Tag Archives: food

10 Popular Green Products

One of the most popular ways to go green is by shopping green. It’s perhaps not always done right, as people buy more than they need, but it’s usually better than ignoring the environmental impact of products altogether.

Some kinds of products are more popular than others, of course. Today I want to take a look at some of the more popular green product types, what I think of them, and share individual examples.

Eco Friendly Electronics

Eco Friendly Electronics

Electronics are a huge part of modern living for most people, so finding more environmentally friendly options is a big deal. Look for Energy Star ratings and EPEAT registration. Be aware that EPEAT registration doesn’t cover all kinds of electronics, but you can look at the information the manufacturer provides to decide what’s green enough for you. Familiar brands such as Dell, HP and Apple have EPEAT-registered products. EPEAT at this time appears to be mostly for computer products.

Apple MacBook Pro
I’m quite fond of my MacBook Pro, and it’s one of Apple’s products on EPEAT, with a Gold certification.  It’s a good laptop, and I love the mobility, as before I had only owned desktop computers. It has made working from my home much easier.

Samsung UN32EH4003 32-Inch LED HDTV
This is a popular example of an Energy Star television. Nice size, well reviewed by users. It sounds like a good replacement for when an older television needs replacing. Not something that happens much in my family, as there’s one TV in the living room and another, rarely used one in the master bedroom

Organic Food

Chia Seeds

Not everyone agrees about the benefits of organic food, but then it depends on the benefit you’re looking for. Many organizations that compare conventional and organic produce focus on nutrition, but may neglect pesticide and other residues. Organic fruits and vegetables may cost more than conventional produce, but you can get some good deals at farmers markets or through a CSA. It should end up being more local that was too. Just check to be sure you’re definitely getting organic produce.

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have become very popular as a superfood. I find that soaked chia seeds go well in smoothies and yogurt, plus they can be added to other recipes. The antioxidants in chia seeds are said to be more stable than those in flax seeds, and they’re also high in omega-3 acids, protein and fiber.

Cacao Powder or Nibs
Perfect for chocolate lovers, cacao powder and nibs give you a healthier way to add a chocolate flavor to a variety of treats. It doesn’t taste like chocolate on its own, however; it’s rather bitter. The nibs have cocoa butter in them, but the powder doesn’t, so be aware that there is a difference between them. I like the nibs, but not by themselves. They add an amazing chocolate taste to smoothies. On their own, cacao nibs are very much an acquired taste, but a healthy one if you can manage it.

Baby Supplies

There’s no way around it – babies need a LOT of stuff. My favorite way to deal with a lot of it is handmedowns, and those can cover quite a bit of the clothing and toy needs for the first while. Sometimes even years of supplies, depending on how good a system you have going with family or friends. My youngest daughter, for example, very rarely gets new clothes because she has such an absurd amount of handmedowns, and she’s nearly 4 years old.

For babies, safety is absolutely a concern, which is a part of why people like eco friendly items. It’s one way to avoid potentially harmful chemicals.

Cloth Diapers
I got into cloth diapers with my youngest; couldn’t convince my husband that we could make it wish sooner, and ended up wishing we had done cloth diapers all along. Saved a lot of money with them. We used Bum Genius, but there are a lot of good brands out there. Don’t forget the cloth wipes.

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping (sometimes at the wrong times for new parents!), and so you may care quite a bit about what they’re sleeping on. From the mattress to the sheets, think about your eco friendly options, such as whether the materials used will tend to offgas. Look for Certi-PUR-US certification for mattresses.


Kids of all ages want toys. The trouble is how quickly the things pile up over time. Add in how often toys are plastic, and it’s not often you can call children’s toys green.

I’ll readily admit to being imperfect in most areas, but especially with toys. My kids do have some handmedown and used toys, including an old Capsela set they enjoy, and a whole lot of LEGOs, most of which were my husband’s from when he was growing up. One thing I will say for those is that once in a while you can take advantage of things lasting just about forever.

Bamboo Toys
Bamboo is very popular right now for toys. More environmentally friendly than wood according to many, it makes some pretty nice toys. There are some nice looking bamboo toy cars and bamboo games available.

Plan Toys
Plan Toys offers a wonderful range of toys that are meant to be more environmentally friendly. They’re also fun. They have a good range of toys, including some very nice dollhouses. There’s even a little vegetable garden for the dollhouse.

Reusable Replaces Disposable

I have a few reusable items that are very much favorites. It’s nice being able to keep one thing rather than throwing many out. The trick here is to pick good quality – I’ve had reusable items that just didn’t last well enough for the difference in cost.

Reusable Bottles
My absolute favorite. I have a reusable bottle that I use every day for my water. So does my husband. My kids take reusable bottles to school rather than juice boxes or water bottles. We have saved a lot of money this was.

