Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Day 97 – Host a Natural Scavenger Hunt

Two Acorns in Moss

What a perfect time of year for some fresh air and sunshine!  Gather your children and some friends and neighbors for a natural scavenger hunt.  Children spend more and more time in front of computers, cell phones, and televisions, so get them out of the house for a fun and educational event.

To have a scavenger hunt, make a list of items to find.  The items don’t all have to be easy to find, as long as they are possible to find, and the level depends on the age of the children.  Are your kids learning about the different types of trees in school?  One idea is to have them find and identify leaves as a part of a scavenger hunt game.  Make learning about nature fun!  Pass out the lists to individuals or groups.  The first person or group to find all of the items on the list and bring them back to you for verification is the winner!

Some ideas for your scavenger hunt list include different types of leaves, a stick, a feather, pine needles, and a stone.  For teens and adults, you can have a photography scavenger hunt to find a squirrel or bird, a solar panel, a reusable coffee cup, and a rain barrel.  The possibilities are endless!  This type of event is educational and can be a great team-building exercise for all ages.

Day 90 – Subscribe to Online News

What's in the news?

 The way we learn about news has changed a lot over the years from word of mouth to written letters to newspapers to electronic downloads and digital media.  Paper printed with toxic inks and tossed away with yesterday’s news and brought to you in carbon-emitting vehicles is not good for the environment.  Sure newspapers are recyclable, but many people just don’t do it!  If you have a printed newspaper subscription and love it, then please, PLEASE recycle it when you are through.  Use it for wrapping paper or something.  Just don’t toss it in the trash.

A great way to learn about the news is online.  Major news publications have subscription options so that the current news is delivered to you either via. headlines in a text message, online access to a full newspaper, or automatic downloading to a handheld electronic device. 

If all else fails, ask your friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  Word of mouth news will never go out of fashion!

Day 78 – Use Evite.com

Wedding Bouquet

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know one of the things I have been doing is cutting down on paper: junk mail, phone books, etc.  While considering other ways to do this, I wanted to share this website with you: Evite.com  You can create attractive, personalized electronic invitations that save time, paper, and money.  I know there are other sites out there that allow you to create an invitation or an event as either the main focus of the site or as an application on a site such as FaceBook.  This just happens to be the e-invitation site that I have been using for years.

I have used E-vite for home parties, association meetings, and yes I used it for my wedding invitations, too, only sending paper invitations to people who don’t have e-mail.  It is great because I could tell who opened the invitation and when they opened it.  I could also tell who had not opened it and therefore who I had to call.  E-vite also keeps track of my guest quantity and also reminds attendees via. e-mail a couple of days in advance so that they can contact me if there is a last-minute cancellation.

The next time you plan an event, consider using electronic invitations!

Source: http://www.evite.com/

Day 75 – Eco Grilling

Celebrate with an Eco-Cookout

 

In the United States this weekend, we will be celebrating Labor Day by taking a rest from work over the holiday weekend.  Colloquially, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer not that summer actually ends until late October, but that it is common for schools to resume sessions immediately afterwards.  We celebrate the holiday by attending festivals, going to the beach or pool one last time before closing, and of course picnicking and grilling! 

Like many things in my experience, grilling supplies used to be eco friendly until they became mass-produced and shortcuts were found.  New grills may contain toxins in the paint that offgas and perhaps infuse into your food when exposed to heat, i.e. charcoal briquettes on fire.  Hmmm…  The briquettes themselves may in fact add to this problem since they are often infused with chemicals that allow them to catch fire and burn more easily. 

