Sustainable Play Items – the Green Way to Go!

Green and eco-friendly products are very common these days – there are so many products that make a ‘green’ or eco-friendly claim so that now we come to expect it on the shelves of our supermarkets, on websites or banks who claim to be ‘paperless.’

Have you ever thought about what your children play with and how these items may impact the environment?
Now that summer will be upon us soon, outdoor play is something we should start thinking about now and sustainability should be on our minds.

Some equipment does not last!

Unfortunately, a lot of consumer products we buy for our children are not built to last. Typically, these tend to be the cheaply made plastic toys that break or stop working properly. The sad fact is that usually the cheaper products, which are made of plastic, tend to be the ones that end up in landfills and aren’t biodegradable, so will sit there for many years to come.

What are the greener options?

There are two main things you can do to be more environmentally-friendly when buying play equipment, and in particular outdoor play equipment.

1. Buy to last. This can be a hard one as there are usually no guarantees. It also depends on how boisterous your children are. However, larger items like swings and climbing frames can come with a 10 year warranty – like Action Climbing Frames which can be bought at the Big Game Hunters climbing frame shop, Mad Fun and All Garden Fun, amongst others.

Wooden play items will on the whole have a longer life than many of their plastic counterparts. Apart from a longer life, the wood can be re-used if still in good condition once the play equipment is no longer used or needed and most importantly it will not fill up landfill, as it will eventually degrade.

2. Think about the materials they are made from. A lot of wood that goes into playhouses, climbing frames, tree houses and swings comes from sustainable wood sources. This means that the wood comes from somewhere where they are constantly planting new trees so the amount of trees does not diminish.

Look out for people reusing things to make new play items. Garden Games uses old tyres for its tyre swings, which uses up old tyres, which would otherwise have no use, and makes something fun for children to play on. Rubber does not biodegrade so they can fill up landfills just like plastics! Instead, by using them as swings, they are not sitting in landfills, and costs to the consumer have been reduced as the tires are being reused for this purpose.

About the Author

Written by Abbi Stewart, advisor and creator of play equipment for children at Big Game Hunter’s climbing frames shop at www.climbingframes.com.

Grilled Corn On The Cob

Ingredients

6 ears of corn in husks
Cold water
Salt and Pepper to taste
Butter or extra virgin olive oil to taste

Preparation

Preheat grill to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Optional: Before submerging the corn, season the water with your favorite spices, including garlic, parsley, oregano, etc.

Remove the first layer of outer husk, leaving fresh layers of husk on the corn.

Submerge the corn in a large pot of cold water for one hour. Make sure the corn absorbs enough water so that it sinks to the bottom of the pot. Turn the corn every 15 minutes to make sure corn is absorbing water evenly.

Place the corn on the grill and turn every 10 minutes until the corn is ready using the fork test. Corn kernels are soft when cooked. Typical cooking time is approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from the grill. Remove husks and silk from the corn.

Season and serve.

Note: You can also bbq corn by removing the husk and silk, and wrapping it in aluminum foil. Grilling in the husks makes the presentation of corn beautiful. Either way, grilled corn tastes great and is good for you!

*Recipe and image courtesy of Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T. Visit SATGourmet.com.*

Keep little ones cozy and warm after their bath with soft, absorbent terry soft hooded towels from Gerber Childrenswear! Their Terry Hooded Towel Sets are available in green, blue or pink, and each 2 piece set includes two solid towels with woven label and applique/embroidery details on the hoods. Designed to absorb the wetness without the bulk of a large, adult-size towel, the towels feature an adorable hood to keep tiny heads covered and snuggly warm when bath time is over!

Machine washable, the 26″ x 30″ size of the towels is perfect for baby, and they pack well for overnight trips or stays at Grandma’s house! In addition to the towels, matching absorbent washcloths are available.

Mom” loves how affordable these hooded towel sets are for the quality – with Jersey binding along the edges of the towels to prevent fraying, they will stand up to wash after wash.