My husband has a large Klean Kanteen he really likes. The one problem is that it doesn’t fit in the car’s cupholders, but it’s otherwise a great bottle.

I much prefer stainless steel reusable bottles to plastics or polycarbonates. I’ve had polycarbonate and plastic bottles break on me, but so far no one has managed to break one of the stainless steel ones. Dent, yes, but not severely enough to matter.

Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be challenging for some uses, but for others they’re wonderful. We have a nice charger that can take pretty much any size, and a stash of batteries.

If the toy or other item is going to sit a lot without being used, rechargeable batteries may as well be taken out. In my experience, they don’t hold a charge for months on end for items that aren’t being used. It’s very frustrating for kids to try to play with a toy they haven’t noticed in some time, only to find out that they have to wait for the batteries to charge. Pulling the batteries on less-used toys doesn’t make them any more ready to go, but it does mean you can use the batteries for more than one thing, and you might be able to move them from toy to toy as interests demand.

4 Ways to Cut Back on Your Meat Consumption

Most Americans eat too much meat. It’s a big part of the standard American diet, bigger than it needs to be. There are a lot of good reasons to cut back on meat, including consuming less saturated fat, health concerns, decreasing your environmental impact, and cost. The hard part is actually doing so. Today I’d like to share some ways to cut back on your meat consumption.

1. Participate in Meatless Mondays

Just skipping meat one day a week isn’t too big a change. Meatless Mondays have gained some popularity, and there’s even a website with all kinds of ideas to help you do it.

I do know how hard it can be to get some families to accept any vegetarian meals at all. My husband used to comment with every vegetarian meal on which meat he thought would improve it. Then I told him one day how much that pissed me off and pointed out how it really wasn’t so different from our daughter’s habit of announcing that she disliked unfamiliar meals before trying them. That was a habit of hers we’d been trying to break, so pointing out the similarity really made him think.

2. Eat Smaller Portions of Meat

If you have trouble giving up meat completely with your meals, you can always go for smaller portions. The portion size many people eat is too big anyhow when it comes to meat.

You can also think of meat as flavor, rather than a major component of the meal. Use a small amount of ground beef or ground sausage in pasta sauce, for example. If you’re making stir fry, add more vegetables and less meat.

3. Buy Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef costs a lot more than other beef, and that will encourage you to eat less of it. Many say it’s healthier for you and of course better for the cattle.

You can do similar things for other types of meat you eat. Pay attention to the conditions in which the animals were raised. You’ll pay more for the meat, but it will probably have done less environmental damage and may be better for you. You can find sources at eatwild.com. I don’t get results very close to me, but you may do better.

4. Eat Meat Only One Meal a Day

You don’t have to have meat at every meal. Pick one meal a day and make it vegetarian. You may have to experiment to figure out the recipes you enjoy most, but that can be the fun part. It’s an excuse to try new food combinations. I have a fondness for black bean and artichoke burritos, for example. I usually keep some beans in the freezer and assemble the rest fresh, although I suspect you could make a bunch and freeze them if you prefer.

Remember that there are many other places to get your protein, and they’re often cheaper than meat. Get used to making meals with other protein sources, and you may find that they can taste great too. Do a lot of experimenting to find recipes that work for you and your family.

Thinking About Food Waste – Blog Action Day 2011

#BAD11 – I enjoy participating in Blog Action Day each year. The topics are very interesting, and can be quite important. This year’s topic, food, lends itself to so many possibilities, but I decided to write about food waste in particular. With 3 kids, food waste happens, you can’t stop it entirely. You can try to control it.

Food waste is a huge part of the municipal solid waste generated every year. According to the EPA, it was 14.1% before recycling, and only a small percentage of food waste was recovered through recycling. You can read a detailed report on this at http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2009-fs.pdf. This doesn’t count composting at home; it’s just about what goes into the waste stream.

Some food waste is just in the nature of preparing food. The term includes the scraps that come about from preparing food. If you have a compost bin, the waste from preparing fruits and vegetables can at least be kept out of the waste stream and benefit your garden. Those bits aren’t as problematic as other kinds of food waste.

Cutting Down on Food Waste at Home

Home is the place where you have the most control over food waste. You have the ability to buy only what you need and to make sure leftovers are eaten in a timely manner.

Buying only what you need is often difficult, short of going to the store daily, which has its own serious problems. Most of us are simply not perfect at keeping track of the fresh foods in the fridge, and it often gets worse when those fresh foods become a part of leftovers. Even so, we need to try.

Some foods last better than others, of course. Just compare the shelf life of an apple to a banana. When you have fresh foods, think about preparing or serving the foods that spoil quickly first, saving the more durable fresh foods for later in the week.

