Join Your Greener Future...

Find Your Greener Future on Facebook to get the latest updates!
Home | Contact Me | Manuela's Story | GarbArt Projects and Pictures | __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

Wishing everybody a very Happy 2012!!!

Here some quick earth-friendly tips for a greener start into the new year:
  • Serve home-cooked meals
  • Use re-usable dishes and glasses (there's re-usable plastic out there, for example Preserve
  • Don't buy cheap China-made decorations in the dollar store that you'll throw out the next day. Instead, get creative with what you have or what you can use over and over again
  • For the new year, try to decrease the amount of garbage you create (buy bulk, compost, buy less in general, pass on what you no longer need instead of throwing them out)
  • Do one good thing in the old year. My boys and I rescued two abandoned puppies yesterday! But anything, big or small counts! 
Be safe! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mario MANIA - again!

Hi everybody - I hope you had wonderful holidays!
We kept it simple and as green as possible with home cooked meals, very few presents, wrapping with re-used gift wrap and/or re-usable fabrics, online holiday cards and so on.
I believe in self-made gifts whenever possible, so our sons got one-of-a-kind crocheted dolls - Mario and Luigi - under the tree. It took me about 15 hours to finish these, and I'm very happy to say that the boys love them.
To see more of the stuff I've done, check out the "GarbArt or Recycled Art" section on top of the blog, or click here

I'm very happy to pronounce that Lili, Meili and Beau at 33 Watchung Plaza in Montclair is selling some of my dolls.

Happy New Year to everybody!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Self Made Holiday Cards

I must admit - I love getting cards in the mail. It's just different to get a real greeting that you can display in your home rather than looking at it on the computer.
This year I wasn't able to send out real cards, unfortunately, due to a very unexpected trip out of the country from which we returned only a few days ago, so I'll have to send online greetings to family and friends this year.
I still needed a bunch of cards for teachers etc.though and just wasn't able to find my stock of holiday cards (must be the jet leg... don't you hate it when you know exactly that you own something but aren't able to locate it in your, um, messy home?!)

So, instead of buying cards (how boring, anyway!) I looked around in my house for what I could use to create new cards out of old stuff.
Here are a few I came up with:

These first two cards are cut-outs from holiday gift bags that ripped and therefore are not re-usable anymore.
I made some other cards from old cards (you know, I save everything, much to the dismay of my family :-). Unfortunately the cards are sealed in envelopes and I forgot to take pictures. Just wanted to throw out some ideas - get creative! Find festive motives from used cards, magazines, gift bags - whatever you can think of, cut it out and glue or sew it onto cardboard (recycled, if you can), and stick it into an envelope. Voila - you have a one-of-a-kind greeting card!

The next three cards are made of fabric scraps. I machine-stitched around the shape and around the edge of recycled cardboard. The envelopes are made from fabric scraps as well, but if you do something like this, you might just as well take a "normal" paper envelope.

On another note: the lucky winner of the Made From Earth holiday giveaway is Laurie. Congratulations!
Laurie, please send your address to so I can forward it to Made From Earth and thanks for participating!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Giveaway MADE FROM EARTH!

It's been a while - things are hectic with the holiday season coming up, I'm sure you can all relate.
If you're looking for a gift, either for someone else or yourself, I have a suggestion: check out Made From Earth's Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer!
A few months back I wrote a post about this company's products (click here to read it and to re-freshen your memory about things to avoid in cosmetic products).

Let me tell you - it's not easy to find a trustworthy company that sells trustworthy stuff nowadays. There's hidden chemicals and toxins in almost everything I take the time to really check out.
A little while ago I was lucky enough to receive Made From Earth prime product, the Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer. Just like with the other products I tested months ago, I wasn't disappointed in this one, either.
The list of ingredients is short and you'll know and will be able to pronounce everything you read there, the product is 100% vegan and it feels and smells really, really nice.

I get a lot of requests to review products on the blog lately. And I'm not easy to please :-)
So far, Made From Earth is the only product I actually did review (for all the others I wouldn't have too much good things to say). Give it a try and check it out. They deliver worldwide!

One lucky reader will be getting a Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer FOR FREE!
All you need to do is
* leave a comment on the blog site directly or on Your Greener Future Facebook page saying what your favorite natural skin care product is and why, plus
* Like Made From Earth on Facebook and/or follow Made from Earth on Twitter.

Contest ends on Tuesday, December 20 at midnight Eastern Standard time and is open to participants worldwide. Good luck!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Again

I can't believe it's Halloween time again!
And with it comes the hunt for new costumes, decorations, treats etc. etc.
Today was a rainy day so we spent all afternoon inside being crafty.
One of the things we created was a very simple Halloween inside decoration made of a balloon head and a large piece of black organza like fabric. I simply wrapped the fabric around the balloon, tied it with a piece of ribbon, glued paper eyes on the head and hung it up in front of a window!

Luckily, I also had some red LED lights on hand (which by the way are so much more energy efficient than anything else out there!), so we were able to add some drama to our ghost. The kids had fun and we didn't spend any money AND we were kind to the environment since we didn't buy anything for this project!

