Alternatives to Candy on Valentine’s Day

Candy for Valentines Day

Has your child been asked to contribute candy to a Valentine’s Day party? We can turn this into an positive opportunity. Let’s think of this as taking a treat—a treat of any kind—rather than approaching negatively as NOT taking candy. You can just quietly send a fun treat that happens not to be food.

Crayons
Kids love crayons. Give them out in the original shape, or you could make a craft of it and use a candy mold to shape melted crayons into hearts. Our Soy Rocks Party Box gives you 64 colorful crayons to give out.

Lip Gloss
Make lip gloss. It’s easy and exciting for kids to make lip balm in many flavors and colors. Don’t call it “gloss” and you might get boys interested as well.

Bouncy Balls
A ball is a small gift that won’t cost you a lot but will get used a lot.

Pencils
A common non-candy gift for children is a fun pencil. They come in great variety (including our tree-free pencils), they are easy to decorate and personalize, and kids will use them.

Wooden Toys
We often find situations where kids might want to give small gifts, and we don’t want to create more plastic clutter of throwaway gifts. We want to give eco-friendly gifts that children will actually use. That is why we created a loot bag section in our Green Celebrations department. We have a couple of tiny toys that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day gifts: mini wooden kaleidoscopes and wooden pop tops.

Friendship Bracelets
An older child can use cotton embroidery floss to create friendship bracelets. To make it a Valentine, add a small tag with a message.

Wooden Yo-Yo
For a special friend, a red wooden yo-yo is great gift that will be played with for a long time.

The Recurring Candy Issue

Yes, it’s nice to take a positive approach. I can be tiring to think, “Great. Another holiday, another opportunity to explain why we don’t give out candy.” Sure, we don’t have to focus on explaining. We can just nudge expectations away from sugary treats to other treats.

The issue will continue to come up, though. If you want to deal with Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and all of the candy holidays all at once, if you are tired of navigating the candy and food issues, help your school or district develop policies that will make it easier not just to manage allergies but to meet nutrition goals.

A lot of schools have no-food or no-candy policies for celebrations. This makes it a lot easier for schools to manage food allergies and sensitivities. Sell them on the benefits for the school, and they might be willing to work with you.

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Self Care: Your Own Oxygen Mask

Baby watching woman doing yoga

“In the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.”

As a parent, you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your children, spouse, and everyone else who wants your help. You are no good to anyone, including yourself, if you drain your energy, your oxygen, and your focus to zero.

I know it’s difficult to prioritize yourself when there are little people who need and want you every minute. Prioritizing yourself doesn’t mean neglecting them. It means helping your children to learn patience in those few moments it takes to put on your oxygen mask.

Your oxygen mask might be as simple as getting yourself a drink of water before the next activity or taking a shower even when your toddler tells you, “NO!” It might take more time, like doing yoga while your child waits. Whatever it is, your child learns self control gradually in those moments.

Lessons you are teaching your children will stay with them. They know you are a person with needs as well. (Yes, that sounds strange, but it does take children a while to realize this about their parents.) Also, they will learn that they need to take care of themselves before they help others so they don’t drain themselves.

Have you read “The Giving Tree”? I remember it from my childhood, and I picked it up to consider buying it for my children’s library. I read it again in the store. I couldn’t believe what I read. The lesson was to give everything you have without taking care of your own needs. The tree (who I interpreted as a mother) gave itself in pieces for the boy, who didn’t ever bother to take care of the tree or even to thank the tree. Some people interpret this book environmentally as an example of how not to sustain the earth. Either way, I don’t want to plant the seed of the idea in my children’s minds that they are to take and take from others without regard for others’ needs. And, no, I didn’t buy the book.

Your family is—or can be—a sustainable system. You need to be functional to make that system work, and the system works even better when you are not just functional but happy. Your happiness matters to everyone in your family, whether they realize it or not.

Show your children that you care about yourself. You are teaching them valuable lessons. You are teaching them that you have needs. They will develop empathy as they recognize others’ needs. You are also teaching them that each person needs to address their own needs. You are teaching them to put their own oxygen masks on first.

Don’t hesitate. Take care of yourself. You’ll be better able to help others when you do.

This month, we are focusing on self care. Come into the bynature.ca store for a few self care surprises.

It Works! 30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Air-purifying indoor plant

We often assess our lives at the new year then lose momentum soon after. I want to help you and me both get past the typical obstacles.

