Happy, Healthy Halloween! Treats for Kids

This is the first Halloween in four years that we’ve lived in a neighborhood with kids who may ring our doorbell Halloween evening and ask for a treat. I’m excited to see if we’ll have a dozen kids or 30 dozen, but do I really want to give my neighbor’s children candy full of artificial colors, preservatives and ingredients? No. I don’t want to spend a fortune buying each of them a full-size bar of organic Fair-Trade chocolate either. So what do I give them that both I approve and kids will enjoy?

I’ve racked my mind the last few days and have developed a list of ideas for kid, body, and planet friendly Halloween treats. Not all of them are healthy, not all of them are unique, but they’re all a little better than the conventional.

Kid Friendly Healthy, or At Least Better, Halloween Treats

Local or Organic Apples. I remember a few neighbors gave unique treats to us kids. One in particular gave us an apple. Share a healthy treat by passing out local or organic apples, the fruit of the season!

organic raisinsOrganic boxed raisins. Newman’s Own Raisins are a sealed treat that tastes as sweet as candy! So many kids love raisins, small finger foods they can shake from a kid-sized box. $31.38 for 72, Amazon.com.

Surf Sweets Organic Jelly BeansNatural, Organic, or Fair-Trade Single-Serving Candy from NaturalCandyStore.com. Some candy makers do produce serving-sized natural and organic candy great for Halloween. NaturalCandyStore.com carries single-serving packages of candies such as Surf Sweets Natural Gummy Bears, Sour Worms, and Organic Jelly Beans and Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates organic and Fair-Trade white chocolate scary skulls, along with a slew of other candies and candy mixes—most available in bulk!

Endangered Species organic chocolate bug bitesOrganic Chocolate Bites. Endangered Species brand has a four-bite-sized individually wrapped chocolate bar. Made from organic-certified, shade-grown, ethically traded, certified Kosher, gluten-free chocolate, the company also donates 10% of profits to wildlife conservation. Hint: kids more often prefer milk chocolate! $29.41 for 64 on Amazon.com.

Brothers All Natural Fruit CrispsDried Fruit Crisps. Tightly sealed, individually wrapped, and healthy Brothers All Natural 1/2-cup servings of dried Fuji apple fruit crisps are the perfect commercial snack for trick-or-treaters. Also available in Asian Pear, Banana, Peach, Pineapple, Strawberry, and Strawberry Banana. $27.50 for 24 at HealthySnackFoodStore.com.

Annies Cheddar Bunnies Snack PacksAll Natural Chips and Crackers. Annie’s Homegrown makes a wide selection of better-for-you single-serving snacks. My favorite? Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies Crackers Snack Packs made with organic wheat flour. $4.59 for a box of 6 bags at Annie’s Store at Alice.com.

Other Consideration:

Should you pass out homemade Halloween treats? Whether or not it’s warranted, you wouldn’t trust a stranger to feed your kids razor or pin-free treats, and strangers who don’t know you shouldn’t be expected to either. If you make your own treats you have full control of the quality of ingredients. However, many parents trash treats that aren’t commercially wrapped or with which appear tampered. If you make your own treats expect a number to be thrown away (of course, a lot of commercial candy is thrown away too). One solution is to avoid trashing treats by buying treats for the neighborhood kids and saving homemade treats for the nieces and nephews.


Do you think it’s more important Halloween treats be healthy or organic, if not both?

Do you think it’s okay to pass out homemade treats?

What will you hand out for Halloween this year?


Home Sweet New Home: Can You Move GREEN?

It’s been a while since I last wrote. Why? My husband and I bought a house, decorated the entire thing, and moved! What a stressful and exciting month and a half for us.

Which has made me think. What should and can we do to limit our negative environmental impact during our move? It isn’t just the environment I want to protect; I want to protect our family’s health. I don’t want to inhale unnecessary chemicals or accidentally allow toxins to absorb into our skin. But how much money can I spend to take these precautions, and what precautions do I need, anyway?

We had some tough decisions.

For example, I wanted to paint our home with an environmentally safe, no VOC paint such as Mythic Paint (recommended by Practically Green), and we needed quite a bit to paint all but 3 walls in our new home. We could get conventional paint for free from my husband’s work, though. Which do we choose? In this particular case we chose to use a low-VOC conventional paint and leave the house open for several days before we moved in (we had two weeks before we needed to move out of our apartment). We did not have access to good respirators while painting but we did make sure to buy reusable latex paint and odor respirator masks, paint with all the windows open, and break frequently to fresh air. We made sure to wear these masks when doing other mudding and sanding work, too. Not perfect, of course, but better than doing nothing.

