphasis on it this week. But one project took a bit of extra effort for us – the water pollution experiment.

You see, the teacher asked each child to save a piece of trash from their snack. This took some deliberate effort for us, as I use entirely reusable containers for my daughter’s snack. Her water bottle is a Klean Kanteen that is older than she is. She always asks for vegetables, especially bell peppers, but that day it was a carrot. There just isn’t anything left most days.

Fortunately, she was willing to leave some carrot to throw in the container. Pretty much everything else was the horror of plastic you’re probably assuming already, the usual fare so many kids eat as school snacks now.The teacher was glad to see that we saved something, and said she had realized that there was a chance this project would be a problem for us, knowing our habits.

Believe me, I am constantly grateful that my kids prefer healthier options. I’ve been asked several times by other parents if we’re vegetarians, which we’re not. And my kids will eat the same stuff the other kids do given a chance; it’s just that I don’t usually offer it, and they know that real foods taste better.

Of course, the carrot is playing its part just fine in the experiment. The water in the container looks awful, and I pity the teacher when it comes time to pour it out, although I suppose she could just throw the whole thing out and save herself a lot of stink. Overall it has been a good experiment for the kids, who are quite grossed out by all the stuff floating in the water and the talk about how you wouldn’t want to swim in water that looked that bad, so don’t litter. It’s preschool, so of course the discussion keeps things about that basic. I just found it amusing we had to deliberately waste something for this project.

30 Activities For Earth Day

30 Earth Day Activities

Earth Day is a great day for slowing down and thinking about how you treat the environment. Not that you should be ignoring it the rest of the year, but it’s good to take an extra look sometimes and see what you can change, or if there are any little extra things you can do.

This is something the whole family can get into. Earth Day is a good time to share with the kids and anyone else who wants to participate ways to be a little kinder to our planet. So today, I decided to round up some Earth Day activities you can do, whether on your own, with your family or anyone else.


1. Take a hike.
2. Plant a tree – at your home or at a tree planting event.
3. Garden.
4. Make a pinecone bird feeder.
5. Plant seeds in empty egg crates or tin cans.
6. Walk around your neighborhood and pick up trash, or participate in a community Earth Day event.
7. Help the kids find ladybugs and other insects.
8. Go to the beach.
9. Start a compost pile.


9. Recycled paper towel and toilet paper tube tracks.
10. Make a leaf collage.
11. Make paper.
12. Make an egg carton butterfly.
13. Make litter bugs.


14. Let the kids dig in the dirt or mud.
15. Demonstrate water pollution.
16. Teach kids what can be recycled.
17. Find a way for the kids to safely walk to school. Consider a walking school bus.
18. Go to the farmer’s market.


19. Switch to a stainless steel water bottle rather than drink from single use bottles.
20. Consider which batteries you could replace with rechargeable batteries.
21. Rethink your personal care items such as shampoo, makeup and so forth.
22. Find ways to eat less meat.

Read (remember your library!)

23. The Lorax
24. Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf
25. The EARTH Book
26. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps
27. Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
28. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
29. Compost Stew
30. Where Do Recyclable Materials Go? Read, Think, Recycle (Garbology Kids)

Want more ideas? Check out my Earth Day Activities Board on Pinterest.

Chayote Squash Soup Recipe

Chayote squash soup

One of the reasons I love my Vitamix is that it makes making chayote squash soup so easy. This soup is amazing – it tastes creamy, but there’s no cream in it. You can even make it vegetarian or vegan if you like, or add bacon to satisfy the meat lovers. Trust me on that – bacon in this soup works well for my husband. Bacon turns this into a recipe he likes pretty well into one he’s enthusiastic about.

Chayote squash soup is ridiculously satisfying to me. A bowl of it will seriously cut down on what else I need in a meal, if I need anything else at all.

Unlike some people, I don’t peel my chayotes for this recipe. You can, although I understand that it’s better to peel them after cooking, or with gloves on if you have to peel them raw. The raw ones can irritate your skin as you peel them. I just skip it. It’s all going in the blender anyhow, and by the time the Vitamix is done, there’s no worry at all about whether or not the skin was tough when I started out (and it usually isn’t all that tough after boiling anyhow).