To control leftovers, start with your cooking habits. How much will you and your family really eat at a sitting? How can you cook enough to satisfy everyone without having leftovers, or at least have fewer leftovers?

Next, figure out how to get people eating leftovers when you have them. If you have the freezer space, you can make them into frozen lunches to go to work or for those days you don’t want to spend much time on lunch. You can also make it a goal to eat those leftovers before freezing them becomes necessary.

Don’t forget your smaller amounts of leftovers. Sometimes you may need to combine two days of leftovers to get a good new meal out of them.

Kids can be some of the biggest offenders on food waste, and the hardest to control. I can’t tell you how often I have to remind mine to finish a half eaten apple or try to figure out a way to get them to eat a dinner they didn’t enjoy that much. I have a few standby additions my kids reach for when they don’t enjoy a meal, which really help limit the complaints and uneaten meals. The right cheese solves many problems with children. So does ketchup.

You should talk to your kids about why it’s important to not waste food. The recent Sesame Street special on food insecurity really hit home with my oldest, who had been quite reluctant to watch something as babyish as Sesame Street; then she had to watch it again the next night because it touched her so much. When I checked, they had the entire Growing Hope Against Hunger episode on that page.

Benefits of Wasting Less Food

The first benefit of wasting less food is obvious. You spend less money on food. That’s pretty simple. A 2006 study found that people throw away an average of 14% of the food they buy. Cut that number down, and you can save a nice little chunk off your monthly grocery bills, or about $600 a year for a family of 4.

Food waste is also an environmental issue. When food waste goes into a landfill, it decomposes and produces methane. Composting it, on the whole, is probably the better answer when you can’t avoid wasting food and have a way to compost it. Just make sure you aren’t doing anything that will attract rodents or other pests.

Is There Anything Else You Can Do?

While there’s only a little you can do directly about it, I suggest you take a look at the EPA’s food recovery hierarchy for more ideas on how to limit food waste. Most of us don’t have enough excess food that can be safely donated to food banks and such, but it’s good to know what kinds of things you should be encouraging in your community.

How to Make School Lunches Your Child Will Eat

Many parents these days are concerned with the quality of lunches provided by public schools. To put it mildly, many schools offer extremely unhealthy foods for lunch. As parents who want their kids to eat better, how can you help them?

Packing a healthy lunch for your child is one of the simplest things you can do to help them eat better. The challenge is making a lunch they’re more likely to eat than to trade away to friends.

Pay Attention to Their Likes

The first thing to do is know what your child likes to eat. This may change from year to year and even in the middle of the school year. Keep talking to your kids about what they like to eat for lunch and find healthy ways to provide that.

School lunch packing is not the best time to experiment or challenge your child’s food preferences. It’s easy for them to trade away unliked foods, or even to just throw it away uneaten. Push their interests at home where you can see the results.


Sometimes leftovers are great for lunches. You may need to provide a thermos to keep the food warm, but other leftovers taste great cold.

If there’s a meal your kids really love, make extras that you can separate into easy lunches and freeze. You can save excess for dinners for the whole family as well, of course. Providing them with favorite home cooked meals to eat at school may increase the chances that your child will eat what you’ve given them.


Don’t stick to the traditional sandwiches for every meal. Wraps are a great alternative, so long as you pick healthy whole grain tortillas, not just white flour tortillas.

Wraps are easy to make. You want to cover most of the tortilla, but leave a little distance from the edges to keep things neat. Lunch meats, vegetables and spreads work well. Mix them up and find out which your kids love the most. Do let your kids try hummus sometime, first at home, but if they like it, hummus is a great wrap ingredient.

Healthy Sides

Know what your kids love in terms of fruits and vegetables. Most will have a few favorites. Try to provide these in their school lunches.

My kids love bell peppers and cucumbers, for example. Put these in their lunch and they’ll usually be eaten.

Keep it Simple

Kids don’t need a feast at lunchtime. They need simple, filling foods and not a big selection. They’re usually as interested in chatting with their friends as they are in eating their food. Sometimes more interested in chatting with their friends. Give them too many choices and a lot of it will end up in the trash.

Dessert Doesn’t Have to Mean Sugar

Kids love getting a dessert item in their lunches. An occasional cookie or other treat isn’t going to ruin them either. But the dessert doesn’t have to be cookies or candy.

Berries work great. Granola bars usually have a lot of sugar, but have other healthy ingredients. Try to balance sweetness with good for your kids.

Variety May Not Be the Spice of Life

Don’t feel bad if you’re packing the same lunch over and over. Most kids like consistency. If they complain, that’s the time to mix things up.

