Kids Need to Hear Good News about Environment



Recently I've been reading and writing about How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott P. Sampson. The chapter on "The Rewilding Revolution" included a passage that grabbed my attention:
"One of the greatest gifts we can give to children is an optimistic outlook on the future. Particularly for kids in early childhood, avoid negative stories about the natural world and the declining environment. This can lead to emotional detachment rather than caring. Recognize, however, that kids in middle childhood will likely be getting a doom-and-gloom message about the state of the world, even if it doesn't come from you. It's important to listen to kids' fears for the future, to respond honestly, and even to share your own fears. Equally important, however, is balancing any fears with positive, hopeful stories of change, stories that demonstrate how people are working to solve the problems, and how youths can be part of this critical work." (emphasis mine)



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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Eco-novice's Top Picks for Reusable Lunch Gear (based on 3 years of rigorous testing)



I have children entering the first and third grades and after packing four-years' worth of school lunches (plus innumerable snacks and lunches for summer and weekend family outings), I'm ready to tell you my very favorite reusable lunch products.

When it comes to reusable lunch gear my top priorities are: toxin-free (or in other words, mostly plastic-free); durable; and dishwasher-friendly. There is no way I am going to hand wash my two kids' lunch gear everyday, so I put a very high premium on dishwasher-friendly containers. I also want some products that are truly leak-proof, and able to maintain temperature (so that I could send hot and cold foods).

Gluten-free Goodness: Whole Grain Pancakes for the Whole Family

Some for now, some for later (see double recipe below)

I am coming up on 6 months since I was diagnosed with Celiac and started eating gluten-free. And in that time I have found that some of my whole wheat favorites have easy and delicious gluten-free versions, and others don't. For example, bread. Gluten-free bread is a tough sell for me since I still remember well the deliciousness of my honey whole wheat bread and the airy crumb and crunchy crust of an artisan loaf.  But pancakes! My gluten-free pancakes are just delicious! If I do say so myself.

One thing I've quickly realized is that most recipes for gluten-free goods are decidedly not whole grain. But after spending years tweaking recipes to achieve deliciously healthy whole grain baked goods with wheat, I'm not willing to settle for the fiber-less not-hearty un-filling recipes full of starches and white rice flour that so often populate my search results.

After much searching and experimenting, I present to you this delicious recipe for whole grain gluten-free pancakes. If you hate weight measurements, I'm really sorry (and I did include a volume approximation just for you!), but I have already been thoroughly converted to baking by weight with gluten-free flours. I dug a decade-old IKEA digital scale out of my cabinet and have never looked back. I find it much easier to pour rather than scoop out when dealing with all these types of flour. Baking by weight makes doubling or tripling a recipe easy-peasy too.

Often gluten-free recipes will say, "use 1 cup or so many grams of gluten-free flours," and then provide a list of about 300 different gluten-free flours you might use. As a gluten-free newbie, I did not find this useful. I want a combination of flours that will work and taste delicious right now!  So this recipe prescribes specific flours in specific amounts, but of course you can and should substitute your favorite gluten-free flours (although the mysterious properties of buckwheat may be why this recipe needs no oil) or fudge the amounts and flours based on what you've got on hand, as I often do. But here is my favorite version so far. The one I keep coming back to.

From Tech-Lover to Nature-Lover: Using Technology to Connect Kids with Nature

Can Nature and Technology Be Friends? 

Kids' overuse of screens and underexposure to nature seem to go hand-and-hand. But given the fact that technology is here to stay, and most likely will always sing its siren song to digital natives, I think it's best to harness that power to turn kids onto things I care about, like the natural world! Here are 8 ways to use technology to increase kids' interest in and engagement with the natural world. These suggestions are especially relevant for tweens and teens, who are pushed toward ever greater technology use by both school and peers.

Protect Your Family with Safe Sunscreen by Goddess Garden {Review}



This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood. All opinions are my own.

Get outside!


As parents, it is hard not to worry about all the things in life that could go wrong. Unfortunately, there are risks even to simply enjoying the great outdoors! Where I live we have to contend with West Nile Virus from mosquitoes, Lyme Disease from ticks, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, accidental injuries, and, of course, skin cancer. Most people know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., but what you may not know is that rates of skin cancer have tripled in the last 35 years. Sun safety -- covering up and using safe, effective sunscreen -- is especially critical for children, since serious childhood burns can double a person's chance of developing skin cancer.

