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Archive for February, 2012

February 28th, 2012

Lessons from The Lorax: 3 Ways Your Family Can Protect the Earth

The Lorax

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. “DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX

When my oldest son (who’s now 11) was born my mother-in-law generously gave us a stack of children’s books she had been saving from when my husband was a child. The books were in immaculate condition and included classic titles that I had also treasured during my own childhood. The Lorax was one of the books passed on to us, ready for sharing with our own children.  And that it was-over and over again.  I was determined to keep on reading it to them, with the hope that someday they would understand the important (and somewhat complex) messages in the book.

When my kids got wind that The Lorax was going to be released as a movie on March 2 (Dr. Seuss’ birthday) they were beyond excited. We wondered and discussed how Hollywood would spin an animated version of our beloved book. I was thrilled when I was contacted by Universal Studios and asked to participate in a Blog Tour (see below for the full blog tour schedule) in support of Universal Pictures ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’.

Most of us are familiar with the general story-line of The Lorax. If you need a refresher, Beth from My Plastic-Free Life shared a great summary as part of this blog tour.

With the release of The Lorax there’s no better time to talk with children about one of the many messages of The Lorax: Ways our families can help protect the earth. The good news is there are so many options for change and each will have a big environmental impact on our precious planet.  As a family I’ve found it’s important to create routine and habit around these simple changes so they become second nature.

Here are a few ideas to get your family started protecting the earth:

1.   Turn your lunch box into a waste-free zone

Did you know that Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school?  We have worked hard over the years to make our children’s lunch boxes as waste-free as possible.  Instead of using single-use items in their lunch boxes try using reusables: a reusable water bottle, a reusable napkin and reusable bags for snacks instead of single serving snack bags.

2.   Celebrate Meatless Monday (or meatless any day)

Meatless Monday is a movement encouraging people to improve their health and improve the health of the planet by lowering their meat consumption. Each year the average American eats 200 pounds of meat. There are a lot of health reasons to not eat as much meat, but there are also quite a few environmental reasons to cut back on meat eating. The UN estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. There are many ways to green your Meatless Monday (or any day of the week) and all will have a positive environmental impact on the earth.

3.   Reduce, reuse and recycle

The 3 R’s still rule when it comes to protecting the earth.  Reduce by trying to use fewer resources. This is a tough one-it requires letting go of some very American concepts: the more we have or the bigger it is, the better off we are.

Reusing can go well beyond the items in your lunch box. The saying goes: “One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure.”  Encourage your children to give trash a second chance by reusing some of the garbage to make crafts out of recyclables. We live in a use-and-toss society where most of the time we don’t give a second thought to using an item once and then tossing it. If we changed that mentality and considered whether or not a product could be reused before recycling we would keep new resources from being needed and old resources from entering our overflowing landfills.

As The Lorax says:“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. “

Don’t forget to visit  Mindful Momma on February 29 for the next post in our LESSONS FROM THE LORAX Blog Tour!

Are you planning to see The Lorax? Do you have any hopes for the film?

Follow the Lessons from The Lorax Blog Tour:

2/20 New Green Mama

2/21 The Green Parent

2/22 Eco Child’s Play

2/23 The Smart Mama

2/24 My Plastic Free Life

2/27Retro Housewife Goes Green

2/28 Groovy Green Livin

2/29 Mindful Momma

3/1 Green and Clean Mom

2/2 Moms Going Green Blog

2/3   Kitchen Stewardship

2/4 Nature Moms

*Disclosure: I received compensation for being part of this blog tour. The opinions expressed in this post are my very own.

February 27th, 2012

3 Safe Natural Sweeteners

Organic and Natural sweeteners

 

I know I’m not alone on this one-I have a sweet tooth and it kicks in A LOT.  There’s a reason behind this love of sweets: they make us feel good. The sweet flavors release serotonin in our brains, which creates a feeling of love and well being. It’s nice to have some validation for my love of sweets.

