8 5 Tricks for a Green Halloween

Halloween can be a massive waste of resources. Costumes are bought and then worn for only a few short hours, makeup is worn that is full of cancer causing toxins, candy that is full of sugar and GMO crops are handed out. Halloween is also an easy holiday to make green. Here are 5 Tricks for a Green Halloween that we follow to ensure that our fun is sustainable.

Hand out fair trade and organic candy. Cadbury fair trade button chocolate is probably the easiest to find and won't cost you an arm and a leg. For a non-chocolate option look for Yummy Earth suckers. This is what we handed out last year and they are delicious. For the young trick or treaters consider skipping the candy and giving them cool stickers instead.

Don't buy new costumes. Rent a costume, buy used from a consignment shop, borrow or trade with someone you know, participate in national costume swap day, or as a throw back to simpler times when we were kids...make a costume! When you are done with your costume don't throw it away, either sell or donate it so it gets more life out of it.

Trick or Treat on your feet not in your car. Yes, people do this, we see it every year. Stay in your neighbourhood and walk from house to house. Driving your car wastes gas and created unnecessary emissions. It toughens kids up to have to walk in the snow and freezing cold temperatures to get their candy!

Go Nestle free. That means with what you hand out and what you take from others. The latter is obviously harder to have any control over but if your kids are older you could educate them about the No Nestle campaign and ask them to take an alternative if available at a house that is handing out Nestle products.

Say NO to plastic decorations. Make an eco-friendly ghost, use old sheets and leaves from your yard. Think about ways you can use your Christmas lights if you want to use lighting. We don't decorate at all but instead just put our 3 pumpkins on the steps with candles inside of them.

What tricks do you follow to ensure your Halloween is green?

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12 Blissdom.....Nailed It

I'm back from Blissdom and although not physically recharged my mind is buzzing with ideas. This was my first blog conference and I knew it could get overwhelming. It was pretty much non stop from the time I arrived on Friday until Joe picked me up on Sunday. They say that going to Blissdom is like coming home for bloggers and it is kind of true. Where else can you sit at a table with 9 other ladies and have them all tweeting while still maintaining eye contact and carrying on a conversation! 

With Sonya and Erica at Richmond Station for a special tasting dinner

Blissdom is what you make it. I chose to spend my time with a smaller group of people so I could really get to know them and develop lasting friendships. I connected with the speakers and what they were sharing with us. I connected with my new friends until my whole body hurt from laughing. I found opportunities to share a bit about myself and took crazy fast notes on my BlackBerry as I learned how to make this blog better. 

I also had a lot of fun.

 Dinner with Erica, Stacey, Tracey, Sonya, Tanya, Nerina and Kirsten

 At the kickoff party with Tanya, Kirsten, Nerina

 The rest of my dinnermates: Erica, Sonya, Tracey, Stacey

With Chef Michael Smith thanks to Canadian Lentils!

At the costume party with Jen, Ashley and Jenn (whoa that's a lot of Jen(n)'s!)

 Taking a break from fighting crime! Ashley, Gretel, Kirsten

I managed to make my way through the conference keeping my green values intact. I probably walked away with the least amount of swag! I turned down anything that was plastic or was a brand or product that I would not use.  The biggest impact of my weekend was transportation. I carpooled to the train station with Lisa but opted to have Joe pick me up to go home vs taking the train part of the way. On Sunday I took an excursion to wine country which included a drive to and from Toronto. The winery I found and that is now the official sponsor of wine in the JnJ house was well worth it! (More on this winery to come in a follow up post).

I took my own water bottle, turned down bottled water, took my own coffee mug but didn't have to use it as there were reusable mugs available. I didn't hand out business cards (which Sonya says makes me more memorable!), didn't print any confirmations and took all notes electronically.The conference even donated any unwanted food we received from brands to the local food bank!

