April 19, 2012
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April 12, 2012
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Every action we take impacts the world around us. When we drive, fly, buy a can of soda, or even just take out the trash we are affecting the Earth. You may have heard the term “carbon footprint” to describe our environmental behavior. Carbon footprints are a way of measuring our individual and collective environmental harm caused everyday. Entire companies have been founded on this idea, such as those that offer carbon offset credits. You can even calculate your own or household’s carbon footprint online and see how you match up with the US and rest of the world.
Although we love how informative carbon footprints are, it can be a little overwhelming. The idea of a carbon footprint only looks at the negative ways in which we impact the planet rather than focusing on the positive. That’s exactly what Gregory Norris thought when he decided to found Handprinter.org. The site looks at what Norris calls handprints rather than footprints. Handprints include all the positive things we do everyday that make a difference.
Norris, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, thought of the idea after realizing his students were feeling pessimistic about their effect on the world, even stating that “the planet would be better off if they had not been born.” Norris felt his students and others looking at only their footprints were concentrating on detrimental actions. “…Something was missing-that we can also benefit the planet,” Norris explained, “I needed to name those benefits to make them as tangible as footprints.”
And that he did. He took his handprints and turned them into a website that not only lets you calculate your own handprint, but encourages others to follow suit. The website promotes spreading one’s positive impact via social media, which in turn increases your handprint the more you share. He hopes to take this idea one step further where organizations, schools, and maybe even cities will compete among each other for larger handprints.
Norris’ handprints are already having the positive effect he was hoping for, as they ended up on Time Magazine’s list of “10 Ideas that are Changing Your Life.” We love the encouraging message handprints bring, because focusing on the bad news often overwhelms and depresses us, but this idea gives us hope. It introduces a way to look at our actions in a bright light. Next time someone asks about carbon footprints, make sure to tell them about your handprints. Will you be using handprinter?
April 4, 2012
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Easter is celebrated throughout the world for religious reasons, however, many people in the secular world use the holiday to usher in Spring. The main non-religious symbols of this celebration are the rabbit and the egg. Both are meant to represent fertility, as the season of Spring generally does. They symbolize the new beginnings and new life that is about to come. We’ve always loved this idea as it dates back thousands and thousands of years, however being vegan, we weren’t such a fan of using actual eggs. And as environmentalists, we didn’t want to use chemical dyes or plastic eggs.
However, we have fond memories of Easter Egg hunts as children and remember the exhilaration of finding them hidden in your garden. So when we think of what traditions we will pass to our own children and how we want to represent fertility without hurting the Earth or animals, it gets complicated. We want to teach them to celebrate life and the season of Spring in a positive manner, yet still involve the childhood fun and amazement of a good old fashioned egg hunt.
What we decided upon was to keep the symbol of the egg, but vegan and naturalize it! In craft stores, they sell wooden eggs which can be painted or dyed. Even better if we could locate FSC certified sustainable wooden eggs, as the White House did this year. Choosing plastic eggs is another possibility, however, they are generally made from petroleum and can’t easily be decorated. But on the plus side, they can be re-used the following year and can hide fun little gifts.
Once we decided to go the route of the wooden egg, we also want to avoid the typical chemical dyes and petroleum based paints and opted for a natural take. There are a variety of natural paints on the market to use, we love Unearthed, all vegan and natural. We also found this uber helpful site which explained how to make dyes at home. Here is a run down of what to use for which color, click on the full article for exact instructions.
Gold: Handful of yellow onion skins
Yellow: 2 tablespoons turmeric or a handful of carrot tops
Green: Handful of coltsfoot
Blue: 2 cups chopped red cabbage (for best results, add cabbage to water while hard-boiling eggs)
Pink: 2 cups chopped beets
Purple: 1 cup frozen blueberries
Brown: 2 tablespoons coffee grounds or 4 black tea bags
After the wooden eggs are finished and naturally adorned, the next step was to teach the children how to respect the eggs as new life and not a food source. Traditionally, the eggs would now be hidden all over the yard or house, the children would find them, and proceed to eat them. Using a basket to collect them seemed to continue this idea. Building a nest within the basket or just by itself is a wonderful solution to this issue. The nest will symbolize the new life (eggs) how they would appear in nature, just waiting to hatch rather than be eaten by humans. For an even better effect, add toy or wooden birds. Now when the kids collect all their eggs, they will be returning them to Momma and Papa bird.
So there it is. It is possible to celebrate Spring, Easter, and new life, cruelty free and naturally. You can still use the idea of what eggs represent and have a fun, interactive way to teach children about the preciousness of life. Plus, now us vegans and environmentalists can still have our Easter egg or rather eggless hunt for generations! Happy Easter :)