So does this mean we should avoid spending time outside? Of course not! After all, the benefits of spending time outside (and the risks to spending too much time indoors) cannot be ignored either! The amazing benefits of time spent in nature include: reduced stress, better attention and cognition, better immune functioning, decreased anxiety and depression, and an extended lifespan! While time indoors exposes you to indoor air pollution as well as health problems associated with a more sedentary lifestyle. Recently scientists have even suggested that too much time indoors may be responsible for the rapidly rising rates of myopia (near-sightedness) in youth.

The solution is clear: spend lots of time outside (we aim for at least 30 minutes in nature everyday!) but be aware of and mitigate the risks. We come inside at dusk when the mosquitoes are out in full force. We check for ticks after hikes. We discuss with our kids how to recognize and react to rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Whenever practical, we cover up with long sleeves, long pants, and hats while outside. And during the sunny summer months in particular, we wear sunscreen. Lots and lots of effective & safe sunscreen. Because some sunscreens do not effectively protect against UV rays, and others contain toxic ingredients that may actually increase your chance of cancer and other health problems.

Choose a Safe & Effective Sunscreen


When selecting a sunscreen for my family, I look for the following:
  • Mineral or physical sunscreens rather than toxic chemical sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens reflect sunlight and provide a physical barrier between you and the sun's rays while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays. Chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone are also known endocrine disruptors.
  • Broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays damage DNA and cause aging, while UVB rays cause burns. Both types of rays have been linked to skin cancer. 
  • No nano-particles (generally considered to be particles smaller than 100nm). Many sunscreens that use mineral sunscreens utilize nano-particles to avoid the sunscreen leaving a ghostly white sheen on your skin. But there are health concerns associated with applying super tiny particles to your skin.
  • Free of harmful ingredients such as Vitamin A/ retinyl palmitate (which may actually speed development of skin cancer), fragrance, hormone disrupting chemicals, liquid plastics, and alcohols. 

Garden Goddess Organics sunscreens offer all the above and more!
Goddess Garden sunscreens use only mineral sunscreens, provide broad spectrum UVA/ UVB coverage, use only safe non-toxic ingredients, and are free of nano particles. In addition, they are
  • Certified organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO
  • Biodegradable and reef-safe (so important if you spend time in the ocean!)
  • Made with recyclable packing 

safesunscreen


We have been using Garden Goddess Organics products for over a year. Last summer we used Garden Goddess sunscreens nearly daily for swim lessons, beach trips, hikes, and other frequent outdoor adventures. While wearing the sunscreen as advised (reapplying every 2 hours, or more often when in water), we never got burnt. It rubs in easily and does not leave any ghostly white residue. We love the convenience of the continuous non-aerosol spray and trigger spray for wiggly limbs ready to jump in the pool, run across the sand, or hit the playground. Garden Goddess makes the only safe and non-toxic sunscreen spray I am aware of, and it’s the only spray I have ever considered using. We use the tube lotions almost daily on our faces. The sport sunscreens offer 80 minutes of water resistance and are perfect for swimming and beach days, or active outdoor adventures that will involve lots of sweating!


safesunscreensafesunscreen



So get outside and enjoy nature, worry-free! When you use Goddess Garden Organics sunscreen, you can protect your family against sun damage without any adverse effects on your family’s health or the environment.

Buy (with a discount!) Safe Sunscreen


You can try Goddess Garden Organics sunscreen yourself for free right now! Simply be one of the first 600 people to sign up for their newsletter. The first 100 people to sign up receive 1 oz tubes. I keep this size in my purse at all times, just in case I ever forget my regular tube. It is also a great size for travel! The next 500 sign ups receive free natural sunscreen sample packs (perfect for on-the-go!). Offers good while supplies last. Note: all free 1 oz tubes and sample sunscreen have been claimed.

You can purchase Garden Goddess sunscreen for 20% off now through July 31st with the code #SunSafeGoddess. Don't miss this chance to stock up for the summer!
safesunscreen




Would you like more ideas and tips about Going Green Gradually? Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox (I usually post one or two times a week). You can also follow me on Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter, or with your favorite RSS Reader. I hope to see you again soon!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

30 Minutes in Nature Every Day with My Kids: Week 1 of the #30x30challenge

Can you spot the mating butterflies?

Last May I tried to spend 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days with my kids, and we're doing the same thing again this May. (Read about the benefits of time in nature in this post.) Here is how we spent the first week of our 30 x 30 Nature Challenge.

