Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Socially Responsible Gifts for the Holidays


Photo by Fotolia

If you ask people what is important to them when it comes to being kind to the earth, you’ll hear an array of answers. Going vegan, conserving energy, reducing waste…they are all important.

The holidays can be a time for a lot of waste, with lavish gifts and meals. I’ve done some research to create a list of gifts and stocking stuffers that will make this Christmas merry, bright, and a little more socially responsible.


Mata Traders

Clothes

Farm Fresh Clothing is a family owned company that creates 100% organic cotton shirts while using eco-friendly, water based inks. The line is very simple, featuring top quality clothing that serves as great staple pieces for your closet. The fabric is smooth, soft, and washes very well, proof that sustainable is practically perfect in every way.

Natural Life is a bohemian style store that sells handcrafted accessories and clothing. Each piece is completely unique. Their dresses are soft and versatile with a generally loose fit, which is great for all body types.

Mata Traders is a design-driven fair trade clothing brand dedicated to help end global poverty. The company’s stylish, colorful clothes and jewelry are made by artisans in India and Nepal, providing a stable source of income for workers and their families.


Evolution Salt co.

Home

Salt Lamps make rooms cozy, and balance the positive ions released by electronics. Evolution Salt lamps have natural cut, stone-like shapes, or more unusual options, like spheres or raindrops. The salt is pulled from more than a mile deep in Himalayan salt mines, then chunks are secured to rosewood. An open hole remains in the bottom for a light to be inserted for warming and releasing the lamp’s benefits.

When you discover chemicals you are exposed to when snuggling up in typical brand name sheets, you’ll understand the importance of going organic. Coyuchi or Syona sheets wash well, are soft and come in a variety of winter colors. Plush Saranoni blankets are a nice touch if giving bedding as gift; the patterns are unique and can be personalized.

The Kanata Blanket Company has many variations of faux fur, cozy, warm blankets. Their vintage throw looks as if it is made with leather and fur, but is actually vegan!


YogaRat

Adventurist Gear

Kleen Kanteen pushes to rid our environment of the 500 billion plastic bottles we toss in landfills every year. Made with all sustainable materials, Kleen Kanteen containers come in all shapes and sizes, keeping contents hot for up to 30 hours, and cold for 100 hours. Even the coloring is natural.

YogaRat has a variety of fun packaged gifts for yoga lovers. Materials are eco-friendly while remaining affordable. The Rat Pad is a multiuse cushion for floor style workouts. Their yoga towel has “grip” feel and can assist in prevent slips during poses.

It’s ski season, and everyone needs to have proper layering gear before hitting the slopes, something I learned the hard way; a story for another time. You’ll need a base “thermal underwear” layer, an insulating coat, water resistant pants, a shell layer and great boots. EVO is an outdoor outfitter that gives back, investing in non-profit organizations, engaging with their communities and even offering paid volunteer time off for employees.


Cate and Levi

Kids

Itching get away from the mainstream toys aimed at kids? Where did the creativity go? Cate and Levi's “Be the Maker” hand puppet is a beginner’s level hand puppet kit that allows parent and child to create the toy together. Instructions are simple and materials are 100% recycled.

One gift I always received on Christmas as a child was a cozy blanket and a tin of popcorn. During my break from school, I’d cuddle my blanket, eat popcorn and watch movies. Popcornopolis has many fun flavors without artificial colors or sweeteners, which can be purchased in a cone or a festive tin.Tins can be upcycled as ornament storage.


Oliberte

Shoes

Oliberte  treats every employee with respect, protecting the rights of workers in Africa. They have provided substantial jobs to those in poverty, and profits from their product go back into creating more jobs. The quality of the product is as solid as their values; each shoe is made with Fair Trade and sustainable materials. The Toria women’s boot is a rustic lace-up that slides on easily and provides a protective, comfortable fit…especially in the winter. The Yabela pull-on boot reaches well above the ankle if  more coverage is needed.

