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Kids Craft Ideas For Summer Vacation

KIDS CRAFT

We’ve officially hit the halfway mark for summer vacation. The days are longer and the kids are looking for new activities to keep them occupied. Now that it’s warm enough to once again be spending the entire day outdoors, there are all sorts of awesome kids craft ideas and materials to be found outside and around the house!

Today we have listed two of our favorite summer kids craft recipes to spark creativity.  These are perfect boredom busters for rainy days or post-summer-camp fun…

Outdoor Tic Tac Toe

Materials:

  • 14 round palm-sized stones
  • 2 different colors of acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Chalk

Directions:

  1. Find a place outside for your board like a walkway or driveway. Draw the # with your chalk.
  2. Divide your round stones into two equal piles of seven. With one color paint seven O’s on each of the stones, and with the other color paint seven X’s on each of the remaining stones.
  3. You’re ready to play! The first person with three stones in a row wins!

Paper Bag Notebooks

Materials:

  • brown bag
  • scissors
  • white office paper
  • thread (embroidery or book binding)
  • needle
  • safety pin
  • watercolors to decorate
  • ruler or paper cutter

Directions:

  1. Take five pieces of white office paper.
  2. Tear in half with a ruler, or cut in half with a paper cutter.
  3. Fold those pieces in half.
  4. Cut out a piece of brown paper bag to fit the exact shape of the folded paper.
  5. Fit the office paper in the brown bag.
  6. Measure 5 holes evenly across the middle crease of the paper.
  7. Poke the hole marks with a safety pin.
  8. Thread a needle and start binding by entering from the inside to outside of the middle hole. Leave about 2″ extra in the inside cover.
  9. When you get back to the center, cut the thread leaving about 2″ and then tie the first thread to the end thread.
  10. Finish by adding some designs to the outside cover or writing your own story!

In need of more ideas for kids craft ideas? Check out our Pinterest Board for crafting, cooking, books and movie suggestions!

Refuse Single-Use Plastics for A Week

single-use plastics

As a friend of U Konserve and a recent admirer of the waste-free and reusable communities, I was excited at the opportunity to sign up for the plastic-free July challenge. The task was simple: refuse single-use plastics for a week and write about my experience.

Being in my late twenties, I’ve grown up in a disposable culture. I never thought twice about plastic water bottles, straws or utensils. As long as I was recycling, I felt that I wasn’t harming the environment. How uninformed was I?

After learning more about the lifecycle of plastic and realizing the harm it really causes, I was ready to dive in to this week of skipping any plastic that is used once and then tossed. When I sat down to plan my week and troubleshoot, I realized that plastic is truly all around me. I felt overwhelmed, but motivated to get through this week without plastic.

Sunday: Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping

Going into my plastic-free week, I knew that planning would be key to my success. Armed with my list and reusable bags, I headed to the grocery store on my first mission of not buying any food wrapped in single-use plastics.

Since it is Summer, choosing more fruits and veggies was the logical choice. I always skip the plastic produce bags and put the fruits and vegetables into one of my reusable totes in the shopping cart. I did notice that for certain items like carrots, the plastic bagged version was less expensive than the loose carrots. I did look around for someone to ask, but made a mental note to bring it up next time I was in the store.

The challenge began when I hit the bulk food bins. Not one for being the best at measuring how much I need or weighing what I have, I bought enough quinoa to last me through Christmas. For the most part, everything I needed was available from the bulk bins. I spent a little time googling alternatives on my phone and found some new ingredients to incorporate into my cooking.

Monday: Reusable Picnic

Happy Fourth! Since today was a holiday I was lucky to stay at home in my haven from single-use plastics. The big event of the evening was watching the fireworks with friends. I packed all sorts of snacks and plenty of drinks in mason jars and reusable containers and challenged them to do the same.

I was feeling very proud of myself for a successful day two until I went to take out the trash and realized that trash bags are plastic and get thrown straight into landfills…. After obsessively researching alternatives online for a while, I decided that figuring out plastic alternatives for around the house would be my challenge for the rest of the month.

Tuesday: Enjoy that cup of coffee

I work in coffee shops daily, so I was very aware of packing a reusable glass water bottle, coffee cup, and utensils to take with me in case. When I arrived that morning, I noticed for the first time that the coffee bar had ceramic cups and saucers (I’ve been here over a dozen times). Interesting what you see when you are avoiding single-use plastics.

