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Spoooooky Disposable Tableware!

Greening celebrations & Halloween is a hot topic this year. One aspect of party planning that many hosts struggle to green is when using disposable tableware, specifically at children’s parties and Halloween. But we’ve made advances in biodegradable and compostable disposable tableware options and it’s never been easier to keep the fun and excitement and  the environmental impact low at these celebrations. Don’t believe me?  Check out the awesome pictures of bagasse plates stamped with beet juice at the bottom of this post.

Halloween parties don’t have to be a wasteful affair – make a goal to host a little or no-waste party. We’ve already talked about Halloween decorating so lets talk tableware. I agree that some of the printed/licensed napkins, plates and cups are adorable for Halloween, but it’s important to green this aspect of party planning. With the proper Eco-friendly tabletop accents**, this is the easiest area to green and guests will love the effect of earth friendly disposable tableware!  Using your own dishware is the best way to booster your green with party planning, but this isn’t always a practical option. We host an annual Halloween party and I know with over 20 kids running through my house, there’s no way I’m giving them my everyday dishes.  Here are some Eco-friendly options for disposable tableware & some spooky facts you’ll want to learn about traditional cups and plates..

Hot Cups:

Bring out the hot chocolate or apple cider, but make sure you’re using hot cups lined with PLA.  Traditional paper hot cups are lined with petroleum-based resin. Ever wondered why you get that nasty after taste after you’ve purchased a coffee or hot drink from a cafeteria or store? This is plastic melting and being absorbed into your body.  Compostable hot cups are a great addition to your next party because the interior resin of the cups is lined with PLA (poly lactic acid) which is derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane and starches (corn).

We all know styrofoam cups (styrofoam anything for that matter) are terrible for the environment. But if we truly understood their destruction many of us, including myself, would stand up and make more noise when we see it being used.  I ran across this description of styrofoam used by the Wonkette talking about the U.S. Capitol bringing styrofoam back into their cafeteria after banning it for 4 years. Sometimes it’s great to have a description that doesn’t sugar coat to stick into our minds if a business or event service needs a reminder about how bad styrofoam is. Quote from Wonkette:

“Foamed polystyrene” is a miraculous invention that manages to be completely awful through every step of its near-eternal “life cycle” — it is manufactured with petroleum that must be imported from Middle East dictatorships, toxic “styrene oligomers” migrate into the food it holds, it’s highly flammable and produces black poisonous smoke, and most of the 25 billion polystyrene cups tossed every year will take more than half a millennium to degrade.

Sometimes it takes shocking statistics to really reinforce that these products should never been used because of the environmental consequences. Let’s also not forget that polystyrene is a strong plastic that is ‘foamed’ into Styrofoam. I sometimes forget that Styrofoam is plastic because of the different texture but it’s polystyrene created from erethylene and benzine that is inject or blow molded. Do you want to pour hot liquid into this soup of plastic materials?


Traditional Halloween disposable party plates hmmmmm pick your evil a) licensed paper plates made from virgin trees and inked with toxic dye 2) Styrofoam plates that are devastating to the environment 3) plastic plates that take forever to biodegrade and often end up polluting our forests and water.  Now think about using compostable plates. Not only are they biodegradable, but also compostable as they are made from excess plant materials that otherwise would have gone to waste! The first option for plates is perfect for Halloween, not because they are scary, but fit into the theme of Fall beautifully because palm leaf plates are manufactured from fallen leaves. It is very cool to tell a child that a leaf fell from a tree, was picked up for a villager, cleaned with die, and shaped into a plate. Little children and all party guests will understand this story and love learning how palm plates are made without any disruption to the tree and because they are made without dyes, wax, finishes of any kind ~ they are compostable and a very earth friendly option with party tableware. An other option with biodegradable and compostable plates are those made from bagasse which is a fibrous pulp that is left over after processing sugar cane. A cool story as well because this material would have otherwise been turned into waste and again, no trees are used in the manufacturing of these plates. So although they are stamped ‘tree free’ along the edge, guests may assume they are a paper plate because of the color and texture. Make sure to inform party guests about the bagasse plates so they don’t assume they are made from paper. One way to catch guests attention is to personalize these party plates. I use beet juice to dye the homemade play dough I made my children.  This way I get a brightly colored play dough using vegetable dye rather than brightly colored play dough from using synthetic food coloring. Well why not stamp your bagasse plates with a rubber stamp and beet juice?  You are using a natural dye to make these plates look different that will create some buzz and questions. It’s also super fun for the kids! My niece and I tried this tonight and the results were fantastic. She also loved learning how an organic substance like beet juice should be used to stamp with because you wouldn’t want any other material like traditional ink a guest’s plate that will contain food. The texture of the bagasse plates is great for absorbing the beet juice and also makes for very strong plates.