What are your options?
1.     Use wood or natural lump charcoal.  Here is a quote from allnaturalcharcoal.com about their product which my local natural food store carries: “It’s 100% Natural. No coals, fillers or chemicals unlike briquettes which are formed from manufactured wood by-products compressed with additives to help them light and burn consistently”
2.     Try a ceramic grill.  The Big Green Egg ceramic grill uses fuel more efficiently.  It seems to be more durable and longer-lasting than traditional metal grills.  Plus, it can be used year-round.  Their website: http://www.biggreenegg.com/ does not stress eco-friendliness, however, so we don’t know if the manufacturing process or the company itself are eco-conscious.
3.     Try a solar grill!  This is new to me, and I don’t know much about solar grills.  However, when I was a child, I used a shoe box lined with aluminum foil with a metal wire to cook a hot dog pretty nicely.  Maybe this technology has improved?
4.     Use only metal grilling tools.  Plastics and grills do not play well together.  The grill likes to melt the plastic.  Even if not completely melted, heated plastics over a direct heat can release toxic chemicals into the air.  Just because it works with a pan on your stove top does not mean that a cooking utensil is appropriate for grilling use.
5.     What would grilling be without FOOD?  Choose organic, free range, and locally grown foods whenever possible.  Search on this blog for specific foods for more details.

Day 55 – Eco and Volunteer Vacations

Vancouver Temperate Rainforest

 Taking an eco vacation can mean a couple of different things.  Some people refer to any type of outdoor or hiking vacations as eco vacations.  This photo is from a trip that my husband and I took a few years ago.  We enjoyed fresh air and sunshine while we also left a smaller carbon footprint and  supported organizations and places that maintain areas like this one.

To others, a true eco vacation is more than a safari and more than taking a backpacking day trip through the woods.  It includes a volunteer effort to improve the environment.  Check out information online about volunteer vacations to get you started: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/eco-travel-volunteer-vacations-50022309  Volunteer vacations are cost-effective, active breaks from day to day life that allow you to experience a new place while lending a helping hand.

For your next vacation adventure, consider repairing trails in Montana, help preserve cheetahs in Namibia, or volunteering on an organic farm.  These vacations not only allow you to learn about environmental issues and experience nature’s glory, they allow you to do something to help!

Day 53 – Gaze at the Stars

Starry Night Sky

 Gorwing up in a rural area, I took the stars in the night sky for granted.  Now that I live in a suburban area flooded with light pollution, I am so much more in awe when I visit my family in a rural town and see so many more stars.  Tonight, I will have my chance!  The Perseid Meteor Shower is supposed to peak tonight, and I will be in the relatively dark country to view its natural beauty.

Awesome sights like this are great because they are free, natural, and don’t take any carbon emissions to appreciate.  Certainly the experience is aided by a telescope and guide book, but even these are not necessary most of the time.  Tonight, I would rather be in the country gazing up at the vast sky pondering its infinite majesty than in an air conditioned theater seeing a movie.  That is not to say that man-created events are not enjoyable now and then just to say that God created events are better for the environment, will allow me to breathe in some fresh country air, and are specifically more, well, awesome (to use the word in its truest sense!)

 For more information on viewing this event, here is a link: http://www.keenobservers.com/2367/perseid-meteor-shower-2010-showcase-in-the-sky-tonight/

Day 51 – Eco Friendly Candles

Beeswax Candle

Traditional candles are made from paraffin which is a petroleum product. Better alternatives include beeswax candles or soy candles.  The main reason this is true is because petroleum  is a non-renewable resource that has to travel far to be made into a candle.  Soy and beeswax candles are made locally in my area.  Beeswax candles don’t need additives, hold their shape well, and have a unique appearance.  Soy candles are made from a renewable resource and clean up easily if spilled.  If you choose soy candles, opt for organic so that you know that the soy beans were not genetically modified.  The down side of soy is that it makes softer candles, so candles made with soy are often in containers as opposed to being shaped into pillars, votives, and tapers.

The other considerations for candles are their scents and dyes.  Because of their natural honey color and pleasant natural scent, beeswax candles are great without these additives.  Scents and dyes add toxins to the air, and therefore should be avoided in all candles whenever possible.

If you have other information about natural candle options or sources, I’d love to hear about them!

Day 50 – Use a Digital Camera

Camera with a Big Lens

 

If you’re still using a traditional film camera, then it’s time to upgrade!  Digital cameras are available from the most basic models to the fanciest professional versions.  The benefits of using a digital camera are that you don’t have to pay for film development, you can delete bad photos and not haven them printed, no photographic chemistry is involved (exposure to toxins), you can easily index and store photos with minimal space, you get instant results, and the photos can be e-mailed, touched up, or replicated very easily. 