I’m listing ingredients with vegetarian and vegan alternatives as I go.

Chayote squash soup, vegetarian or with bacon


2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
jalapeno (optional)
2 chayote squash cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
bacon (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter or pour olive oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, red pepper and optional jalapeno until onion is tender. Add the squash, cilantro, salt and pepper (and bacon if desired), and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add broth and simmer for 20 minutes or until chayote squash is tender.

Here’s where you have a choice. You can use an immersion blender and puree it right there, or you can use a countertop blender to puree it. I usually scoop the vegetables and other stuff out first, then pour in just enough of the broth to help the soup blend – I like it a little thick. I’d say I leave out at least a half cup of liquid most times – possibly more. Not like I’m measuring at that point – it’s all too hot. Be really, really careful about how you get the ingredients into the blender, obviously. A slotted spoon or bamboo skimmer is really helpful.

What Does Eco Friendly Mean?

Lots of people and companies talk about eco friendly this and eco friendly that. What isn’t always clear is what they mean by that. Definitions may vary somewhat by source, but there are a few things I believe eco friendly ought to mean.

In part, the definition depends on what you’re talking about. There are different considerations when you’re talking about food, cleaning supplies, electronics and so forth.

1. Harm to the environment is minimized.What does eco friendly mean?

Pretty much everything has some impact on the environment, and some things can’t help but be a little harmful. The most eco friendly things are the ones which harm the least. This means thinking about what you buy, where it comes from, how it’s made, and so forth.

2. Benefit to the environment when possible.

Some eco friendly things you do will benefit the environment overall. Trees can be planted, a refuge for wildlife can be established, waterways can be cleaned. Mostly, the benefit will be in relation to what else you could have done. Cleaning with vinegar, for example, is much more eco friendly than using harsh chemicals, but there’s still some environmental cost. It should be much less than the environmental cost of other cleaning supplies, however.

3. Non-toxic.

This one is great for you, your family, and the environment in general. Non-toxic products are kinder to you and the environment. Non-toxic doesn’t always mean completely harmless to everything, of course. Your standard household white vinegar is non-toxic (obviously, you use it in food!), but it can be used to kill weeds in the yard.

4. Organic or sustainably produced.

Organic and sustainably produced products are generally more eco friendly than the alternatives. Non-natural pesticides aren’t used, fertilizers are organic sorts, and in general the impact of production is considered, so that the resources are used in a sustainable manner.

5. Recycling.

Recycling can be a part of eco friendly products, both in manufacture and how excess is disposed of. A plastic bottle in general isn’t eco friendly, but one made primarily of recycled plastic is considered more eco friendly than one without. Any plastic that you can send for recycling in your area is more eco friendly than plastics that will only end up in the landfill.

This is one area in which the eco friendliness of a product depends in part on you. It doesn’t do the environment any good for you to buy something that could be recycled if you don’t bother to recycle it.

6. Ingredients listed.

When possible a product claiming to be eco friendly should make its ingredients clear. It’s too easy for manufacturers to claim that a product is eco friendly when overall their product is not. Labels allow you to research and find out what’s in a product and if it really is eco friendly or just a greenwashed claim. Don’t trust the pretty pictures on the packaging – find out for sure. You may have to visit the company website if the label isn’t clear on the matter.

7. Use legitimate labels.

There are a lot of meaningless claims that make products sound environmentally friendly when they really aren’t. Make sure you know which labels are legitimate. Some must be verified by third parties. Here are some of the most trusted logos to help you pick eco friendly products:

Energy Star
USDA Organic
Green Seal

If the product is making claims not covered by one of these labels, you should read the claims they’re making and how they back them up. It’s easy to make nonspecific claims that sound good but are really meaningless. Be picky about what you trust. “Eco,” “natural,” “biodegradable,” and even “nontoxic” don’t always mean that much and may not be well regulated.