** Tabletop accents. We’ve decided on a mixture of ways to dress-up our Halloween tabletop for this year’s party. We are painting little pumpkins and gourds from our local patch and making them into ghosts and black cats. We’ve also sprinkled some pine cones and crazy shaped gourds from the patch. Felt appliques that act as reusable confetti are also a great way to punch up a table.

This post is part of the 2011 Greening your Halloween Blog Tour brought to us by Green Planet Parties, Green Halloween, Green Gift Guide, Surf Sweets and A Little Bit of Momsense.

Related Articles:

Halloween…How Will You Green?




Rice Cereal – Join The Whiteout Campaign

We are all witnessing a huge movement sweeping across North America…and it’s pretty awesome. A collective force of people wanting to improve their health, reduce chemical exposure, and protect children from a host of diseases through local, organic, and home cooked meals. I love all the articles I’m reading about canning food, growing backyard produce, raising chickens for fresh eggs and more!  There is also a campaign spearheaded by Dr. Alan Greene & Cheryl Greene called The Whiteout Movement. Quite simply, they are calling out to parents in the hopes of reducing the number of babies being introduced to white rice cereal. It seems to be one of the most common beginner steps with food introduction with babies. The goal is to return to feeding babies at the dinner table, with the family, letting them taste and sample ‘real food’ rather than processed white rice cereal.  Why is white rice cereal so bad?  The number one ingredient is processed white rice flour.  The idea that introducing and giving a baby white cereal is that the child’s long term food preferences are influenced by early food exposures. According to Dr. Greene:

At this critical window of development, ripe with opportunity, we are giving babies a concentrated, unhealthy carb. Metabolically, it’s not that different from giving babies a spoonful of sugar.

I found the information under the Whiteout FAQ very helpful.  I’m past the solid food/baby stage in my family, but I would have loved options when starting my last 3 children on solid foods. All four were exclusively breast fed for 6 months but the last three suffered from such severe constipation the day I started rice cereal I actually skipped cereal altogether and went straight to regular food.  One time in my parenting journey that I actually listened to myself and I’m so glad I did.  Very cool that Dr. Greene is not trying to call negative attention to companies that sell white rice cereal, rather his goal is for every child’s first grain to be a whole grain and even though baby’s first food doesn’t need to be a cereal, the easiest switch is to purchase a whole grain version of baby cereal. Here are more quotes from the Whiteout FAQ that really got my attention.  Parents-to-be have you heard about delayed cord clamping? It’s included in the FAQ below – a great point to talk to your Dr. about!

During that precious first year, it takes an average of 6 to 10 exposures in a positive environment for 85% of babies to imprint on a flavor and texture. If a baby gets 14 such exposures, it’s even morel likely. Since I was born, most American babies, myself included, have been given that many meals of just processed white flour before being exposed to any other food. This same flavor preference turns into unhealthy kid’s meals and junk food, including too many cupcakes, soft hamburger buns, and too much white bread.

Rice cereal is also the #1 source of food calories for typical babies (after breast milk and formula) all the way from the first breath until they take their first steps and become toddlers.

Processed white flour is the single largest food influence on taste preferences and metabolism during the entire first year. It’s no wonder we have a snowballing obesity and diabetes epidemic.

Let every child’s first food be a real food. My preference for the first bite is to give a baby a bite of something they’ve seen the parent eat, something they’ve seen come from the produce aisle, a CSA, garden, or a farmers’ market. I love avocados, sweet potatoes (cooked until soft), or bananas as a first bite — mashed with a fork with some of the breast milk or formula they’ve already been getting.  ** I love this one! **

Babies need plenty of iron for their growing bodies and brains. Is breast milk inadequate? It appears that babies are designed to get iron from both breast milk and directly from their mothers at birth.

Unfortunately, in the 20th century it became vogue to quickly clamp the umbilical cord within 10-15 seconds after the head is delivered. If cord clamping isn’t rushed, and takes place when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (~60 to 180 seconds), the baby gets several tablespoons more blood, which could be enough iron to tide them over for an additional 3 months later on when they are starting solids. Thankfully, what the medical community calls “delayed” cord clamping is now becoming more common.

To be sure your baby is getting enough iron you have several other options:

Choose an iron-fortified whole grain baby cereal.
Give supplemental iron drops. (It’s what’s added to the cereal anyway.)
Choose iron-rich foods for your baby.
Get plenty of iron yourself, if nursing.
Use cast iron for cooking for your baby or the rest of the family.