Next, how to get rid of the weeds and grasses that reclaimed about 40 percent of our stone driveway? My mother-in-law wanted to use a conventional weed killer, of course, but that was out of the question; I wasn’t about to spray poison on the driveway, walk on it, and then bring it into our home on my shoes. I knew I could use a safer and all-natural week spray but, let’s face it, it’s still a poison meant to kill. We decided instead to use a rake to pull out the nuisance plants by the roots. It’s tough work and time consuming but it doesn’t require a single chemical. As the plants whose roots remain in the ground grow back I’ll use boiling water to spot-kill weeds and grass. Boiling water kills the plant at its roots, Healthy Child Healthy World says, though it doesn’t discriminate from wanted and unwanted plants. In this case, that’s irrelevant, as the nuisance plants are surrounded by rock. Boiling water also kills weed seeds.

We planted four fruit trees, two apple species and two peach species, so we can have nearly organic fresh fruit in the future. We’ll be able to control the substances used on our trees and can control the methods used to deter pests. After our trees were in the ground we applied a layer of worm castings around the base. of each tree. Using compost also helps build the soil for a healthier lawn and garden, including supporting the good organisms that allow your space to flourish. Compost is almost always safer for your family, of course, but it’s also better for your plants. Chemical fertilizer is fast releasing and much of it seeps past the roots and into underground water supplies, never being absorbed by the plants you want to nurture. Compost is slow-releasing; nutrients enter the soil gradually, meaning you don’t get the immediate turbo charge like chemical fertilizers but you will see prettier plants over a bit more time.

Your plants will be healthier, too. Chemical fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three main nutrients needed by plants. However, plants need other nutrients, too, found in compost but not in most fertilizers including natural fertilizers. Compost delivers these other essential nutrients. Think of it like this: we used to think that all humans needed for a healthy diet was the right proportion of macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins. Then we realized that vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients, play an important and essential role in keeping us healthy and feeling good. In the same way, plants need more than just the right proportion of N-P-K. They need nutrients found only in decomposing matter.


Did you move or make improvements to your home? What steps did you take to keep your family safe?


Healthy Child Healthy World: Kill Weeds Without Herbicides

Healthy Child Healthy World: Natural Garden Care

What the DEET? Part III: Additional Info and Proper Disposal

Additional Recommendations: Regarding DEET Use On Children and Proper DEET Disposal

DEET Use On Children

I came across some new information on DEET and children today.

According to a 2003 newsletter by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada, DEET should absolutely not be applied to children under 6 months of age, ever. This was not a new recommendation, even in 2003. Furthermore, in children ages 6 months to two years in situations where the risk of complications from insect bites is high (and only in this case) parents may apply a single application of the lowest concentration of DEET (10 percent or lower). In these cases, DEET should never be applied to the hands or face.

With children ages 2-12, Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society go on the advise, apply a concentration of 10 percent of less, avoid the face and hands, and avoid prolonged exposure.

Additionally, thanks to research of daily DEET use on adults over a long period of time, Health Canada no longer accepts for registration solutions of over 30 percent DEET.

This is very different information and stricter advice than what the CDC and EPA tell Americans, and confirms my conclusion that DEET should not be used on children. In fact, since unborn and born children are more susceptible to chemical harm, and adult skin absorbs 60-80 percent of that which it comes in contact through air and applied substances, many sources recommend not using DEET at all since it’s a known safety hazard and safer alternatives including two CDC-approved and all-natural options. Even Health Canada notes nonchemical methods to repell mosquitoes exist.

See my article about DEET use on adults and children for more information.

Additionally, Health Canada endorses additional natural repellents that the CDC including soybean oil and citronella with lavender.

DEET Disposal: What do I do with all these Skintastic bottles?

If you choose to stop using DEET you first have to make an important decision: Do I give my DEET-containing repellents to my friends?

In one case they would appreciate free insect repellent. On the other, if I’m not willing to use DEET why would I wish its effects on my friends?

Giving DEET Bottles Away

I seriously considered disposing of my bottles of DEET, but I decided to give them away. No, I do not want my family and friends using DEET, and even though I know they’ll buy it anyway I don’t want to give harmful chemicals to them, either.

I recently had to make this same decision with paraben and other problematic substance-containing lipstick and hair products I decided to replace. What I did: I directly told the recipients that I had free, partially used products that contained parabens, substances that mimic hormones and are likely endocrine disruptors. If the recipient is okay with this they can have the product for free.