What else can be done to be greener around Halloween time?
If you're lucky and your kid doesn't request to be a specific character, you can make your own costume. Think of princesses dressed in colorful scarfs, decorated with beads - or pirates dressed in old cut-up clothes. The possibilities are endless! This year my boys want to be Mario and Baby Mario. Easy enough since I don't need a costume. Brown shoes, blue overalls and red turtleneck will do in our case. The only problem was the hat. I mean, who has a red balloon hat at home to just stick a white "M" on? I certainly didn't, but I got creative and found a tutorial online to make my own. I think they came out great - and I KNEW there was a good reason why I bought these two hat stands!!!
To be honest, if I was (or is it were???) a judge for kids costumes, I would much more prefer creative, self-made costumes over store-brought ones.

If you need ideas or guidance, check out the web, there's a ton of tutorials and ideas out there even if you're not super crafty. Check it out - it's really fun!

Happy Green Halloween!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Latest Garage Sale Finds

I was planning on a little series about my garage sale finds for a long time.
My belief is that all thrifting - and garage sale purchases are a big part of it - is green for the environment as well as for your wallet. And it's so much fun!
Take a look at some of the things I found last weekend:

1) Giovanni's roll-out piano - perfect for our tiny space and the kids love it!
2) D&G purse - something fun for me after years of using just a diaper bag :-)
3) Learning computer for our 5 year old
4) Wooden sorting house for our toddler
5) Very cool newspaper-print fabric
6) 2 teddybears
7) Quirkie cubes game

I spent just a little over $10 on all of this and had a ton of fun!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Upcycle A Beat-up Kids Table

A few years ago, I bought a white Ikea table & chair set for $5.

It was a little beat up then already, but I figured even if I had bought a new set it would be like that with 2 hm, creative kids in the house. So this set got worse over time with paint that wouldn't come off anymore and some major scratches on the table surface.

Being who I am though I didn't want to throw it out and came up with another idea: I found a US map and taped it on the table. This way our kids can sit and study geography and get messy at the same time!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Did You Know...

... That the hard bottle caps of any kind of plastic product are NOT recyclable?
I just thought about it when I actually had to deal with some. Yes, I found myself drinking water out of plastic bottles for the first time in ages - Hurricane Irene freaked me out and I gave in and bought some bottles just in case.
In our neighborhood I can collect them and bring them to my son's school who has a partnership going with a cosmetic company (click here for more info).

Google mentioned the program "caps can do" - you can ship your caps to them. Some Whole Foods markets have bins where they collect #5 plastics for companies like Preserve.

If you think about it, these caps can cause a lot of problems:
When just tossed, they take years and years to decompose. When thrown in the recycling bin (where they don't belong in most areas) they slow down the recycling process because pieces that don't match (plastic bottle #1 plastic and lid #5) have to be separated, or, if accidentally processed together, it can ruin the whole batch.
What little caps can do to wildlife is beyond belief. Just think about animals trying to eat them, polluting oceans and streams.
Best is to stay away from plastics altogether. Buy reusable water bottles, that's the biggest culprit.
The caps that you have to deal with, either recycle the right way or be creative with them.
Here are a few ideas:
1) Use as tiny picture frames
2) Paint and use them as checkers
3) Use for artistic purposes - to hold small amounts of paint etc.
4) Use for storage for tiny things (you could glue a bunch of caps to a wooden board)
5) If you have a lot of caps in different colors, get a big piece of cardboard and "write" your child's name with them - this could be a fun rainy day project.

If you have other ideas, please feel free to share

Friday, September 23, 2011

Paper Decoration For A Really Cool Place

These are some paper decorations that I made for go lightly the last two nights for the launch of the new RAW CAFE. Yay, that's right - a vegan raw cafe in Montclair, NJ! If you live in the area, don't miss out on this, it's delicious, healthy, good for you and the earth.
I'm so happy that finally there is an option for healthy, vegan and raw food in the Montclair area.
And if you don't live in the area, I encourage you to look for a raw food restaurant and just try it, even if you're not vegan or a raw foodie. You have to try it to believe how yummy it is.
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Self Made Toddler Hammock!

What is this? You may ask.
A weird looking pinata? A way of hiding presents from kids? A pet trapped in a blanket? Or a toddler in a impromptu hammock, made of an Ikea blanket and tied to two chairs.
My two-year old went back to napping, after 6 months of skipping naps.
I found myself wishing for some sort of swing, like the good old baby swings that soothed them into sleep, and came up with the idea.
I secured one chair by sliding a step ladder between the seat and the table so the chair wouldn't fall backwards. The other chair was secured by another one on top of it. I double-checked how safe it was before I put him in and, of course, stayed within arm's reach.
He had a wonderful nap!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Truly Good Company

I just had a very pleasant experience with a very pleasant company that sells a product that I really like.
I'm talking about WRAP-N-MAT, the re-usable sandwich wrap and placemat in one.
Years ago my son received this wrap as a party favor, and until this day it was the most thoughtful and useful thing that we ever got at a party. He used it almost all the way through his two years of pre-school, until I accidentally put it too close to the stove and burnt it.
I had a replacement already (just in case :-), which unfortunately didn't make it quite as long and we had to exchange it for a new one when the new school year started.
This new one had a fault in the material - I wasn't able to wipe it clean without getting it damp and unusable for a few days until it dried out.
So I decided to write to the company and let them know about it.
What a nice experience that was! All through e-mail, the customer service representative was all about making it right, agreeing that the product should last for a very long time (don't we all have the environment in mind!) and send me three new wraps, one of them with the original design that I once had and can't find anymore. I'm so excited! I love their product! It made it possible for my son to not have any waste at lunch - ever! Think about how many zip-lock bags it'll save you and the earth over the course of a school year, or for your own lunches/picnics/snacks/...
It even doubles as a placemat when spread out! I just love it when a company has an awesome product and an awesome philosophy. And when they even stand behind their product and do everything to make it right for the customer, it's just the perfect fit. For me, anyway.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mario MANIA!!!!!

