Green gift guide II: gifts that give back!

christmas globeTick, tick, tick… yes, the countdown clock to Christmas seems to be moving at warp speed!

I’ve given my list of favorite green gifts for when you want to give something tangible.  But there is certainly another way to go…  for gifts that don’t clutter up a home or sit unused in a drawer or closet.  These are the gifts that give to a worthwhile cause:  wildlife, nature or the environment.  They certainly need the “gifts” more than we do!

So, here are some ideas for when you want to give a meaningful gift that really counts:

  • Adopt an Acre of Rainforest and other of earth’s wonders (The Nature Conservancy) – for preservatiglobal warming bearon and restoration of some of the world’s most amazing places
  • Adopt an Endangered Species (WWF) – to protect endangered animals and their habitats
  • Adopt an Animal (National Wildlife Federation) – to protect additional animals and their habitats
  • Rescue the Reef (The Nature Conservancy) – for preserving an undeniably crucial part of our world’s oceans
  • Plant a Billion Trees Campaign (The Nature Conservancy) – for protecting and preserving Earth’s largest and most endangered tropical rainforests in Brazil
  • Give-a-Tree (Arbor Day Foundation)– plants a tree in one of America’s National Forests in honor of a recipient
  • Change the Present – you can contribute and honor someone by helping to restore a fragile ecosystem in Kenya, purchase carbon offsets, plant trees, preserve wildlands, adopt wildlife or any one of about 1600 causes of your choice!

If you want to give a gift that supports a worthwhile cause but still gives to the recipient too, consider:coral_reef

  • A zoo or aquarium membership – there are 218 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in the US and all are dedicated to excellence in animal care and welfare, conservation, education, and research that collectively inspire respect for animals and nature (but please, no circus tickets!).
  • A botanical garden, arboretum or nature center membership – again, they dedicate themselves to the conservation and preservation of nature and the environment, and help us understand the delicate and important connection between people and nature.

And finally, one of our favorite gifts last year:

  • Kiva – Through their gift certificate program you can “loan” your gifted money to a “working poor” recipient of Kivayour choosing.  (We selected a man in Tajikistan who desperately needed money to buy seeds for farming and help support his family.)  Once they are able to repay the loan, you are given back your donated money to grant to another needy recipient… and this wonderful cycle starts all over again!

These should be the choices for the person on your list who has everything… on second thought, these choices should work for anyone and everyone… it is truly better to give than to receive!

Meat protein with a side of junk food & antibiotics, anyone?

During the holidays we’ll all likely plan special meals along with doing our best to simply find ways to provide our families with daily nourishing meals… something that isn’t always easy, given the pace of life.  But what if I told you that, along with your healthy meals, you could be unknowingly serving up an unhealthy dose of “junk food and antibiotics” with it?

pink pggHow, you ask?  Well, my dear friend, Kev, just sent me some information about a practice happening in livestock farming that really, really infuriates me (right along with my disgust for genetically modified food).  It seems farmers have turned to feeding their non-organic animals (pigs and cattle for food sources) things like expired junk food, including “cookies, licorice, cheese curls, candy bars, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut-butter cups”.  This is their inexpensive solution to the rising prices of REAL feed because local manufacturers will sell their cheap cast-offs and expired products to farmers by the truckload.  Can you even imagine how unhealthy these animals must be and all of the literal garbage that is being stored in the meat we consume?

This repulsive practice is just as bad as farmers feeding their cattle corn.  Sure, it doesn’t sound as bad, but these poor animals’ digestive systems aren’t made for corn… they’re made to eat grass.  But when fed corn they often become very sick and susceptible to many diseases.  They are then treated with huge amounts of antibiotics to keep them alive and you guessed it…. those antibiotics get passed right along to all of us too.  (This is only the start of the story, but you can read more here.)cow2

I just don’t even know where to begin with all of this.  I am on the verge of going vegan.  HOW can these practices be acceptable by the FDA?!?  But, sadly, they are.  And we all need to know it.  It is not regulated… at all. It’s also no wonder we have so many diseases, disorders and deficiencies in this country… our brains and our bodies are malnourished or fed with things we don’t even realize we’re eating.  Shameful.

I buy all organic meat, (a proposition that can be unbelievably expensive), but the more I learn, the more I realize that this is the only choice for my family.

We’ve always been told “you are what you eat”… well, let’s all remember, “you are {also} what you eat eatstoo…

Raccoons & snakes & birds, oh my! A natural attraction?

Over the past weeks, we’ve had a raccoon hid her babies in our yard, snakes take up residence in a bush outside our front door and two birds nest under a different bush.  A raccoon even stopped by in our open garage while I was quietly doing something one evening. (That event caused me to let out a “startled scream” that sent mama running!)

rcoon-babiesAll this in a suburban neighborhood, close enough to urban life that we can see downtown Cleveland from our backyard.