I ordered a latte and when the barista asked if I’d like a disposable cup or ceramic one I chose the cup and saucer. I’m not sure if it was in my head, but it was one of the best lattes I’ve enjoyed in a long time. The ritual of sipping out of a cup and saucer doesn’t exist in the age of disposables, and I’m bringing it back into my life.

Wednesday: Dinner with friends

I had let my friends in on my pledge for the week, but I’m not sure they fully understood until I ordered my drinks without straws and pulled out my reusable containers at the end of dinner for my leftovers. They were supportive, but I did receive questioning looks. At first, I felt a little self-conscious but then realized that if I continued this habit at least, I would make others think twice about their disposable habits.

Thursday: Bulk Beauty

When I fist started planning the challenge, I decided to focus on one area of plastic in my life and gradually incorporate other areas. The next primary target was in the bathroom with the majority of my cosmetics in plastic containers. Getting on my computer, I researched my cosmetics products and found that the company reuses empty containers you bring in and rewards your account! Not plastic free, but a temporary solution.

Shampoo and conditioner seemed to be a little more tricky. From my internet research, I found that many people recommend making your own. The brand Lush also offers shampoo bars wrapped in recycled paper or a reusable stainless steel tin.

Friday: Treat Yourself

Nearing the end of the challenge I was feeling good. I pick up food to go at least three times a week, and this was an area that I knew could be a trouble spot for me since most of the to-go containers are single-use plastics or Styrofoam. I chose a restaurant that I knew had recycled paper containers and ordered.

When I went in to pick it up, I declined the plastic bag and utensils. Arriving home, I was excited to eat my salad until I opened the container to see a plastic container with the dressing inside. Total oversight on my part.

Saturday: Reusable Reflections

While I was (mostly) successful on reducing my plastic habit for the week, I focused on the progress I had made.  Here are my big takeaways:

  • People in the service industry won’t mind if you bring your own reusable cup, container, or ask for no straw.
  • Sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee or meal served in non-disposable containers is a refreshing change of pace for our on-the-go lifestyles.
  • To cut down on single-use plastics you need to plan ahead. Always put water in your reusable bottle before you leave the house and keep bags in your purse or car.
  • Skip individually packed food items and make your own alternative instead.
  • Take it one step at a time. Start by focusing on not using single-use plastics. Slowly shift into the zero-waste mindset and take it one day at a time.

To learn more about plastic or going plastic-free visit U Konserve’s Pinterest Page. I used many of the articles as motivation to help me stick to the challenge and find new recipes to incorporate into my routine.

Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping

grocery shopping

By now you’re aware of the importance of bringing your own reusable grocery shopping bag and skipping the plastic, but what about for your produce or bulk goods? With the theme of plastic-free July in mind, we compiled our favorite recipe for making your own produce and bulk bags to bring along with you on your next grocery shopping trip!

Before buying any fabric we suggest looking around your home for fabric that could be repurposed. From old sheets and pillowcases to t-shirts, any lightweight fabric will work! For the produce bags, we like to make one side sheer for ease when checking out, so if you have any old sheer curtains, tulle, or netting they would make great substitutes. If you are purchasing fabric, we recommend buying organic cotton or unbleached muslin.

Produce Bags

Supplies (makes 4 bags):
2 yards fabric
1 sheer curtain panel
4 yards cotton rope
Clear nail polish
Measuring tape or small ruler
Scissors
Straight pins
Safety pin
Fabric marker
Sewing machine

Directions:

  1. Begin by cutting your fabric into four rectangles measuring 19.25 inches long by 15.5 inches wide. Do the same with your sheer fabric.
  2. Cut your rope into four equal pieces, each 32 inches long. Apply clear nail polish to rope ends to keep from unraveling and let dry.
  3. Take one sheer piece of fabric and one piece of cotton toweling and place them together, lining up the edges. With your fabric marker, mark 1 inch from the top edge of the fabric on both the left and right sides and begin pinning pieces together. The red mark indicates where you will begin and end your stitch. Pin along three edges of your fabric, leaving the top open.
  4. Starting at the 1-inch mark you made, begin sewing a zig zag stitch down the sides and bottom of your bag together. Be sure to leave the top 1 inch of the sides unsewn.
  5. With your bag still inside out, fold down the top 1-inch of sheer fabric and pin. Turn bag over and do the same to the opaque fabric side. This will create a casing for your drawstring. Sew casing closed but leave both ends open so you can insert your drawstring.
  6. Stick a safety pin through the rope and feed through casing. Tie drawstring ends together.
  7. Trim any extra fabric or thread and turn the bag right side out.

