Category Archives: eco-friendly activities

New Year, New Opportunity to Teach Your Kids about Healthy Choices

 

By Valerie Carlson Pressley

 Like many of us, you have made resolutions for 2016 and leading a healthier life is on the top of your list. So, what about nurturing that same idea in the minds of your children? It seems educating adults about the benefits of organic eating and living more healthy is one thing; exposing children to that same information and motivating them is quite another.

Fortunately, kids are sponges for new experiences and convincing arguments. Including your children in activities and discussions about the foods you eat and the reasons behind the earth-friendly choices your family makes may be easier than you think. Here are a few simple ways to engage kids at home and pique their interest in all-things-healthy in the New Year.

  1. Encourage child participation in meal preparation – Children as young as three years old can be big helpers around mealtime. With a rounded or plastic knife, kids can be shown how to slice fruits and vegetables such as watermelon or banana, or can be put in charge of shucking corn or snapping asparagus stalks. Odds are, if they help prepare it, kids may be more apt to eat and enjoy it.

 

Logan
Logan, age 10, carefully slices vegetables for a salad.

  1. Plant a seed, grow a garden – Even if your available gardening space is limited to a kitchen window sill, that is still plenty of room to start an indoor garden and watch the seeds of plant life take root. Planting anything from parsley to sunflower seeds in small pots or containers will do the job – within weeks, they will begin to sprout and demonstrate the power of good soil, consistent watering, sunlight and patience. If you have space in your yard to plant a larger vegetable or flower garden, then there is additional opportunity to teach children about safe pesticides, weed control and the benefits of nutrient-rich composting. Or consider volunteering for The Bounty Garden, a community-service garden in Hap Magee Ranch Park. The Bounty Garden donates organic vegetables to local food pantries that are grown by volunteers. No experience necessary. If interested send an email to thebountygarden@gmail.com.
  1. Get moving and grooving – On rain-free Danville days, it is time to leave the car at home and roll the bikes out of the garage. Not only is bike riding a great family activity, the exercise will make drinking water and eating juicy, refreshing fruit even more satisfying. If you see yourself embracing bike riding on a regular basis, invest in some sturdy bicycle baskets to attach to your child’s handlebars so they can help transport groceries or goodies home from your next outing.

Georgia

Georgia, age 13, loves riding her bike to some of her favorite spots in The Livery and downtown.

  1. Support your local Farmers’ Market – Farmers’ Markets are a treasure trove of locally grown, organic produce, plants, flowers, jam, nuts, honey, fish and meat. They also serve as a fantastic outdoor venue for people watching, connecting with neighbors and enjoying local entertainment. Yet, one of the most valuable features of patronizing your local farmers’ market is exposing your kids to the growers of the food and items being sold. Saunter up to an apple vendor and ask why their apples are superior to the ones you can buy in the store. Undoubtedly, the vendor will eagerly share his/her reasoning, along with a tasty sample to reinforce the point. In that instant, your kids will have just witnessed learning outside of the classroom in its purest form.

As you can see, taking steps towards a more organic, health-infused lifestyle doesn’t have to be monumental to move mountains for children. Some very simple things—buying and discussing the benefits of organic foods, getting kids’ hands dirty in the kitchen and garden, promoting the thrill of exercise over a car’s carbon footprint, and supporting local farmers and their products—will leave a positive imprint on the minds and choices of our children, and hopefully for a lifetime to come.

Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2016! For more sustainable tips, visit SustainableDanville.com or follow us at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville

Valerie Carlson Pressley is a marketing professional, freelance writer and mother of two in Danville. She can be found riding her turquoise Trek cruiser to the Danville Farmers’ Market on Saturdays with her stash of LOVE reusable bags. Email: vcpressley@gmail.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

 

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Have A VERY, MERRY GREEN HOLIDAY

SDA Holiday Image 2012

BY KATHLEEN KULL URBAN

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and be overwhelmed with decorating, shopping for the perfect gift, and planning festive dinners and activities. However, having an environmentally friendly holiday season doesn’t have to be hard. Even a few small changes can have a big impact.

Artificial trees provide enjoyment year after year, but the plastic components are toxic to produce. Consider a live tree that you cut down at a local, organic tree farm. It saves on shipping, pollution, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. Potted trees are also a good alternative. They can live outside throughout the year, be brought inside at Christmas time to decorate, and then donated to a school for planting.

Whether you’re driving through a neighborhood or shopping at a mall, festive holidays lights are everywhere. With the high cost of electricity, LED lights can save up to 90% on your electric bill, the LEDs don’t have bulbs and filaments that break, don’t get hot, and they last a long time. Put the lights on only at night and use a timer to save even more money.

Do you still send out holiday cards each year? There are eco-friendly alternatives such as emailing cards, sending postcards (no envelopes), or using smaller cards. Choose pastel colors if possible. Bright red and green paper is hard to recycle. After the holidays, recycle cards by sending them to St Jude’s Ranch for Children. Call 877-977-7572 for details because they do not accept all cards.