The number of choices out there for sweetening our food or drinks is overwhelming. Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and Sucralose, have deservedly gotten a bad rap over the years. They are known to cause numerous side-effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Research also suggests that they can actually cause overeating among consumers.

Even natural sweeteners can come with their own baggage. Organic brown rice syrup recently made it into the lime light with findings that it contains arsenic. Agave nectar also came under fire when a report from The Weston A. Price Foundation said that it’s as bad for our bodies as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

With all this negative information looming about so many of the popular sweeteners the question often arises: Is there a safe sweetener choice?

Thankfully there is a way to satisfy our sweet tooth and, if eaten in moderation, our health won’t suffer.

Here are my top three natural sweeteners:

Honey

raw organic honey

Raw, local and organic are the way to go with this natural sweetener. Not only will it sweeten your favorite cookies, it will also help sooth a cough or sore throat.  Honey is often touted for having mega vitamins, minerals, and protein, but I’m not convinced the amount is significant unless you eat honey by the car load (which you shouldn’t do).

Careful when you choose your honey-recent testing by Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly pure honey. The testing showed that pollen had been filtered out of the honey, thereby stripping the honey of all nutritional value and erasing any way to trace where the honey came from. Your best bet for avoiding honey that’s been filtered is to buy honey directly from bee keepers, farmers’ markets and natural food stores.

Date Sugar

Chopped, dried dates are my snack of choice when I’m looking for a sweet fix. Date sugar is made from finely chopped dried dates. It is a natural and non-processed sugar alternative filled with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s great for baking, but might not work in your hot or cold tea (it doesn’t dissolve very well).

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is one of my favorite natural sweeteners. My kids can’t get enough of the stuff on pancakes and French toast. Maple syrup contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey.  The syrup comes directly from the maple tree and is clear when it first comes out. After the tree is tapped the syrup is then boiled to remove the water. The end result is the deep maple syrup color and flavor that most of us are familiar with.  Maple syrup is perfect for baking and sweetening your favorite drink.

When buying maple syrup it’s important to read ingredient labels carefully. Many of the syrups on the market have additional sugar and/or are not pure maple syrup. Buy organic whenever you can. Use it sparingly because organic maple syrup can be quite pricey.

Remember all sugar should be eaten in moderation-sugar is sugar and can be hazardous to our healthy in any form.

What do you use to sweeten your food and drinks?

[Photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt, Robert Neff and Jim Sorbie/Flickr]

This post is part of Your Green Resource over at Green Backs Gal.

 

 

February 23rd, 2012

Softcup: Green and Reusable

ski poles

This past week was school vacation week for many families on the east coast. We are big alpine skiers and try to spend our vacations out on the slopes. Although there hasn’t been much snow this season, we still managed to get some skiing in. Most of the days were spent gearing up three children in snow pants, ski boots and helmets so we could spend the majority of the day outside on the mountain.

For those of you who are non-skiers, skiing generally entails being outside, in a remote area, for hours at a time. When you need a bathroom break there’s not always a bathroom in close range. Finding one can take a while and then using it can be a big production. The skis need to come off, the multiple layers of ski gear needs to be shed and somehow you need to get to the bathroom in those big, clunky ski boots. Not a small effort. Add changing a tampon or pad to the mix and there’s no question I would have been sitting in the lodge with a cup of hot cocoa (for those of you not interested in hearing about tampons, pads and reusable menstrual cups now’s your chance to opt out of the discussion).

As some of you know, I started using a reusable Softcup a few months ago. I’ve been reporting to you on my progress and it’s been slow and steady. This month I’m feeling a bit more comfortable with it and can finally say that I have successfully greened my period.

What does “greening” your period mean?

Fifty to 70 percent of American women use tampons. A typical woman can use anywhere between 8,000 to 17,000 tampons in her lifetime. The number varies quite a bit since every woman is unique and her cycle is different. The average woman throws away up to 300 pounds of feminine hygiene related products in a lifetime. That’s a tremendous amount of waste. Then there’s the plastic wrapper around the tampon box or pads and the paper or plastic packaging around every box and individual tampon or pad. I haven’t even mentioned the cardboard or plastic applicator. So much waste.

