Getting into the Earth Day Spirit

With the beginning of April comes the dawning of spring (even if Michigan is still getting snow…#puremichigan). With spring comes a natural desire to get outside. After a long winter, the first flowers, budding trees, and singing robins are a welcome relief for most people, reinvigorating our love for nature. It’s no surprise, then, that situated right in the midst of burgeoning April is Earth Day.

Unlike most of our earthy or casual holidays, Earth Day has its own specific date. Since 1970, April 22nd has been known as Earth Day within the U.S., becoming official internationally in 1990. Though the very first Earth Day was a protest of rising industry, it has since become a more celebratory day of environmental awareness and activism to enjoy and protect this truly spectacular planet.

Today, the classically touted activity of Earth Day is planting new trees. Everybody has seen those cute pictures of smiling, gardening glove-wearing kids patting handfuls of dirt lovingly around a young sapling. While planting trees is all well and good, with April almost halfway gone, here are five other ideas to get you into the spirit of Earth Day!

 

  1. Plant Something Local

I know I said “five other ideas” than planting trees, but here I am at number one telling you to plant something. The reality, though, is this is the perfect time to get some good-for-the-earth gardening done! The key here is to be selective about what it is you’re planting. Don’t just pick some pretty flowers or a nice sapling and call it a day. Do some research. Figure out which plants are native to the area and plant those. Create a garden specifically meant to attract local bees and birds that enrich the local plant and wildlife. Make your Earth Day about plants for the local ecosystem and give yourself a garden that’s both beautiful and beneficial.

 

  1. Do a “No Car” Day

We all know fossil fuels and their emissions are a big contributing factor in climate change and pollution, so use Earth Day see how you can cut down your carbon footprint by using fuel-efficient alternatives. Since this Earth Day is a Sunday, most of us don’t have to commute to work, but if you need to, see if you can carpool or use public transit. If your work or errands are closer, plan on using a bike or walking. Look for daytime activities that don’t require the use of gas and instead get out and about under your own power; you might be surprise how much you don’t need a car.

 

  1. Explore Your Local Farmers Market

We’re now entering the season when many farmers markets will be starting up again. If you have one open and near you (which Marshall does!) this is a perfect time to start going. Buying fresh and local food is not only a boon to the local farming economy, it is often more sustainable as the food doesn’t have to be shipped as far, the practices are smaller, and the produce is in-season and not grown artificially out of season. If there isn’t a farmer’s market near you, try to shop local, seasonal produce at your grocery store or other local businesses.

 

  1. Start New Reusable and Sustainable Habits

Use this Earth Day to set yourself up for a sustainable year! Stock up on reusable bags and water bottles. Switch to washable snack baggies and bees-wax cling wrap. Ask for drinks without plastic straws and takeout without plastic utensils. Generally commit to reducing some of the plastic waste in your life and finding everyday alternatives that are more environmentally friendly going forward.

 

  1. Make the Day About the Earth

Go outside! Visit a local park or arboretum, learn about local plants and wildlife, and enjoy making the day about nature and our earth. Part of environmental activism is loving the earth we live on and appreciating the nature that surrounds us. Use Earth Day to remind yourself and your friends and family how truly great this planet is.

 

Ultimately Earth Day should be more than that one day a year we plant a tree. If done right, it should jumpstart our appreciation of nature and sustainable practices. Use the day as a springboard to doing more and a chance to kickstart new, better habits. These five ideas (and the hundreds more you can find with a quick search) are only worth the effort you put into them. So, get those reusable bags, plant some native flowers, and shop for local produce this Earth Day, but also work to do it the next day and the next week and the next month. Committing to even a couple small things is a great start to celebrating Earth Day on and beyond this April 22nd.

 

Happy Earth Day!

 

For more information on Earth Day and ways to be more sustainable, check out:

Earthday.org

Marshall Area Farmers Market or Michigan Farmers Market Association

“11 Facts About Earth Day” by dosomething.org

“Fighting Pollution Saying ‘No’ to Plastic Straws” by Herb  Weisbaum, NBC News, March 14, 2018

 

 

Is Natural Really Any Different than Organic?

Whenever I go to the grocery store I see a bunch of products advertised under the banners of “natural” and “organic.” There’s the organic produce section, marked with green shelving and a sense of sophistication. On the other side of the store is a new natural foods aisle, similarly labeled in green with packaging that suggests these are not just ordinary chips. These chips are far superior and healthier than their processed, standard cousins. And then there are the other products, edible and otherwise, sprinkled throughout the store that are sometimes “natural,” sometimes “organic,” and sometimes both.

I don’t know about you, but with all the similar packaging, colors, and branding as healthy and better-for-you, I find myself not really knowing the difference between natural and organic, if there even is a difference. I know organic has to do with pesticides, but what does natural mean? And if lack of pesticides isn’t natural, what is?

To help both myself and those of you equally unsure, I did some research so I could finally break down the difference.