20 Things Your Kids Can Do for the Environment

It’s not just adults who should be doing the best they can for the environment. Kids can help too. Take some time and teach them to do their part.

1. Reduce

The 3 Rs apply to your kids, and reduce is the first one to teach them. Help them to learn the difference between need and want. When you go shopping with them, and they start begging for whatever it is they see on the shelves, discuss why they want it. If it’s needed, talk about what makes it needed. If it’s just something they want, talk about when you buy things you just want and when you should skip them.

2. Reuse

Kids who enjoy crafts are great at reusing things. They can make wonderful projects from things you might have otherwise thrown into the recycle bin or thrown away.

3. Recycle

Teach them from a young age to sort items into the recycle bin. Once they’re old enough to recognize the types of paper, plastic and metals that can be recycled in your area they can help put recyclables in the right place rather than in the trash.

4. Walk or Bike to School

If your child’s school is at all within a reasonable distance, why not have them walk or ride a bike there. Odds are good that you did the same growing up if your school was near enough. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving less than a block to bring their child to school. With the crowd of cars around the school, walking would be faster for many of them, including the time to return themselves home if the parents went with the kids.

5. Pick Up Trash

We love to go hiking as a family. One thing we include in our hikes is picking up trash if we pass some. It’s easy to carry a bag for trash as you go walking. This can be done at neighborhood playgrounds as well.

6. Turn Off Extra Lights

There are some ages where kids will be really good at this one. They’ll give you a hard time anytime you forget to turn off a light as you leave a room. Other times, they won’t be so good at it.

7. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use

Kids these days spend a lot of time with electronics these days. Television, computers, video games, kids love them.

Some of these you only need to teach the kids to turn off when they’re done with them. For others, you may want to consider adding in a power strip so that the electronics can be turned completely off, and not use any extra power at all, even for displaying a clock. You can also buy a smart strip so that when certain electronics are shut down, associated items are turned off as well.

8. Plant a Garden

Whether you plant a serious vegetable garden, a few herbs, some flowers or a tree, it’s all good for the environment if you keep it organic. Kids usually love gardening, and any produce grown is good for them too. Remember the bees when you choose your flowers!

9. Help Compost

While dealing with much of the compost pile may be an adult or teen job, kids of any age can throw fresh vegetable scraps into the compost pile.

10. Volunteer

It can be hard to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities when the kids are young sometimes, but it gets easier as they get older. Volunteering helps your children to see how fortunate they are in what they have and that others make do with far less.

11. Use Reusable Containers to Bring Lunch to School

Many school lunches aren’t so healthy, so having your kids bring their lunch to school is a great idea. Don’t use paper bags or plastic bags for their lunches. Buy reusable lunch containers for them. I particularly like my daughter’s Klean Kanteen water bottle.

12. Donate Old Clothes and Toys

Have your kids help you to go through their old clothes and toys and find the ones in good enough condition to donate to a worthwhile charity.

13. Shop Resale and Thrift Shops

If you don’t teach your kids this one while they’re young, you can get a lot of resistance at first. Keep it up and they will realize how many great outfits are available for a lot less money. This teaches them to be thrifty and to look for used items before buying new.

14. Use Homemade Cleansers

Kids should start doing chores around the house as soon as they’re old enough. But why expose them to the harsh chemicals of store bought cleansers when you can teach them how to clean with healthier products such as baking soda and vinegar? Better for them and for the environment.

15. Eat Less Fast Food

Kids love fast food, but most of it is bad for them and the environment. Talk to them about why eating out too much is a bad habit.

16. Close Blinds and Curtains

This is most important during the summer, when the heat comes in through windows. Closing the blinds or curtains helps to block much of that heat. It’s also a help in winter, to keep heat from escaping the house, however there are times where having even the winter sun come into the house is a benefit, so help your kids know when to let the sunlight into your home.

17. Open a Window

As the day cools, teach your kids to open windows rather than run the air conditioner during the summer. It works really well, keeps the power bill down and doesn’t create any carbon to open a window.

18. Set Up a Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds in your area not only can help them, it lets the kids see the range of birds that live in your area. You may have to explain about predators, however. My sister has a bird feeder, and sometimes sees hawks chasing the smaller birds.

19. Use Fewer Toys that Require Batteries

Many children’s toys require batteries. The problem isn’t just the batteries, it’s that many of these don’t encourage creative or active play. Do get rechargeable batteries for those toys that do need them, but have your kids think about playing more with toys that don’t need batteries at all.

20. Eat Less Meat

This comes easier to some kids than others. Some may be ready to go for complete vegetarianism or veganism. Others will struggle to cut back, just as many adults do.

Have regular meatless meals. Explore new recipes as a family. Be amazed at how wonderful some meatless meals can taste.