Recently my older son is obsessed with Mario. You know, Super Mario - this old computer game guy. Not that he has ever owned a computer game, but one of his dearest, older friends does, and loves this character, and so does he.

A few days ago he asked me "Why don't you ever buy me a Mario T-shirt?"

As you know though, I don't like to buy new things, so I made him one. He has a bunch of white hand-me-down shirts (whether white is a color that he really should wear is another question...), so I picked a fairly nice polo shirt, got down to work with a few fabric markers, and made him his shirt. He loves it, and it saved me some money and helped the environment.

Then came his friend's birthday, and knowing how much he loves Mario and Luigi, and again not wanting to go out and buy something new, I painted him a Mario and Luigi poster.

This is the unframed painting (acrylic on paper)

I'm always on the lookout for usable frames so always have a nice stock on hand. This is the result:
Mario and Luigi in a blue reused Ikea picture frame

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Stack Of Clothes...

... just saved us a lot of money!
Somehow we accumulated a whole stash of somewhat damaged clothing - we had 3 of my husband's shirts. One had a button missing, one had a small hole by the shoulder and the third had two tiny holes in the front. A pair of pants of mine had a broken hook, a skirt had a rip.
What I would have done in the past was to either bring these to a drycleaner/tailor, depending on the personal value of the clothes (and paid a small fortune, as we all know!), or donate them to hopefully somebody who would be able to fix them.
And then get out there and buy other clothes. After all, the empty (huh, did I just say "empty"???) space in the closet must be filled, right?

Not this time! I decided to fix the problems myself. It took me about an hour of sewing, and it was all done.
Money saved, energy saved!
Try it out, you can do it, too :-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Is It With All The Party Favors???

I might seem ungrateful - but really, I don't get the deal with party favors. Kids parties I'm talking about.
Growing up in Europe I never heard about such a thing - it was a friend's birthday, you showed up with a gift and enjoyed the party and that was it.

Of course I don't know whether or not that has changed overseas over the years, but I have to admit that I liked that so much better than the parties I've attended here.
Being very health-conscious and green, it's hard enough to let my kids eat whatever is served at most parties (that is, in most cases, lots and lots of candies, pizza and an assortment of cookies and crackers). Live and let live, right?

But then go home with a goodie-bag filled with more candy?! As my kids are getting older, it's getting harder and harder to explain to them why we can't eat those goodies in the near future (same night!).
Or go home with a goodie-bag filled with some, hm, goodies, I guess - you know what I mean. Stuff that nobody really needs, and yet kids get so excited to get it (just to look at it/play with it for a moment and then it lands in the land-of-the-forgotten.

I really, really don't mean to step on anyone's toes here, as I understand people just do what they grew up with and they just want to do something nice for their little guests. I get that part, even though I also know some folks (from Europe, you guessed it!) who just don't do goodie-bags at all.

So what is my advice?
Well, if you feel like you have to give something to your little guests, think about something health- and earth friendly, meaning don't go to a 99 cent store and buy these toys that are just so bad for the environment (just think about it for a minute, and you'll know what I mean).
There are so many things you can do. If you're crafty, make something personalized. I belong to the group of people who has to give party favors, even though I don't have real parties.
Recently I have done toilet paper wraps filled with a marker, stickers, bracelets that I received as a gift a long time ago and an (organic :-) lollipop, and also I did some personalized place mats made from reused fabrics and unusable clothes (will post about that project later).

If you need some more ideas for self-made favors, check out The Crafty Crow, there are numerous projects even if you're not that crafty.

Let's say you just don't have the time/energy/mood to make something.
Well, how about going through your kids bookshelf and give away some of those that he/she isn't interested in? We all have some in the shelf, and giving away a used book is as green as you can get.
Seedlings for planting are also a great idea and hopefully get kids into nature.
For older kids you might want to think about an activity (make a picture frame out of clothespins, stones, or whatever material, etc., which could be the favor.
Or simply think about something to eat - but stick to one or two items and try to go as healthy as you can (yeah right). Maybe a pack of little chocolates, individually wrapped (sigh) and a fancy lollipop?

I just have the great hope that things can change once we all start to think about our actions and I hope I inspired some folks to make some changes.

Please share your ideas about this topic with us, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Save Big Money (And The Earth!) By Using Reusable Water Bottles

Oops, it's been a while. I guess summer does that to me. Sorry.

The other day I bought a new Klean Kanteen water bottle from go lightly, Montclair's eco-store, for my older son. I didn't have to but decided to upgrade my little one from a small to medium size since he's a big drinker, especially in these hot days. So the little one will get the "old" mid-size bottle and my older one will get a brand new mid-size bottle for the new school year.

