Friday, October 21, 2011

Eco friendly Halloween (again)

I'm trying to get over my issues with consumerism connected with holidays and I figure the best thing I can do is to encourage others to celebrate in the most eco friendly way possible. So, this is my follow up Halloween post... this time with less ranting and a few more good ideas.

I have come across a lot of great info to share about being eco friendly at Halloween time.

Here are some good basic tips for an eco friendly Halloween from Earth 911.

Check out some great ideas for eco themed costumes. I was considering one for myself, but I'm already enough of a freak about this stuff that I think I'll go for something more "normal" (made from current or borrowed items of course).

Here are a few ideas for DIY costumes, they are for adults but ideas can be altered for kids. The options for DIY kids costumes didn't seem as exciting to me.

This blog post on nature moms blog has some great tips for all things Halloween, with really good suggestions for better candy to give away. I would feel better if my kids got stuff like that when they went trick or treating.

And I know I implied that I was going to be more positive and everything, but PLEASE PLEASE read about why we need to make informed decisions when buying candy, and why buying fair trade chocolate is so important.

As for trick or treat bags, when we were kids we just used pillow cases. I think party we wanted to get as much candy as possible, but it certainly was an easy and eco friendly solution. Nowadays, people buy those plastic pumpkin buckets and other plastic candy holding things - do they buy them new every year? I don't understand why they would... anyhow, most of you know about my love for chicobags, and it just so happened that we were selling their new halloween bags at our co-op. I know I didn't need to, but I bought one for each kid as a treat. The cool thing about them is that they can be added to our bag collection and/or the kids can keep them on hand for when they need an extra bag for school or sports stuff. I do like them to keep a chicobag in their backpacks for that reason, but I think over the summer they stopped carrying one. Now they will have one again (after Halloween).
One of the cool thing about buying these particular bags is that 10% of the sale of each bag will go to Green Halloween. And while I was checking out their website, I found even more good ideas for what to pass out on Halloween. if you check no other links on this blog post, at least look at this one.

So, dress up and have fun this Halloween... but think before you buy!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Protesting and the economy

It's not that I am against protesting, it's just that it's not my style. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm going to "occupy wall street" and I just say "no". They all assume that's my style, but the truth is... I would rather spend my time trying to make change in other ways. I'm certainly not criticizing anyone who is into protesting - because the truth is, we need those people (perhaps even you) to do their thing and help make change in that way. I fully support (and encourage) the protesting, but I'm just not interested in being involved. I also look forward to a positive outcome from the protesting that can help us all... one that can hopefully make it even easier to make change in other ways.

This is really the first time that I've posted or even written anything about occupy wall street, that is how removed I've been. However, there is a very important connection that I have to all of this - I work at a co-op. This video says it all:
I really want point out the importance of supporting co-ops. I know sometimes you can find more or better deals at your local wh0le foods market and trader j0es... but your money is still going to big business. Vote with your dollar! Keep your money local!

And while we are watching videos, check out this one about visualizing a plenitude economy:
Everyone should watch this.


For those of you who are tech savvy and into apps, please check out this free app called climate counts - this app will help you chose wisely who you want to give your hard earned money to based on the environmental impact that the company has. Help fight climate change! Check out the climate count website here.

And on the DIY tip, I came across a few recipes for health and beauty products that I wanted to share. I haven't tried any yet, but I plan on needing more toothpaste soon and using the recipe shown. I'm also going to try the deodorant. I will let you know how it goes!

Monday, October 10, 2011


We went camping yesterday.

We went to a campground that was about 1/2 hour away. It was packed since this was the last real camping weekend of the season... and what a beautiful weekend it was. I took 4 vacation days and I think the weather gods took pity on me and my overwhelming schedule, so they blessed us with amazing weather on my days off.

We stayed in the tent section with our pop up camper because our friends had tents. Since there were no other tenters, we had the whole section to ourselves - it was perfect.
We only stayed one night, but it was still fun.

