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6 Earth Day Resolutions

April 21, 2015

By Jessica Vician

6 Earth Day Resolutions | Treat this Earth Day like you would New Year's Day and make a resolution you can stick to for the whole year. | The image shows a landscape of mountains and valleys.

Earth Day is one of my favorite days of the year because there is so much media attention dedicated to helping the Earth. Despite the bleak situation we’re in with this planet, on Earth Day we focus on the small changes each of us can make to sustain our planet for future generations. This year, I challenge you to treat Earth Day like New Year’s Day. Make a resolution to try one of these small efforts for a full year—until Earth Day 2016.

Banish Paper Towels
This first resolution might sound impossible, but it’s easier than you think and makes a big impact. By mostly converting to this method, my household now buys less than six rolls of paper towels a year.

In my home, my partner runs through his cotton socks like crazy, and I end up with stains on kitchen towels all the time. When these items are no longer presentable, I wash and add them to a basket designated for rags. Instead of using paper towels when I clean the counters, toilets, sinks, mirrors, etc., I use these rags. We have so many that we never run out, and I just wash them in a separate cycle from the other towels.

You can start the conversion slowly. If you don’t have any clothing or towels to convert to rags right now, start by buying the cheapest white towels you can find (think a six-pack from a dollar store). You’ll find opportunities to convert old clothes to rags in no time.

Recycle Toilet Paper Tubes
Several years ago, I realized that there was no reason to throw the toilet paper tubes in the garbage if I was recycling other cardboard. Once someone in your family finishes the roll, ask them to put the tube in with the paper recycling.

You could also forego the tube altogether. Scott is now making tube-free toilet paper. They even have a quick quiz you can take to find out how many rolls your household uses in a lifetime (mine is over 9,000—good thing I’m recycling the tubes!).

Convert to Cloth Napkins
Americans use over 2,000 paper napkins on average in a year. Along the same lines as banishing paper towels, you can reduce your paper use by switching to cloth napkins, too.

I recommend darker colors and patterns to hide stains that will inevitably happen over time. You can get a great set of four napkins for under $10.00 and can reuse one napkin per person for a few days before needing to wash it. Give each member of the family a unique color to make keeping track easier.

Use Natural Pesticides
Avoid using chemical bug repellents around the house, as they can harm your kids, pets, and plants. Instead, do a little research on your favorite search engine or Pinterest and find natural pesticides.

For example, use mint or cayenne pepper to prevent ants from coming inside your house. Plant peppermint in your garden to keep spiders and mice away, and sweet basil to repel flies. Find more natural ways to deter pests here.

Stop Using Plastic Bags
You probably already know about this resolution, and have likely already tried it. But time and time again, I often find myself making a quick stop after work somewhere and forget to bring my reusable bags (hint: find a small, foldable bag that will fit in your handbag, manbag, or diaper bag).

If you’re like me, make this an official resolution this year so that you make a greater effort at it. Next time you find yourself without a bag at the store, buy less and refuse the bag. One experience of balancing your few handfuls of groceries without a bag will teach you to remember your reusable bags next time.

Buy in Bulk – Produce Less Waste
It’s not only less expensive to buy in bulk, but it’s better for the environment because you reduce the overall packaging you consume (and recycle or throw away). Just be sure to only buy as much as you’ll use.

Does your family go through yogurt quickly? Stop buying individual packs and buy a larger tub. Keep smaller glass or plastic containers in your cupboard so you can make individual servings for lunches. Buy some Mason jars to store nuts, granola, and dried fruits that you buy from the bulk section at the grocery store.

Try one of these resolutions to stick to until Earth Day 2016. It will take a little effort at first, but chances are you will find it easier as time goes by and may even be inspired to pick up a new Earth Day resolution mid-year.

Are there other Earth-friendly resolutions you recommend? Tell me your favorites in the comments below.