Bulk Bags

Supplies (makes 4 bags):
1 yard fabric
Old cotton t-shirt
Measuring tape or small ruler
Scissors
Straight pins
Fabric marker
Sewing machine

Directions:

  1. Cut fabric into a rectangle that is 8″ x 24″.  Take fabric and fold it in half to make a shape that is now 8″ x 12″. If you’d like, run a warm iron over the fabric to smooth it out.
  2. Cut 1/2″ t-shirt strips for twist ties. Use a pen to mark the 1/2″ strips and cut along the width of the shirt. Cut as many 1/2″ strips as you need for the number of bags you’re making. When you’re done cutting, take one end in each hand and then PULL. This will lengthen the tie that you’ll sew into the bag in a future step.
  3. Fold the top edges over about 1/4″ and use a zig-zag stitch to finish the edges. After finishing both edges, fold the bag in half, lining the edges of the fabric up and secure with straight pins. Sew up one side of the bag that won’t include the “twist tie” to the top edge.
  4. On the opposite side, place a t-shirt strip about 3″ down from the top of the bag with about 1/4″ left on what will be the inside of the bag. Sew up the last side of the bag to the top edge.
  5. Flip the bag inside out. If you regularly buy the same bulk items, use your fabric pen to write the number of the bin on the outside of the bag so you are organized when checking out at the store.

Looking for more ways to skip the plastic while grocery shopping?  Check out our friend Bea Johnson’s post on zero waste grocery shopping.

 

Is Recycling Plastic a Waste?

recycling

Recycling is a mainstream practice in the U.S. While we may think of it as a positive solution to our plastic problem, the impact of recycling stretches far beyond the bin. Plastic is a major source of energy waste on the environment, and recycling contributes to that impact in a way that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Plastic is made from petroleum, so every new piece of plastic cuts into petroleum reserves. About 8-10% of the world’s total oil supply goes into making plastic. And of that, it is estimated that 12 million barrels of oil are used for making plastic bags in the U.S. alone.

The total weight of plastic waste per year equals 30 million tons with only 8% being recycled. In many cases, once recycling is trucked to the collection centers it is then shipped back overseas to be reprocessed.  While it’s true that recycling does turn used plastic into new, the energy used in that process only adds to our carbon footprint.

The Recycling Challenge:

  • Plastic items have to be recycled with like plastic numbers. A tray labeled No. 1 (polymer: PET) can’t be recycled in the same group as a bottle labeled No. 1 because they melt at different temperatures. This increases the price to collect and sort the plastic. For this reason, many cities limit the amount of plastics they take in.
  • Prices for recycled materials have plummeted due to lower oil prices. Due to the cost/benefit analysis on the production of plastic, it is often less expensive to make new plastics vs recycle. This has lead many facilities to dump plastic in landfills vs properly recycling.
  • In New York City, the net cost of recycling a ton of trash is now $300 more than it would cost to bury the trash instead. That adds up to millions of extra dollars per year which could be used for other initiatives including reductions in greenhouse emissions.

Every single piece of plastic ever created is still somewhere on our planet. Becoming a mindful consumer and buying less plastic is a great first step.  Purchasing reusable items such as glass water bottles, stainless steel containers, and reusable cotton shopping bags keep single-use plastics out of landfills and the recycling center.

Stop wasting energy the plastic way. To get involved in going plastic free this July, head over to this site and sign the pledge. To learn more check out our resources page full of book, films, and articles.

Plastic Free: Recipe to Kick The Habit

plastic free

Plastic is all around us.  Understanding the facts about plastic pollution is the first step, but changing habits can be key to clean living.  While the thought of going completely plastic free can seem daunting, there is a simple recipe to follow to get started and make an impact.

