Sustainable holiday gift ideas for your friends

December 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Help your friends start 2020 on the right foot with new ideas for ways to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Check out our guide below to give every friend on your list the gift of sustainability this holiday season. Cookbooks The modern cooking world is full of imaginative ways to lower your environmental footprint while producing delicious, unique dishes. Depending on what your gift recipient is into, you can choose from books about everything from zero-waste cooking and vegetarianism to vegan recipes and ethical cooking. Cooking with Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, and Stems into Delicious Meals takes those everyday items that are notorious for waste (coffee grinds, watermelon rinds and banana peels, just to name a few) and turns them into complete recipes. Headphones The stylish headphones from House of Marley are made from sustainable materials such as FSC-certified wood , stainless steel, recyclable aluminum and soft natural leather. The company offers both comfortable, over-the-ear options as well as smaller earbud sets. Not into the headphone idea? House of Marley also offers a line of eco-friendly turntables and Bluetooth speakers built from natural bamboo and organic cork. Best of all, the company’s biodegradable products don’t sacrifice sound quality. Learn more about House of Marley with our review for the 2019 Exodus headphones . Reusable bags It’s no secret that making the switch to reusable bags for shopping and groceries is one of the easiest ways to work toward living a zero-waste life. Plus, there are so many colors and designs to choose from, making it easier than ever to make this gift more personal. Go a step further and choose a multipurpose reusable bag, like this one from ROV that goes from wallet to tote bag in seconds. Related: How to easily make your own reusable produce bags Plant-based or reusable coffee pods Convenient coffee pods have become wildly popular among coffee-lovers. Unfortunately, most of these single-use pods end up in landfills or the ocean after being tossed in the trash. If you have a friend or family member who has already made the investment in a pricey machine designed to use pods, get them hooked on a brew that comes in eco-friendly packaging. You can find reusable metal pods and even compostable coffee capsules, like those from Volcano Coffee Works . Reusable straws set For those friends who just have to have a straw in their beverages, the gift of a reusable, pocket-sized straw could be life-changing. Reusable straws come in all shapes, sizes and materials, from stainless steel to silicone to bamboo. Just make sure to purchase one that comes with a handy carrying case and an accompanying brush to keep the straw clean. Heading to or hosting a holiday party? Blow everyone’s minds by bringing a box of biodegradable straws made out of hay . Skincare Many conscious consumers are making the switch to skincare and beauty products made from all-natural, organic and cruelty ingredients and packaged in reusable or recyclable materials. To get some inspiration, check out our reviews of the best beauty retailers from the 2019 Indie Beauty Expo in Los Angeles. Choose from natural sunscreens, reusable sheet masks, vegan hair products, items from charitable companies and more. Kombucha starter kit Introduce someone to the wonderful world of gut-benefiting probiotics with an at-home kombucha starter kit. For someone who is just starting out, a kit can be a good way of saving some money instead of buying the fancy, packaged bottles from the store. There are plenty of options for kombucha starter kits available online or in health food stores around the country, but some of the more popular kits include ones from GetKombucha and the Kombucha Shop . Wellness subscriptions For health nuts or wellness-focused friends, a health or wellness subscription might be just what the doctor ordered. You can easily get a gift certificate or class passes if they are already fans of a particular gym or studio, or choose a brand new subscription based on their particular interests. Pro tip: head to Groupon to see if there are any holiday deals on wellness subscriptions in the gift recipient’s area. For other wellness subscription ideas, CauseBox curates and delivers a selection of sustainable, eco-friendly and socially conscious products four times per year, and DailyBurn is an online workout video database with thousands of virtual exercise classes to choose from. Related: 14 apps to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle Plastic-free diffuser Using essential oil diffusers for aromatherapy is widely considered to be beneficial to physical and emotional health. Increased demand for these little machines means that there are quite a few cheaply made ones on the market, which might not achieve the desired results from your high-quality oils. Organic Aromas makes beautiful diffusers that use cool-mist technology with no heat, no water and no plastic. As an added bonus, these diffusers will look like pieces of art on the coffee table. Images via Heather Ford , Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat, Sincerely Media , Volcano Coffee Works , Louise Burton , Ongchinonn , Megumi Nachev , Anupam Mahapatra , Anke Sundermeier and Mel Poole

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Sustainable holiday gift ideas for your friends

