Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being the Change: Green Gifting During the Holidays

Holidays are always a great excuse to all off the wagon. Whether it's not getting enough sleep or overindulging in holiday treats, the season often sends us out of our green and healthy routines. But it doesn't have to.

One way we continue to live greener and healthier this holiday is by example - by engaging in sustainable, nutritious, non-toxic gift giving for our family and friends. We can demonstrate our passion for natural living and share that passion with others by introducing them to new opportunities, products, and services that can begin to build a healthier foundation. Sure, there are plenty of naysayers who might scoff at your natural gifts, but there are so many wonderful choices out there that you can find something everyone will be happy with, even if they are not intending to make such changes in their own lifestyle. I have had many instances where simply living by example and not preaching about my personal holistic passions has had a profound impact on others. As Aeschylus said "From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow." You can plant that seed, literally and figuratively, by giving green and healthy this season. Here are a few of our favorite ideas - and things holistic moms and dads would love to receive:

A Plant a Tree Gift Set from PeopleTowels. This delightful set includes two organic reusable towels for everyday use with a handy eco-sack and a seed kit to plant your own tree (complete with an organic, biodegradable peat pot)! What's more, the purchase of this kit helps to support Trees for the Future!

Celebrating the New Mom, Naturally! Know a new mom? How about a Nurturing Life Gift set from Motherlove or a cloth diapering kit and DVD from The Willow Store? Motherlove's certified organic products, such as their popular Nipple Cream for breastfeeding moms, are must-haves for those early years. And making a switch to cloth diapers helps save money and the planet! Today's cloth diapers are easier than ever to use and the Diapering Today DVD will make it simple and accessible to make the change. If baby is graduating to solids, you might give them a great start with gourmet, organic baby food and a great cookbook on how to cook for the whole family and develop healthy tastebuds from Sprout Organic Baby Food.

Give the Gift of Real Food! Everyone has a foodie in the family who loves to cook (and eat)! New ingredients and quality products are at the top of every chef's list and there are many healthy, sustainable items every cook would love. Perhaps a sample of wild, sustainably fished salmon with a gourmet cookbook fits the bill, or an assortment of herbal-infused ghee flavors to explore culinary delights? Or look at the amazing spices, exotic salts, and delicious flavorings from Frontier Natural Products.

Give Less Stuff. Maybe stuff isn't what you want to give this year. How about an experience, a community, or information that will inspire you time and time again? You might give someone the opportunity to learn about natural healing with classes on homeopathy, to enjoy literary articles about motherhood, a workshop to learn about green, eco-conscious building, or the support and connection for their parenting journey?

Natural, sustainable options abound! Plant the seed and see what may grow. What will you give this holiday season?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living in Gratitude

As we celebrate Thanksgiving we have an opportunity not only to indulge in the comfort of our families and the flavors of the season, but also experience a chance to cultivate gratitude and model the significance of gratitude for our children.

Living in gratitude matters on many levels, not the least of which is helping us to maintain a positive attitude. Being grateful for all that you have, and that you may experience, or the opportunities presented to you can help you to see the good in your life even when times are challenging. Feeling blessed also radiates positive energy through your day and, according to the law of attraction, brings more things to be grateful for into your life.

Practicing gratitude isn't always easy. When you hate your job, it's hard to feel thankful. But that is exactly the moment to be grateful for the fact that a job is had at all, even if it's not matching up to your expectations or ideals. Whether it is work, relationships, finances, or health, we can be grateful for what we have and are able to do, no matter how small. Refocusing our energy on the things that are right instead of wrong may take considerable effort some days, thus it is a practice of gratitude - something that you attempt each day, over and over, and get better at each time. And, remarkably, even the most difficult challenges are opportunities to be grateful for.

Here is a wonderful
gratitude prayer (thanks to zen habits) that can help you start or expand your gratitude practice. Enjoy!

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.~ Author Unknown ~

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fair Trade Holidays

The holiday season is here and it is the season of giving - and giving back. This season offers a wonderful opportunity to teach our children many important family values and also to exercise the principles that are important to us. It is a great time to think about fairness and justice, about supporting local farmers, and about empowering others. How? Through fair trade.