It brought me to think about money. I mean I hear a lot of people say how they don't buy the reusable bottles because of the high price (I paid $18.50). Yes, they do cost more compared to a plastic bottle. BUT if you look at the picture over time, you won't believe how much you save:
Let's say I have to fill up the bottle twice per day, meaning I would have to buy 2 plastic bottles of water per day for - how much are they now? - $1 on average let's say?
$2 x7 = $14 per week = $60 per month = about $720 per year!!!
I use one bottle for at least 2 years, unless we loose them (so far we have lost 2 bottles over a period of 5 years).
So, for a family of 4 that means we save at least $2.000, assuming we would get the plastic bottles in bulk for a better price. The cost of about $80 for 4 reusable bottles and about $150 for a decent water filter seems like nothing compared to the cost of bottled water over a longer period of time.
Let alone the savings for the earth! By using reusable bottles, you save excess water, crude oil, plastic in the landfills and everywhere else on the planet, chemicals and BPA.

I also hear a lot of people say that they don't trust that the stainless steel won't leach and how they're not sure it's safe. Well, if you buy plastic bottles how can you be safe that the bottle hasn't been out in the sun for a long time, meaning it would leach chemicals big time? How can you know how pure the water is? How can you feel good knowing how much energy has been put into producing the bottle and the water in it?
Ditch the plastic and switch to reusable bottles today - for your and the planet's sake.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do You Dream About Improving a Corner of the World for Future Generations? Your Ideas Are Wanted.

Another contest to help improve the world! Please read and take the time to register, think about how to participate and submit your idea!
The non-profit organization travel2change - - is holding a worldwide innovation contest to identify and fund the most creative ideas or proposals for improving the sustainable management of water in travel destinations.
Proposals can be submitted for any travel destination, in any country, anywhere in the world in the following four categories:
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Sport
The main goal of the idea challenge is to generate meaningful and sustainable proposals about how travelers can make a positive impact on the lives of local communities. The interaction between travelers and host communities is encouraged in order to do something "with" as well as "for" the locals. The emphasis is on sustainable project ideas that rethink travel around the theme of water.

The contestant with the best idea in each category will be awarded a trip to the country they chose for their project proposal along with support so that their idea can be realized. An additional participant, chosen to have made the most valuable contributions and comments, will be able to join whichever winning trip they choose from the four categories.
The contest is accepting proposals through July 10, 2011. Ideas are posted online where anyone is encouraged to review and comment openly. The ideas will be evaluated on the basis of creativity, effectiveness, impact, feasibility and sustainability.
To participate, help empower local communities and maybe win a fully paid trip anywhere in the world, visit:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Made From Earth... Literally! And How To Get A Free Lip Balm

Sometimes I walk around and think to myself what a beautiful place our earth is!

It amazes me that everything there is comes from this planet, and yet we have managed to produce so many toxic materials that keep creeping into our lives and are to be found in every single product we consume, from food to cosmetics to furniture and pretty much anything you can think of.

In the past I have talked so much about buying organic, non-processed food, if possible living a vegetarian (or even better vegan!) lifestyle and green cleaning options.
What I haven't written about much is cosmetics, and now is the time to do so!
Remember, it's not only important for us as well as for our environment what we eat - what goes into our skin should be just as pure and healthy as our food.

Very recently I was approached by made from earth, an organic skin care line and asked to test and review some of their products (this is the fun part of my "job" as a green living consultant and blogger :-)
I am so happy to report that I found the products to be outstanding! If you decide to try their products, you can get a free lip balm when you mention the special code "YourGreenerFuture".

But let me first talk a little bit about conventional products and their ingredients:
What I've been saying over and over when it comes to store-brought foods is READ YOUR LABELS!
Well, the same goes for your cosmetics, and I know that many people have not spent a minute doing this, or if they do, many have no idea what all those conventional ingredients are and, more importantly, what they may do to your health.
So here's a list of ingredients to be found in "normal" cosmetic products and that should be avoided:

1) Parabens

Low-cost synthetic preservative found in pretty much every kind of personal care product. Parabens have been linked to play a role in the development of breast and other cancers as they mimic the hormone estrogen. There have been no successful studies to show that repeated and prolonged use of paraben is safe.

2) Petrochemicals (from made from earth website):

Almost all skin care products contain synthetic substances - petroleum (chemical) based. Studies have found that oral and topical application of petrochemicals in rodents resulted in anemia, kidney degeneration, and nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord. Even more disturbing was that several animals died before the study ended! Some synthetic colors, such as FD & C Blue No. 1, are suspected carcinogens. Behentrimonium Chloride, Guar Hydrosypropyltrimonium Chloride, Linoleamidepropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate are toxic ammonium compounds. Today we know that many of the household cleaning products, home furnishings and our food supply is loaded with petrochemicals, and this is linked to the rise in cancer, along with other diseases.

3) Pthalates

These are a particular group of petrochemicals that are known to have endocrine disrupting properties. Pthalates are used to make rigid plastics soft and pliable and are also commonly added to cosmetics. Pthalates are linked to elevated rates of endocrine disruption and are possibly carcinogenic.
Dibutylphthalate and diethylphthalate (DBP, DEP, also butyl ester) helps lotions absorb into skin.

