Easter is often associated with chocolate bunnies, artificial colors and a big, high-fat meal. According to the National Confectioner’s Association, Easter is one of the biggest holidays for candy consumption, with 120 million pounds of candy being purchased every year. Let’s not forget the 16 billion jelly beans that are made for the occasion. Yikes!
There’s so much opportunity for healthful fun during this spring holiday. A festive Easter doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health; there many resources right at your fingertips, and we’ve collected a few of our favorites to share with you.
Photo by Fotolia.
Ditch Artificial Colors
Artificial colors are extremely harmful, with each one having its own nasty side effects. Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with vibrant, beautiful plants with extracts that can be derived to make safe, effective food coloring or dye. Turmeric, matcha, beets, berries, cocoa, spinach and carrots are just a few of the plants that can add a rainbow of colors to cakes, appetizers, Easter eggs and just about anything else your heart desires.
If you don’t feel like making or buying natural food coloring, top your desserts with fresh berries or use garnishes like parsley, carrot shavings or lemon to make your main dishes gorgeously bright.
Clean Up the Easter Baskets
Have you read the back of that chocolate bunny from the grocery store? More times than not, you will discover a list of unidentifiable or just straight bad-for-you ingredients. Choose companies that are dedicated to make delicious, healthy treats, like The Natural Candy Store, Rose City and Allison’s Gourmet which all carry vegan, organic and fair trade treats. Sjaak's Organic Chocolates offers a load of adorable Easter treats and gift baskets.
Maybe your kids don’t like chocolate. You can buy bunny lollipops and all-natural jelly beans from Surf Sweets or vegan fruit chews from their sister company, TruJoy.
I think it’s important to steer away from giving the kids too much candy, so add in some cute, festive items with a little more substance. Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies taste similar to Goldfish crackers, but they’re a safer, healthier choice. I recently came across Bitsy’s Brainfood, and they make a variety of foods aimed towards kids, like alphabet-shaped cookies that are infused with healthy ingredients. As an added bonus, there are games on the back of the packaging.
When making Easter baskets, I try to stay away from using only edible items, so I will toss in some beauty items or toys, too. This year, I’m making adult baskets in addition to the treats I am preparing for nieces and nephews, so I am going to add a few Mad Hippie Skin Care products. Mad Hippie is an all-natural line and the packaging is covered in flowers…pretty fitting for Easter.
Change Up the Meal
Over the past few years, our Easter menu has begun to gradually change…for the better. If you’re like us, you have a feast including ham, stuffed eggs, potato salad, some kind of Jello-thing, and too many cakes or pies.
This year: No ham. We’ll be focusing our meal around healthy, plant-based, bright-colored dishes like spinach salad with strawberries and goat cheese, roasted herb potatoes, grape-blueberry skewers and mushroom quiche. For dessert, I’ll be serving strawberry rhubarb Hail Merry Miracle Tarts, which are tiny, vegan, non-GMO, all-natural desserts. Each tart contains only 3 grams of sugar and is made with wholesome ingredients, such as coconut oil and almond flour.
Breathing fresh air does wonders for the mind and body, as does exercise. Have fun and engage with your family by planning events outside following your meal. We usually have an Easter Whiffle Ball game, and it’s great exercise for all ages.
Plan an egg hunt for the kids. And one for the adults, too! Adult hunts are hilarious and a lot of fun. Separate everyone into two teams, each having a specified egg color to search for. Each team hides the other team’s eggs. You decide what the winning team gets.
Let this Easter be the first step in striving for more healthful, earth-friendly holidays!
Karyn 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.
Photo courtesy LIFT.
WHY THEY’RE CRUCIAL: The causes of poverty are uniquely personal. Without a proper support system, those trying to improve the quality of their lives often end up slipping back into poverty. LIFT believes that eliminating poverty requires an individual, personalized approach. Since 1998, the organization has assisted people looking for a job, a safe home and a quality education for themselves and their families. LIFT members partner with an advocate who helps them develop personal, social and financial skills to find jobs and housing and grow their personal support network.
WHAT THEY DO:
✽ Run support centers and programs at locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.
✽ Partner members one-on-one with advocates who help them set and achieve personal, professional and financial goals.