One problem is that we make the goals so big that we don’t know where to start. Looking around me at my space, I was sure this was the problem. That is how this year’s 30-day Eco Habits Challenge was born.

Before I could improve my family’s eco-life, I needed to make space.

Nine years ago, my family moved across the continent to take care of my sick mother, then she died soon after. I found myself living in the house where I grew up, in the midst of my mother’s stuff with a whole house full my own stuff in storage.

Nine years. I’m usually quite disciplined, but this was a difficult obstacle for me. “Get rid of my mom’s stuff” was on my list every year. I didn’t know where to start. The grief of an only child, added to the fact that the house was familiar from my childhood, made it easy not to change anything despite the ever-present vague goal.

When a change is big and involves a lot of small actions, it’s tough to start unless you recognize that you need to take the small actions. That is true of my clearing my house, of living without plastic, switching to reusables, replacing non-fair trade or non-organics throughout the house, or lowering your family’s carbon footprint. These are big changes, and they can feel overwhelming.

My solution: chop it up into so many tiny pieces that I couldn’t resist. Then, each day for 30 days do one small thing. This not only lessens the pain of big change but it creates a habit of the change.

At the beginning of this month, I outlined my plan. I ended up with a list of 83 items I wanted to change. Each day I cleared off one shelf, cleared out one drawer, emptied one box, or read through a pile of old letters. It still feels overwhelming, because I’m not finished, but I’ve replaced a lot of my mother’s life that I was living inside with my own life.

I did’t just want to back up a dumpster and get rid of all traces of my mother. I wanted to find ways to make her stuff useful—to let the clothes be worn again and the books be read again.

It feels great! Gone is a hideous (and dusty) dried plant thing that lived on the wall, replaced with an air-freshening living plant. Gone are my mother’s high-quality business clothes, given to a local charity that helps women get back to work. Before she died, my mother told me to donate her clothes there. It should have been easy, but it wasn’t. So, we stopped when we delivered the clothes and told them about my mom and about her commitment to their work. She was a long-time donor. I’m so happy that dozens and dozens of women will be wearing my mother’s silk dresses and wool suits to job interviews. Maybe those clothes will help them feel confident about their futures.

So, this is me reporting back and telling you that it works. It’s possible to tackle that very difficult, huge goal you have.

  • Choose a general goal that you’ve been meaning to tackle
  • Make a list of every tiny thing you can think of toward the goal
  • Choose one of the tiny actions, and do it now
  • Tomorrow, choose another tiny action, and do it
  • Check in with a family member or friend on your progress
  • Tell yourself you only need to do this for 30 days, then you can decide whether you need to shift your focus

On my master list, I put the date beside each thing I did. On my daily actions list, I started with “Do 1 Make Space action.” I couldn’t check off my day until I did it, and that usually got me past my bump of hesitation.

After about two weeks, I had taken the easiest actions, and I just had to do the more difficult actions. I’ve still only done 30 out of 83 items, so I am going to keep working on my list through February. I’ve renewed my commitment to Make Space.

It doesn’t matter when you start. Every day can be your first day. Earlier this month, I outlined a few ideas to get your started on your own eco habits challenge.

Good luck. I’m not telling you it’s easy, but I know you can do it.

Is air quality on your list? If air-purifying plants are on your list, look at the research done by NASA for the international space station. Mother Nature Network provides a list of the top choices for air-purifying plants.

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30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Woman with a power drill

Join me in challenging yourself to make real change become a new habit in 30 days. We all aspire to live more eco-friendly lives, so let’s inspire one another with our changes.

I love New Year as a time of reflection on the closing year and optimism about the coming year. You probably already know that resolutions are difficult to keep. Generally, people choose actions that are difficult for them to take, wishes for their changed future. Then, people gradually, naturally resist change, and the resolutions fall by the wayside.

This past year, I did a decent job of making some big changes. I did a rotten job (again) of taking specific actions, though. This tells me what I should already know: I’ll only do what I want to do, and what I want to do changes over the course of a year.

So, as I’m thinking about the coming year, I’m asking myself what worked well last year—not to congratulate myself but to see if I can learn from that pattern. I kept making changes and adjusting what changes I made to build core strength and health, and I made those changes because I felt great. The better I felt, the easier it was to make more changes and to make those changes habits that I don’t resist. My conclusion is that only the underlying WHY kept me moving toward change.