If you’re shopping for a digital camera, keep these points in mind:
1.  Does the camera come with rechargeable batteries?  These are expensive after-market, so they can influence your cost-comparison decision significantly.
2.  How many mega-pixels do you need?  If you plan for your photos to be published in a magazine, you’ll need a minimum of about 7 mega-pixels.  If you want to print large posters, go for at least 12 mega-pixels.  Keep in mind that your camera will have a setting for optimizing photo storage space and that you will need to adjust this setting for optimum performance.
3.  What size memory card comes with the camera?  My old camera came with a memory card that held about 50 photos.  My new camera’s card held only about 12.  The cards were the same size, but the larger the mega-pixel setting on your camera, the more memory the photo will require.  Consider purchasing a larger memory card immediately.
4.  How does the camera feel?  I have had cameras that sounded smooth and felt rich and another that was more tinny and plastic-y.  It is a good idea to purchase your camera in a store where you can see it and feel it.
5.  Is my computer compatible?  Figure out which operating system you have on your computer before you go shopping.  You can check by clicking on “Start” then on “My Computer” and then on “View System Information.”
6.  If all of this is overwhelming to you, go to a pawn or resale shop and buy a camera to try.  You can save money and feel less guilty about putting it to the test!

Day 47 – Read E-Books

Nook by Barnes & Noble

This is my Nook.  It is an e-reader so that I can download books onto it and take this (instead of a tote bag full of books) with me to read.  I love it!  I can store a lot of books on it, and it fits in my bag for lightweight, easy transport of my current reading materials – including e-books that I borrow from the library! 

Some people are a little leery of new technology.  Don’t worry, though, this technology is relatively new for everyone!  During my research, I discovered which file formats each e-reader handles and compared that with the files that my library supports knowing that I would want to check out library materials with it.  In my case, my library’s website had a lot of good information to help me make my decision.  If you plan to use an e-reader in conjunction with library e-books, it is a good idea to check for information on their website or ask someone at the library to help you make a decision.

Once my e-reader arrived, I had to download software and log on to my online library account.  I had problems loading my books, so I took it to my library and someone helped me figure it all out.  If your library supports e-books, they will definitely have someone who is technically savvy there to help you get you started!  In my case, that person is the head of Readers’ Services.

E-readers can also store your new books.  Some of them can “loan” books out to other e-readers.  You can also check out e-books from the library without an e-reader as long as you download the software on your computer.  A big advantage of an e-reader over a computer screen is that the e-reader screen is naturally white with black letters unlike computer screens which create the white background with light which can be harsh on your eyes for long periods of reading.  My e-reader is comfortable to read for long periods of time.  I have even read my e-reader outside in direct sunlight!

This electronic reading concept, although it uses materials and a battery and energy whereas books don’t need electricity to read, is still considered a greener alternative to books.  The reason is that books can now be transported electronically and don’t have to be printed which saves carbon emissions, trees, and storage space!

Day 40 – Take a Staycation

Male Cardinal Perched on a Tree

Last year, my husband and I chose to take a “staycation” instead of a vacation.  A staycation is when you take vacation time but stay home instead.  Benefits of staycations include seeing the sights in your own area, sleeping in your own bed at night, saving money, saving the energy and carbon emissions of travel, and of course there is always the possibility of cleaning out your basement or garage in the process!

The temptation on your staycation is to work, but no vacation whether you stay home or not should be filled with checking e-mails, returning phone calls, or being tethered to the ubiquitous personal digital assistant.  They’re supposed to be assisting you – not enslaving you!  Vacations are about relaxing, unplugging, and spending time with your family.  You really need that occasional rest of, in my experience, at a minimum four days in a row to be more focused and productive during your regular working time.

We did clean out our basement and garage last year, but we also went canoeing and bird watching and were able to enjoy some time walking around downtown Chicago, too.  This year, we are taking a true vacation, though.  Vacations can be given an eco-makeover, and I’ll talk about that in upcoming posts including one about Green B&Bs.