4) Cosmetic Fragrance

Almost all cosmetic products list the generic term "fragrance" as an ingredient. Even "unscented" products may contain masking fragrances, which are chemicals used to cover up the odor of other chemicals. Artificial fragrances are made from petroleum or coal which degrade in the environment and cause skin irritations.

Cosmetic fragrance is made with cheap synthetic chemicals which replicate the natural aroma of products which already exist in nature. Companies use them because it is cheaper than using the natural scent. Fragrance is considered a trade secret, so companies don't have to tell us what's in it – often dozens or even hundreds of synthetic chemical compounds.

Here's a good website to read more about the danger of artificial fragrance in cosmetics.

5) Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate

SLES and SLS are both cheap, toxic chemicals that are commonly used in cosmetic products that are expected to "foam up" (soaps, shampoos, toothpastes etc.).
It is used in floor cleaners, engine degreasers, car wash detergents, and just about every soap and shampoo on the market. In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause irritation and dryness. SLS was found to be a mutagen and can damage the immune system. In sufficient amounts, it is capable of changing the information in genetic material found in cells.

6) Diazolidinyl Urea or Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate (from made from earth website):

It is chemically related to imidazolidinyl urea and is a formaldehyde releaser used as a preservative. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The label on your skin care product may not list "formaldehyde". The following ingredients break down and release formaldehyde: diazolidinyl urea (or 3-diol diazolidinyl urea) 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1 (or bronopol) DMDM hydantoin.

Are you still with me?
I know it's a tough thing to now start worrying about the ingredients in your cosmetics as well. But it's so worth it! I'm happy to add made from earth to my list of favorites after using the products for some time now.

One thing you have to be aware of though: As you start your journey with healthier, greener, organic personal care products, you have to say goodbye to things like foaming up, excessive smell and the like.
Sometimes, even after years of avoiding commercial products, I find myself still overusing shampoo in the hopes to get a little bit of foam :-)

As for the made from earth products, here's what I've tried and came to like a lot:
Rosehip and Hibiscus Facial Serum: I use this in the morning after cleaning my face and before applying my moisturizer. It's light and pleasant, non-oily or greasy, and the same can be said about the Three Berry Daily Face Serum, which I apply at night.
For a cleanser, I tried the Green Tea Toxin Cleanser, which is not the typical cleanser that you might be used to: you leave it on the skin for a few minutes and can even use it as a mask before washing it off. I found it to be very refreshing!
For extra facial care I used the Grapefruit Glycolic Scrub twice a week. Even though I found the texture to be a bit runny I have to say this is one of the gentlest facial scrubs I have ever used. 
I also tried two of their lip balms and found them to be great!
For my hair I use the Tea + Protein Herbal Shampoo, and again, this is different than the commonly used L'oreal or whatever you used to buy! No foaming agents at all, which might lead you to overuse this gentle product, even though it's not necessary, because it cleans the hair beautifully and leaves it light and fresh. I have long hair and like to use a conditioner. made from earth's Peppermint Herbal Conditioner does the trick and untangles the hair. Love it!

This company seems to be outstanding. Upfront about their processes, ingredients and manufacturing, they don't leave you in the dark about what's in every single one of their products. They are truly organic and holistic, not just some organic ingredients mixed up with a bunch of cheap chemicals.
Their products are also vegan, which means no animal had ever to suffer for testing.
I would love for you to check them out and give them a try at
If you do so, you'll get the blueberry lip balm for free! Just add it to the cart, and at checkout add the discount code "YourGreenerFuture" to get it free.

Just one word of caution - if you're using homeopathic remedies, make sure that your products don't contain peppermint since that counteracts with homeopathy. And if your vegan, stay away from their honey body lotion :-)

Please share your experience with us!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Do You Have An Idea How To Make The World A Better Place?

Here's your chance - check out Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest!

Who organizes this contest?

The Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest is organized by the Siemens Smart Grid Company Project in cooperation with Siemens' Chief Technology Office (Open Innovation and University & Research Cooperation). Siemens aims to communicate and collaborate in partnership and invites you to be part of this open innovation approach.

Join the global community and contribute with ideas on Smart Grid

  • new business models that change the game,
  • applications for new customer benefits,
  • disruptive technologies to enable a smarter world.

...comment and vote the ideas of the community...
...and get rewarded with:
  • attractive prizes for participants: 15 000 euros and more.
  • excellent career perspectives at Siemens,
  • funded collaboration with leading university partners: 1 million euros.
We from Siemens want to get in touch with you and jointly speed up open innovation. Contribute your ideas and market insights in competition but also in cooperation with a large community of Smart Grid experts around the globe.

Siemens has a budget of more than 1 000 000 euros in order to translate your ideas into innovation by collaborating with universities. Siemens also aims to translate the resulting mature innovations into products, services and solutions and is therefore planning additional significantly larger investments.

Join the grid - energize the world.
Support the idea of an environmentally friendly smarter power grid.