The weekend is what you make of it and these guys helped make it awesome! Alex, Ann, Annie (I forced myself to grow balls and go talk to her), Ashley, Erica, Gretel, Jen (my roomie!), Jenn (I did a guest post for her years ago...small world!) Kirsten, Lisa, Nerina, Rebecca, Sherrie, Sonya, Stacey, Tanya, Tracey
As an added bonus my roommate didn't kill me in my sleep.


3 Conducting a Waste Audit at Home

Every few years I conduct a waste audit at home so we can examine exactly what we are disposing of and come up with plans to eliminate or reduce these amounts. I know it sounds like a totally nerd thing to do (and it is) but it has really helped us to figure out where we are at and where we want to go. It is also cool to compare to previous years and see how far we have come.

2011 Mini Audit
2010 Mini Audit
2009 Full Audit


1 Going Green at Blissdom Canada

I'm Goin', Eh.This weekend I am headed for my first blogging conference (squeeee). When I first heard that there was such a thing as conferences for bloggers I read lots of information on waste. Giveaways that ended up in the trash, styrofoam or plastic plates and utensils being used for meals.  But as the years have passed and each conference comes and goes I have read of vast improvements in the overall impact of the events.

When I signed up for Blissdom Canada I knew that it wouldn't be perfect from a green perspective but there are some great initiatives that are available and things you yourself can do to be a little bit greener.

Save Paper
Don't print your Eventbrite ticket! Just keep a copy of it on your smart phone or laptop and show that when we go to the registration table. They will have copies of your name tag there for you too.If you are flying use an e-boarding pass. I did this on a recent trip to the UK and it was so simple. Each time I had to show it they just scanned the QR code on my BlackBerry.

When it comes to business cards look for sustainable options like 100% post consumer waste, FSC certified, soy based inks and smaller sized cards. Skip the rounded corners as it creates extra waste in the production of your cards. Consider not even printing business cards. I decided against them this year and instead will be walking around with a QR code that you can scan to get to my information. Another great option (and on my list of potential options for next year) is getting a stamp made with all the same information as you would put on a business card. Instead of handing out cards just stamp the back of people's badges or on a page of their notebook.  Green Printer   The World's Greenest Business Card

There are a million ways to get to Blissdom. Consider taking public transit or carpooling if you are looking to reduce your impact (and save money!!).

Reduce your Waste
Bring your own travel coffee mug and your own water bottle. If you don't want to carry both then you can easily use your coffee mug for water too! And don't forget to recycle!

Stay Smarter
Simple things make all the difference like turning off your lights when you leave your room. Our hotel also has an option to not have cleaning each day as a way to reduce the amount of water, chemicals and electricity that are used. If you want to participate you will get extra club points. This is a great extra incentive for those who want it! 

Take Only What You Will Use
I know there will be lots of giveaways this weekend. I know it is the blogger version of a kid in a candy store. Focus on the key brands that are of interest to you and take the items that you know you will use. If you do end up with something you don't want or can't use don't throw it away! Ask around if someone else wants it. Maybe you can even swap it for something you do want!

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5 1st Painting with Earth Paints

For a long time I struggled with the idea of letting B paint so I completely avoided it. We coloured, we drew, we did everything but paint because I didn't know where to start when it came to safe paints for him to be in contact with. Traditional paints are chemicals...basically solvents and pigments mixed together. I didn't want B exposed to that!  

Children's Earth Paint Kit - Petite

When a box of Earth Paints arrived at our door I was instantly excited to try them out. There are no chemicals involved so they are completely safe for use. The pigment is from clay that has been collected from the ground and then sifted and screened to make a fine powder. The colouring is not added but rather is the same colour as what comes up from the ground. I simply took a few teaspoons of a pigment and mixed it with water in the biodegradable plastic cups that came with the kit. It is a 1:1 ratio for pigment to water but it still took me a few colours to get it to be the correct consistency.