I had this whole dilemma about all of our dishes, etc. that we keep stocked in the camper - they are so plastic. When we got the camper a year and a half ago, I went to the dollar store and bought all the stuff to stock it - plates, cups, bowls, silverware, etc... and I'm kicking myself now. I was conscious then, but I still made that excuse for myself without even realizing it - the one about how you know you shouldn't be supporting something (like the dollar store), but you really don't have a lot of money and it's so much more affordable.

So now I am stuck with all of this plastic stuff that I don't want to just throw away, but I don't want to use. I mean, we only go camping a few times a year, it can't hurt us. But I really want to switch over at some point to thrift store finds... later.

Anyway, the campgrounds are fun with lots of stuff to do. There are often organized events, and last night there happened to be trick or treating.
It was fun to have a chance to walk around the RV campground and check out all of the campers... but the trash issue came up and inside I was quietly freaking out. So much trash with trick or treating!! It's not even just the wrappers, it's the little plastic toys, the plastic ziplock bags that people put the already wrapped in plastic candy... even the plastic lawn ornaments.

Yes, people even decorated their camper plots for this event. It was a tiny bit surreal if you haven't been to campgrounds like this. Ok, even if you have been to them.

It got really cold at night, but we brought plenty of blankets and dressed warm.
In the morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast together.
And we only fought over the camping chairs a few times.

We were able to keep this trip almost waste free. There was this plastic that we had to throw away that was wrapped around the wood that we had to buy at the camp store - there is a law that you can't bring firewood in to campgrounds. Some of our friends had some trash from wrappers for some food, but that is unavoidable unless you are specifically having a zero waste camping trip (which isn't a bad idea).
The kids had fun on the playground while the older kids played basketball on the basketball court.
There was even this really cool giant checkerboard even.

It was a good little overnight that I plan on doing more often in the spring. 

We packed up this afternoon and headed back home.
But the day was so beautiful that I just couldn't let it slip by. And although I did take a nap that was really difficult to wake up from (I took a nap!), we still took a walk and got a little fishing in.
Somehow, the leaves are all little more colorful than they were before we went camping yesterday. It's always amazing how that happens so suddenly every year...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Halloween and thoughts on consumerism

It's fall here.
The leaves are all starting to change and the nights are getting colder. School is going in full swing and we are adjusting to the next season.

And with this season comes a real challenge for our waste free lifestyle with kids: Halloween.

For years when my kids were younger, I was able to keep them away from trick or treating. We would have parties with friends and dress up and eat treats... but those years are behind us now (if you have young ones - it's not too late). At a certain point, they just can't deny that urge to go trick or treating - and I don't really want to deny them of the fun of going from house to house and being a part of a mob of dressed up kids.

Last year one thing that stood out in my memory was how consumed the children have become with getting as much candy as then can, as quickly as possible. I was noticing that other kids weren't even saying "trick or treat", let alone "please" or "thank you". In this age of staring at electronic devices all day and not having to look eye to eye with others, so many kids have lost their manners. I mean come on - these people are giving you free candy - at least look at them and thank them!

Anyhow, there are many aspects of Halloween that make me think. There are the costumes, the purchasing of unhealthy and over packaged sugar treats made by large corporations that do little good for our environment, and then there is the trash.

But let's start with the costumes.

I generally try to get creative with helping my kids pull together costumes. I've made some from scratch in the past, used things from the dress up box, shopped at thrift stores and even bought new over the years. If I had been thinking more creatively, I probably could have even avoided buying the new costume (I feel like this has maybe only even happened once).
Last year my youngest wanted to be a knight so bad... and while this looks like a store bought Halloween costume, it's actually a hand me down dress up outfit from his big brother - straight out of the dress up box. What a great opportunity to wear dress up clothes outside of the house!