When it’s time to shop for gifts, look for ones with minimal packaging or recyclable materials such as cardboard. If the gift requires batteries, buy rechargeable ones. For information about recycling batteries and other hazardous waste, contact the Contra Costa County Household Hazardous Waste Program at 800-750-4096.

Did you know that Americans produce an additional 25% trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve? We’re sending an extra five million tons of garbage to the landfills. There are many earth-friendly alternatives to the plastic toys and gadgets that end up in the trash. A memorable experience can be a lasting treasure: a zoo membership, a cooking class, a massage, dance lessons, performance tickets, or a museum pass. Homemade gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas are especially thoughtful: baked cookies, a story or poem written for the recipient, a knitted scarf, a booklet with your favorite recipes, or a photograph of your family.

What do you give to someone who has “everything?” A socially conscious gift can have a lasting, positive impact. Donating a dairy goat through Heifer International (www.heifer.org) provides milk, cheese, yogurt and butter for a needy family. Help prevent disease in impoverished countries by donating to Project Concern (www.ProjectConcern.org). A loan to Kiva (www.kiva.org) can alleviate poverty by enabling entrepreneurs in poor countries to start a small business. There are many local options too, including honoring the gift recipient with a donation to the Discovery Counseling Center of the San Ramon Valley (http://www.discoveryctr.net) or the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

When it’s time to wrap a gift, choose paper that doesn’t have metal foil or fibers that are not recyclable. Sunday comics, kids’ art, magazine pages, old maps, and fabric remnants make interesting conversation pieces. So do boxes you decorate to reuse next year. Most practical are holiday towels or scarves that serve double duty as a wrapping and a gift. When adding a gift tag, make one out of a recycled holiday card.

Everyone enjoys a delicious holiday meal, but are you guilty of making too much food? Try to be earth friendly and buy local, organic, and fair trade foods, and only what your family will consume. With a variety of composting options available, food scraps don’t need to visit the landfill. Recycle beverage containers such as plastic jugs, paper milk cartons, soda cans, and wine bottles. Wrap leftovers in recyclable aluminum foil rather than plastic wrap.

Sustainable Danville Area wishes our friends and supporters a happy and peaceful holiday season.  Visit us at ww.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

 

 

It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

ECO-TRAVEL, FAR OR NEAR

Tip of the Month – November 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President, Sustainable Danville Area

Often the telltale sign of a person’s recent vacation is the burnish on their face from the suntan they acquired during their travels.  Last week, renewing my car insurance with local Danville Area Sustainable Business, William White Allstate, I couldn’t help but notice owners Bill and Teresa had a glow that went beyond the color on their face.  Teresa explained to me that their family had just returned from an eco-tour to Borneo, Malaysia.

The family chose to spend their vacation visiting the tropical rainforest as Teresa shared, “As a family we have a balanced perspective on environmental protection – we’re definitely not tree-huggers – but we wanted to visit Borneo because rainforests offer so much to people and our planet.  We wanted to learn more about the impact irresponsible development has on endangered species both within the forest and the surrounding ocean”.  The Whites’ avid scuba divers who have long practiced “taking pictures, but leaving only bubbles,” applied the same philosophy to their land-based eco-tour.  This time they “hiked the miles, left no trace – except the smile on their face”.

While rainforests absorb a great deal of carbon dioxide from the air, help make rainfall and are home to more than half of the worlds’ plants and animals, I wondered if this was the cause of Bill and Teresa’s collective glow?  Bill chimed in that their time spent together in Borneo was other-worldly filled with animals, birds and plants that they had never imagined.  Bill shined, “it was really meeting and talking with local people and learning some of their customs that was most humbling and heart-warming”.

With the holiday season just around the corner, and my husband and I eschewing ‘things for the sake of things’, I had to ask – what is eco-tourism?  Eco-tourism, along with eco-travel, responsible tourism, sustainable tourism and a bunch of other expressions commonly used, defines travel that is environmentally, socially, culturally and economically aware, that strives to appreciate, to nurture and enhance – not exploit – the visited destination.

A search on the Internet brings up numerous examples of ‘green-washing’ within the travel industry, with every other hotel chain touting a green veneer to market their weak sustainability efforts to gain sales. Organic shampoo and body wash, but offered in mini-plastic bottles?  Honestly?  Due diligence is necessary to research the tour operations before committing to your trip. Write or call to ask direct questions about the tour company’s ecological practices, lodging, activities, transportation and how they involve local communities and economies.

While eco-tourism doesn’t necessarily mean roughing-it, it is important to understand how water, heating, food and transportation are supplied for visitors’ convenience.  What measures do your accommodations take to reduce waste and conserve local resources?  How do they heat water and provide electricity?  The Rainforest Lodge in Borneo, where the Whites’ stayed, is an ‘off-the-grid’ lodge hosting a maximum of 60 guests.  Solar panels connected to batteries provide most of the electricity and full-house nighttime demands are met by various staff members hopping on bicycles (guest participation is optional) rigged to generate additional power.   Teresa assured me that this unique system was reliable and that we have more electrical blips locally then experienced at the lodge.