LOWA Boots are handcrafted in Europe, and are “cleanly” manufactured, following tight regulations on minimizing waste and pollution. Employees are also paid fairly. The result is a strong, earth friendly hiking boot for men and women. Veering away from fashion boots, the sporty footwear is more functional, but still attractive.

For the hiker or adventurer on your list, IceBug boots are made to have extra traction. While aimed at hikers and adventurist, these could serve the elderly well during the winter.


Rainwater Botanicals

Bath and Body

New Leaf Konjac Sponges are effective in gently polishing and cleansing skin. New Leaf’s Bamboo Charcoal sponges exfoliate and infuse skin with minerals, while being extremely gentle. Soap isn’t necessary but can be used. The charcoal variation is particularly perfect for acne prone individuals.

Rainwater Botanicals products are locally sourced and organic. They started out making a popular healing salve, then things took off from there. Pumpkin chai is a festive scent, which you can find in creams and all-natural perfume.

Detoxing during the holidays is important due to stress, and maybe a few too many cookies. Zoe Natural Creations Dirty Dude salt bath pulls out impurities and reduces stress, with its main ingredients being a variation of salts, black lava, and soothing oils.


Equal Exchange

Stocking Stuffers

Many Hershey’s products have artificial flavors, so I found different options. Instead of buying mass-produced chocolate, try a quality fair trade brand, such as Equal Exchange, which also offers coffee, tea and other gifts.

Packaged in recyclable material, Glee Gum uses chicle, which is sustainably harvested, meaning trees aren’t chopped down. No artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners either.  I’m a fan of their good old fashioned bubble gum.

B True Beauty Eyelash Enhancer is the perfect mascara replacement. With our makeup forward society, it’s exciting to see a line that enhances natural beauty. All natural, organic ingredients come in a tube identical to mascara, and thicken lashes. One stocking-friendly tube lasts for 6 months.

Coastal Classic Creations offers natural lipsticks with simple ingredients, and has a low hazard rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. The less artificial coloring that ends up in those stockings, the better!

Lauren Brooke Cosmetics offers a full line of make-up products, each item being cruelty free and highly above EWG standards. Foundations and eye shadows apply smoothly, and lip colors are naturally vibrant.

I hope this gets your brain turning so you can finish your shopping and have more time to make snow angels, eat cookie dough and snuggle. Merry Christmas!


Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.


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Lifestyle Decisions That Make It a Little Easier to Live Green


Photo courtesy SocialMonsters

The current generation is the most eco-conscious generation yet, but attitudes and actions don’t always match. A study by the Shelton Group found that while millennials were the most likely of any group to have a green attitude toward energy conservation, this doesn’t necessarily translate into actions. Statistically, millennials are less likely than the average American to sacrifice personal convenience when it conflicts with environmental interests, and less likely to take simple eco-friendly actions such as recycling, bringing their own bags to shop, drinking water from reusable containers or unplugging items not in use.

Research by the Glass Packaging Institute similarly found that millennials are less likely than other age groups to take actions that save energy. Truly translating pro-environmental attitudes into action takes conscious planning of your lifestyle. Here are four ways you can adjust your lifestyle to make green living easier.

Where You Live

Where you live can make a difference in how easy it is for you to be environmentally friendly. For instance, cities that have better public transportation systems and bike routes make it easier to travel green than cities that don’t. WalletHub ranks the 100 greenest cities in America using 20 indicators, such as greenhouse gas emissions per capita and smart energy initiatives. Six of the top 10 cities are in California, with San Francisco ranking first, reflecting the strong environmental awareness of the Golden State.

But even if you don’t live in one of the top eco-friendly areas, you can still look for places to live in your own area that support a green lifestyle. For instance, if you’re looking to rent an apartment in New York, finding an apartment within walking distance of your workplace will cut down on your carbon footprint while helping you get some exercise.

Where You Work

Where you work also impacts the green quality of your lifestyle. Working for an employer who follows energy conservation practices or uses sustainable materials is a way you can contribute to the general welfare of the environment. In partnership with the Corporate Knights, Newsweek publishes an annual ranking of the top green companies in the United States, based on eight specific indicators, including energy productivity, greenhouse gas productivity, water productivity and waste productivity. In 2016, Hasbro came in at the top of the list, followed by Nike and Hershey.