Below are 7 key ingredients for going plastic free:

Ingredients:

  1. Glass Water Bottle
  2. Insulated Coffee Cup
  3. Bamboo Utensils
  4. Reusable straws
  5. Reusable sandwich bags
  6. Stainless steel food containers
  7. Reusable grocery bag

Directions:

  1. Assemble all items and purchase anything you may be missing.  If planning ahead is challenging, buy duplicates of the ingredients and keep one set in the car, office, or wherever convenient.
  2. Pack all items in the reusable grocery bag every evening and place next to your front door.  Every morning when leaving the house, grab your reusable bag and bring it with you.
  3. Grabbing coffee to go?  Ask the barista to use your insulated coffee cup.  Stepping out for lunch?  Get your food to go in your reusable container or sandwich wrap.  Control your portion and plastic consumption.
  4. When meeting friends for a drink, take out your reusable straw and enjoy sipping on your beverage without the plastic.
  5. When grocery or clothing shopping, skip the bag and pack all items in your reusable bag.
  6. At the end of everyday wash whatever items necessary.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 over for the next month and start to notice the effects of living plastic free.

While these may seem like small steps to take in the war against plastic, every bottle, bag, or single-use container skipped is a win.  Looking for more information on living plastic free?  Read Beth Terry’s story on living plastic free for more ways you can transition lifestyles.  Also, make sure to have a look through our Pinterest Page for more ideas on kicking the plastic habit at home and beyond.

Be Environmentally Friendly: Plastic Free July

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

Summer is here and it’s time for travel, beach days, picnics and camping. But with all of these fun activities comes the inevitable piles of trash—and all of this single-use waste ends up polluting our environment.  The solution is to not only pick up trash, but to plan ahead and be environmentally friendly by packing with reusable containers, wraps, bags, bottles, straws and utensils.

One of our favorite environmental campaigns is Plastic Free July.  This challenge encourages everyone to refuse single-use plastic for the entire month.  The top four items to avoid during Plastic-Free July are plastic bags, water bottles, straws and to-go coffee cups.

Why Should We Avoid These Items?

  • Plastic never goes away
  • 50% of plastic is used just once, then thrown away
  • Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour
  • There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 tons floating in our oceans. That’s more than 700 pieces of plastic per person

Not using disposables takes a little work. The first step is to remember reusable items when leaving the house and to not fall back on the convenience of single-use.  Throughout the month of July, we will be providing tips and advice to go plastic free!  So take a moment to be environmentally friendly and sign the pledge for a day, a week, or the entire month.

The video Rise Above Plastics was made by the Surfrider Foundation to show the harm plastics have on not only the environment but marine life as well.

 

Refreshing Recipes For Your Glass Water Bottle

glass water bottle

Summer is the best time of year for vacations, relaxation and fun.  While enjoying the sun you have to be careful of the heat and keeping yourself properly hydrated.  We’ve come up with three of our favorite recipes for refreshing summer sips that are easily enjoyed in your reusable glass water bottle.

Piña Colada Smoothie (non-alcoholic)

Ingredients
2 cups spinach, fresh
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut flakes, unsweetened (optional)
3 cups pineapple, fresh

Directions
1. Blend spinach, coconut milk, water and coconut flakes, if using, until smooth.
2. Add the pineapple and blend again.
3. Pour in your insulated food jar or glass water bottle with an ice pack and enjoy on the go!
* Use at least one frozen fruit to make the green smoothie cold.

See more of our favorite recipes here.

Blackberry, Lemon and Mint Infused Water

Ingredients
1 container or bunch of fresh blackberries
1 bunch of mint
1 lemon sliced

Directions
1. Add all ingredients into a gallon glass jar with spigot (like this one)
2. Fill with water and ice
3. Let water sit for at least 30 minutes to really infuse the flavors in water.
4. Pour into a reusable glass water bottle and take it to go!

To make other flavors of infused water, add your favorite fruit, herbs or even veggies (like cucumber) to your water!

Cold-Brew Coffee

Ingredients
⅓ cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional)

Directions
1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1-1/2 cups cold water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours
2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In your reusable insulated cup or glass bottle filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Like to grab your coffee on the go?  Bring your mug with you and many coffee shops will give you a discount for bringing your own mug!