✽ Create workshops and peer networks for members to emotionally support each other and learn practical skills.
✽ Work with members on job-search skills such as resume writing and interviewing, and helping members find the best jobs to fit their skill set.
HOW WE CAN HELP: Throughout the duration of this issue, we’re collecting donations to this important charity. To join our efforts, visit bit.ly/motherearthliving. Or mail donations directly to 1620 I Street NW, Suite 820, Washington, D.C., 20006. Include the fundraiser name, Mother Earth Living Gives Back, on the envelope or check, if you wish. It’s our goal to collect $2,500 for LIFT.
DID YOU KNOW
✽ 45 million Americans live below the poverty line.
✽ 50 percent of Americans will experience poverty in their lifetime.
✽ 66 percent of those who climb out of poverty will fall back in within five years.
✽ In 2014, Lift helped its 10,200 members earn $7 million in wages and income support.
February is the official month of Love and Romance. There’s not a better time all year for hot baths with your sweetie and chocolates in bed. Taking quality time to get luxurious with your beloved is important for many reasons, so set a date night, share a nice candlelit meal or bath, and hand-feed each other chocolates. We all deserve romance in our lives, Kings and Queens, I handpicked three yummy, romantic products from conscious companies to plump your pamper time. I love them and you will too!
Alter Eco Chocolate Truffles come in four scrumptious flavors—Sea Salt, Salted Caramel, Velvet and Black. I tried the first three and love them all. Alter Eco Truffles are true chocolate decadence for every day, not just Valentine’s Day, and they’re wrapped individually which makes it hard to over eat. Based on the premise that “food is fundamental to life,” Alter Eco’s mission is “global transformation through ethical relationships with small scale farmers and an integral sustainability orientation with every point in the supply chain.” Well said my friends, we support you! YUM!
Thesis Beauty Purists make the best scrubs, I mean better than Eminence…the “best.” I love their Café Crema Coffee Bliss Body Scrub made with organic sugar, coffee, shea butter and coconut oil. It enlivens the skin, wakes you up and delivers a serious mood boost every time! Thesis Bath Salts are delightful too, specifically their Lavender Fields & Woodlands salts, and make it easy to unwind in the tub after a long day and get ready for a sweet dreaming night. The scents I chose are unisex (not too floral) so everyone can enjoy!
Louder Than Words adventure wear, one of a kind hemp and organic cotton fashion, is cozy, comfy and totally lounge-able. I love the details in Jeanah’s pieces, like the little heart on the brief above. The briefs fit excellently and the hemp makes them feel substantial, like they’ll last forever. The only con I found to this set is the bandeau slides down, and I found myself frequently pulling it up. However, if you give Jeanah your measurements she promises to customize.
How are you celebrating the month of Romance this year, world family? Send your thoughts in an email, I love hearing from so many of you and am delighted you try the products I recommend!
Shar Veda, Southern Oregon’s Premier Alternative Therapist, offers deep healing through loving touch and compassionate counsel. She is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, yoga therapist and herbalist. Shar has been blessed to study with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism for 20 years. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio, and photos or find her on Facebook!
Photo by Fotolia
You don't have to live in a California mansion and drive an electric car to benefit from what solar energy has to offer. It’s the versatility of solar energy that makes it a great choice for homeowners across the country. From an average-size system of 5-6 kW that will offset (or nearly eliminate) your monthly utility bill to a small off-grid system of 2 kW for a cabin requiring back-up power, solar energy offers myriad benefits.
It takes two key ingredients to turn solar into a success story for homeowners: highly-rated solar contractors who know what they are doing and educated homeowners who know what they want. So how is this achieved? By making sure that you don't fall into the following common traps:
Not having the right expectations
If your main motivation is to help the environment, then solar can be a great option, but if you are also installing solar panels to save money, then you need to understand the economics of your decision. For example, if the electricity you are buying from your local utility is relatively inexpensive, then you may not recoup your solar investment. Other factors that affect the profitability of solar panels are the amount of sunshine you receive, the cost per watt of panels and the available financial incentives, such as the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC). To determine if solar energy makes financial sense for you, you need to compare the levelized cost of solar energy to the cost of electricity from your utility and see if you’ve reached grid parity. When solar electricity is cheaper than electricity from the utility, it makes financial sense to consider solar energy.