6 helpful ways to give back to nature this Thanksgiving

November 28, 2019 by  
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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is the best time to reflect on our planet and give thanks for nature and all of its glories. What better way to celebrate our world and its wildlife than by offering a helping hand? Here are some ways to give back to and celebrate Mother Earth this Thanksgiving . Save a turkey While Thanksgiving traditionally means turkey at the table, those who are vegetarian, vegan or simply interested in protecting turkeys can instead adopt or sponsor a turkey. Sanctuaries and rescue organizations devoted to the turkey exist across the United States and United Kingdom. The Adopt-a-Turkey initiative has become a popular Thanksgiving endeavor. By choosing to adopt or sponsor a turkey, you can help fund the care of this fine-feathered friend. Related: Make your own tasty vegetarian turkey for Thanksgiving with this recipe To help a turkey, visit Animal Place , Barn Sanctuary , Catskill Animal Sanctuary , Dean Farm Trust Turkey Rescue , Farm Sanctuary , Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary , Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary , Hillside Animal Sanctuary , Spring Farm Sanctuary , The Gentle Barn , The Retreat Animal Rescue & Sanctuary or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary . For a more comprehensive directory of farm sanctuaries that are also safe havens for turkeys, view Vegan.com’s farm animal sanctuary directory . Give a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) a home MWDs are retired from active duty. Many have either worked in the field or trained with other MWDs, making them unique bearers of particularly honed skills. All adoptable MWDs have already passed rigorous behavioral tests to ensure they are temperamentally a good fit for civilian adoptions.  Because the MWD actually served in the United States military, a MWD is more than just a canine — he or she is a military veteran. When you adopt a MWD, you’re also providing a home to a military veteran and war hero. Organizations that can help you rescue or rehome a MWD include Mission K9 Rescue , the MWD adoption program at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland Air Force Base and the United States War Dogs Association . Be sure to also inquire your nearest military installation to see if they have any retired or retiring MWDs available for adoption. You also have the option to foster a military working dog . If fostering is more appealing, contact the 341st Training Squadron’s MWD Foster Program at JBSA-Lackland here . Name a species Every year, new species are discovered. Typically, the first person to discover the plant or animal gets the honor of naming the species. But there are still countless other organisms requiring scientific names. For a fee, the general public can name a newfound organism. By naming a new species, you complete the dual kindness of helping the scientific community establish a binomial nomenclature identification for a newfound living thing while simultaneously honoring the person you named the newfound organism after. Of course, giving a newly discovered species a name of your choice increases public awareness of biodiversity, raises much-needed funding for ecological conservation efforts and helps spread the science of taxonomy. Organizations with programs devoted to naming new species include the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Discover Life in America (DLIA) nonprofit and the German nonprofit organization BIOPAT . Volunteer at a seed bank You will undeniably make a hands-on contribution when volunteering at a local seed bank. Seeds are deposited for safekeeping in case of unforeseen global emergencies. The seeds can be replanted at some future time to ensure survival, rather than eradication, of certain crops . Today, there are about 1,500 seed banks worldwide, the most famous being the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway, or Svalbard Global Seed Vault . AgProfessional offers a list of the planet’s 15 largest seed banks, where you can learn more about efforts to conserve plant biodiversity. Some seed banks with volunteer opportunities include Irvine Ranch’s Native Seed Farm , London’s Kew Gardens , the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB) , Miller Seed Vault at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens , the renowned Native Plant Trust conservation organization, Portland State University’s Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and the True Harvest Seeds charity. Monitor vulnerable plants and animals as a citizen scientist Citizen scientists help gather data to inform researchers about the protection and management status of flora and fauna species. Regular monitoring of plants and animals, especially vulnerable and rare ones, is essential to determine their population trends. In turn, agencies at the local, state and federal levels gain insight and implement needed modifications to habitat management and conservation plans. Related: 6 ways to give back this Thanksgiving and beyond For instance, the Smithsonian Institution and the Nature Conservancy have robust citizen scientist programs to assist with the monitoring of species distribution, abundance and threat by invasive species . Some, like the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) , annually have openings for volunteer plant hunters and junior citizens curious about botany.  Meanwhile, Zooniverse is the largest platform devoted to animal- and plant-centered citizen scientist collaborations. Perhaps one of the most popular citizen science monitoring programs is Plants of Concern , administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden. Similarly, the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is another volunteer monitoring program that provides better understanding of the interrelationships between humans and ecosystems. Participate in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Field Book Project For those fond of history, especially natural history, consider volunteering with the Field Book Project . Field notes and diary entries, from the Victorian era and earlier, still need to be identified, cataloged and digitized. Volunteering with this endeavor guarantees access to original records of scientific discovery and primary source material notes on specimens and native environments from centuries ago. Your volunteer efforts with the Field Book Project will help increase the visibility of these long tucked-away scholarly resources that need to be rediscovered and shared with the global biodiversity research community. Images via Taminwi , Rikki’s Refuge , Sgt. Barry St. Clair , Hans Hillewaert , Elena Escagedo , Glacier NPS and Biodiversity Heritage Library