 

 

Top 10 Healthy Kitchen Tips

Your kitchen is the center of your home. Keeping it germ-free and using natural, safe products for you and your family is a top priority. With this in mind, we partnered with Healthy Child Healthy World to create this Do and Don’t infographic on our top 10 healthy kitchen tips that you can use as a guideline for your kitchen:

Healthy Kitchen DOs:

Cook with safe material

Rethink your dishware

Ventilate your kitchen

Clean with safer chemicals

Wash all produce, even organic

DON’Ts :

Clean with antibacterial and disinfecting products

Use paper napkins

Store and heat your food in plastic

Ignore your sponge

Cross-contaminate

Top-10-Tips-for-a-Healthy-Kitchen

Looking for more resources?  Take a look at our friends at Mighty Nest for their take on avoiding toxins in your kitchen.  Also, get more information on why you should skip the non-stick and other safe cookware for your family by clicking the links!

Clean Living: DIY Household Cleaners

clean living

Clean living starts at home with the products you use to keep the house tidy.  There are a host of products that you use every day around the house that can be more harmful than you realize. Whether the product contains ingredients that are damaging to your health or were packaged in unsustainable materials, these are items that you should ditch and replace with safe, natural alternatives.

Taking a DIY approach to these everyday items means you’ll be in control over what’s used throughout your home, as well as what goes on and into your body. You’ll know exactly what’s in these products so you can rest assured they’re safe. And once you do a bit of research, you’ll find that there are several natural ways to get the results you’re used to. Here are three of our favorite clean living at home recipes:

All Purpose Cleaner

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle
-2 to 4 tablespoons of Castile soap
-10 drops or so of tea tree oil
-water to top it off

Check out the inspiration here

Grease Cleaner

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle
– 2 Cups water
– 1/4 Cup castile soap
– 10 drops lavender oil

Check out the inspiration here

Bath, Sink & Tile Cleaner

Mix all ingredients into a squirt bottle or glass jar
– 2/3 Cup baking soda
– 1/2 Cup castile soap
– 2 Tablespoons vinegar
– 1/2 Cup water
– A few drops of Tea Tree oil

Check out the inspiration here

Once you get into the habit of making your own clean living household products you’ll find that you’re saving money while using higher quality products to clean your home.  Interested in other DIY cleaning products?  Check out our Pinterest Page for all of our recommendations for around the house and beyond!

Why Buy Organic Cotton?

organic cotton

“Organic” is a popular buzzword, and while we may think of organics primarily in relation to food, the impact of organic farming stretches far beyond edibles.  Cotton is a major crop and the impact of organic cotton on the environment, farm workers, and public health shouldn’t be underestimated.

Unfortunately, 91% of cotton on the market is produced conventionally, in part because many consumers don’t understand why choosing organic is so important.

While it’s true that farmers grow organic cotton without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, there is a lot more to organic cotton than how it’s grown. In fact, high standards impact every stage of the manufacture of goods from organic cotton.

Here’s how the organic cotton timeline works:

  • Non-GMO Seeds:  Organic cotton starts with non-GMO seeds. GMO seeds have been modified to handle heavy pesticides, which encourages their use. Pesticides can wreak havoc not only on the environment but on both farmworkers and people who live in family communities. The World Health Organization estimates that 20,000 people in the developing world die each year from pesticide poisoning.
  • Organic Farming Standards: Farming with non-GMO seeds and without conventional pesticides and fertilizers means that growers need to use techniques that protect and preserve the soil and the larger ecosystem. Organic farmers rotate crops, a time-honored strategy for preserving soil nutrients. The refusal to use toxic chemicals on the crops also protects farm workers and local communities from accidental poisoning as a result of pesticide handling or run-off into the water supply.
  • Ethical Milling: After harvest, the cotton arrives at a textile mill. Labor standards for the milling of organic fabrics are high: Workers are paid fairly, work reasonable hours, and there is no child labor.
  • Safe, Comfortable Sheets, and Clothing: After milling, this high-quality, organic cotton fabric is made into bedding and clothing. Unlike conventionally grown cotton, organic cotton doesn’t have chemical residues that can irritate your skin. You’ll also find that organic cotton’s manufacturing standards result in a more comfortable, longer-lasting fabric.

The decision to go organic has a huge impact on people around the world, including yourself! Make a promise to yourself to pay attention to where you’re getting your cotton products. Ask questions and look for the organic label on websites and individual items. Start by checking out this list of eco-friendly clothing companies.  You’ll rest easier (in your amazing organic sheets!) knowing that you’ve done the right thing.