When visiting local sights, does the tour company use low-impact forms of transportation?  Often the best way to experience someplace new is to take the bus or the train and meet the people. Respect the customs and try the food. However beware that endangered species may be on the menu without your knowledge, so in preparation check with local conservation organizations to know what to avoid.  Bill and his family believe to gain the best experience from an eco-tour one must also be a good eco-tourist.  Responsibility begins when you start to plan your trip.  Consider travel to World Heritage sites where conservation, nature and culture are the key attraction. Visit UNESCO World Heritage at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list and Protected Planet at www.protectedplanet.net to gather ideas before researching specific tours.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature has a useful top-ten list for eco-tourists at www.iucn.org/?uNewsID=7253.

For more ideas and tips on eco-tourism Sustainable Danville Area invites you to our Thursday, November 8th forum, 6:00pm at San Ramon Valley High School Career Center, lower level of the administration building.  Our evening speakers, Judith Scott, Travel Consultant from Alamo World Travel and Tours & Alma Megeath, President Eco-Adventures along with hosts William White Allstate will have lots to share – including fun snacks and beverages.  For more information about Sustainable Danville Area and upcoming events, visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com and on Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS

Tip of the month – april 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek doctor certainly got that right!  ‘Art is long and life is short’.  Art influences how we see the world and it gives us a means to express ourselves when words cannot.  Certainly the impression a piece of art makes on the viewer can outlive the ability to recall the artists’ name.  Yet finding a simple drawing you stored long ago, can flood you with treasured memories of the artist if it was your child. Giving recognition to a child’s artwork can build life confidence equal to scoring the winning homerun in a champion little league game.  I’m at least as proud of my trophy from a city-wide art contest in the third grade, as I am of my Best Girl Athlete medal from seventh grade.

As parents and educators we know how essential art is to teaching and encouraging our children.  Since art is such a vital part of raising healthy children, shouldn’t we consider making sure the art supplies our children use to create their art is healthy for them too?

Art supplies often contain toxins and pollutants that are both harmful to a child’s health and the environment.  Many art supplies contain toxic chemicals (PBTs) that can accumulate in the environment when they are made, used or discarded.  These PBTs can also accumulate in your child and cause illnesses such as headaches, breathing problems, nausea and possibly worse.

A great way to prevent possible negative effects of art supplies is to make sure you and your school purchase only sustainable, non-toxic art supplies.  Look for the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) seal of approval to make sure your art supplies are safe for the environment and your child. A guide to reading and understanding art supply labels can be found at the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition website: http://www.cehn.org/files/Art%20supplies_2_14_11(6).pdf 

With Spring Break just around the corner, now’s a perfect time to consider some environmentally friendly ways to spruce up your family art projects.

°       Recycled Materials

Juniors’ masterpiece will last just as long and look just as good on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper as it would on virgin paper.

°       Natural Ingredients

Who doesn’t love coloring?  But traditional crayons are made from a non-renewable petroleum byproduct, paraffin wax.  Look for crayons made from soy bean oil.  Not only are they non-toxic, but they’re bio-degradable too.  Looking to channel the Italian street artist within?  Organic chalk with all natural ingredients is totally safe for small children.  They can decorate away without you worrying about them putting their hands or the chalk in their mouth.  Eco-friendly colored pencils are my ‘tool of the trade’ and I use sustainably harvested wood ones like the ones found at Stubby Pencil Studio www.stubbypencilstudio.com.  Manufactured from California cedar wood and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to have originated from environmentally well-managed forests they draw great cartoon aliens, flowers, trees and dinosaurs.

°          Make Your Own Supplies

You’re never too old to enjoy a day of finger painting!  It’s simple to mix up a batch on your own.  Form a smooth paste with a cup of white flour (not self-rising) and 8 tablespoons of water.  Separate small portions into muffin tins and add organic food coloring to get the color you want.  Thin to a pudding consistency with additional water and you’re ready to create a Picasso.

Fancy yourself more of a Monet?  Create watercolors by mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to rest until the fizzling stops.   Then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and ½ tablespoon of corn syrup.  Mix until crumbly and divide in a muffin tin.  Add about 10 drops organic food coloring to each cup.  Paint away,  mixing individual colors together to create a wide palette for your masterpiece.

Our recipes wouldn’t be complete without offering one for eco-friendly play dough.  Mix 1 cup white flour (not self-rising) with ½ cup of table salt in a bowl.  Gradually add 1/3 cup water while kneading the mixture until it reaches a dough consistency.  It should not be sticky.  To tint the dough, add organic food coloring as the dough is mixed to create various shades.  Store in the refrigerator in a well sealed container, but like all play dough  – it will eventually harden.

Danville and Alamo K-12 students are invited to participate in the Town of Danville 2012 Earth Day Art Poster Contest with the environmental theme of “Our World, Our Community”.  All the students’ art work will be displayed at the Town of Danville Village Art Theatre Gallery on Friday, April 20th 11-5pm as part of the town’s Earth Day Celebration.

A reception honoring our artists will be held at 4pm.  Prizes will be awarded to finalists in each of the following grade categories: Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12.  For complete instructions, please visit http://sustainabledanville.com/2012-earth-day-student-art-poster-contest/.  All art work must be submitted by entry deadline: 4pm April 17th.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News