Check out the website for more information but hurry, the timeline is June 15!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On Veganism by Jennifer Chaky

I often talk and write about how a plant-based diet is so important for sustainability. This is because livestock agriculture is just about the most polluting industry there is. Water systems are choked with runoff from the high concentrations of animal waste, over 100 million tons of methane, the worst gas that contributes to climate change, is released into the atmosphere from the animals, and land and water that can go to grow food for humans is used inefficiently to feed animals that we in turn eat. For example, it takes ten times more land to grow a monoculture crop like soy or corn that is then used as animal feed.  The ratio of land and water that is used to grow animals protein compared to what is used to grow plant protein ranges from 4:1, to 54:1. That is 4 to 54 more land and water is needed in animal agriculture than plant. Land that can be better used to let forests and wild places exist or to grow a variety of fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables for healthy human consumption is devastated in order to raise animals.

I first became a vegan because I love animals and didn't want them killed for my plate- but after 22 years of eating this way, I have learned that the benefits go much further than helping animals. By not eating the saturated fats that come only with animal protein, a plant-based diet offers superior health benefits. And the old fear of not getting enough protein is just not an issue when you eat a variety of nuts, legumes, seeds, and veggies. Yes, even I at one time struggled with what to eat, but there seems to be a vegan explosion going on and recipes and ideas are in abundance from a slew of new cookbooks and informative website. The creativity and possibles of dishes to make from plants is unending.

I feel so strongly about a plant-based diet being better for the world that I began to sell vegan ice cream in my store, Go Lightly in Montclair. After all, what better way to show people how yummy plants can be than to show them through ice cream? The ice creams I carry are homemade from either hemp, soy, coconut, cashew, or almond milks, are sweetened with agave and brown rice syrup, and have zero saturated fats. They come in various flavors such as mocha almond fudge, cookies and cream, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, maple walnut, and dozens more.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recipe: Amazing Raw Apple Pie

This recipe is from the book "Raw Food - A complete guide for every meal of the day" by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja.
I tweaked it a bit to fit our needs, and it came out just great.

This is what you need for the crust: 
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil 
  • 5 Dates 
  • 2 Tsp cinnamon 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 Tbs raw honey or maple syrup  
Chop the nuts in food processor. Add the oil, dates, cinnamon and salt and mix. Add honey or syrup, mix. Spread and press the dough on the bottom of a pie dish. 

For the filling you need:  
  • 2 Apples 
  • 1 Banana * 2 Dates 
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon  
Thoroughly blend all the ingredients in a food processor, and spread inside the crust. 

For the garnish you need:
  • 3 Apples, sliced (I peeled them so my kids were more likely to eat the pie :-) 
  • Cinnamon  
Garnish the pie with sliced apples and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  I especially like about this recipe that it was easy to make and didn't require any preparation such as soaking nuts etc, what you usually have to do for raw recipes. It came out so yummy and the whole family liked it very much.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Get Your Family Active! by Emily Patterson

(Picture taken from

Daily Physical Activity: the Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle
Tips for Getting Your Family Active

Experts suggest that young children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  Unfortunately, many children are not nearly as active as they need to be.  It is clear that along with poor diet, physical inactivity has contributed to the large increase in childhood obesity in the United States in the past 20 years.  The following statistics are unsettling:

·         Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese nationwide.
(Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
·         The percentage of obese or overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states. (Source: Trust for America's Health)

Research has shown that children who develop basic motor skills such as throwing, catching, kicking, are more likely to grow into healthy active adults.  Whether the activity be at home with their parents or at their child care facility with their friends, studies have shown that daily physical activity helps children academically as well.  

Dr. Stephen Sanders (director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida and member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board), says that children do not necessarily learn physical skills on their own.  He has found they need guidance and assistance from adults, challenging activities, and opportunities to practice and refine physical skills.

So, what can parents do to teach their children about the importance of being physically active and help them learn these necessary skills?  Trying the tips below will help you and your family create a fun environment for physical activity and will contribute to everyone’s physical health.

Getting Your Family Active:

Be active with your children: Don’t just send your children outside to play--be a role model!  Go outside with them and participate in games and other activities that require physical exertion!

·         Use sidewalk chalk to create your own four-square or hopscotch grids; blow bubbles then chase them around the yard to see who can catch them; go on a walk around the neighborhood or through a park as a family; play music and dance inside or outside; and when the weather is nice put on your bathing suits and run through the sprinklers.
·         Promote a feeling of success when you play with your child.  If your child is not yet able to successfully throw and hit a target, encourage them to move a little closer so they can be successful.  Skills are acquired incrementally.  Children who do not experience success have a tendency to quit and not practice.
·         Acknowledge their efforts with specific comments.  No matter what your child’s skill level is, be a supportive coach.  They will benefit from your encouragement.

When children come into the world, physical activity is at the very center of their lives.  They have a mission to learn to crawl, walk, run, throw, catch, and kick.  If they are going to enjoy participating in physical activities now and as adults, they need to build on that foundation of success and enjoyment that begins in infancy.  So, grab a ball, badminton racket, or jump rope and set aside time each day to play with your child!

Contributed by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools

Monday, April 18, 2011

Looking to Create Community (and Healthy Meals)? Try A Meal Share! by Jennifer Gannett

One day, over a year ago, I realized that meals were becoming annoying and stressful: my goal was to create healthy, inexpensive, low waste, plant-based meals for my family and myself-- but I was getting exasperated with the amount of time I was spending chopping veggies and performing the necessary kitchen work each day.  When  we sat down to dinner as a family, I-- tired and cranky-- would be not-so-secretly assessing what my family was eating and feeling really bummed out if they didn't seem to like what I'd made.  All in all, not a pleasant dynamic.  I decided to approach another busy friend about potentially doing a meal trade, and she was willing to give it a go.  It worked out so well that we ended up incorporating a third family and it feels like a terrific rhythm has been established. 