To learn more about the Terry Hooded Towel Sets, or to browse all of the selections available from Gerber Childrenswear, visit GerberChildrenswear.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Eco-Friendly Shades: Protecting Both Your Eyes and the Earth

As the summer months finally start to roll around, the bright beams of the sun have many individuals reaching for their sunglasses. Currently, due to the wide selection of shades on the market, sunglasses have become viewed as a way of making a fashion statement; endless combinations of colors and shapes create a diverse sunglass market. This season, instead of investing in a pair of shades made from one-time-use plastics, consider purchasing a pair of eco-friendly sunglasses. Available in a wide selection of styles, these sunglasses are constructed from recycled or biodegradable materials, and some of these styles of green shades do more than just protect eyes — they also harness the power of the sun. Below are a few stellar (pun intended!) options for eco-friendly sunglasses.

1. Wooden Frames

Perhaps the most common option for eco-friendly sunglasses, wooden frames made from either recycled or sustainably-sourced wood provide an excellent alterative to the traditional plastic frames. Such wood-based frames can be purchased through brands like Proof, Shywood, Kayu, and iWood. And as if saving the earth and consumers’ eyes isn’t enough, several of these brands ensure that their sale of shades does more than that. More specifically, Kayu donates $50 from every purchase of sunglasses to an organization dedicated to providing corrective eye surgeries for individuals in developing countries. Proof donates a pair of eyeglasses for every set of shades sold; additionally, Proof also is involved in planting trees in Haiti. The price of sunglasses with wooden frames varies, depending upon the specific brand.

2. Recycled Goods

Falling under the third concept of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” motto, sunglasses made from recycled plastics (and other materials) are also considered eco-friendly. Shywood and HUF have collaborated to make such sunglasses from recycled broken skateboards while Urban Spectacles has brilliantly designed a pair of retro-looking shades made from recycled beer bottles. At the same time, Shywood has also teamed up with Bushmills to create a pair of sunglasses made from recycled wooden whiskey barrels. Between the beer bottles and the whiskey barrel designs, environmentally-friendly consumers can definitely choose to embrace a whole new meaning of “Drinking in the sunshine.”

3. A Hairy Matter

Arguably the most unique idea in green sunglass materials has been presented by two students at the Royal College of Arts. Made from a creative combination of human hair clippings and bioresin, these sunglasses are completely biodegradable. Since they are not currently backed by a large scale company, the pricing information for “Studio Swine Human Hair Sunglasses” is only available upon request.

4. Solar Power

Unlike the other sunglasses that just focus on protecting eyes, these glasses also work to harness the power of the sun. Made with dye-sensitized solar cells and a power jack at the end of the glasses’ frame, these handy shades can be used to provide power to your favorite mp3 player in addition to protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.

5. Green Plastics

Finally, eco-friendly sunglasses can also be considered to be any sunglasses made from plant-based plastics. For example, fashion giant Juicy Couture recently placed its “Choose Green” shades on the market; all of these glasses are made with 55% renewable plant-based plastics, as well as bamboo accents.

When making your sunglass purchases for this new summer season, remember to look for green alternatives like the ones mentioned above. Although such shades might be higher in price than traditionally-constructed sunglasses, the long-term benefits of these shades arguably justify this price difference.

About the Author

Author Sara Roberts has a background in health and technical writing, and is a content contributor for Just Eyewear, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. Visit Just Eyewear on Facebook.

Serve this light, summery dip courtesy of Home Gardening & Entertaining Expert, Valerie Rice, with a platter of fresh vegetables for extra crunch and flavor!

Whipped Feta Dip

Ingredients

10 ­ 12 ounces feta cheese (A good choice is Israeli feta because it¹s so creamy)
4 piquillo peppers, drained
1 tablespoon dried Aleppo pepper*
1Ž2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1Ž4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
Juice of half a lemon
1Ž4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, blend all ingredients for a good 3 minutes, incorporating any stragglers by scraping the bowl of the mixer with a rubbers spatula. This ensures the dip is super creamy. Taste for seasoning and spice level, store in the fridge or serve. If you store it in the fridge, bring it to room temp and give it a good mix before serving.