Jumping in before making sure that solar is right for you
While solar is great for many homeowners, it's not suitable for everyone. If you are considering a rooftop system and your home is surrounded by trees or in the shadow of a large building, solar panels will not work as they are intended to. If your roof is oddly configured, or very old, or facing north (in the northern hemisphere), rooftop solar may not be the right choice. In this case, you could consider a ground-mounted system if you have the land for it, or look into community solar, where you (and many others) benefit from a solar project built elsewhere.
Not finding more than one highly-rated installer
Photo by Fotolia
Getting a second (or third) opinion will arm you with more information and help you get the best price. When considering which installer(s) to request quotes from, a good place to start can be consumer reviews, such as Google and Yelp. In addition to the individual ratings and reviews, consider the total number of reviews the company received and whether the reviews were actually for a solar installation job (there are general contractors, roofers, even plumbers who are getting into the solar business, and some of them may have hundreds of positive reviews, but not for their solar business). You can also check out their Better Business Bureau rating. Sunmetrix Installer Reviews brings together both Google and Yelp reviews for solar installers into one place, making it easier for you to find the best installers. When you do receive your quotes, scrutinize the warranty information, especially workmanship warranty and the protection for your roof from any damages during the installation of your solar PV system. As much as possible, try to get quotes for similar systems, using the same type of equipment so that you can compare your quotes more easily.
Skipping your homework on price trends
Installation prices are going down, but stabilizing. The average cost per watt of installing solar panels in the United States is $3.09/watt, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. However, there is a great deal of variability in this price across the United States. Depending on where you live, the cost per watt may be higher or lower than this average. Knowing what the average cost per watt is where you live can help you evaluate the quotes you receive from installers. However, it’s important to recognize that the cost is also going to vary depending on the type of equipment used: micro-inverters (as opposed to a central-inverter) and high-efficiency panels will be more expensive. You don't necessarily need the fanciest solar equipment, but make sure that the brands that are mentioned in your quotes are quality brands. The lowest priced offer may still be the best one, but just make sure that you understand the trade-offs between different offers you'll receive.
Focusing only on the monthly payment
As most homeowners cannot make an outright purchase for their solar system (a purchase that is comparable to a car), they find themselves with a choice between a solar lease or a solar loan. The key difference here is ownership: in the case of a lease, your solar panels are owned by a third party, which means that you cannot benefit from the ITC or other state incentives, whereas with a solar loan, the panels belong to you, enabling you to take full advantage of the available financial incentives. It’s also important to note that in the case of a lease, issues can arise if you decide to sell your home, as not every prospective buyer will be interested in taking over your lease, so be sure to consider the fine-print, including whether you can eventually own your system. Today, both leases and loans often come with a zero-down option, making them attractive options at first glance, but be sure to look into the details: is there an initial set-up fee, what is the escalation rate (the amount by which the month payments will increase over time) and what will be your return on investment. If you are trying to figure out whether the lease or loan is better for you, the Sunmetrix Buy or Lease Calculator can help you calculate your return on investment, because it’s not just about what you pay each month, but about maximizing the benefits of your investment over the lifetime of your panels, which is 20-25 years on average.
It's not too difficult to avoid these mistakes...especially when you find a trusted advisor who can work with you to navigate these challenges and help you make the best investment for your particular circumstances.
Simone Garneau is the co-founder of Sunmetrix, a consumer education website for residential solar energy. In addition to 200+ articles, Sunmetrix offers homeowners two main tools: Discover, a solar energy preview for your home, and GO, a solar energy test drive so that you can try before you buy.
On one hand, all spiders are venomous. They need venom to subdue and digest their prey. On the other hand, most North American spiders are harmless to people. The two exceptions are the black widow and the brown recluse, but these two have many fairly harmless imitators. If you want to know the difference, read on to learn what to look for.