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This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

November 28, 2019 by  
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New York-based tiny home builder Willowbee Tiny Homes has managed to combine a cozy, farmhouse aesthetic with a sophisticated and space-efficient tiny home. The Burmenbov is a 30-foot-long tiny home on wheels that has a gorgeous interior space, which includes a charming reading nook where the reader can also take in amazing views. Husband-and-wife team Bob and Esther (along with their four children) have made a name for themselves by building quality tiny houses for other families looking to live minimalist lifestyles. Their builds include a variety of sustainable features, such as composting toilets and solar power options. Related: This gorgeous tiny home features a greenhouse and wooden pergola Inspired by farmhouse aesthetic, the Burmenbov is a gorgeous tiny home on wheels that uses sleek lines and a neutral color palette to create a welcoming and comfortable living space. The exterior of the home is clad in all-white siding with two lovely, gabled entrances on either side. At just 30 feet long, the tiny home manages to pack a lot into one story of living space, but some savvy, space-saving techniques certainly help maintain a clutter-free house. Additionally important to the design is its energy efficiency . The home features tight insulation and a low ambient mini-split HVAC system to reduce energy use and keep the home at a comfortable temperature year-round. The tiny home features a spacious living area with several windows and glass doors to let in optimal natural light . At the end of the home is a welcoming reading nook with a bench that sits under a big, square window. On the other side of the living room, the kitchen is surprisingly large and comes equipped with plenty of counter space, a propane stove and a farmhouse sink. Farther back in the house, the bathroom features a bright design with a full-sized shower, composting toilet and stacked washer and dryer unit. At the very back of the structure is the master bedroom, which includes a roomy closet and a queen-sized bed that elevates to reveal storage underneath. The bedroom even has a folding open-air deck to enjoy a bit of stargazing before drifting off to sleep. + Willowbee Tiny Homes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Willowbee Tiny Homes

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This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