*You can substitute sweet paprika if you can’t find Aleppo.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Home Gardening & Entertaining Expert, Valerie Rice, of Eat Drink Garden.*

Seeking the perfect, eco-fabulous gift for your mom this Mother’s Day? “Mom” has highlighted her top 15 picks this year on SheKnows.com – there is something for every woman! Read the entire article on SheKnows.com.

Move over granola bars! There’s a new guilt-free bar in town that will rock your taste buds! Skinnygirl™ has introduced their On-the-Go Bars, which are available in two delicious flavors, Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Multi-Grain Pretzel! “Mom’s” favorite is definitely the Dark Chocolate Multi-Grain Pretzel – it is hard to believe that these are good for you they taste so decadent, and Skinnygirl™ has placed two 100-calorie portions inside the package to make portion control easier throughout the day. However, once you eat one portion, it will be hard to resist the other one!

Skinnygirl™ On-the-Go Bars are all-natural, Vegan, and Kosher, and contain 4 grams of fiber per bar to keep you feeling full and satisfied longer. The Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate contain 3 grams of protein per bar, and the Dark Chocolate Multi-Grain Pretzel contains 4 grams of protein. For a snack-attack when you are on the move, these definitely do the trick!

Tuck these bars into your purse, gym bag, desk drawer at work, or diaper bag for a quick and healthy pick-me-up during the day instead of reaching for a fattening candy bar. At about $2 per bar, they are a nutritious, guilt-free indulgence! To learn more about Skinnygirl™ On-the-Go Bars, or to order online, visit SkinnyGirlDaily.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Summer Safety Tips for Children

Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes all sorts of fun. Children will be playing outdoors, joining local sports leagues, swimming and going on adventures. While these are all enjoyable activities and great ways to get children outdoors, they also pose some risks. During the summer, more children are injured than during any other season. Here are some tips to keep kids safe while they have fun:

Bug Spray

Bug spray should be used any time children will be playing outdoors in the evening or in an insect-infested area. Sprays can limit bites from ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, black flies and other insects, although sprays cannot completely eliminate bites. The most effective sprays have DEET, but this can be detrimental to a child’s development. It should never be used on an infant. Alternative, non-toxic deterrents include picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is another essential spray of summer-time play. Traditional sunscreens are administered as a lotion, but there are also spray-on options. A minimum of SPF 30 should be used, and it must be reapplied throughout the day. Organic and natural choices are optimal.

Tick Prevention

Ticks are the most dreaded insect, because they cause serious diseases, such as Lyme Disease. In addition to spraying children, encouraging them to wear long sleeves in grassy and wooded areas reduces the risk of a tick bite. The final defense against ticks is frequent checks for them after everyone comes inside.

Water Safety

Going to the pool or beach is the classic summertime activity. It is cool and fun, and possibly deadly. Every year, children drown at pools and inopen water. Parents need to watch their children closely while at the pool or beach. The life guards do a very good job, but they cannot see everything. Parents also should be in close proximity to their children and know what the signs of drowning are.

Helmets

Away from the water, bikes are another common summertime toy. Children enjoy riding them along sidewalks, roads and dirt paths. Obviously, the greatest danger of riding a bike is a head injury. Children should be forced to wear a helmet every time they ride a bike. Helmets should not be optional. In fact, somecities, such as Dallas, have made them mandatory for all cyclists.

Poison Ivy

Anytime a child goes exploring where there is not clearpath, they might run across poison ivy. Once one contracts poison ivy, they will likely have a red, itchy rash. Blisters and hives can accompany this rash. However, poison ivy can be easily avoided with a simple rule: “Leaves of three, let it be.” Poison ivy is easily identified, because its plants have three leaves. Experienced botanists can distinguish between poison ivy and other plants with three leaves, such as strawberries, but anyone who is unsure should stay away from the plant.

These tips can help children stay safe during the summer. In many ways, summertime is the best time of year for kids. They get to play, explore and learn on their own terms. By following these tips, children can continue to enjoy their summer.

About the Author

Wayne Page writes for the Certified Nurse Aide Training Center,which trains CNAs in North Carolina and throughout the United States.