In our meal share group, each family is responsible for cooking for the two other families on their assigned day (currently Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays).  A sampling of meals that have been delivered to my door over the past few months include Tamale Pie; Lima and Edamame Soup; Pad Thai; Quinoa, Kale and Bean Stew; and Carrot Polenta with Sausages and Peppers.  Some of the benefits:  The meals are all very good and healthy.  I really appreciate that I can take a couple of nights off from cooking without having to go out to a restaurant or order take-out.  My son has expanded his palate in a way that is startling (and heartwarming). We are saving a lot of money-- I no longer have to be in the market so often for the meal that night or something that I forgot (and of course, I cannot tell a lie: I would always spend more money than I'd planned to).  Preparing food in this way is also an energy saving measure, as we all aren't cooking on our own individual stoves or with our ovens etc. But perhaps one of the best things to come away from this experience is the peace of mind I have on Mondays and Wednesdays as I know our family will get a break from the kitchen stuff while still eating a delicious meal, and that is a true gift. 

Meal share groups are really catching on!  The New York Times wrote a piece last year entitled Saving Time and Stress with Cooking Coops  (I couldn't have titled it any better myself).  The article lays out the different ways that meals can be cooperatively shared and prepared together.  Beloved foodie site Chowhound offers yummy ideas for vegetarian meal share dishes here.  There is even a Montclair, NJ-based site called Cooking With Friends, which emphasizes communal meal preparation.  Our meal share group has its own blog called Suburban Vegan Meal Group, which is a year-long experiment in chronicling our meals and cooking experiences.  Readers of Your Greener Future will probably especially appreciate our entry about how we transport meals in the most environmentally-friendly way (hint: it involves tiffins and spaghetti sauce jars!).  Because we all live within a mile of each other we often try to bike or walk our meals to each other.

One last note, and that is that I think two things have been essential to our experience.  The first is that we all eat a vegan diet for ethical and environmental reasons and therefore have no qualms about cooking without dairy, meat or eggs.  Having meal sharers in your group that are on the same page is very important. The second key to success is that we are very flexible with our schedules and deliveries.  Sometimes one of us might need to skip or substitute a night, or maybe we're running a little late (or we've made dinner early in the day and we're delivering it at lunchtime).  It has never been a problem.

So give a meal share a try! Cooking together or for others is a great way to build a sense of community, try out new foods and alleviate some of the burden of domestic life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

6 Tips For A Safer Yard by Safe Yards Montclair

The Forsythias are blooming, and that’s a good sign that it is time to start working on 
your lawn. Remember, you can have a beautiful lawn without using chemicals that may 
be harmful to health and the environment. 

Six tips for a safer yard this spring:
1) Use eco-friendly, organic lawn care practices on your lawn. 
View a step-by-step plan for doing it yourself 

2) Hire an eco-friendly, organic lawn care service: 
Email Safe Yards Montclair for a list of such local services at 
Please first review their suggested questions to ask the services you contact to ensure 
that they meet your needs. 
3) Find out what is in the lawn chemicals you use 
(or that your service uses). 
Read the label or ask your service for the ingredient names. Then do your own research 
on the toxicity and environmental effects. See the lists here.

4) Be a good neighbor: 

a. When you put synthetic pesticides on your front yard yourself, your neighbors might 
not know they are there. Put a sign on your front yard, so your neighbors won’t let their 
dogs sniff your lawn or kids play on it. And, don’t let the chemicals run-off onto the 
b. Let your neighbor know when your lawn service will be spraying pesticides 
(if they do that). The spray can drift inside their homes without warning (and inside your 
home as well). 

5) Read the label directions carefully if you purchase lawn 
products yourself. 
Don’t put more product on your lawn than suggested by the manufacturer. 
You can damage your soil and add excess chemicals into the environment. 
6) Take off your shoes. 
Some studies suggest that lawn chemicals can be tracked into your home and found 
on floors and carpets.* 

Did you know that Quebec and Ontario, Canada have completely banned the sale of 
synthetic pesticides? 40 New Jersey towns have gone pesticide free on their public 
parks to reduce everyone’s exposure. And this year, New Jersey passed the nation's 
strongest fertilizer law that restricts the use of chemical fertilizers. 
As residents, we can look for ways to reduce our own usage this spring to help protect 
our drinking water, health, and the environment.  

Join SafeYardsMontclair in taking the Safe Yards Challenge at and learn ways 
you can contribute to pesticide reduction in New Jersey. One yard at a time.

Enjoy the spring weather!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Benzene Exposure In Hot Cars and How To Minimize Risk

I just got this information in an e-mail from a friend and reader of my blog - thanks for sharing Laurie!
Your car's manual may say to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on the A/C. WHY ?