Week One of #30x30challenge


May 1 we swam at a friend's pool. Not exactly time in nature, but close enough for me. It was in the 80s and the first day my friend's neighborhood pool was open.




May 2 we hiked in a nearby park. My kids are great hikers. Also, my husband and I are willing to put up with a fair amount of whining. My husband does occasionally have to carry my 3-year-old on his back or in his arms, but mostly all three of my kids (7, 5, and 3) are troopers. I am so glad we started them young before they knew better! On this day we hiked some new trails we'd never used before. We saw tons of butterflies, and even got to observe two mating . They held still for a long time and didn't move even when my girls got very close. When they closed their wings, they were nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding leaves (see close up at top of post). Before the hike, we went to the farmers market, which I also consider time in nature.


Citizen Science: 14 Ways Your Family Can Explore and Document Wildlife in Your Own Backyard



Interested in taking your family's engagement with the natural world to the next level? Check out these opportunities to participate in Citizen Science: a way for anyone of any age or ability level to participate in data collection for real science about the natural world. Whether you want to help save a species, enlist experts to help you identify plants and animals, submit data for real science, provide your child or students with a meaningful educational experience, or simply engage your tech-savvy child in the natural world, Citizen Science is for you! Note that most of these projects have related apps you can download for free. Quotations are taken from project websites.

My Favorite Way to Prevent Food Waste



Have you heard? Forty percent (40%!!) of food in America gets thrown away. Much of that food is tossed before it ever reaches consumers.

My favorite way to prevent food waste: shop at the farmers market.

One of the very big down sides of industrial agriculture is homogenization. This applies not just to the sharp decline in the number and diversity of varieties grown, but also to the accepted size and appearance of fruits and vegetables. Too large, too small, not spherical or cylindrical enough, slightly blemished. I read once that when citrus is harvested the fruit has to fit within narrow size and shape parameters so that the same quantity will fit perfectly together within each box. Those that don't fit correctly are tossed to the side, possibly recovered, possibly not. Many perfectly edible, nutritious, and delicious fruits and vegetables never even make it to stores because they don't fit the aesthetic or utilitarian standard.

Delicious Smelling, Small Batch Bath and Body Products from Herban Lifestyle {Review & Giveaway}



This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood. I received products to review but was not compensated for the review. All opinions are my own.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, I have some fabulous bath and body products to share with you from Herban Lifestyle. The mission of Herban Lifestyle is to make the world a happier, healthier, better-smelling place! They are certified sustainable by Green America, Cruelty-Free by Leaping Bunny and is a Safe Cosmetics Champion.

Since bath and body products readily enter your body through your skin, Herban Lifestyle products are made with the highest quality ingredients: pure oils, essential oils, and herbs that are certified organic, pesticide-free, chemical-free, ethically wild crafted and/ or Fair Trade. You will never find artificial preservatives, synthetics, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, petroleum-based ingredients, or GMO's in any of their products.

Why I'm Giving Up Gluten (even though I love wheat)



So here's a little announcement for you. A couple months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. While this diagnosis comes as a relief for many who have suffered from unexplained symptoms for years, I have no known symptoms and only had myself screened because my sister was recently diagnosed. So, not a relief. It has been quite an unwelcome adjustment for me in fact.

For years, I have made almost all the bread my family eats (mostly 100% whole wheat honey bread). I also have made pizza with a delicious 50% whole grain crust weekly for years. I love making and eating hot homemade breakfasts. I bake in bulk many healthy kid-friendly snacks containing whole wheat (healthy whole grain "cookies," chocolate chip snack bars, applesauce muffins) for quick, easy, and portable snacks for me and my kids.

I'm about 7 weeks into eating gluten-free, and, no, I do not feel much more fabulous. I actually felt very healthy and energetic before my diagnosis. But I still hold out hope that there will be some benefit to going gluten-free. Perhaps I will get sick less often.

Hello, Hunger


For the first month or so of eating gluten-free I was hungry. All. The. Time. No matter how much I ate. Thankfully, this phase is over. However, I am annoyed that I still need to eat more meat to ever feel full. Before my diagnosis, I was working on eating less meat and dairy, more grains, legumes, and vegetables. This whole Celiac business has really derailed that for the moment. I crave meat. How my vegan sister (diagnosed with Celiac just before me) is dealing with this new diet I have no idea.

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