How you get to work can also make an impact on both the environment and your health. You can choose greener transportation by walking or biking to work, taking public transportation or working from home.

What You Buy

Being more selective about what you buy is another way you can live a more green lifestyle. The Environmental Protection Agency points out that 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used to produce, process and transport food and other goods. Shop for products made of sustainable, recyclable materials, and built to last so that you’ll generate less waste and consume less energy. Look for environmentally friendly packaging labels, such as ENERGY STAR, Water Sense, and Design for the Environment. Select green companies to buy from, using lists such as the Corporate Knights’ annual lists of America’s greenest companies or their list of the world’s most sustainable companies, currently topped by BMW.

Who You Know

Choosing a green lifestyle can also affect your relationships. If you want to conserve energy, but your roommate wants to run the air conditioner all day, you may find yourself butting heads. While you shouldn’t necessarily limit your friends to people who see eye-to-eye with you on environmental issues, seeking out friends, roommates and romantic partners who share your values in this area may make it easier for you to live a green lifestyle.

Being in favor of green living is one thing, but it takes some effort and being proactive to make a difference. But if you're unsure of how to put your principles into action, any or all of the above are great starting points!


Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

4 Nature-Inspired Halloween Costume Ideas

What we know as Halloween dates back to the Celtic festival of Samhain. During these festivals, Celts would adorn themselves in costumes, typically consisting of natural elements, to celebrate the end of harvest and the coming winter. Although the traditions surrounding All Hallows Eve were longstanding in England and Europe, its history in colonial New England was limited for a time due to religious beliefs. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the concept of treat-or-treating came into play, and by the 1930s, Halloween had become the secular holiday it is today.

Instead of opting for an ultra-modern or store-bought costume, hark back to ancient times with one of these nature-inspired Halloween costume ideas. Most of them can be made by upcycling existing clothes, adding a few accessories and a bit of makeup.

owl costume makeup

Owl

To create a complete owl look, hot glue some felt feathers onto a black, brown or tan top, or add a cape to create your wingspan. If kiddos aren’t willing to sit for make-up application (or, like me, your make-up skills aren’t great), you can always add a simple, tie-on mask to create the owl’s face. Pretty Pleased offers a fairly easy tutorial for creating the look above, and it doesn’t require a ton of products! Via Pretty Pleased.

simple Mother Nature costume
Photo by Viktoria Haack.

Mother Nature

Embody Mother Nature herself with this simple, woodland-inspired costume. Wear a dress made from natural fibers—cotton, linen, hemp—in the color scheme of your choice. Just because its fall doesn’t mean you can’t adorn yourself as a spring or summer version. Pin butterflies in your hair, create a bird’s nest atop your head, or keep it simple with a natural crown or flower crown. Via David Graves.

butterfly wings

Butterfly

Pair black pants, shoes and a black top with butterfly wings to create this striking costume. Your wings can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Attach black pipe cleaners around a headband to create antennae, and you’re all set. Via Cherie Harris.

tree costume

Tree

There are many ways to build your tree costume, but to create the unique look we’ve chosen you’ll just need some temporary, spray-in hair color (optional), natural accessories (optional), a brown outfit, and face paint. Add greens to hair, if you wish, and pin in any accessories you’ve chosen—moss, butterflies, birds or flowers. Put on brown clothing, and begin painting bark on any exposed areas, such as arms, neck and face. Via Joni Lynne.

Whether you’re getting ready to take your tots out for their first Halloween or dressing yourself for a party, these nature-inspired costume ideas are sure to please any crowd. If you're short on cash and time, check out 4 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes for more fun ideas.

5 Companies Worth Supporting, Pledged to Zero Waste Status


Photo via SocialMonsters

The concept of zero waste has created quite a buzz in the business world. With society continuously growing more and more eco-conscious, businesses across all industries have begun to reconsider how their recycling and waste management practices can be adjusted to achieve highly coveted zero-waste status.