Disposing of DEET-Containing Products

Did you know non-aerosol DEET repellents can go straight into your regular household garbage? They can, according to Health Canada. If you want to recycle the bottle empty the liquid in an absorbent disposable material such as kitty litter and place in your regular trash. Never reuse a bottle which contained DEET. 

Aerosol cans, on the other hand, should never be put in regular garbage as pressurized cans can explode if a fire breaks out, according to Earth911.com, harming workers and firefighters. Take empty cans to a steel recycling facility or, if accepted, put in your curbside bin.

For filled or partially filled aerosol spray cans, first contact your local recycling facility to determine if they have a way to safely drain cans. If they do not, contact your nearest hazardous waste facility. Do not drain cans into the air as the fine mist produced by aerosol cans easily spread can propellants and other hazardous chemicals into your environment.

Discussion Questions:

As one deletes harmful and potentially harmful chemicals from the home, is it right to give these products to friends?

Related Articles:

What the DEET? Safely Repelling Mosquitoes (Part I)

What the DEET? Natural Alternatives That Work : Safely Repelling Mosquitoes (Part II)

Does the Eco Tallit Exist? It Does Now.

An eco tallit made from a fair trade silk scarf and some linen fabric

Learn how to make an eco tallit from a scarf on my Squido0 page

A few months ago I decided I wanted a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. Easy enough. Lots of specialty stores sell tallits online, as do auction sites and Amazon.com. At the same time, though, I decided I wanted a pretty, feminine tallit in line with my other values: sustainable, chemical free, and safe for the farmers and artisans.

Finding a tallit that met my requirements was not so easy. In fact, I only found a few links that addressed the idea of an environmentally friendly tallit at all.

I did find, however, directions for sewing a tallit in which I could choose the fabric. I initially contacted a seamstress friend of mine, but I couldn’t find affordable fabric that made me happy. That’s when I birthed my idea for a semi-homemade eco tallit.

It would be a tallit from a scarf. Not just any scarf, an organic or spray-free or naturally died or fair trade scarf, wide like a shawl with fringe on the ends.

After all, the type of fabric and the chemicals used to weave it can make a fabric environmentally friendly or not. Conventionally grown cotton, for example, is the most chemical-laced fabric in the world, according to Organic Fabric Online. Fabrics, such as nylon, made from plastic require petroleum for production and may leach chemicals—not the best choice unless you find a scarf made from recycled bags or soda bottles.

Some raw natural materials grow faster than others, too. Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics. Many consider bamboo renewable and sustainable, but I’ve heard conflicting information about the sustainability and chemicals used to make bamboo fabric, and I’ve chosen to delay purchasing bamboo fabric until I find a more definitive answer. Artisans’ working conditions also deserve consideration. Fair Trade Certified scarves and shawls ensure artisans receive premium wages and good working conditions.

The perfect scarf is organic or spray-free, sustainable, and fair trade. Of course, the perfect tallit is also an expression of your personality. I found a beautiful silk fair-trade scarf and linen fabric for the atarah and corners.

The tallit turned out beautifully and only took a few hours to make (note: I know basic sewing skills but am not a sewer). Really, it’s beautiful, and almost anyone could do it, especially because I created a page on Squidoo complete with videos and lots of photographs to show you how:

How To Make an Eco Tallit From a Scarf

And while you’re there, leave me a message stating you stopped by. I love little notes. 🙂


Organic Fun at Pesto Festo

Ferguson Farmers Market. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

Ferguson Farmers Market. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

Saturday, my husband and I attended the 2011 Pesto Festo at the The Ferguson Farmers Market.

Pesto Festo by EarthDance FARMS

Voted the best farmers market in Missouri, the Ferguson Farmers Market (Ferguson, Mo.) is a weekly summer market featuring local farm stands with conventional and organic fruits and vegetables; specialty vendors and artisans selling breads, doughnuts, wild mushrooms, and soaps; and demos from green groups and businesses such as Robinson’s Rain Barrels and GreenStrum.

Shoppers blended their own smoothies by hopping on a bike that powered a blender.

