Have a Natural, Eco-Friendly Easter!

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So I have been looking around at the Easter stuff in the stores these days out if curiosity’s sake, and I’ve gotta say – yikes! Landfill bound, much? I mean, it’s been this way for years, but holy cow – when did Easter become a time for eating crap and throwing plastic in the landfill?

We are not a Christian family – BUT we still celebrate Easter in the kid-centred, egg hunt-y sort of sense, while also still recognizing and appreciating the traditional meaning from a perspective of maintaining knowledge. So while we are not really celebrating Easter in terms of Christ, we are certainly working at developing an understanding that the holiday should NOT in our family become a tradition of waste and junk food.

I have always enjoyed the Easter egg hunt – my mother was particularly creative with hers every year and I sometimes had to look pretty hard to spot all the treats. With my child, though, I really don’t want to lay on the chocolate as thick. I noticed some behavioural and physical consequences of OD-ing on chocolate this Christmas time with my toddler (read: hyperactivity, irritability, frequent urination, cravings), and am definitely going to strive not to allow that to happen this Easter. So what are my alternatives?

Have an egg hunt without the candy.. Chances are, if you start your kids on a tradition of the scavenger hunt for eggs WITHOUT any candy inside, they will find the hunt itself to be rewarding and fun, and won’t expect any chocolate at all. Let’s start traditions that are about events, and not about candy! One fun tradition I have seen emerging along with the egg hunt is making “Easter Bunny tracks” out of flour.

But what should I use as the eggs? You have lots of options here. You can paint egg shaped rocks and hide them in the garden or your favourite forested area. You can also buy and paint wooden eggs that you find at craft stores, or make 2D eggs out of felt and fabric paint, and re-use them year after year. Hide them away as you would your other holiday decorations! Another idea is finding some of those plastic eggs second hand through thrift stores or places like craigslist. If you need something new, there’s a great company called Eco Eggs that make vegetable based, compostable “plastic” type eggs that are more eco-friendly than others. You can also dye and hide real eggs using natural food colourings or onion skins. There are plenty of ideas for this on Pinterest (see below for the link to my board) and just through googling! Hehe. I still like saying googling.

“I really want to fill the eggs with something.” Okay, I get it! Your kids are expecting something to be inside. Consider putting some change inside each egg that the kids can use to buy something later. Have kids that like marbles or fancy rocks? Consider putting these in your eggs. Put pieces to a new puzzle inside each egg. For older kids, and for those involved in Christian celebrations, consider writing parts of the story of Jesus’ resurrection in each egg to read together. Or, if you really want treats, try making some mini cookies and putting these inside eggs. You can also “trade-in” non-fillable eggs for items that you keep in a special basket, or for home baked healthier treats.

One thing I really enjoy about Easter is getting back into nature. The easter egg hunt is one way to get outside during your celebrations. You may also want to consider planting some flowers or vegetables as part of your celebrations. If you start your seeds now, you should have some sprouts ready for transplanting by Easter weekend. For an extra Easter-ish feel, consider sprouting some seeds in empty, decorated egg shell halves!. Think about skipping the egg hunt altogether and do a flower hunt in your local park or forested area – try to spot as many different colours and varieties of spring blooms as you can! Or do a bird search, talking about and spying (with binoculars, even) as many species of birds as you can. Bring some birdseed along to scatter! Take along a notebook to do some sketches and write down your finds.

Buying some bouquets for family members? Consider picking fresh wildflowers, or buying flowers individually and tying your bouquet with twine instead of all of that horrid cellophane. Think about buying some nice bulbs that can be transplanted to the garden, in an eco-friendly, biodegradable pot. And definitely consider buying locally grown flowers when possible. Many communities have flower festivals in spring that you might consider attending.

Make sure your family members know, well in advance, how you feel about candy and junk. Grandparents love to spoil, so if you don’t want your kid to eat a huge chocolate rabbit, tell them in advance not to buy him one. Consider planning your event with your extended family’s involvement so that they know they can celebrate in other meaningful ways other than buying your kid a bunch of garbage. Maybe someone wants to knit him an Easter sweater? Or DIY him a fun set of homemade bunny ears? Or consider asking relatives to buy Easter themed books instead of treats.

If you plan on attending community events, make sure you find out what kinds of practices you will be supporting if you do. Is there going to be a balloon release? Stay far away or protest it and suggest alternatives (bubble blowing, seed scattering, visit Balloons Blow.org for options) if so, these are incredibly devastating to our ecosystems. If there is an egg hunt, are there volunteers available to ensure that there are no stragglers left in the forest or park to pollute the area? If not, consider offering to organize a team to do so! Are there appropriate facilities set up for recycling? Do what you can to ensure you are taking part in a sustainable celebration, and not a waste creating one.

Take a look at my Pinterest Easter Board for some specific Easter themed, sustainable, crafty DIY ideas!

I hope you all have a wonderful, happy Easter, with lots of time with family and friends. What are your ideas for a sustainable Easter celebration?

Stop buying me plastic junk!

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So today, after going through much of my house in preparation for a move, I really felt motivated to write a thought piece. A thought piece on all the junk I’ve been finding in my house, and my plan to avoid more of it in the future!

Let’s start with a list of all the utter junk and garbage I have been finding in my house:

1). Half used, expired, and unusable personal care products (largely leftover from my pre-DIY days).
2). Expired and half used medications.
3). Broken, random plastic items like toys & parts from toys, parts, lids, thingamajiggers that belong to nothing, that “I wonder what this is from?” kind of junk. The kind of stuff you keep for three years, throw out, and then discover what it belongs to three days later.
4). Tupperware containers without lids, and lids without containers. Poor lonely storage items without their romantic partner.
5). Random computer parts, accessories, and old broken cell phones.