Zero-waste status, which can be certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, means that a company's product design and daily practices, from manufacturing to shipping, are strategically devised, with the goal of eliminating all waste and instead conserving and recycling resources. To officially earn this classification, a company doesn't have to literally produce zero waste, but rather divert a minimum of 90 percent of waste away from landfills.

Here are five companies that have achieved zero-waste status:

Subaru

This Japanese car manufacturing giant has created a landmark precedent in the automotive world. Subaru is the first automobile manufacturer to earn zero-landfill status. All waste from Subaru is diverted from landfills instead of being reused or recycled.

In 2002, Subaru announced its intentions to earn the zero-waste status, and within 18 months the company was able to completely overhaul its practices and procedures to achieve this status year after year. Most recently, Subaru announced a partnership with the U.S. National Park Service, in which the auto manufacturer will help national parks throughout the U.S. achieve zero-landfill status.

TireBuyer.com

TireBuyer.com sells an assortment of top-name brand tires like Goodyear, Michelin and Firestone. The company also has a firm commitment to sustainable practices, as any used tires tires and their packaging contents are properly recycled.

Tire disposal became a hot-button issue across the U.S. in the 1980s. But, since then, federal and state regulations have been passed to manage the issue of scrap tire disposal to ensure all material waste can be ground down and repurposed for new use.

Procter & Gamble

The consumer products giant is fully committed to doing its part to help Mother Earth. With 66 top-selling brands under its umbrella, like Gillette, Tampax, Pantene, Tide, Dawn, Bounty and Crest, more than 45 Procter & Gamble factories have a zero-landfill status. P&G has announced the entire company plans to be zero landfill by 2020.

Additionally, P&G plans to revamp its product packaging strategy by 2020, so that all its products will be made from recycled or renewable resources. The company also has plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its overall energy consumption during manufacturing, as well as create power plants with more renewable forms of energy.

Bigelow Tea

Bigelow Tea is one of the most sustainable brands in the tea industry. Through its SustainabiliTea program, the company diverts 94 percent of its waste away from landfills and instead recycles and reuses what it can. Bigelow Tea also works exclusively with sustainable farmers in Sri Lanka, India and China in an effort to support ethical tea gardens and ensure the quality of its product.

DuPont Building Innovations

DuPont Building Innovations manufactures an assortment of top-quality building materials, including Tyvek building wrap, Corian countertops and Zodiaq quartz countertops. In 2009, the company announced a plan to transform its waste handling procedures to become zero waste within three years. By 2012, DuPont Building Solutions was able to dramatically reduce its waste from 81 million pounds annually to zero.


Allison Wilkinson is a WAHM, an explorer, an amateur chef and a fitness buff. You can find her Instagramming photos of her (adorable) son or researching everything from the latest parenting theories to healthy hacks for desserts.
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Charity Spotlight: Kiva

Kiva
Image Courtesy Kiva

This issue’s charity: Kiva

Why they’re crucial: Giving a gift that provides opportunity for those in need is the perfect way to embody the holiday spirit. This year, consider a charitable gift for your friends and family that keeps giving back, year after year.

Kiva is a microlending organization that allows donors to lend money to borrowers from all over the world. Some are entrepreneurs. Others are farmers. Some simply need to make improvements to their home. Once their loan is funded, the borrower begins the process of paying that loan back each month, meaning that all loaned funds will eventually make it back into a lender’s account, allowing them to continue paying those funds forward by relending to another borrower of their choice.

The organization offers the option of a Kiva Card, a gift card in amounts ranging from $25 to $2,000, enabling recipients to choose who they lend funds to and to continue re-lending after the money is returned.

What they do: 

• Distribute loans to entrepreneurs and borrowers in more than 80 countries on five continents.
• Work with locally based microfinance organizations and NGOs in their countries of operation to identify, screen and provide funds to borrowers.
• Review loan profiles to ensure legitimacy and trustworthiness of borrowers. 
• Provide updates on loans given and information on lending history so lenders can learn about the impacts of their loans.