What is Fair Trade? According to the Fair Trade Federation, fair trade "is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor." The principles of fair trade are simple: create opportunities for disadvantaged producers, do not maximize profit at the expense of the producers, pay a fair price, abolish child and forced labor, and encourage sustainable technologies, among others.

Bearing a certification for fair trade means that a product has been produced according to fair trade standards which are designed to support the sustainable development of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world. Buying Fair Trade products is a powerful way to support producers in developing countries. Fair trade helps workers and farmers to earn a decent living and secure a better life for themselves. To find fair trade products, look for a certification on some common household items including: bananas, cocoa/chocolate, coffee, cotton, flowers, honey, sugar, and rice.

Why should we support fair trade? According to Global Exchange, fair trade brings the benefits of trade into the hands of communities that need it most. It sets new social and environmental standards for international companies and demonstrates that trade can indeed be a vehicle for sustainable development. Unfortunately, the benefits of fair trade are not reaching all fair trade farmers because of insufficient demand for their crops. Producers sell an average of 20% of their crop at fair trade terms; the rest goes through the world market at much lower prices. The same story goes for artisans. That is why we need to build a market for fair trade though demand for these products.

How can you bring fair trade into your holiday season? Consider purchasing fair trade products (chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.) for your holiday gatherings and check out Fair Trade USA's Fair Trade Holiday Gift Guide for ideas and suggestions!

And you can win a bag of fair trade samples and treats from Fair Trade USA by helping to spread the word about fair trade! Tweet this blog and come share your tweet url in the comments section for a chance to in! A winner will be randomly chosen and notified on November 30th.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pinkwashing, Greenwashing: Creating a Culture of Distrust

As holistic-minded parents many of us are now familiar with the practice of "greenwashing" or efforts by a corporation to portray themselves publicly as eco-conscious and sustainable in order to better their bottom line. Equally deceptive is the practice of "pinkwashing". According to Breast Cancer Action, the founder of the "Think Before You Pink" campaign, a "pinkwasher" is "A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease." Among the outrageous examples of pinkwashing are corporations such as Estee Lauder and Promise Me perfume who display and distribute pink ribbons to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation and yet produce products that are toxic and hazardous, containing ingredients that themselves are contributing to rising cancer rates.

Particularly egregious are the actions of Eli Lilly, the sole manufacturer of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), an artificial growth hormone found in milk which has also been linked to breast cancer. Although rBGH is banned in many countries, here in the United States it is a profit-making enterprise. But even more alarming is that not only does Eli Lilly profit from the sales of rBGH but also from the sales of cancer drugs they produce used to treat women with breast cancer. In fact, "Eli Lilly’s cancer drugs made $2,683,000,000 for the company in 2008" according to Breast Cancer Action, inspiring their "Milking Cancer" campaign. (Fortunately, organic dairy products do not contain rBGH.)

These "washing" campaigns are intended to disillusion consumers and create a belief in corporate "caring" and "community" to build brand loyalty and, ultimately, to enrich one's bottom line. The consequence, however, is devastating for our entire business and commericial sector. What such practices have created is an alarming amount of corporate and organization distrust among consumers. My generation of parents are beyond skeptical. We have little or no faith in the claims made by corporations, organizations, and governments. We scorn advertising campaigns and corporate sponsored activities. We distrust ads and ties to companies. We shun institutions who align with brands and criticize magazines and even non-profit organizations for working hand-in-hand with businesses. And this culture of distrust leaves us so cynical that we have disengaged, become less participatory and more frustrated by the world around us.

While much of the distrust is well earned, there are many corporations and organizations out there doing good work. There are still islands of integrity and transparency. There are companies who are not "washed" but who are sincerely, ethically, green and sustainable. Yes, they need to earn money to survive. Yes, they have products to sell. But they are doing so with honesty and integrity. As parents we need to discover the resources to locate these companies, organizations, and individuals. We need to be wary but open to the fact that there are still people out there trying to make an honest living. And we need to support those companies and organizations - wholeheartedly - who are truly working in our best interests.