Think Before Using Fragrance

I recently had  Jeanne post a comment about the problem with scent in her everyday life. Do you know there’s a fairy large percentage of the population that suffer from CS or MCS (Chemical Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)? If this is a new acronym for you  – it won’t be for long before you hear it discussed regularly with the number of people removing chemicals and fragrance from their lives. A person with MCS can become physically sick when exposed to synthetic chemicals, normally exposed via artificial fragrances. I think many of us will now wrinkle their nose when walking into a house after air freshener / Febreze has been sprayed or Lysol has been used to clean a small space because it’s becoming the norm to remove these toxins from homes. The amount of information about how to reduce household chemicals is starting to out-weigh the companies still trying to green-wash or convince people that ‘killing germs or odor’ is a good idea. As we all become more sensitive to airborne contaminants, imagine a person that becomes seriously debilitated from exposure to very small amounts of chemicals in the environment?  This is what happens when a person with MCS comes in contact with small amounts of these chemicals.

With three years of reducing the amount of chemicals in my own home, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more Chemically Sensitive, all the time. I am not reduced to becoming debilitated, but I’m affected enough that my heart feels for the people severely effected with these more serious symptoms. What can you do to help?  Make a decision to limit your level of fragrance. In many schools and work-places this has probably already happened in your community. I feel very strongly about scent-free schools because it’s where our children spend so many hours of their day.  Maybe this can be an Earth Day initiative your school can start working towards?!  Earth Day is a wonderful time to make suggestions and while you can explain to your employer or school principal this idea is great for the planet; the concept of scent-free will actually improve the health of children and school staff.  In my boys school I know there is Lysol that is sprayed on desks for cleaning purposes. My children come from a home that hasn’t sprayed chemical cleaners in over 2 years so I asked them if the scent of those cleaning products effects them in anyway – both answered they get a headache. I don’t think teachers spray on perfume anymore, but products like fabric sheets (heavily chemically scented) can be detected on clothing if you have a chemical sensitivity, as well as shampoo, soap, or deodorant with heavy fragrance (Axe products, etc.). By declaring a school scent-free you are not taking away individual expression – you are improving an environment for learning. I’m currently researching cleaners that have less fragrance, but meet licensing specifications for declaring a school ‘clean’ that can be used by janitorial staff…I will update when I know. For regular desk cleaning for students, I don’t know why a vinegar solution couldn’t be used.

Another example of how scent can affect a person who is chemically sensitive happens at my daughters’ pre-school. We take turns washing hand towels used by the children to dry their hands to reduce costs and waste with paper. However, many people use fabric sheets or softener and that smell is still attached to the towels when they arrive at my home for wash. The smell gives me an instant headache. I’ve been sensitive to dryer sheets for awhile (can smell them walking outside in a neighborhood with houses that use them) but I’ve noticed my level of tolerance of fragrance has recently heightened. While walking on a busy seawall last weekend with my family I could detect soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner scents as different people quickly walked by me. I didn’t get a head ache but I was curious to understand that my nose can even detect soap people have used…and I was outside! I’ll say again I’m so thankful I don’t become debilitated, but with becoming so sensitive I can really empathize with those who suffer. What about people that live in shared space like apartments? With people smoking and spraying room deodorizers, cologne, etc. and that going through shared vents, windows, etc. I cannot imagine how that would affect a person with CS. That must be why people with extreme cases are often homeless or rendered incapable of sharing space.

Jeanne forwarded me the website Think Before You Stink and it contains lots of helpful information for ways we can help. Here are four of the most important changes you can make recommended by the Think Before You Stink site:

1) Stop using perfume, cologne, body spray, and scented aftershave.

2) Use only fragrance-free laundry products, including detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Even better, don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all.

3) Stop using commercial air fresheners in your home or car.

4) Quit smoking.

I thank Jeanne for sharing her story with me and I was happy to research this article because reducing fragrances will simply improve your health.  Instantly.  If you find many of the articles out there confusing about reducing toxic exposure with beauty products, household cleaners, personal care products, etc. – just do one thing and it will help you. Use your nose when you shop. Eliminating fragrance will instantly improve your health and the health of your family.



Earthy Easter Inspiration

Sometimes we all need a little ‘earthy inspiration’ surrounding holidays that are surrounded in plastic packaging, plastic gifts, commercialism, and loads of artificially coloured & sweetened goodies. When researching this article, it was amazing the physical effect these pictures and products had on my body – I felt my stress just melt away so I wanted to share. There are some seriously talented people that contribute earthy magic to Easter this year.  Enjoy!

Wonderful article from Green Baby Guide on naturally dying Easter eggs with using beautiful silhouettes of nature. My clan will be working on some fern prints tomorrow – we just mastered the white crayon and dye technique today.

naturally dyed easter eggs with print

My favourite writer and artist this Easter has been the Linda behind the blog Natural Suburbia where she shares her patterns and thoughts on homeschooling with a waldorf based curriculum.  Her adorable creations are so special because they embrace the classic waldolf styles, but also have ‘kid appeal’ that children would love and want to play with. Get ready to be relaxed and inspired.

Hand Knit Easter egg tutorial and Egg tree instructions:

hand made knit easter eggs

Felted bird nest tutorial:

felted hand made robin nest

Angora knit bunny from her shop for purchase:

angora hand knit bunny



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