 

Organic Means…

Like I mentioned earlier, at its base level organic products are those that have been produced without pesticides. The “organic” label is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP) which is run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and defined as “[a] term for food or other agricultural products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with the USDA organic regulations.” Essentially, for a product to be labeled as organic, it must comply with the NOP’s regulations and include over 70% organic materials or ingredients. A pre-packaged snack, for instance, can only be called “USDA certified organic” if over 70% of the ingredients are organic, otherwise individual ingredients can be called organic but not the whole product.

The goal of the NOP and organic products is to create easily identifiable products that are healthier and more environmentally friendly. The regulation of the organic label is also meant to lend legitimacy and support to farmers who follow organic practices. One of the side effects of organic farming, however, is generally more expensive produce, which leads into the debate between organic versus natural.

 

Natural Is…

The key thing to understand about the “natural” label is, with the except of poultry and other meats, it’s not actually regulated by the USDA, NOP, or anyone else. Meat labeled as natural cannot contain coloring, any preservatives, or major processing. However, when it comes to other products or produce, the definition of “natural” is really left up to the producer.

Most people and companies define natural as limited processing and avoidance of artificial additions (colors, preservatives, sweeteners, etc.). The problem is there is still so much wiggle room and space for interpretation within that definition. What does “minimal processing” actually mean? How many additives constitute “only a few?” Furthermore, because there isn’t official regulation on natural products, they are often cheaper than organic products since they can use cheaper growing and processing methods, diluting the power of organic products which is just becoming code for “expensive” to many people. For the average consumer, the distinction between organic and natural is blurry at best, with many thinking natural products actually sound greener and healthier than organic when the reality is they are not regulated and therefore not held to the same standard.

 

Natural is not the Enemy

All of that is not to say that natural products are a scam or not to be trusted; plenty of natural products are well-intentioned, healthy, and environmentally conscious. The real takeaway here is that the labels are not the same. Being an informed consumer of natural and organic products means doing your due-diligence with these labels and ingredients. When looking at products labeled as natural, look for signs of minimal processing such as shorter ingredient lists, items that are in a close to a natural state, and few additives known to add color or sweetness.

The benefit of the natural product boom is, while it may not be regulated the way many consumers believe, if you know what you’re looking for there is now a much broader range of conscious and creative products available to us. Use this to your advantage and you’ll be an intelligent consumer of all the great natural and organic products around you.

 

For more information on the NOP and natural versus organic labeling, check out:

The National Organic Program

“What is the difference between natural products & organic products?” by Kit Arbuckle, SFGate

“Organic vs. natural a source of confusion in food labeling” by Monica Eng, The Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2009

Fair Trade Certification and Why We Care

When you think “fair trade” it’s probably closely followed by “chocolate” or “coffee.” Maybe it comes to mind as the fancy coffee associated with hipsters and small, but costly coffee shops. It may also remind you of really dark chocolate or possibly clothing brands like Patagonia. Fair Trade may seem like just a buzzword to make a product sound better, but it’s actually a signifier of how you can buy products to support more sustainable practices for labor and the environment.

 

What does Fair Trade Certification mean?

Though you can go to the Fair Trade Certified website to get more in-depth descriptions of their mission and methods, essentially Fair Trade is an organization meant to protect and aid labor workers and communities in exploited industries. Products like coffee, chocolate, textiles, and garments, are subject to corporations that take advantage of the low wages in poor countries to exploit workers and drive down the cost of labor and products. This also, often, force small farmers and workers out of business and into working for an unsustainable living. These practices are bad all around, causing community and environmental degradation for the sake of lower prices and better profits.

The goal of Fair Trade is to create industry price floors that ensure workers are paid properly for their labor and products. A company or community that receives Fair Trade Certification must pay a licensing fee which is reinvested into social and economic programs for that community. They also have their operations, from supply chain to sales, overseen to ensure fair trade practices and sustainable working conditions.

Of course, Fair Trade isn’t a perfect program, but it’s a great starting point for learning how the products you buy affect other people and the environment. The end goal is to create a more fair, safe, and sustainable work environment and consumers who are more easily able to make informed, ethical buying decisions. Whether it’s through Fair Trade Certification or personal research, being aware of what you use your buying power for is important in holding brands accountable for treating workers and the environment right.

 

How can you buy Fair Trade Certified?

If buying Fair Trade goods interests you (and, really, what’s not to love?), then you’re in luck! Fair Trade Certified products are always obviously marked with their logo because the goal is to make it easy to support fair trade practices with your purchases. Plus, Fair Trade certification isn’t just for coffee and chocolate. You can find a range of food, clothing, makeup, and some home décor that are all Fair Trade Certified. Armed with the knowledge of the Fair Trade Certification, it’s time to get using that buy power for good!

 

For more information on Fair Trade Certification and products direct from the source, check out Fairtradecertified.org.

Girls Night Out Refreshment Recipes

Thank you everyone for visiting us during Girls Night Out event on October 12 2017. We had several folks ask for the recipes of what we served, and this is the easiest way to share with everyone. These recipes are all easily doubled or tripled, depending on the size of party you are hosting.