The process to make each and every tampon and pad also involves a lot of waste. The cotton alone is resource intensive as the farming of cotton requires large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizer.

Using organic tampons and pads reduces the amount of waste on the production end, but doesn’t solve the actual waste of the product and packaging.

Reusable Softcup menstrual cupReusable Softcup

Reusable Softcup is a menstrual cup that can be worn for up to 12 hours and reused throughout one menstrual cycle. The cup is worn internally, around your cervix, and it collects rather than absorbs menstrual flow. It’s non-toxic, hypo-allergenic, latex-free and completely safe when used as directed.

Softcup is affordable and an eco-friendly alternative to conventional tampons and pads. Think of all the waste that’s avoided by using a resuable menstrual cup.

Back to skiing

I still have to make the occasional trip into the bathroom with one of my boys, but I don’t have to carry extra, bulky tampons or pads in my ski jacket. The best part-I can stay out for hours and there’s no worry about leaking.

Ready to give it a try? Let me know how you do.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have been hired by Evofem, the parent company for Softcup, in their Softcup Brand Ambassador Program.  This is a “sponsored post.”  Evofem sent me a sample of Softcup and compensated me via a cash payment for this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers and only share my honest opinion. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Laffertyryan/Flickr]

February 21st, 2012

3 Healthy Foods with Weird Names

3 Healthy Foods With Weird Names Groovy Green Livin

When my kids were really small, we had a lot of fun with the pronunciation (or mispronunciation) of these three foods.  Edamame was called “ate-a –mommy” for many years. Quinoa was pronounced “king-wop” and Tempeh was “that stuff”. We have come a long way and I think we finally have the pronunciations down pat. While working through the correct food speak, we also worked hard to incorporate these three foods into our eclectic and healthy diet.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)

organic quinoa

As much as quinoa looks like a grain, it isn’t actually a grain. It is a seed from a broad-leafed plant that is closely related to beets and spinach. Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It’s also perfect for those on a gluten free diet.  It’s high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and is a source of calcium, B vitamins and fiber. It can be prepared in many different ways. The most simple is preparing it in a similar fashion to rice.

Taste

The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal and a hint of nuts.

Tempeh

Organic Tempeh

Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a  veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.

Taste

Tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor. I like to add tempeh to my favorite marinade and stir fry them together.

Edamame

Edamame

Edamame is by far one of my kid’s top side dishes-probably because they are so much fun to eat. Edamame is just a fancy name for boiled soybeans. They technically aren’t considered a vegetable, they’re a legume. The beans are boiled in their thick pods and a little coarse salt is sprinkled on top. After they are cooked the green edamame are popped out to eat. Sometimes they can fly pretty high-depending upon who’s doing the popping. Edamame are chock-full of protein, fiber and Vitamin A and C.

Taste

The soybeans are crunchy and delicious. Add a little coarse salt to taste and you won’t be able to stop eating them. As with any soy product, edamame should be eaten in moderation.

Have you tried edamame, tempeh or quinoa? What’s your favorite way to eat them?

Disclaimer: Before adding any soy to your diet please check with your physician to make sure it’s appropriate for you.

[Photos used under Creative Commons from Amina Elahi, Stacy and Sweeetonveg, The Unseasoned Wok/Flickr]

February 17th, 2012

Green Workouts, Colds and Tide Oh My!

Green grass and tulips

Happy Friday, my groovy green friends! Can you tell I’m already hoping for spring? This week was another busy one at Groovy Green Livin. Here are a few highlights:

Green Your Workout

Did you ever stop to think how your workout could have an impact on the environment? Well, it can. Thankfully there are several ways we can lessen our eco-impact, while keeping our workout routine intact. Click HERE to read more.