Shoppers blended their own smoothies by hopping on a bike that powered a blender. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

This particular day, EarthDance FARMS, an organic farm and cultural organization situated on the historic Mueller Farm in Ferguson, celebrates with the community and the other market vendors by hosting its annual Pesto Festo. Initially, Pesto Festo acted as an annual fundraiser for EarthDance FARMS. Today it’s an annual market celebration of sustainable food, arts, relationships, and music. For four hours market goers and volunteers shop produce and baked goods and collect free black-eyed Susans. To the front of the market, children and teens gawk at the farm truck, a truck bed filled with layers of gravel, dirt, and delicious looking plants, as volunteers give away packs of flower and vegetable seeds. A woman sits at the corner of a tent painting flowers and leaves on a rain barrel with an assortment of brilliant paints. A man rides a bike, its wheels powering a blender filled with fresh fruits and bright green chard.

My husband and I came this day not only to buy freshly picked produce and sample the local fare but also to compete in the day’s Pesto Cooking Contest.

As part of Pesto Festo, the Pesto Cooking Contest invites competitors to create a delicious and original pesto sauce to serve with crackers, crudites, or other treats. Traditional pestos have just a few ingredients: fresh-picked basil, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and often garlic, blended smooth. Today, though, the pestos that lined the judging table were entirely different. A chunkier sauce with a deep reddish color tasted of sun-dried tomatoes. One entrant, or perhaps an EarthDance volunteer, brought a pesto noodle salad, bright flecks of basil standing out on the light noodles. Another, the color of mahogany, tasted of chocolate and mint. My favorite sauce, besides my own, tasted of basil, nuts, and chiles. Ours, a Hawaiian influenced pesto, joined the traditional basil and oil with nontraditional Macadamia nuts, candied pineapple, and homemade crystallized ginger.

As we waited for the judges to announce the winners, Molly Rockamann, founder of EarthDance FARMS, and a dozen other children and adults collected in the space in front of a band. Some picked up hula-hoops, a familiar sight at the market. Others picked up their feet and danced swing moves to familiar songs.

Then a staff member from EarthDance FARMS picked up a mic.

We’re very pleased to announce, she said, the winners for the Pesto Cooking Contest. Third place, the dessert pesto of chocolate and mint. Second place: ours! Our Hawaiian Pesto! A creamy Southwestern pesto took first.

I went home smiling, bags of goods in one hand, our winnings of Ferguson Farmers Market bucks in the other, and lots of new knowledge of local green projects. Can’t wait until next year.

Related Resources:

Ferguson Farmers Market

Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

EarthDance FARMS

EarthDance FARMS on Facebook

Drummers Keep a Greener Beat

St. Louis Taiko Center Open House

St. Louis Taiko Center Open House - June 18, 2011 | Copyright Shandi S. Greve Penrod | note: children's faces have been lovingly blurred; they are not disfigured children.

Yesterday I attended the open house for St. Louis Osuwa Taiko‘s new studio, St. Louis Taiko Center, which the group acquired a few months ago and fitted as a practice studio and taiko center. While the group is not yet completely committed to going green it was cool to see the steps they were taking.

One of the members, the group leader, in fact, rides his bike to practices (what a leader!). A recycling bin sits in the greeting room. Second-hand chairs line the greeting-room walls. The studio, though, made me particularly happy.

I gave a big smile as I entered the large, open space and saw the walls. They used new materials designing their studio, sure, but made a big green choice, too. The studio was originally a stock room. A big garage door, through which semi-tractor trailers could unload, makes half the back wall. The original walls and floors are cement. The group, of course, needed to add sound-absorbing material so the deafening echoes wouldn’t damage members’ eardrums.  Along with new egg crate foam they chose second-hand paper egg crates to absorb sound and decorate the walls of the studio. They also have second-hand cubicle walls they plan to use at a future date in the studio for additional soundproofing.

This group is a great example of how one can make environmentally aware choices without breaking the bank. Even small choices make an impact, as I’m sure they noticed in their smaller construction expenses. I don’t want to forget to applaud those of use who are in the beginning stages of learning to make environmentally aware decisions.

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko comprises part of a growing number of people environmental entrepreneur Josh Dorfman would fondly call lazy environmentalists, and I thank St. Louis Osuwa Taiko and all others who make similar small efforts to keep chemicals and other materials out of our shared environment. Less new polyurethane foam, for example, means fewer toxic chemicals off gassing into the air and dispersing into neighbors’ homes.

The smallest choices matter—more than one may think.

Eco Tweet Tuesday – Top Whole Living Tweets from the Last Week

You can learn a lot of great information and find great resources transmitted in 140 characters or less. Here are a few of my favorite Whole Living Tweets from the last week.

Do you tweet about environmental, natural health, or other whole living topics? Leave your Twitter address in the comments below and I may add you to my Twitter list.

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