The Black Widow
This infamous spider is easy to tell apart from just about every other kind. Like all spiders, she has eight legs, but she also has a round abdomen, patent leather black save, and the tell-tale red hourglass on her abdomen. However, only the female black widow is dangerous. The much smaller male is harmless and more timid than the female. And he has every reason to be: During courtship he’s at risk of being eaten by the female. This is why the spider is known as a widow.
Besides the black widow, there’s the brown widow and the red widow. The brown widow can also be black, but is often brown or gray. She is less likely to bite than the black widow and injects less venom. The red widow has red splotches on the top of her abdomen, as well as the tell-tale hourglass. Another variety of widow is also black, but the hourglass on her abdomen is broken in two. Yet another, the Malmignatte, is black with red streaks on her abdomen, and is found in Mediterranean countries. Widows are found in the warmer places in the world, often around human habitation.
There are several species of spiders that people may mistake for widows. They include the Steatoda, Theridion and Enoplognatha spiders and Dipoena nigra. The females of these spiders all share the round abdomen of the black widow, but lack her red hourglass. They are also far less dangerous.
The Brown Recluse
The brown recluse is known for resting with its legs in a crab-like position. It also has a distinctive fiddle-shaped mark on the top of its thorax, which gives it the name the fiddle-back spider. Because of its coloration and the way it holds its legs, the brown recluse might be mistaken for spiders of the Thanatus and Philodromus genera. These are crab spiders that are mostly found in bark and around plants, though Philodromus spiders have been known to come into the house.
Poisonous Spider Bites
Poison from both of these spiders can cause various symptoms that vary with age. Younger kids are at much more risk than adults. Bite areas will usually swell, becoming irritated and red. A victim might show other signs like fever, shivering, nausea and vomiting. Call poison control or 911 right away if bitten.
Most spiders are docile and are helpful in getting rid of other household pests, but if you really can't bear them, get in touch with a local pest control company. Professionals can assist in determining if the spiders around your house really are dangerous and can help to keep them from coming inside.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter, @BrookeChaplan.
If you think your electricity bill is too high, you’re probably right - but it’s not just because energy is expensive. The average monthly bill for electricity is over $110, and almost $40 of that is from energy that your home is wasting. This is a problem - but for a homeowner who’s serious about sustainable living, it’s not insurmountable.
The Cost of Convenience
There’s no denying that the modern world is convenient. We can travel farther, communicate faster, and achieve more than at any other point in history. All of this is possible through our society’s mastery of electricity.
It’s electricity that powers the factories where cars are made. It’s electricity that powers the internet, lets us pay with credit and debit cards, and literally lights up our lives. According to the Energy Information Administration, the last few decades have seen explosive growth in the amount of energy consumed across the country. The truth of the matter is that there aren’t many new things that don’t involve a lot of energy being spent at some point in the process, and we’re quite literally paying the price for it.
Now, in a perfect world, we’d never waste the slightest bit of energy we produced. Unfortunately, reality is a little less than ideal, giving rise to the following considerations.
• First, perfect use of energy is an unobtainable goal. We literally do not have the capability to use 100% of our energy without any kind of waste. When we say that a product is “energy efficient”, what we really mean is “it’s one of the least-wasteful choices we have”.
• Second, the only practical way to have zero waste is to use zero energy. In other words, to truly eliminate waste, we’d have to give up almost everything our society has created. It doesn’t take an expert to realize this has exactly no chance of happening.
This doesn’t mean all is lost, though. While we can’t expect to be perfect, we can make a serious commitment to reducing energy waste when and where it’s practical to do so. There are many ways to save energy in your home, and when every household takes a few small steps to reduce waste, the total result is incredible. For now, though, let’s take a look at this infographic and see which parts of your home are using the most energy.
Uma Campbell is a green loving yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys writing about natural living, health, and home design. Follow her on Twitter at @Umajcampbell
, or visit her website: umajcampbell.wordpress.com
Valentine’s Day is near and millions of cards and other waste from the day will pile up in our landfills; artificial colors and flavors will fill our bodies; and people will spend lots of money on items that will likely be tossed aside. There are healthier, less expensive ways to show your love that will show love to the Earth, as well. If your significant other is health-conscious, vegan or if they just hate candy, we have a few ideas for you. If you plan on having a relaxing day all to yourself, these are for you too!