How to Treat a Cold the Natural Way

Colds and flu run rampant this time of year. Noses are dripping, throats are hurting and coughs and sneezes can be heard in homes around the world. Thankfully there are a few simple tips that will ease your symptoms and help strengthen your immune system the natural way. Click HERE to read more.

Mom Talk Radio Show

I had the honor of joining host Maria Bailey on her Mom Talk Radio show. During the show we talked about how to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day. We also hit some of my favorite topics: how to live a green and a non-toxic life.  Click HERE to listen to the February 12, 2012 show. My piece is called ‘Moms Roundtable” and can be found near the end of the segment.

Tide: Get Cancer-Causing Chemicals Out of Laundry Detergent

If you haven’t heard, it turns out that Tide Free & Gentle® isn’t so gentle. A report recently released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in the detergent. 1,4-dioxane doesn’t appear on the product label or on the product website, so consumers have no way of knowing it’s even there.

With the help of Healthy Child Healthy World and  Women’s Voices for the Earth I put together a petition asking Procter & Gamble (makers of Tide) to strip this harmful cancer-causing chemical out of Tide Free & Gentle®!

Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green and Stephanie from Good Girl Gone Green both shared posts on this petition. Jenn Savedge from The Green Parent just shared a post on this too. Thank you Stephanie, Jenn and Lisa!

Last count we had over 600 signatures. If you haven’t already done so, please join in and SIGN THE PETITION. Better yet, sign the petition and then share it with your friends!

Pin of the week on Pinterest

This pin got a lot of action. It received likes and repins, too many to count. It just confirms my suspicion that we all have a new obsession with coconut oil. The pin originated from Delicious Obsessions and is called “52 Uses for Coconut Oil-The Simple, The Strange, and The Downright Odd!

This coming is a school vacation week for us so I will be spending more time with my family and writing less. I hope to get a few posts out, but we shall see!

Have a groovy green weekend. Do you have President’s Day off?

[Photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr]

 

February 15th, 2012

Book Review and Granola Recipe: Julia’s Child

 

organic granola recipe

Over the past 6 months I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Sarah Pinneo through our online connections. Sarah is articulate, passionate about the health of her family and undeniably funny. I was honored when she reached out and asked me to participate in the Julia’s Child  blog Julias Child tour.  Sarah is an established food journalist, blogger and  co-author of The Ski House Cookbook.

Her new book, Julia’s Child, tells the tale of Julia Bailey, a mompreneur who struggles with many of the same issues working parents are confronted with. Julia is desperately trying to balance her home life and the life of a start up food company specializing in making organic toddler meals. Her two small children and husband are longing for her to be home and the company is luring her in with the potential of turning a profit. Julia’s strife is real and easy to identify with. I found myself laughing out loud, nodding in agreement and wanting Julia to make the ‘right’ decisions.

One of my favorite moments in the book was when Julia was describing how her focus changed when her first child was born:

The impulse to be green and clean hit me like a ton of bricks…. Clearly more care and attention to foodstuffs would be necessary…. I learned that the first organic purchase many women ever make is a jar of baby food.

Throughout her fictional debut Sarah weaves credible foodie advice and healthy recipes that even the novice chef could create. I asked Sarah if she would share one of her famous recipes with us. Here’s what she had to say:

Sarah Pinneo KitchenThank you, Lori, for having me on Groovy Green Livin. I love this site, and when I was contemplating what recipe to share her today, one in particular seemed the obvious choice: Not-Too-Sweet Maple Pecan Granola!

Julia’s Child is the story of a self-described granola mom. The tag line of the book is: “a delectable comedy for every woman who’s ever wondered if buying that $6 box of organic crackers makes her a hero or a sucker.” Balancing the desire to do good with the limits of time and money is a central theme of the story.

Readers often ask me whether I’m as “green” as Julia, and my answer is: nearly. But Julia must learn, between pages 1 and 279, how to reconcile her pristine goals with living in the real world.