Car Air Conditioning

Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car
Open the windows after you enter your car, and then turn ON the AC after a couple of minutes
Here's why: According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, a/c ducts - in fact ALL of the plastic objects in your vehicle, emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin. A BIG CARCINOGEN. Take the time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car, when you open it, and BEFORE you start it up. 
In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure will cause Leukemia and increases the risk of some cancers. It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant females
Acceptable Benzene level indoors is: 50mg per sq.ft.
A car parked indoors, with windows closed, will contain 400-800 mg of Benzene.
If parked outdoors, under the sun, at a temperature above 60 degrees F.
the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 mg, 40 times the acceptable level. 
People who get into the car, keeping the windows closed, will inevitably inhale, in quick succession, excessive amounts of the BENZENE toxin. 
Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidneys and liver. What's worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff from your body.
So friends, please open the windows and door of your car - give it some time for the interior to air out - before you enter the vehicle.
Thought: 'When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.'
This is what says.  It is not the air conditioning in the car but the Benzene producing agents that cause cancer. Read the whole article here.

I think this is very important to know - please keep in mind with the warm weather (hopefully!) coming up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

About Birthday Presents

My son just turned five. FIVE!!! How did that happen???
Usually an opportunity for relatives and friends to show their love and affection by giving him stuff.
We are very lucky to have a family who always asks us (not him! Who knows what he would ask for!) what he needs, and we normally pick activities and/or classes that he likes.

I made him a doll from recycled and reused materials, just like I did for my other son for Christmas, and a crocheted airplane (pattern from Ana Paula Rimoli, again) that he asked for, and he was very happy.
My husband organized a used microphone and microphone stand for him (he loves to sing and perform!).
His best friend's parents gave him coupons for some activities like minigolf and bowling, and guess what? This is, I believe, his favorite gift! He took the coupons to school for show-and-tell and can't wait to actually do it.

My point is that it is very well possible to come up with gifts that don't add to the landfill and don't require energy to be made - aka used or selfmade items.
The sooner our kids (and us, too!) learn that presents don't have to come in fancy packages and that it's ok to receive used items, the better.
Oh, and we don't need wrapping paper or gift bags, either. Unless it's reused, of course.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Waste-Free Lunches


Lately I spend quite some time in my son's preschool class - it might be because his younger brother is getting more and more interested in what's happening in there and refuses to leave.

I have to say though that what I see there around lunchtime is devastating: most kids are generating a big amount of waste, as their caregivers pack their food in in single-use plastic bags, aluminum foil, or wax paper, or they purchase single-serving items that come in their own disposable package.

What's the problem with this?

Landfills are getting fuller and fuller. Incinerators pump contaminants into the air. Communities are battling over who will accept the nation's trash. We all enjoy the conveniences of pre-packed foods (or at least some of us do), but very few of us are willing to allow new landfills and incinerators to be built in our own backyards.

I want to say most of the garbage we produce comes from the packaging on the food we buy, and lunch foods are no exception. On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school!

What can you do to reduce lunch waste?

Get a good supply of reusable containers (if you buy them new, avoid plastic), made for example of stainless steel. There's a whole bunch of stuff out there, including containers for sandwiches, hot stuff, little eatables like carrots or fruit, sauces, water bottles etc. etc.
Don't buy prepacked foods - they're more expensive and less healthy.
Skip the disposable stuff like napkins, silverware and plastic water bottles. You teach your child (and/or yourself) a valuable lesson and save a lot of money.
I would also stop the habit of juice-boxes. The amount of garbage this habit creates is just ridiculous and having juice every day is just not healthy anyway.

This is What "Waste-free Lunches" says a waste-free lunch looks like:

A Typical American Lunch

  • sandwiches sealed in plastic bags
  • fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
  • prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
  • prepackaged yogurts, apple sauces, and puddings
  • crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
  • disposable juice boxes, juice pouches, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • plastic forks and spoons
  • paper napkins
  • reusable lunchboxes and disposable paper and plastic bags

A Waste-Free Lunch

  • sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container
  • cloth napkins
  • stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • reusable drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes
*With this type of lunch, lunch food items can be bought in larger quantities. The packaging can be left at home for reuse or recycling. Waste-free lunches are not only a wise environmental choice, but they are less expensive as well.


According to Waste-free Lunches, you can save about $250 per school year by packing waste-free lunches, and that is just the monetary saving, environmental and health savings not even included!

There are numerous ways to get reusable containers, bottles and other utensils. If you live in NNJ, I'd like to recommend go lightly - a green store with an owner that really, really cares about the environment. Another recommendation is Yellow Margosa, founded by a fellow green mom who offers environmentally friendly lunch boxes, containers and other cool stuff.

Happy waste-free lunching! Let me know how your change is going, please!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Got Hooked!

The ones who are regularly visiting my blog might have wondered why there are so few posts lately.
Well, I got a new hobby - I re-learned how to crochet, and I hot hooked :-)
A few weeks ago I got three bags of yarn from a nice lady who actually wanted to throw it all away (totally locked out!), and ever since I can't stop crocheting. This is the first little buddy that I did:
The pattern is from Ana Paula Rimoli, whose wonderful, inspirational books I both own (she's coming out with a third one in April). Ana also has a blog, check it out when you have a chance!

"WauWau", as my boys named him, can be seen at the go lightly shopping window for the next weeks, maybe months as I started doing another round of decoration (it's not completed yet).

I'm amazed at what you can do with very little leftover yarn. Get your hook out, get some patterns and get started - it's so much fun!