Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

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


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


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


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:


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 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.

Charity Spotlight: 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.


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.

Your Guide to Purchasing Green Electronics

Photo courtesy socialmonsters.org

In order to fully embrace a green and sustainable lifestyle as a consumer, it's important to support green companies and manufacturers that maintain environmental well-being as a top priority. Electronics manufactures are especially likely to emit excess amounts of greenhouse gases, use hazardous materials to make their products and dismiss the global shift towards green operation, production and distribution. Keep reading to find your guide to assess a manufacturer's commitment to conservation and what companies you should be supporting to live a eco-friendly lifestyle.

What Makes a Manufacturer Green?

There are many factors that make an electronic manufacturer "green" and sustainable. According to Greenpeace, a company must focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan. This means removing hazardous substances from their products' manufacturing process, establishing recycling programs that responsibly collect and dispose of their products, and discontinuing the use of unsustainable materials in products or packaging. In 2012, Greenpeace took the next step and ranked companies based on these guidelines.

Which Gadget Manufacturers to Support?

So how do electronic companies rank? An Indian electronics company takes the number one slot, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 44% since 2008. HP is the runner-up, leading the way in sustainable operations and offering an excellent e-waste recycling program in which they receive 60% of recyclables back from their consumers. Coming in third is Nokia meeting energy criteria with 40% of their energy coming from renewable sources. Nokia also promotes sustainability with their comprehensive, voluntary take-back program, which provides 6,000 collection points in 100 different countries for recycling of old cell phones. If you want to buy a laptop from a green company, consider Acer, which ranked number 4 on Greenpeace's list. Acer aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 60% before 2020, even reaching out to first tier suppliers and asking them to adopt a more aggressive strategy for greenhouse gas reduction as well as provide proof of their plan's implementation. Coming in at number 5, Dell does an excellent job disclosing externally verified greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations as well as aiming to reduce absolute emissions of greenhouse gases by 40% before 2015. Apple takes the number 6 slot. So if you like Apple products, you can purchase an iPad or Apple Watch with a clean conscience knowing that they not only meet, but exceed the EPA's strict Energy Star guidelines for efficiency. Where Apple loses points is their lack of transparency regarding greenhouse gas emission reports and toxic chemical management.

How to Dispose of Your Gadgets

Unlike traditional waste, electronics should not be tossed into the waste bin. Instead, gadgets should always get recycled through a trusted and reliable source. Green electronics companies usually promote recycling of their products by having a drop-off location or offering free postage to send a product back to them. Another option is to reach out to your respective county for verified drop-off locations for e-waste where they will quickly and conveniently recycle your gadgets. For bigger electronics, look into free e-waste pick-up that comes directly to your home or office.

Destined to be an Armenian housewife perfecting her hummus recipe, Natalie Posdaljian instead chose a life of marine field biology and sriracha. Born and raised in southern California, her veins rush with salty seawater and sunshine no matter where she goes. When she's not saving jellyfish from extinction, Natalie is dancing in the shower, knitting on a plane or swinging in her hammock.

The Dangers of PFCs in Outdoor Gear

When you’re on the journey of greening your life, it seems simple enough to trade in Comet for baking soda and vinegar, or to choose essential oil blends instead of strong-smelling air fresheners and perfumes. But toxins can crop up in unexpected places, not just in household cleaning or personal care products. In order to help you shop smarter, we’ve been looking into popular brands—from infant care to outdoor gear—to see how safe they are for our families and environment.

girl on mountain in cool weather
Photo by Fotolia/frantic01010.

In January 2016, Greenpeace tested 40 outdoor gear brands, including The North Face, Mammut and Columbia, for hazardous chemicals in conjunction with their Detox Fashion campaign. Surprisingly, only four items were free from per- and polyflourinated chemicals (PFCs). Not only were these chemicals found in the jackets, pants and footwear from the tested brands, it was also present in tents, sleeping bags and other necessary gear. For the full report, visit Greenpeace.

The Problem with PFCs

Although I’ve probably heard of PFCs from news sources, I didn’t really know what they were. These compounds are used to make products stain-, grease- or water-resistant. Armed with that knowledge, it’s no wonder they’re found in many outdoor gear brands that are, if nothing else, usually water-resistant.

Unfortunately, PFCs don’t break down well in nature which means they quickly contaminate water and food sources. Recent testing from Greenpeace Germany found that these chemicals can also enter the environment through the air, which may be why traces have been found in mountain lakes and remote locations throughout Europe. Once ingested, PFCs take several years to leave the human body, as well, regardless of lifestyle factors.

PFCs have been the subject of research for decades. Employee health surveys from DuPont and 3M show that exposure leads to serious health concerns for adults, such as increased risk of cancers, hormone disruption, birth defects and more. Even more concerning is that high levels of PFOA (a long-chain PFC) in children has been linked to high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and suppressed immune function.

How to Avoid PFCs and Other Hazardous Chemicals

Since clothing manufacturers don’t often list their “ingredients” like food, cleaning and beauty products do, it can seem impossible to steer clear of dangerous toxins when choosing your next backpack or puffy jacket.

Do your research. The #DetoxCatwalk, from Greenpeace, is a great place to start learning more about the companies that are leading the way to toxic-free fashion. For information on outdoor brands only, visit Detox Outdoor.

Read labels, even though every fiber may not be listed, this can tell you where garments were made and which materials the item is primarily comprised of.

Choose organic materials. Organically-produced products, such as cotton and hemp, don’t use pesticides in their production, and some items may be made from renewable resources like bamboo. When shopping for outdoor clothing, wool is always a great option; it’s flame-resistant, very durable and warm.

Visit their website. If you’re shopping for a new tent, pair of hiking boots or climbing rope, hit up the company’s website to see if they have any information about their manufacturing process. Read their mission and values, and if you’re lucky they might even have information about their environmental goals and social responsibility available.