So, this year I want to ask myself WHY I want to make changes before I create a list of resistible actions. I want to focus on one area where I seem to have had some trouble in the past. I’m looking at what is blocking my way from making change, and I want to propose a similar challenge for you.

At bynature.ca we carry information and products to inspire natural families. Here on our blog, EcoBabySteps, we want to help you get where you are going in your own time. That is exactly what I want us to do in this challenge: that one small step after another toward the natural life we (you and I) aspire to.

Our 30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Today, take one baby step to nudge yourself toward eco change. Just one tiny step. Then, tomorrow take another. Make it small enough every day that it doesn’t hurt—or only hurts a little. Make your daily step irresistible.

So it won’t be overwhelming, I’m going to start with a 30-day challenge. If I can make it through my first 30 days, I will add a new 30-day challenge for myself next month. If you want to stop after 30 days, that’s OK. We’re all choosing our own challenges.

Also, to keep me on track and accountable, I will check in with you in a month.

Your Steps:

  1. Your Area. Choose an area where you want to make change
  2. Name It. Get out a piece of paper and write “My 30-day Eco Challenge” along with the name you are giving your area
  3. List Steps. List 50 baby steps you could take in that area
  4. Stay Accountable. Tell someone else or a group of people about your challenge
  5. Remind Yourself. Put your list where you and others can see it
  6. Start. Take one step. Start with a hard one or an easy one—doesn’t matter. Just take one step.

Potential Areas for Your Eco Challenge

If you already know what area you are ready to face for your challenge, stop reading and start now.

If you need ideas, I’ve added a few areas with ideas under each just to get you thinking. Take what works and add to the items on the list until you have at least 50 ideas.

Why 50 ideas? By the end of the month, you really won’t want to do some of the items on your list. If you don’t want to, you won’t. So, give yourself enough choice that unrealistic, overly ambitious, or just odious items don’t become your roadblocks.

Stuff

  • Don’t buy new stuff
  • Repair stuff that is broken or worn
  • Clean, paint, or otherwise renew old stuff
  • If you’ve been hanging on to old stuff you don’t use anymore, let go of it. Send it somewhere it can become someone else’s useful stuff.

Knowledge

  • Research a topic that you’ve been wondering about, like GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or natural remedies for common ailments
  • Set up a Google alert for your topic, so you get a daily reminder
  • Join a discussion group on your topic, so you can share knowledge with others
  • Go to the library and get a children’s book on your topic. Read it with your kids

Health

  • Remove barriers to sleep (tough for parents of babies)
  • Drink more water. Add a squirt of lemon or organic apple cider vinegar to your first glass of the day.
  • Build muscle tone in your idle moments
  • Switch to a doctor who will listen to your concerns about conventional medicine

Transportation

  • Take public transportation to work
  • Teach your children to use public transportation
  • Service your bicycle
  • Take your kids and dog for a walk
  • Buy new socks or repair old ones so you don’t have an excuse not to walk

House

  • Replace toxic cleaning chemicals with natural alternatives
  • Add an air-cleaning house plant in one room, then in another
  • Clean out an old cabinet full of junk and fill it with something sitting around waiting for a place to go
  • Open your kitchen cabinets and see where the plastic is. How could you replace that plastic with glass, metal, wood, or another material? Make a plan.

Energy

  • Teach your children to turn off the lights when they leave a room
  • Open the blinds rather than turning on the lights
  • Turn the heat down and put on a sweater
  • Look around the edges of all of your doors. Do you see light? If so, replace the weatherstripping.

Food & Drink

  • Look at your coffee package. Is it fair trade, shade grown, and organic? If not, research a new brand
  • Clear out your refrigerator and re-organize to put the healthiest foods where you will notice them first
  • Look in your freezer. Is there anything you reach for often that you could make from scratch, from whole foods instead?
  • Do you have a local CSA? It’s time to sign up. Find out how much it will cost and get on the list now.

Clothing

  • Clear out clothes that don’t feel great on you and give them to someone else
  • Repair clothes that you’ve been avoiding because of wear
  • Look at your tags. Where are your clothes made? If not where you think, consider researching clothing made locally
  • Give away kids clothes that are too small
  • Move your summer clothes out of the way until you need them so you really know what winter clothes you have

My Eco Habits Challenge

I wrote above that I’m looking at what is blocking me from making change, and it has become apparent to me that the blocks are actual piles of stuff blocking my way. Does that happen to you? You make a pile of stuff that is very important then you set it aside to deal with it later—and later doesn’t quite come. My other issue is that I moved into my mother’s house when she died, so I’ve been living around her stuff for a long time. I’m ready to clear out what I can’t or don’t use and share it with others. I am going to deal with the stuff in my way and help others as I go.