This year is proving to be a bit trickier for him... especially since he changes his mind once a week. Last week he was going to be a ninja, so I was scoping out black shirts and pants and looking for some nice black cloth to turn into a ninja mask. But this week he wants to be Han Solo. Stay tuned for this exciting decision.

I wish I had a picture of what my oldest son was last year, I'm kicking myself for not documenting that one. He and two of his friends decided to be consumerism kids... I can't remember what they called themselves exactly, but they covered white t-shirts with every logo that they could find (all hand drawn) and handed out old monopoly money with the following printed on the back: "We are yet 3 more kids on an already overpopulated planet manipulated by huge corporations to make our peers and ourselves the cynical and alienated youth of today".
He hasn't decided what he's going to be this year, I guess it's hard to top that.
My daughter, however, collaborated with a friend and made a cool costume out of an old shirt and some other supplies. Her costumer was pretty creative as well (she was Thing 2).

I just heard about this really cool idea that I would totally take part in if I was the type to buy Halloween costumes, it's called national costume swap day and it happens to be tomorrow! Have you heard of this? It's a great idea... but why not create a costume swap with some friends any time? I encourage everyone to think like this regularly.

Ok, let's move on now to the candy and the trash. The truth is, I don't have enough energy to go into the issue of small individually wrapped sugar snacks that we all know we shouldn't be giving to kids. Don't get me wrong, I love good chocolate just as much as the next person (except my oldest child, who doesn't really like chocolate at all...) but I am really struggling with the waste that this holiday produces. I'm certainly not going to deprive my kids of their trick or treat experience... but I'm on the fence still about what to do about all of the trash that will come of it! If anyone has ANY suggestions out there (other than banning trick or treating), I'm all ears. Meanwhile, my best plan of action so far is this:
This year, I want my kids to save every single wrapper and every piece of trash from their Halloween candy. I want them first to recognize how much waste this holiday produces, and then I want them to find something creative to do with the trash instead of just throwing it away.

Sadly (and luckily), we don't get any trick or treaters at our house, so we won't have to worry about handing anything out... but what if we did? What are the best waste free options out there? There are always apples... or fresh baked mini muffins... worse case scenario, I would maybe (MAYBE) buy some all natural candies or lollipops made by a company that I feel good supporting and hand those out...

What are your thoughts on this holiday?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Zero waste at festivals

Today we went to the harvest festival at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. I have been going to this festival as long as I've lived in the Berkshires (about 15 years) and the weather is totally different every year  -  this year it was just cold. Luckily it wasn't as wet as had been predicted... but I remember that one year it snowed and another year I got a sunburn.

This time our visit to the festival was a little bit different. This time we came with everything that we would need to have a zero waste experience there... with the exception of the fuel needed to travel. Oh, and the fuel for the tractor that pulled us on a hay ride (I guess there is a chance that they used biodiesel though).

We usually just carry one backpack with everything we might need and my partner and I take turns carrying it. Today we packed a plate (which falafel later ended up on), utensils, chico bags (later filled with 2nd hand loot), family sized water bottle, my insulated klean kanteen (which was later filled with local beer that had been brewed by solar power), cloth napkins (which some fresh local soft pretzel ended up wrapped in), a tin container just in case and some snack taxis (one filled with popcorn and one empty). There was also an empty coffee cup for my partner, but the line was so long because it was so cold that we didn't end up using it.

Even though there were tons of vendors and crafters, we found our loot at the second hand booths. We found books ($6 for 7), picture frames ($9 for a 8), a photo album ($.50) and a metal firetruck ($1) that made my youngest very happy. We ate good food and grabbed some to go on the way out - soft pretzels and a bunch or our most favorite carrots grown by our friends at woven roots farm. We used most of the stuff we carried, including our chico bags which we needed to carry the extra stuff that we ended up with.

All in all we had a good time even if it the weather wasn't ideal. We successfully avoided creating or contributing to any waste... and you know what? It was really easy to do.