These delicious, French-inspired cookies are made from simple ingredients and natural colors. A Paris-trained pastry chef has carefully crafted each flavor and the company is working on an all vegan line that should be making its debut any time now. To me, these were simple, light and crispy, and much better than versions with artificial coloring, which usually have a bitter aftertaste. For $32.00, you get a beautifully wrapped box of 12.
Nicobella Organic Chocolate
I have fallen in love with Nicobella, whose products aren’t just crafted to taste great, they’re made to nourish the body. Nicobella chocolate is vegan, fair trade, dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free, what more could you ask for?! They also use sustainable packaging, made from rice paper and wild grass. Their truffles are made with pure dark chocolate, coconut oil, agave nectar and a variation of healthy ingredients. Blueberry Almond is my favorite flavor, but a 6-piece assortment box can be purchased for $12.95.
If you or your Valentine don’t like truffles, try Nicobella Munch, which is a combination of nuts and chocolate. Since I’m diabetic, this is perfect for me. It’s a stable, unique treat that can also serve as a healthy, antioxidant-rich snack too.
My mind diverts directly to sweets when I think of Valentine’s Day, but spreading the love by supporting artisans around the globe sounds like a great way to celebrate. Novica’s mission is to help eliminate sweat shops, child labor and unfair treatment. Find unique items from all over the world, and when you buy from Novica, know that you’re supporting an individual who makes quality products.
The Caramel Paths Shoulder Bag ($112.99) is made by Ricardo Hinojosa in Mexico, with high-quality leather (I apologize to vegans, but there are many vegan bags available from Novica). I’ve never purchased a bag that has felt this luxurious. Even the inner lining feels strong and smooth. The Choco Chic Shoulder Bag ($154.99) is made by Piedad Aguilar in Nicaragua with deep, spacious pockets and beautiful outer golden buckle detail. However, my favorite has to be The Road to Success Messenger’s bag ($139.49), made in Bali by Hariyono. It’s a compact, secure-fitting bag that I see myself taking on many trips. It has a lovely reminder quote, placed on the side, encouraging its owner to keep pushing for success.
Not only known for their bags, Novica carries eco-friendly jewelry made from items such as discarded water bottles. The Eco Friendly Hand Crafted West African Dangle Earrings ($19.99) are a beautiful example of how we can turn earth spoiling waste into sustainable beauty. If you buy a gift from Novica this Valentine’s Day, your treasure is sure to have a story.
My husband is a kid at heart, he loves Trolli Gummy Worms, but I can’t bring myself to buy them. I went on a search for something better and found Surf Sweets, a mostly organic candy line that is all natural. They offer adorable heart lollipops, Organic Fruity Hearts, Sour Berry Bears, Gummy Worms ($1.95-$4.95)…and they taste amazing. Surf also carries a vegan line, called TruJoy, whose Starburst-like fruit chews are awesome. Since Surf Sweets are made with juice, I don’t get that sick feeling after eating them. So top your cupcakes, eat them during a romantic movie, or use them as an edible center piece.
EarthEasy Onsight Travel Products
EarthEasy is a family owned company with “Solutions for Sustainable Living”. They offer a wide range of home, garden and gift items that would be great for Valentine’s Day. I zeroed in on the travel line because I can’t think of many things more romantic than surprising someone with a Valentine’s getaway. The Earth Easy Diamond bag ($91.95) is a great way to let them know to get packing for an exciting retreat. The bag is very durable and comfortable to carry. The best part is, each bag is made from recycled, nontoxic materials for minimal environmental impact. Sustainable living is about respecting the limits of the earth and its capacity to provide. —EarthEasy
Adopt a Pet
If you’re lonely this year or want to expand your family, adopt a furry family member. Animals are overflowing in most pet shelters and humane societies, and many will never have a forever home. Adopting an animal from your local shelter is a great way to experience love at first sight on Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is a day of love and an opportunity to spread love, not only to our significant other but to an animal, our bodies and Mother Earth. Whether you spend the holiday alone, with a family member or with your sweetheart, there’s always a great way to celebrate. I wish you a day of love, happiness and pure living!
Karyn 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.