Did you know...

• In addition to supporting international entrepreneurs, Kiva provides direct loans to small businesses in the United States at kiva.org/us.
• Kiva’s 1.5 million lenders crowdfund an average of $2.5 million in loans each week.
• Since its start in 2005, Kiva has crowdfunded nearly $1 billion in loans to more than 2 million borrowers around the world, including loans for education, farming and clean energy.
• Kiva loans encourage women entrepreneurs; 75 percent of loans go to female borrowers.

How we can help: We encourage Mother Earth Living readers to help Kiva borrowers by lending money through the Kiva website, or by purchasing a Kiva Card as a gift for a friend or family member. Purchase a Kiva Card.

Eco-Tourism in Florida: Treasure Island

Treasure Island Florida got its name in just the way you would expect…depending on which story you believe. Some speculate a French pirate buried real treasure, which was lost forever during the 1848 Hurricane, Gale, which split the land into smaller islands. Others say a group of clever property owners buried, then “discovered”, fake treasure, to boost land value. Regardless, the island is appropriately named, featuring memorable beaches, sunsets, dining and lodging, all of which locals work hard to preserve.

EPIC Efforts

The Environmental Preservation Initiative for our Communities, or EPIC, encourages businesses to adapt sustainable practices like recycling, using energy efficient equipment and following guidelines to protect turtle hatchlings from nighttime lighting that may guide them away from the ocean.  The EPIC program is fairly new and is currently working on their “Ocean Friendly Bar and Restaurant” campaign. “This campaign will be voluntary to participants and intends to educate businesses on reduction of disposable plastic, liquid and environmentally abrasive waste along with inform businesses of energy efficient uses of electricity and turtle friendly lighting,” states the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce. “EPIC intends to instill a year round program focused on clean air, clean water, clean energy and the preservation of the Gulf Beaches and surrounding communities.”


Photo by Karyn Wofford

Gulf Eats

Personally, I get into the seafood state of mind while vacationing at the beach. With Treasure island’s new initiatives, many restaurants are becoming more appealing to eco-travelers.

Shrimpy’s Blues Bistro is one of those “blink and you miss it” locations that is situated alongside several businesses with identical styled signs. Luckily, a large pirate figurine sits right outside the door, welcoming you to try some of the best seafood around. The interior is small, but eclectic and filled with character, exactly what you’d expect from an authentic seafood joint.

Shrimpy’s uses organic, wild-caught seafood and other local ingredients from the gulf in their dishes. They also serve up solid breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Typically, I’m a health nut and skip the fried stuff, but the Ipswitch Clam Po’boy with horseradish mashed potatoes was calling my name. Lightly fried with little detectable grease, the enormous portion of clams was served on a soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside roll with mayo, pickles and lettuce. The Apalachicola Oyster Po’boy was just as large and paired perfectly with the Seafood Gumbo. If you’re adventurous with your food, try out the Surfer Quesadilla, loaded with scallops and cheeses.  Shrimpy’s will forever be a Treasure Island tradition for us.

Caddy’s On the Beach offers a completely different experience, and urges guests to enjoy the sunset at their open air seafood restaurant. Situated directly on the beach, you can sip on super-strong rum runners while the waves nip your feet in your complimentary lounge chair. With tables in the sand or inside, the choice is yours.


Photo by Karyn Wofford

I have to mention Caddy’s killer sauce, which was made with real stuff, not junk. Definitely dip everything in that heavenly concoction. The Pink Cadillac Seafood Chowder was the highlight of the meal for me, filled with lobster, clams and crab in a creamy base. The fried calamari came in at a close second with authentic, chunky tomato marinara dipping sauce. For the indecisive, the Shrimp Galore basket allows you to enjoy Caddy’s prized shrimp three ways; fried, grilled and blackened.

I was a huge fan of the relaxed environment at Caddy’s that aims to be accommodating for all ages. It was just a fun place to be.