The list DOES, unfortunately, go on. However, I am going to stop there, as I think you can get a sense of the kind of stuff I mean. The kind of stuff that really mostly cannot be recycled, up-cycled, or anything. Just garbage. Yes, a few of the containers from personal care products can be recycled, but things like lotion and toothpaste tubes, lip balm dispensers, and all of those lovely impossible to clean, random plastic items are just going to the LANDFILL. And that bothers me, a LOT.

What also bothers me a lot is that I have not been in control of how a lot of these items have entered my home. You know what a lot of people like to give as gifts? Bath and body products! I have never really figured this out. Most people have very personal tastes in these kinds of things to begin with, not to mention skin sensitivity issues, etc. But people seem to love to dish these things out come gifty time. And you smile and nod and say “Ooooh and ahhh, this smells yummy, yada yada…..” But I then am left thinking, great, another lotion to stick in my cupboard. And plastic packaging to eventually hit the landfill. (Ironically, I did give some of my homemade products to family members this year, but all in glass containers, and not wrapped, and with a “love it or lose it, at least you got a nice mason jar” kind of attitude).

Not to mention when you have a toddler, and people then find it entertaining to give your kid crappy little dollar store toys that break in a week, overpackaged big, silly electronic items that flash and are super annoying (and then eventually hit the landfill), and horrible books involving Elmo and other television characters that I have to then sit and read over, and over, and OVER to my very enthusiastic young son.

If you have noticed a pattern here, it’s that I am really, really tired of bringing stuff into my house that I don’t really care for or even use, and then have to shoulder the burden of eventually throwing it in the trash or try ridiculously hard to find an obscure recycling centre for it when it eventually breaks down.

What I am really trying to say is: STOP BUYING ME PLASTIC JUNK!

In fact, please do not buy me anything at ALL with any kind of plastic or non-recyclable material in it unless I have specifically expressed a personal interest in owning it, to you. Directly. I try very very hard to minimize my use of plastic in my house, but it makes its way in there anyway, and then I feel guilty for trashing it.

This is why I make my own personal care and home cleaning products. (Among other reasons, of course). This is why I buy wooden OR second hand toys for my kid. I buy food products in glass or paper packaging if at all possible, and I bring my own bags to the store. I research the products I bring into my home very carefully, considering all sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives before purchasing something. I cloth diapered my child. I use cloth menstrual pads. I compost all of my food waste and use biodegradable garbage bags for any waste that does make it to the trash bin. If I take a drive, I make sure to get everything done in that location all at once, to minimize my footprint. I use a regular vacuum, a regular broom, and regular cloths to clean up messes. No swiffers or paper towels here.

All of this takes some additional effort, and I would hope that people who know me would understand this, but it sometimes doesn’t seem to be the case. I find that many people just don’t think about things like this to this level of scrutiny. I don’t mean to be rude, I don’t mean to be unappreciative, (really, really I don’t) but I really need to stop this influx of plastic into my house, because I am drowning in it. So it is my plea to everyone to please help me with my goal of plastic reduction – this is the biggest gift to me you can give.

Some ideas for gifts to give to us plastic free folks who may challenge your gift giving creativity once in a while:

1). Experiences – Buy us a membership at a place we regularly visit. Movie tickets and a babysitting offer for a night out. A night at the symphony. Something we would probably love to do, but likely wouldn’t buy ourselves, or would appreciate not having to budget for.
2). Bake or cook for me – I would love some of your home baking or cooking! One less meal I have to cook is a big blessing.
3). Buy me a plant for my garden – Please make it one that is easy to care for, and buy it in a compostable or biodegradable pot.
4). Buy me a gift certificate to my favourite Natural foods store, book store, or soap making store. And iTunes. Good ol’ iTunes bucks, we loves us some good new tunes to drown out the children’s songs constantly twirling our brains. Oh, and can you see if they sell gift certificates in paper or electronic format? I don’t know why they started making all gift certificates look like debit cards, but it is extremely unfortunate for our planet.
5). Offer to watch my kid for a bit – Mommy and Daddy don’t get much alone time that doesn’t involve household chores or being too exhausted to do anything at all. We would love for our kid to spend time with you so we can rest our weary minds and return to parenting with our creativity and patience topped up!

Oh, and if you buy me flowers, PLEASE do not bring them to me wrapped in three layers of plastic! Egads! It breaks my heart to have these wonderful, natural, fragrant lovelies brought in my house, only to be shrouded in something that is destroying the good earth they were grown in.

Want to buy something for my kid?

1). Buy him a class or an experience – Yeah, I know it’s more fun for YOU when you give him something flashy that he oogles at immediately after you give it to him. But in all likelihood, he will get more enjoyment (and intellectual benefit) from participating in an activity or event that he enjoys. And we won’t have to factor it into our budget!
2). Buy him wooden, educational toys – Okay, so you want him to have something physical. First of all, you might want to check with me about what he is into lately, as his interests do vary from time to time. Then find him something made sustainably and out of natural materials. Healthier for him, too!
3). Buy him a quality book – By quality, I am hoping it doesn’t involve a cheap storyline with hashed out TV characters. I really don’t want to hear what Elmo has to say for the 100th time.
3). If it’s gotta be plastic, and I have ASKED YOU for it (remember, I have to have asked you for it if it involves plastic) buy it on craigslist – Please, if I have asked for something that involves plastic, can you try your best to find it second hand for me, and then brag to me about the wicked deal you got? I would love that, and my kid can’t tell the difference between new and used toys anyway.

Oh, and please, no more tea. My tea cupboard is ridiculous. Yes, I have a tea cupboard. An entire shelf devoted to tea. I could open my own tea shop here.

Hopefully, if you feel the same way, you can share this article with your friends and family. I am saying it for you, so maybe they won’t take it as hard 😉