Looking for activities that will help your child grow to his or her potential? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

Tags :  organicactivitieshealth

The Dirty Dozen: Where Organic Matters

September 5, 2014

By Jessica Vician

The Dirty Dozen: Where Organic Matters | An image with a barn, windmill, silo, and text reading "organic farm"

The Dirty Dozen. The Clean 15. They sound like the villains and superheroes of a summer blockbuster. But they’re much less dramatic—they’re fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes it seems there are only two types of grocery shoppers out there: those who surrender their paychecks to everything organic and those who rant about what a waste of money it is. As usual, the truth lies exactly in the middle.

A big reason health-conscious people flock to organic produce is because it contains significantly less pesticide residue. According to the EPA, pesticides—even those previously deemed safe—can harm the nervous and endocrine systems, irritate your skin, and contribute to causing cancer. Children are especially susceptible to these side effects.

We all want to protect ourselves and our families from these horrible side effects, but what if we can’t afford to shop exclusively organic? That’s where these superheroes and villains come in.

The Dirty Dozen is a clever name for a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residue on them—which means these are the 12 produce items you want to “splurge” for organic. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report, here are your organic musts:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Imported nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Potatoes
  12. Imported snap peas

If you’re looking at this list thinking, “What produce is left to save money on?” don’t fret. There’s a larger list of the Clean 15, which is EWG’s list of the produce with the least amount of pesticides. In other words, you can save your money on these fruits and vegetables and buy the non-organic versions.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen sweet peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

As you can see, in the battle of purchasing organic versus non-organic, the Dirty Dozen are the villains you can defeat by spending a little extra money on organic, and the Clean 15 are the superheroes who don’t need your money (and don’t need to be organic).

Bon appetit!


Little-Known Recycling Tips

June 5, 2014

By Jessica Vician

A graphic shows recycling arrows, a person throwing away garbage, an energy-efficient light bulb, a bicycle, an electric vehicle chord.

Today is World Environment Day (WED), which is a day established by the United Nations to encourage “worldwide awareness and action for the environment.”

At YOU Parent, we make a conscious effort to protect the environment every day through recycling, limiting printed materials, turning off lights when we leave a room, and more. But there are always opportunities to improve our efforts. Here are some of my favorite little-known recycling tips that you can share with your family to make more of a difference.

Most recycling programs, from home pick-up to dedicated drop-off locations, have some requirements for the types of plastic they can accept.
  • Most of these programs only accept #1 and #2 plastics. You can find out the type of plastic you’re holding by looking inside the image of the arrows that form a triangle. If it says “1” or “2,” then you can definitely recycle that plastic. If it says “3,” “4,” “5,” “6,” or “7,” you will need to check with your recycling company to see if they accept those forms.
  • Lids and caps to plastic bottles are usually not recyclable with the #1 and #2 plastics. They’re often made of another type of plastic, so again you will need to check with your recycling company to see if they accept that form or if it needs to be sorted separately.
  • Good news! Whole Foods will recycle your #5 plastics. They have a separate section of the store where you can drop off your #5 plastics that they then give to companies to make recycled-plastic cutting boards, mixing bowls, and other products they sell in the store.
  • Don’t recycle your plastic shopping bags with your #1 and #2 plastic bottle recycling. Those bags aren’t #1 or #2 plastic and need to be recycled separately. Most grocery stores have a place as you walk in for you to recycle your clean plastic shopping bags. Macy’s department stores also have these bins available in their stores.
Other Recyclables
Plastics aren’t the only things your family can recycle. Aluminum from canned goods and soda, glass, and cardboard can also be recycled. Check with your recycling company to see if they want you to separate your recyclables by material.
  • Any recyclable needs to be clean of food or grease in order to recycle it. Rinse the food out of the container before you recycle it. If you want to recycle your cardboard pizza box, make sure there aren’t any grease stains on it. There is usually grease on the bottom of the box, but sometimes the top is clean. In that case, cut off the top and put it with the recycling and throw away the bottom.
  • You can recycle clothes! Even though your old t-shirt with yellow underarms can’t go to Goodwill, you can drop it off at an H&M retailer and they will recycle it. They’ll even give you a coupon for 15 percent off your next purchase for each bag of clothing you bring in!

For more information on recycling clothing, visit Earth911.