Photo by Karyn Wofford

Where We Stayed

Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites is on the path to becoming part of the Florida Green Lodging Program, which recognizes hotels and resorts for maintaining certain standards of sustainability. The resort already features energy efficient appliances, recycling efforts and beach preservation initiatives.

Sunset Vistas is perfect for an extended stay, with large suites that could easily be split between two families. Full size kitchens with granite counter tops, spacious bedrooms with balconies, Jacuzzis, washer and dryer as well as full size dining and living areas are some of the spectacular features of the ocean front location.

In addition to a beautiful full size swimming pool, a smaller, gradual entry pool with tiny fountains is available for the little ones. Since we were traveling with our two and three year-old nieces, having an area like this brought a lot of peace of mind.

While we only ate breakfast at Sunset’s onsite café, the French toast was absolutely fantastic. My only suggestion would be that natural syrup variations be provided. Coffee, eggs, fruit, cereal and breads are available at reasonable prices.

A True Gem

If the pirate themed street décor or history doesn’t suck you in, maybe the bustling restaurant scene or clean, preserved beaches will. The area has enough tourist activity, while not being overcrowded or an obnoxious party town. Authentic beach shops, retro hotels, luxurious eco-resorts, sand castle contests, sustainable seafood…the treasures on this island are yours for the taking.


Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.


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6 Modern Autumnal Equinox Traditions

Celestial cycles are inevitable constants that humankind can always count on to track the progress of the year. Although the Vernal (spring) Equinox tends to get more attention than the Autumnal (fall) Equinox, both are equally important in tracking the cycles of the Earth.

Historically, the Autumnal Equinox was used as a way to give thanks for the summer months and all that came with them. It was also a time during which ancient peoples welcomed the coming darker months and prepared for, the larger fall festival, Samhain. During the equinox—September 22 this year—day and night are of equal length.

Most modern cultures say goodbye to summer with the beginning of school, or by celebrating Labor Day, but you can honor the equinox by adapting ancient traditions to suit your modern life. In fact, many of our fall festivities already draw inspiration from pagan traditions.

fall food in wooden basket
Photo by Fotolia/maglara.

Modern Traditions to Honor the Autumnal Equinox

Begin a gratitude practice. Gratitude has been shown to boost mood, improve sleep and even support immune health. Since the Autumnal Equinox is a time of thanks, consider beginning your own gratitude practice to honor the season and improve your overall health. Begin by making a short list of the things you’re thankful for on this day, and set an intention to make it a daily ritual.

Visit an apple orchard. Apples are one of many foods associated with the autumnal equinox and a symbol of wisdom. Whether you take your family apple picking or to the cider mill, this tradition is fun for all ages.

Plant something. Plant seeds for trees, shrubs or bulb plants, such as tulips or irises, to enjoy their beauty in spring. With the darkness of winter, seeds and bulbs will have plenty of time to germinate and take root.

Admire and preserve nature. As the weather begins to cool, enjoy time outdoors to admire the beauty of nature. Collect acorns, leaves and other natural elements to create home décor. If you’re not able, or don’t wish, to remove items, bring a trash bag and help keep local, natural havens free from litter.

Try fall cleaning—as opposed to spring cleaning. Indoor air can be far more polluted than outdoor air, which can lead to numerous health issues. Since we spend much more time indoors during fall and winter, make sure your home is ready for all your indoor activities. Choose non-toxic cleaning products to further reduce the number of pollutants.

Host a block party. Agricultural and rural societies understood the importance of building relationships with their neighboring communities and within their own community. In most modern cities, we’re lucky to even know our neighbors’ names. This year, start your own neighborhood tradition with a block party and get to know your immediate community. (You don’t have to announce that it’s an equinox celebration.) It’s also a perfect opportunity to serve up seasonal dishes featuring squash, apples and nuts, and sharing your favorite local wine.

Although the Autumnal Equinox is primarily associated with pagan mythology and modern pagan practices, you don’t have to be pagan to honor this tradition. You may have been celebrating all along, without even realizing it.