As B started to paint I had no worries about how messy he got or if he had it all over his hands (and mine, and the table, and his arms and his face). I knew that he was safe from toxins as Earth Paints have been tested by government approved toxicologists and deemed 100% non-toxic. Clean up was easy too. Regular soap and water for us and vinegar and water for the table.

Clay used to make paint powder

Earth Paints have many additional benefits including that they are made in the USA and the fact that the brown blob that B is convinced is 'Mater' will last and last and last. I highly recommend checking Earth Paints out. The kit we were sent costs $19.99 and based on the amount I used and how many paintings we got out of it I can see it easily lasting for at least 100 paintings. 

Disclaimer: I was sent an Earth Paint kit to test but the opinions expressed are my own based on our experience with the product.


6 Toxic Disney Lunch Boxes

A recent study by the Center of Health, Environment and Justice found lunch boxes contained up to 30 times the amount of phthalates deemed safe for toys by the US federal government. Disney character lunch boxes were some of the worst offenders. I don't understand why this keeps happening. I don't understand why companies continue to make toxic products...especially those marketed to kids...especially those that come in contact with food. You are probably wondering how this can even happen. Well lunch boxes are not considered toys therefore they are not regulated on the amount of toxic chemicals they can contain.

Phalates are a plasticizer that are used to soften PVC. They are easily released into the environment, into our food and into us because they do not permanently form a bond with the plastic they are being added to. As the plastic ages or is heated it breaks down causing a faster release of phalates.  Phalates are linked to causing serious health problems like ADHD, diabetes and asthma. Kids and their developing immune system are at an even high risk of impact from exposure to these toxins.

My nieces are in a huge Disney princess phase. My nephew actually wants to be Spiderman. So it really hits home for me when I see that the Disney princess and Spiderman lunch boxes contain some of the highest levels of phalates. The thought of them getting sick from one of these....well it makes my blood boil.

Please join the Green Sisterhood as we fight for Disney to stop using phalates in their lunch boxes. Sign this petition to urge them to take these steps for our children's safety. Please share this petition with your friends and family via social media and email. If you would like to blog about this and need more information please contact Lori from Groovy Green Livin who is the creator of the petition.

Watch here to see Lori talk about this important petition.

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2 You know what doesn't belong in rice.....ARSENIC

I was watching the news while B was eating his dinner...which included rice...and I nearly leaped across the table to push the plate away from him. The latest report from Consumer Reports' study that revealed dangerous levels in both rice and products containing rice. Arsenic isn't supposed to be in rice....it isn't supposed to be in food at all. It has been commonly used in rat poison. Think about that for a second. It is used to kill rats and yet it is found in the vary food that most doctors suggest be our babies first solid food. 

You are probably wondering how the heck arsenic gets into rice in the first place? The simple answer is farming and industry.  Arsenic based pesticides and fertilizers, municipal waste, industry and mining all contaminate the ground with inorganic arsenic. 80% of rice grown in the USA is on lands that were previously sprayed with arsenic pesticide or manure that contains arsenic. So you have arsenic in the soil and rice growing in flooded waters where it sucks up the arsenic from the soil. Your rice is literally swimming in arsenic. 

What can we do about this? I mean we have to be able to do something right? The answer is not as simple as no longer eating rice because arsenic is also in rice based products like rice flour, rice crackers, baby food, cereal bars and rice based energy drinks. It isn't in all rice based products but it is in many, even organic products so unless you do solid research to find out what products do not contain arsenic you really can not be sure that you and your family are safe.  The first step that we are taking until we can find a safe source is to cut back on the amount of rice we eat and to change the way we cook it. Make sure you wash your rice before you cook it. Then cook it in 6 parts water to 1 part rice and drain the excess water when the rice is done cooking. Joey cooks his rice this way and I always thought he was crazy...turns out he is not. Go here for more tips.

Please join the Green Sisterhood as we stand together and fight for arsenic to be out of our rice. Sign this petition asking for a change in regulations. Share the petition with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and right on the petition website. 