I’ve already started this over the past week. I got rid of 8-year old magazines that I’ve been stepping over. I kept them because I hadn’t read them yet. I didn’t read them. I just put them into the recycling. I also asked my husband to take a pile of boxes from my sewing room to recycling. He filled our car completely full and opened up a big space for me. We always recycle, but we don’t have curbside pickup. We have to save everything, fill our car, and take it to our city recycling center. We don’t question that; it’s a well established habit. But, getting rid of big items is sometimes more difficult for us to face because we only have a small car.

Nevertheless, I’m ready to meet the challenge. I’m ready to let go of stuff and open up my space. I figure that by the time I make it to the end of one month of moving all of this stuff out of my way, I will not want to fill up the space with more stuff. I hope that the habit will be one of maintaining clean and open space.

I won’t bore you with my list of 50 items (actually 70 and growing), but I’ll share a few. For bigger items, I created sub-items that I can count as a daily baby step. My list is big and scary already. I can feel my resistance welling up, but I find it comforting that I only need to do one little thing a day. I know I can do that.

30 Days: Jan 1-30
My area: Make Space & Recycle Stuff

  • Give away old kid clothes
  •      /Go through 1 box of kid clothes (anything to wash, repair, or save?)
  • Give away old adult clothes
  •      /Go through 1 shelf or drawer of adult clothes (anything to wash, repair, or save?)
  • Give away my mom’s quilting books
  •      /Put quilting books in a box
  •      /Call library to see if they want books for their sale
  • Put baby books in storage
  • Get rid of old furniture
  •      /Empty a drawer of photos and set aside for new storage
  •      /List furniture for giveaway on Craig’s List or local paper
  • Get new storage that uses space better
  •      /Measure one space and check available cabinets
  •      /Move stuff in the way into new cabinet

If you make a list, drop us a note or leave a comment. I want to know what you are ready to tackle—and I know it will help you if you tell someone.

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Back-to-school Eco Baby Steps

Mother and daughter walking to school

For those of us who are trying to lower our overall social and environmental impact, every new situation is an opportunity to find new ways to improve.

Greening back-to-school time is not just about replacing high-impact products with other products. Sure, we can help you with school supplies if you need tree-free pencils or if you want a backpack that is ethically made.

To truly lower your impact, though, you need to think differently. You might want to ask whether you even need that stuff at all. Don’t just accept the models you are given and consume just as much stuff bought from a different shelf in the store. Do you need that stuff?

Where can you go deeper to rethink back to school?

Where You Might Take Baby Steps

Lunch. Waste-free lunch is a good example of greening a situation that can generate a lot of garbage: wasted bags, plastic utensils, plastic cups, sandwich wraps, and even wasted food when we send lunches that our children don’t like. It can take some training to help both you and your child embrace new habits, but lunch doesn’t have to generate waste. It helps if the whole school supports waste-free lunch, but you can make the choice as a family.

Clothes. School clothes don’t have to be a huge expense if you don’t mind used clothes. You can buy used at a consignment or thrift store, but you could also just pass clothes around. I was at a friend’s house last month. As I looked at her son, I suddenly said, “Hey, those pants look familiar! I think those used to belong to my son.” My son hadn’t worn the pants for 10 years, but here they were still circulating around town among my friends. Clothes sharing and buying used clothing isn’t just about saving money. It helps your family avoid the waste of new clothes worn for only a few months before your child grows out of them.

Transportation. We usually think of the stuff of school because that is the focus in the relentless advertising we see this time of year, but consider the other new situations you face with school. You need to get your child to and from the school building. If you live close to the school, how about walking. If you aren’t close enough to walk, are you close enough to ride a bike? Walking or riding a bike will give you exercise as well as sharpening your child’s focus at school. Getting to and from school could be a time when you and your child chat about the day without too many other distractions. Even riding the bus takes much less energy than driving your own car.

As you go through these first few weeks of the new school year, help yourself become aware of the choices you are making. Take steps to lower your environmental impact as you go. Greening your choices isn’t about being perfect. It’s about taking steps as you become aware of them.

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