Yet it should come as no surprise that at my house, we often make our own granola! I find that many commercial granolas have a lot more sugar than I’d like, and they also tend to taste stale. This recipe makes a big batch, but at our house it only lasts a few days. Enjoy!

Not-Too-Sweet Maple Pecan Granola

Ingredients

5 cups of rolled oats

1 cup of chopped pecans

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/8 teaspoon salt

4 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pecans, coconut, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and salt. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the syrup and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread the granola evenly over a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 23 minutes. Turn off the oven, but allow the granola to remain inside for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove from oven and place on a rack. With a spatula, gently loosen the granola, pushing it from the edges inward. (This will prevent it from sticking.) Cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.

Julia’s Child could be the next book I suggest for my book club to tackle. It is a worthwhile read, touching upon issues that many of us are confronted with at some point during our tenure as parents.

For more information on Sarah Pinneo stop by her site, Twitter, or find her on Facebook.

I’m looking forward to trying the granola recipe. Do you make your own granola?

Disclosure: There are a few Amazon links in this post. Any purchase of Sarah’s books will put a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!

February 14th, 2012

Eggsperiment: CSA Eggs vs. Organic Store Bought Eggs

Organic Eggs

It’s very rare these days to find a morning when we have no plans. This past Sunday was one of those mornings when we were all home with nothing to do. We decided it would be the perfect time for our much anticipated eggsperiment.

What’s an eggsperiment?

We have been part of a CSA for many years and recently opted in to receive half a dozen organic fresh eggs each week directly from the farm. Prior to our CSA we were buying organic eggs mainly from our local Whole Foods Market. We have quite a few friends and family members who have chickens and have been raving about their delicious farm fresh eggs. Chickens are not in our future so our CSA was the way to go if we wanted fresh eggs. It was time to put the eggs to the test and have a family taste off.

Which eggs were better: CSA or organic store bought eggs?

CSA v. Store bought organic eggs

We whipped up two batches of scrambled eggs-each in a separate stainless steel pan. One was chock-full of organic eggs from the farm and the other filled with organic store bought eggs.

Our three boys eagerly sat down at the table to begin the taste test. We suggested blindfolds-that didn’t go over too well.  They promised to close their eyes with no peeking.

The oldest

We started with the oldest.  The first scoop of egg went into his mouth with his eyes shut tight. His two brothers watched him begin to chew-waiting for a comment. He methodically chewed, savoring every bite. Nothing-no comments, no nothing.  He rinsed his mouth with a little water (we decided ahead of time this would make it very official).  Then he took his next bite.  Again, chewing slowly and swallowing.  He opened his big brown eyes and out came a few words in his deceptively deep voice: “These are the farm share eggs” as he pointed to one side of the plate.  He was right.  We decided to pry a little to see if he had made an educated guess or just a plain old guess. He reasoned that they tasted “fresher and juicier”.  Juicier: an interesting choice of words to describe scrambled eggs. He also noted the farm share eggs were brighter in color, had more white specks and were smaller.

The youngest

Our youngest son repeated the process and made many of the same comments. We probably should have put them in separate rooms to keep the eggsperiment official, but that wouldn’t have been any fun.

The middle

The middle guy had no interest in closing his eyes at all.  He just wanted to eat the eggs-and he did. No comment.

The verdict

  • We all voted and the farm share eggs won.
  • The farm share eggs were quite a bit smaller than store bought eggs.
  • The farm eggs were a bit brighter in color than the store bought eggs.
  • The farm share eggs tasted fresher-I’m not sure how to describe this.  I think you will have to have a taste test yourself.

Overall it was a fun and different way to eat eggs together on a Sunday morning.

Why buy organic eggs? To learn more about the non-toxic and great green reasons to buy organic eggs head on over to Practically Green.

Have you done an eggsperiment? Do you buy organic eggs?

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, writer, mom of three boys and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Join me as we work together to make the world a safer place for all.

Click HERE to contact Lori

Lori on ABC World News

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