These are some easy things to share with your family as you boost your recycling efforts. For more tips on protecting the Earth, see our Earth Day article on 6 Easy Tricks to Make a Big Impact.

If you want to learn more about World Environment Day activities, search this hashtag on Twitter: #WED2014.

Tags :  teachersacademicorganic

Earth Day: 6 Easy Tricks to Make A Big Impact

April 22, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

A group of teens cleans up a park and plants bushes for Earth Day.

Today is Earth Day, which is a wonderful day to celebrate, appreciate, and honor our planet. It’s a great opportunity to evaluate what your family is doing to help the Earth and learn some easy new tricks that everyone can practice.

  • Stop the water. Encourage everyone in your home to turn off running water that isn’t being used such as: while brushing their teeth, letting the shower run for more than a minute before getting in, and while washing dishes as the water continuously runs. To make this more fun, see who can take the fastest shower (and still get clean) or wash the dishes quickly.
  • Turn off the lights. This is so simple yet goes unnoticed most often. Turn off the lights, fans, television, computer, and any other electronics when not in use. For some family nights, opt for candles instead of turning on the lights. Turn it into a fun evening by telling stories, playing hide and seek, or just engaging in a good family discussion with no phones or television distractions.
  • Give to charity or donate. Donate or recycle toys, clothes, and other household items you're no longer using. Get together with your community and arrange a swap event where kids bring their childhood toys and books to trade.
  • Park the car. If you have a car, which most families do, consider walking, biking, or taking public transportation where possible. If you must drive, take shorter or fewer trips or opt for taking the train halfway if possible.
  • Go herbal. Getting children involved with gardening is such a great way to introduce nature, different plants, and growth cycles. When planting something, make it more exciting by keeping a journal of the process of the growth.
  • Bring your own bag. The U.S. uses over 100 billion plastic bags each year. Leave reusable shopping bags in the trunk of your car or by the front door of your home so you have them on hand when you shop.

As for recycling garbage at home, engage the family in a fun project by labeling different containers with markers and sticky notes and teach how to separate papers, plastics, metals, and glass. Encourage your child to be less wasteful with the materials he or she already uses, such as by drawing on both sides of the paper or by using the same cup throughout the day instead of a new one.

For additional recycling tips, visit Earth 911 or Recyclebank. There are many ways to protect the Earth throughout the year. Teaching your family about these small actions can make a big difference.


Healthy, Energizing Snacks for the Family

January 14, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Healthy, energizing snacks include oranges, cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, and pickles

Winter can be a drain on your child’s energy levels. Between colder air and less sunlight, it’s hard to stay alert. Keep your family’s energy levels up with healthy snacks throughout the day. If you plan ahead, these snacks can be fun and inexpensive.

You should offer your child snacks in between meals. They should be packed with energy-rich nutrients and have a low calorie count in order to keep a child satisfied until the next meal. You can find packaged snacks at your grocery store or make your own at home, which is healthier and inexpensive. Just remember to package the snacks in small grab-and-go containers for quick access at any time.

Here are some tips on making healthy snacks for your family that will not break the bank.

  • Provide healthy, easy-to-eat foods. Cereal, pretzels, sliced bananas and apples, and raisins are great finger foods for young children. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables when possible for nutrients. Foods with protein will keep your child fuller for a longer period of time, so try foods like peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and cheese.
  • Prepare safe food. Slice everything small to avoid choking and teach your child to sit every time he or she eats. Cook together. When you do have the time, prepare the snack with your child to make healthy eating a family experience.
  • Model healthy eating. Eat the same snack with your child if possible. It would be unfair for your child to see you eat something unhealthy and different from what you are offering him or her.
  • Go green. You can now find snack-size containers and bags at stores to package food. Be eco-conscious and buy reusable containers.
  • Reduce serving size for children. Remember that the serving size on the nutritional information on all food packages reflect a serving size for an adult so limit the amount served to your child.
  • Practice portion control. Do not offer a big snack for your child because he or she will not be hungry to eat the next meal.

By following these suggestions, you can prepare healthy, energy-rich foods that your whole family can enjoy, keeping them alert for any activity.