Greening Your Backyard

Spring will soon be upon us again and not only is it a time of renewal for nature, it’s also the time of year that many of us take stock of our own little piece of nature—our backyards. What better time than now to start thinking about greening those outdoor spaces for the sake of the environment, nature and the safety of your family and pets?

By employing environmentally-friendly practices in your backyard, you will be helping to conserve water, reduce carbon, keep chemicals out of ground water and oceans and attract all sorts of garden wildlife while creating a natural haven for your family to enjoy—it’s a win-win for you and the earth!

Here are some ways to green your landscaping and tread a little more lightly on Mother Earth:

  • Don’t mow too low! Set your lawnmower to a mowing height of 3 inches. This helps your lawn create a deep root system and will thus require less watering and it crowds out weeds, too. Also, when it’s time to get a new mower, consider buying a manual mower. They’re efficient, will last much longer, never need gas and produce no emissions!
  • Leave your grass clippings on the lawn. They will decompose and return nutrients back into the soil, which reduces your need to fertilize grass.
  • Plant native landscaping. Because it is already suited for your weather and soil, it will not only require less attention and water but it will also attract native birds, wildlife and beneficial insects. Best of all, it will be naturally resistant to your area’s diseases & pests which means you won’t have to resort to pesticides and fungicides.
  • Plant a tree! Trees remove pollution from the air, provide shade, convert carbon to oxygen and provide a home for wildlife.
  • Stop using chemicals on your lawn and gardens. This is a big one! Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides are bad for nature, detrimental to our water supply, deadly to our oceans (The Gulf of Mexico has dead zones where there is NO aquatic life due to fertilizer runoff) and harmful to human and animal life, including your pets.
  • Instead, pull weeds the old-fashioned way, fertilize naturally with composts and check your local home store for more natural pest control options such as soaps, oils, baits and non-toxic sprays.
  • Start composting your leaves and food and paper waste and use it to naturally fertilize your gardens and greenery. Compost is the best source of nutrients for soil, supplies beneficial organisms, prevents erosion from heavy rains and slows down drying of the soil during droughts.
  • Install rain barrels (with bug screens!) under downspouts and use the collected rainwater to water your plants and shrubs.
  • Plant native flowers to attract butterflies to your backyard.
  • Plant a vegetable garden and let the kids help! Nothing will bring you closer to nature than growing your own food. Children will be fascinated by watching their bounty come out of the ground and rumor has it that they will be more inclined to eat said veggies because they helped grow them!
  • Choose eco-friendly materials for your backyard such as reclaimed bricks and fixtures and for decks, choose woods harvested under forest-stewardship programs or wood analogs made from recycled plastics.
  • Hang a birdfeeder from a tree, then sit back and watch the show!
  • For the outside of your home choose caulks, paints and other finishes with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC) to reduce toxic outgassing into the air.
  • Put a layer of mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and help them retain moisture. Minimize evaporation by watering plants and lawns in the early morning when temperatures are cooler.
  • Mulch around trees but leave space between tree trunks and mulch. Placing mulch right up against the trunk encourages bugs.

Enjoy your green backyard at night by listening to all the wildlife you’ve attracted and enjoy it in the morning by watching the birds and butterflies that are naturally attracted to the habitat you’ve provided for them!

Having a lovely, nature-filled, chemical-free backyard is just one of the many benefits of backyard environmentalism. In the long run, it will save you money, conserve natural resources and best of all, it will demonstrate to children the importance and necessity of nature and help them cultivate a love and respect for the earth.

Eco-Friendly PVC-Free Yoga Mats

Yoga mats are everywhere these days and they come in a million different variations but one type that we strongly recommend against are those made of PVC because of it’s eco and health-unfriendly properties. PVC outgasses phthalates. If you’re not familiar with phthalates, they are a class of chemicals that are used to soften plastics and are known to be endocrine disruptors.

Phthalates enter the bloodstream and disrupt sex hormone production in humans, interfering with fetal reproductive organ development in utero and affects sexual physiology in adults. Phthalates act by mimicking the female hormone estrogen, which in turn inhibits production of the male hormone testosterone. There is global concern that phthalate exposure is at least one of the contributors to a troubling worldwide drop in male fertility.

So, now that we’ve covered just a few of the many concerning reasons you should be avoiding phthalates, let’s look at some yoga mats that are free of this terrible class of chemicals…

Non-Toxic Kids Yoga Mat: Made of 100% natural tree rubber base and soft microsuede top, this children’s mat is biodegradable and recyclable and free of PVC, silicone, phthalates and chemical odors. To clean, hand wash with water and a mild detergent and hang to dry.