Anna Hackman is the organizer of the Change.org Arsenic in Rice Petition. She is a sustainability consultant, co-founder of the Green Sisterhood and editor of Green Talk.

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2 Eco-Friendly Product Auction

When I first fell in love with Langley I promised myself that I would do whatever I could to make sure a family found him. It started with raising money for his adoption grant account in the hopes that a bigger account would increase his chances of finding a family. Together we raised $4891 for his adoption. Next we spread the word about Langley and as we did 73 Random Acts of Kindness for one another. We shouted, we cried, we virtually high five'd one another last June when a family stepped forward to adopt Langley

I'm keeping my promise. The Montgomery family has around $37,000 left to raise to bring Langley and Evie home. Money is the biggest obstacle right now and I plan to do as much as I can to make it so they do not have to worry about that.

Along with 2 other Momma's who have adopted from Langley and Evie's region, I have set up an auction on Facebook to help raise funds for their adoption. I have reached out to some great Etsy shops and companies that offer eco-friendly products. Bidding started today and the auction will remain open until the 28th. Come over and Like our page to see all the great products! If you don't have a Facebook account but want to bid on something just shoot me an email and I can place a bid for you.

Check out our amazing donors! (there are a lot more products than just what is listed here)

ReBabe - where everything is made from recycled materials!  Check out this awesome doll they donated to the Auction!

Lucky Baby Carriers - keeping hearts close and hands free with their stylish slings and carriers

Jess' Crunchy Shop - offering a variety of eco-friendly products for the entire family including these Brinware plates!

SodaStream - making soda in an eco-friendly manner! The Green Fizz model is up for grabs!

The Sea Within - this purse shows how beautiful things can be made when the love of textiles meets the love of crafting.

Samantha's Art Studio -  eco-friendly paints, canvases and prints that reflect the nature around us. 2 beautiful prints have been donated to the auction!

Shotsi Baby - a business born from wanting the best for her family after learning that plastic bibs contain lead. Check out this awesome onesie and bib set that was donated to the auction!

Polished Two - whimsical, traditional and vintage jewelery including these awesome yarn ball earrings!

Marvelous Moms - this family run business offers natural baby products from sustainable companies. They donated these adorable organic dungarees and handy Eco Soap Nuts.

Adorable from Head to Toe - adorable crocheted baby and toddler items. Every kid needs one of these hats!

Go Sew Eco -  eco-wares for eco-people focusing on reusable food transportation products like these fantastic sandwich wraps and snack bags.

Emily Burger Designs - adding charm to any room with inspirational and cute prints. Bonus is that Emily is a lovely woman who gives back with every purchase made in her shop!
Neatokiddo - this shop looks for ways to reinvent the useful and practical into something both functional and beautiful. Like this awesome photo brag book!

Wildwood Balm Co - each herb that is added to these products is carefully picked for the functions it possesses. Juliette Solid Perfume and Lavender Solid Perfume.

The Silver Bobbin -  say goodbye to saran wrap and ziplock bags with these reusable sandwich and snack bags!

Trendy Tot Textiles - fun games that are made from fabric..not plastic. This fish game is sure to be a hot product!

Caps for Causes - bottle cap necklaces with a purpose! Check out these bottle cap necklaces and a photo pendant.

Katy - goodies handmade with love for many adoption auctions! Dinosaurs make the cutest of crayon rolls!

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice - baked goods and yummy treats made by 2 Mom's. These delicious dozen cupcakes won't last long!

Pack of Pashos - paying it forward by donating a beautiful Guatemalan scarf that she won in another auction.

Joy Belle Jewelery -  hand stamped custom jewelery with a purpose. It Matters to This One is a popular necklace in the adoption community.

Whimsy Pie - adorable products for little girls and for beautiful parties. Who can resist a cute tutu?

Mooney's Baltic Amber - amber is a great natural alternative for teething babies. You can get $5 off here.