I truly wondered “what gives!” until my husband pointed out that we have the most natural place in the neighborhood… no chemicals, no fertilizers or pesticides, no unfriendly environments… and I think he’s right.

When my neighbor saw the snakes, she suggested we pay for an exterminator or snake wrangler to get them out of here.  (Seriously?  I should pay someone to evict these poor little harmless creatures?!  But she is the same person {although she is a nice lady} that chopped down all of her backyard trees last year.) Then there is the other neighbor (also a “tree chopper“) that called out his OWN tree service to look at removing a tree in OUR yard because he didn’t like the leaves it was dropping in his driveway!  He offered to pay half, which we politely declined.snake

Maybe animals really do have a sense of “someplace safe”… yea, MomGoesGreen’s yard, of course!  And our kids are loving the animal park in their own yard (but yes, I do understand the dangers of raccoons, so they have been educated on safety.)

If you believe in karma, I think you’ll agree that my husband is right.  There IS a natural attraction because we do let off all whole lot of “good nature karma!”

Up, up and away the balloons go…

This weekend our family enjoyed a fabulous day of art and culture at an event called Parade the Circle.  It literally brings art and culture to life when participants create interpretations of famous works of art and their artists through costumes, music and some of the most creative props I have ever seen.

balloon-pileAfter the parade the activities continued in a large park and we were enjoying the event until I noticed them dismantling the six enormous balloon arches that were used in the parade.  By ones, twos, (SEVENS!), groups of balloons took to the sky… and I simply thought “Oh no.  Someone make them stop!”

I’ve always been leery of balloons for the simple fear of my kids choking on one of them.  But there is also an on-going debate about the environmental effect of balloons, and that is what concerned me with this event.

The balloon industry argues that, because they are made of latex, they biodegrade at the same rate as an oak leaf and have no effect on the environment.  But environmentalists will disagree that the concern isn’t so much about their biodegradability, but the effect they have on animals that mistake them for food and consume them once they burst or come back down to ground.  Animals also become entangled in the strings and ribbons that are still attached.

Studies of marine animals that have beached themselves have turned up digestive systems blocked with deflated or partial deflated balloons, suggesting that they actually beached themselves to get out of their painful misery.  That’s all I need to hear.

While I’m not suggesting that we all swear off  balloons (because my kids would definitely be bummed!) I am suggesting that we take responsibility in just four simple ways:balloonbird2

  • Keep balloons indoors
  • Never purposely release them into the sky
  • When they are outdoors, weight them down to prevent “escape” and
  • Detach the strings and simply dispose of them properly when you’re finished with them

Everyone loves a parade and every kid loves a balloon, but what goes up must come down, and it’s a landing that can have a harsh and destructive reality.

“Do the zoo” and pay it forward.

martika-joOver the last few days our family enjoyed a weekend getaway that included a visit to the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium… and after already spending so much time at “our” zoo (the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) and almost taking the animals for granted, I was again reminded that zoos are truly a treasure.

First, let me say that anyone who knows me knows that I detest circuses.  It breaks my heart to think about those poor animals being carted around the country, being confined and/or shackled, and then being forced to pTiger Escapesractice and perform for countless hours a day.  This is NOT the way to treat earth’s creatures.  Animals should not be forced to perform, and I’m especially moved by the heartbreaking circus-life of my beloved elephants!… it’s no wonder we hear periodic stories about one of them going berserk and trampling a trainer.  I would be angry too!  And as a result, I will never, ever support an animal circus.  (Please, the next time an animal circus comes to town, reconsider giving them your support and money.)

I used to feel a bit uneasy about zoos too, but I’ve since realized that legitimate zoos are really a blessing in that they allow us to educate ourselves, and see and experience amazing wildlife in ways that we would otherwise never know.  It’s also a sad reminder of how fragile their lives are when, this weekend, we noticed the scales that showed us each animal’s threat of extinction… there were far too many near the “danger” end of the scale.gorilla

I’m sharing these stories because I’m asking you to support zoos.  There are 218 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in the US.  All are dedicated to excellence in animal care and welfare, conservation, education, and research that collectively inspire respect for animals and nature.  I think we need to feel grateful… so…

visit a zoo, donate to or become a member of a zoo, or buy a zoo membership for a gift, and you will have a hand in making a difference.  The animals have given so much, now it’s time to pay it forward to the animals… and say thanks!

(… and if you ever questioned whether animals really have a heart and soul, take a few moments to watch this… and just try NOT to smile!)