B YOGA Strong Yoga Mat: Made of non-slip 100% rubber, this eco-friendly fitness and yoga mat features natural, open-cell technology for moisture-wicking, anti-odor properties.

OH MY FITNESS™ Natural Thick Cork Yoga Mat with Eyelets: Naturally resistant to odors, dampness and mold, these mats are guaranteed to be free from PVC, latex and all other chemical products. Natural cork with non-slip rubber underside.

Ajna Organic Natural Jute Yoga Mat: Made from premium organic natural non-shedding fibers that repel odors and sweat stains with a durable non-slip texture of biodegradable PER (polymer environmental resin).

Organic Cotton Kids Face Masks

Features: 4 pack of face masks for children approximately 3-8 years old. They are made of soft jersey knit 100% organic cotton which is double layered for extra protection and feature adjustable ear loops for comfort and fit and cute animal faces! Additionally, organic cotton is up to 5x more durable than commercial cotton, ensuring it will maintain it’s shape. Machine wash and dry.

Green Factor:  Free from dyes and no toxic chemicals are used in the growing and processing of the organic cotton.

Bonus: Because these are sold through Amazon Prime, you’ll have your masks in only a couple days!

Find It Here: Organic Cotton Masks for Kids

Green Savings on Diapers, Seeds and More

The Honest Company – Subscribe to eco-friendlier diapers and wipes from The Honest Company and get 40% off + free shipping on your first order when you use code SPRING40 but hurry because this offer expires soon (approx April 3).

Need more than diapers? Get 20% off sitewide at The Honest Company with code SPRING20! (expires approx April 3)

– Subscribe to the Urban Organic Gardener Seed of the Month Club and get your first month FREE with code seedsnow

Get Healthy, Organic Groceries Delivered Free

Do you have an Amazon Prime account? Then you’re in luck! You can now get a wide assortment of groceries, household necessities (and anything from Whole Foods) delivered without the extra fee they used to charge. It’s now included in your Prime membership.

The program is called Amazon Fresh and I’ve had great luck getting disinfectants from Fresh when they’re not available anywhere else. (Yes, Lysol isn’t organic or natural but given the pandemic we find ourselves living with, I do use Lysol and Clorox wipes when absolutely necessary).

But the best part is I can get all the things I normally get from Whole Foods delivered for free! If I want it within two hours, there’s a small fee but I’m never in that much of a hurry so I just make my $35 order, tell them when I want it and they deliver it fast and fresh every time. Just don’t forget to tip the Amazon Fresh delivery people…essential workers make this service possible!

BONUS: Get $10 off your first Whole Foods Market order of $50. Just select your favorite items from Whole Foods Market and enter this promotional code:  SAVE10WF

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Is it just me or or does it seem like it’s ALWAYS flu season or just about to BE flu season? As if that weren’t enough to worry about, we now have the Coronavirus to contend with pretty much everywhere in the world. Keeping our hands clean is always good but now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we wash them for 20 seconds with soap OR use hand sanitizer to keep ourselves and our kiddos healthy.

Well…I went to my local drugstore and they were sold out of hand sanitizer. So I went to, literally, seven other stores and they were all sold out, too. Then I checked Amazon and only third party sellers had any left and the prices were through the roof. The laws of supply and demand were in full effect *sigh*  Naturally, I had to immediately complain about this to my bestie, and she said “Just make your own.” My first thought was “Nahhh…I don’t feel like doing all that”  but then I remembered that hand sanitizer is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND and decided I’d give it a try.

So I did it and it couldn’t be easier. This recipe is simply aloe vera gel and rubbing alcohol. Are you shocked? Yeah, me too!

Combine in a bowl:

2/3  cup of rubbing alcohol (91 or 99% isopropyl alcohol – available in most pharmacies or from Amazon)
1/3 cup of aloe vera gel
A few drops of lavender oil, peppermint oil or any other scent you like (this step is totally optional)

Stir thoroughly and pour into a clean pump bottle or, if you prefer, a purse-size container to carry with you.

Remember, in order for hand sanitizer to be effective, you must cover your hands with it and let it dry.

Oh, and while we’re talking about sanitizing, don’t forget to clean your phone periodically with some rubbing alcohol. Phones are really germy!