Spiced Cider Punch
Ingredients
-32 ounces apple cider
-24 ounces ginger ale
-1 cup spiced rum
-Apples
Directions
-Add ice to punch bowl
-Core and slice apples and add on top of ice
-Add in rum, apple cider and ginger ale and stir
Serve and enjoy! You can add more or less rum to taste, or omit it if children will be at the party. To get the same spice that the rum gives, you can add a small amount of apple pie spice.

Pumpkin Pie Fluff Dip
Ingredients
-3 tbsp pumpkin puree
-7 oz jar marshmallow fluff
-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-8 oz block cream cheese
-whole graham crackers
Directions
-Allow cream cheese to soften in bowl
-Add everything but graham crackers to bowl
-Mix at medium speed until well blended.
Serve with graham crackers to dip. This recipe is vegetarian, and can be gluten-free if you use GF graham crackers.

 

Hope to see you at the next Girls Night Out on December 14, and don’t forget Santa Claus will be here!

New Product Line-Cedar Ravine

These scarves and headbands are thoughtfully designed to evoke the spirit of some of America's most beautiful places, like the misty beaches of rocky coastlines, the unlimited expanse of the desert, and the rich fall hues of dense forests.

Cedar Ravine supports the preservation of wild spaces through partnerships with various environmental groups. With each sale they adopt one square foot of land for protection in the Northern Rockies, the Central Appalachians, and the Northern Sierras in conjunction with Nature Conservancy programs.

The beautiful scarves and headbands showcase original nature photography and low-impact fiber-reactive synthetic dyes that limit waste while creating exceptionally rich colors.

Made exclusively in the USA by small businesses that focus on high-quality specialty crafts.

Featured product photos by Stephanie Parshall Photography with our very own Alix Curnow modeling.

Supporting Local Companies has Consequences!

From the beginning we have believed that where our merchandize comes from matters. Buying from Michigan companies not only cuts down on shipping distances, but also has impact on our communities. Recently we were delighted to discover that one of our favorite companies is having an impact is one of the most devastated communities in the nation, Flint.

At the Green Scene we have been carrying Stormy Kromer for almost two years. Right from the beginning we have been in love with this company. Based on the way we are treated as retail partners we were not surprised to learn about the relationship that has developed between Stormy Kromer and  St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center.

We now know that every time we sell a Stormy Kromer cap or vest we are having an impact on the lives of some very grateful Flint, Michigan residents.

What’s Hiding in Your Home

Ok, ok I stole this title from Capital One, sorry, it just worked! While our home is not completely cleared of the items mentioned in the article attached, it doesn’t hurt to know about them so we can all work on removing them. I have been finding that white vinegar can replace many of them.

Here is a list of the chemicals environmentalists call the “dirty dozen“. It will surprise you.

Smartwool, how to care for?

At the Green Scene we frequently get questions about how to care for Smartwool socks. Lots of customers are worried about wool and how to wash it or if it can be machine washed at all. No worries! Just follow these simple suggestions and your socks will care for your feet for a long time.

How to Wash

  1. Machine wash cool or warm water.
  2. No Bleach.
  3. Turn socks inside out.
  4. Tumble dry low.
  5. Do not use fabric softener. (wool dryer balls is a much better idea)

One of the things you will find is that you can get by without washing them after every time you wear them. The merino wool used in Smartwool is naturally anti microbial which greatly reduces foot order.

 

Life Goes On

Over the past six weeks my team has said goodbye to 3 of our members. We planned to create a short video for each one but they are all gone now so I will just tell you about them.

Kate Samra joined us last fall as a Senior at Marshall High School. She was dual enrolled at Kellogg Community College while completing her high school credits and attending the Battle Creek Math and Science Center. As a student Kate was one of the founders of the Environmental Club and MHS Gay Straight Alliance, as well as a peer educator with Project Trust. She is now attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Garrett Sander also joined our team in the late fall and was also a Senior at MHS. Garrett was also involved in the Environmental Club and GSA as well as a Junior Leader with the Alaska Great Lakes Project in 2014. He recently returned from a backpacking and hiking trip to the Adirondack Mountains with the Land Sea Program of Kalamazoo College where Garrett will major in Philosophy.

Shannon Hicks joined us in early January. She recently graduated from Marshall High School where she played Varsity Soccer and Golf. While at the Green Scene Shannon was always very excited to learn about our earth friendly products and promote them to her friends and family. Shannon is playing soccer at Trine and will be studying engineering.

While we are sad to see our seniors leave we are very proud of their accomplishments and with them well in their college careers!

Partnering for Community Service

This morning started at Oerther’s with Kathleen and a group from the Ketchum Park Advisory Committee which included Mitch Robbins, Kate Samra and Garrett Sander where they were presented with some of the funds we raised from our Earth Day Sale. Kathleen and I sold self- watering planters made from recycled wine bottles for Earth Day. We had great fun making them with the help of a couple of friends and sold them for $10.00 each. $7.00 from each sale has been designated for the Ketchum Park revitalization project. Thank you to the people who purchased them and those who simply donated, this is such a worthwhile cause that everyone will enjoy for years to come. We are committed to partnering with our neighbors for service to our community and encouraging our neighbors to think green! Thank you OERTHER’S for being that partner.