*Image: chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

This dish is a great way to get as many healthy ingredients into your body as possible without having to sacrifice any of the things you love. The softness of the root vegetables makes it reminiscent of traditional al dente pasta.

Pesto-Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fettuccini (page 236)

Ingredients

3 large carrots, peeled
3 large parsnips, peeled
1 tbsp cold-pressed (extra virgin) olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
11⁄2 tbsp fine sea salt, divide
3⁄4 cup cold-pressed hemp oil
1⁄2 cup raw shelled hemp seeds
3 cloves garlic
3 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preparation

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips, dropping into a bowl as completed (see Tips, left.) Add olive oil, 1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice and 1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) salt and toss until vegetables are well coated. Set aside for 10 minutes, until softened.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process hemp oil and seeds, garlic and remaining lemon juice and salt, until somewhat smooth but the hemp seeds retain some texture. Add cilantro and process until chopped and blended, stopping the motor once to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add pesto to fettuccine, toss well and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Variations

Substitute an equal quantity of parsley leaves for the cilantro.

Toss the fettuccine from Step 1 with another sauce, instead of the pesto. Red Pepper Mole Sauce (page 202), Sweet-and-Sour Thai Almond Butter Sauce (page 191) or Spicy Pad Thai Sauce (page 194) are all good choices.

Tips

Peeling the vegetables lengthwise produces the long, thin strips required for this recipe. For best results use a Y-shaped (slingshot) vegetable peeler. When using a regular peeler, you can glide down the length of the vegetable to make one long, thin strip.

If you prefer, combine the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl before tossing with the vegetables, to ensure even integration.

*Excerpted from Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.*

Photo credit: Colin Erricson/www.robertrose.ca

Chemicals in Baby Products and How to Avoid Them

It’s a concerning fact that baby products out there still contain BPA, phthalates, and lead; that’s why it’s very important to make informed decisions when buying any product for our children. You might ask: why is it important to buy non-toxic baby products? Take for example, research done by the Environmental Working Group that found that newborn’s umbilical cord blood has an average of 287 different chemicals, in which: 
- 180 cause cancer in humans or animals
- 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system
- 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. A few years ago when fire retardant chemicals where being added to pajamas, we had to go and prove that it caused more harm than good. Now we must prove that many other toxic chemicals should also stay away from our furniture, linens, paint and any other products that we come in contact with daily.

Some things to look for are BPA, phthalates, and lead; stainless steel dinnerware is a great way to ensure that you are keeping your child’s food free from these leaching toxins that could be present in plastic dinnerware. Ecobold believes that if consumers take a stance against harmful and toxic products and demand safe alternatives with their buying power, these products can become the norm. So, thank goodness we have companies who share the same concerns and are able to produce better products!

There are some great companies that make it very easy to be a parent; these companies are committed to providing parents with safe, worry-free solutions to real-life challenges. When you buy these non-toxic products you are not only declaring your consideration for your children’s environment, you are also saving them from future health problems. Even if you’re not a parent, when you’re invited to a baby shower, make sure to introduce the mom to be to safe products.

You can find many non-toxic and stylish baby products that customers are raving about at Ecobold.com. Find tableware “must haves” for children, that are of excellent quality and that will not contain any toxic chemicals that can harm your child. One to love is the stainless steel Kid Kanteen baby bottle by Klean Kanteen, the contoured hourglass shape of this bottle is designed to be easy to hold by little hands and the nipple shape promotes proper oral development and healthy teeth. Furthermore, this stainless steel bottle is reusable and 100% recyclable, but most importantly it is non-toxic, which means you won’t expose your child to BPA, phthalate, or lead.

The ECOlunchtray also comes highly recommended! A stainless steel plate divided in three sections, this tray makes it easy to feed toddlers a snack, lunch, or dinner. This plastic-free, lead-free, BPA-free, and phthalate-free tray is a non-toxic alternative that is completely safe for your little one. This tray is recyclable, unbreakable, and dishwasher safe. And what to use for flatware? The Spoons & Forks for infants is a safe option that is BPA-free, phthalate-free and PVC-free that is made from recycled materials and completely recyclable.