November 27, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Shopping is an ubiquitous part of American culture that peaks during the holiday season in spurts of deal-hunting and gift-giving. Anyone who has made efforts to go zero-waste or plastic-free knows how difficult it can be to maintain those goals while finding meaningful presents for loved ones. So when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around, you might experience the internal conflict of responsibility to the planet with the desire to give gifts. We love that you love the planet, so we’ve put together some ideas of ways to enjoy the season without leaving behind a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. Watch packaging  When it comes to gifting, watch out for extra packaging, especially plastic foam and molded, unrecyclable plastic . Consider buying items in bulk, as long as they have less packaging and won’t go to waste. You can also bring your own containers for bulk products like bath salts, pet treats and food. As always, bring your own reusable shopping bags, and decline the offer of plastic bags from the store. Related: Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping Support sustainable companies More and more companies are working to source natural materials and manufacture products in a sustainable way. Reward their efforts by supporting them as your first choice in gift-giving. For example, select bracelets made from ocean plastic, shoes or sunglasses made from coffee grounds or indoor gardens sourced from recycled plastic. Look for companies that ship using recyclable materials, too. While smaller, sustainably minded companies may not have a flashy ads online or on the TV, they are out there and will often offer discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday just like the giant box retailers. You just have to do a little bit of searching. Make your own gifts The most sustainable way to enjoy Black Friday is to be in complete control of the materials used in your gifts. Instead of heading out for pre-packaged and wasteful options, take a trip into the local pottery studio and make some plates, a popcorn bowl or a mug to give as a gift. Upcycle by gathering up special T-shirts and other clothing to have a company make them into a memory quilt (if you have sewing skills, you can also DIY !). Set another date on the calendar for a craft party, and invite friends, family and neighbors to gather and make gifts. Use the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts to score some deals at the craft store. Just be sure to look for products that don’t include plastic and emphasize natural materials like hemp, grapevine and organic fabrics. Choose green technology A quick glance through most holiday catalogs will highlight deals on electronics. If TVs and other modern gadgets are on your list, research models that consume less energy and purchase solar-powered items when they are an option. Go for durability While it is likely that not every item you purchase throughout the season will fully fit the sustainability bill, one way you can help the planet is in waste reduction. To meet this goal, keep in mind that a long-lasting product will create less waste than one that is quickly disposed of. Research your purchases and go for items made with real wood instead of pressboard, strong metals instead of flimsy ones and natural materials instead of plastic (think wooden picnic tables and rocking horses for toddlers). The same goes for jewelry, clothing, furniture, kitchen items and decor. Quality counts, both for the gift recipient and for the planet. Look for eco-friendly materials Especially when it comes to textiles , the materials used in production can make a huge difference in the amount of pollutants that end up in waterways and landfills. Select natural fibers for sheets, towels, blankets and clothing. The most obvious example is organic cotton , which eliminates the toxic chemicals such as insecticides, pesticides and fungicides used in traditional cotton production. Minimize driving and stops Stop-and-go city traffic is guilty for contributing to air pollution , so do your part by limiting the number of stores at which you shop. Pick one store for your purchases, or select stores near each other. Even better than driving is to take public transit, bike or walk from shop to shop. Shop local Depending on where you live, shopping local is likely the best thing you can do for the environment. You get bonus points if you can shop at a nearby craft mall or import store with a focus on eco-friendly and/or locally made products. If you do hit up the online deals for Cyber Monday, follow the suggestions above in regards to buying from sustainably minded companies and observing packaging and shipping practices. Gift wrap naturally Once you’ve made or purchased your gifts, continue the eco-friendly trend with thoughtful gift wrapping. Use natural fabric or paper, and accessorize with leaves, flowers, small branches, nuts or fruit. Alternately, recycle greeting cards into gift tags, upcycle tablecloths and pillow cases, put gifts inside gorgeous reusable bags or organize a gift basket with no wrap at all. Images via Shutterstock

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9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving celebration

November 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate abundance, health and family, so it is the perfect time to focus on the health of the environment — the land that sustains us and makes the holiday possible in the first place. Enjoy your celebration and give back to nature at the same time with these sustainable tips for the upcoming holiday. Remember that each small step has an impact, so look for ways you can make easy, eco-friendly swaps throughout your Thanksgiving festivities. Decorate naturally It’s fun to bring out the fall decor, bursting with color and scents of the season. But before you head down the pumpkin spice aisle at the local store, consider ways you can decorate naturally instead. Pick up gourds and pumpkins for the porch as well as a hay bale and corn stalks to complete the vibe. Everything can go into the composter later in the season for zero waste . Related: 5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor Inside the house, craft some homemade grapevine wreaths embellished with mini pumpkins, pinecones, nuts or berries. Take the kids out to collect colorful leaves, acorns and rocks. Press the leaves or put together a Give Thanks paper banner, with each letter spelled out in natural materials . For centerpieces, carve out pumpkins and insert candles or fill a traditional cornucopia of edible goodness. Alternately, use colorful, clear or reflective metal bowls of produce such as lemons and limes, squash or apples. Travel less Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year. The impact of those trips leaves a heavy carbon footprint on the planet. With the fuel emissions of planes and cars, the easiest way to celebrate the day sustainably is to remain close to home. Use the holiday as an opportunity to volunteer at a soup kitchen or gather coworkers and friends without plans for a friendly feast. Get outside Electronics put a drain on natural resources , too, so skip watching the football game (or at least the third one) in favor of playing your own game outside. If you do not prefer contact sports, take the crew out for a nature hike or bike ride. Tour a local park, go for a paddle or cue up the cornhole in the backyard. Not only does time outside mean you’re not consuming electricity, but it’s also good for your health, both physically and mentally. Skip single-use dinnerware One of the simplest ways to reduce waste and pollution is to set the table with reusable plates, utensils and cups. You don’t have to put out china, but skip the plastic foam and plastic-covered plates in favor of the real thing. The same goes for silverware and glasses. Yes, this means you’ll have more dishes, but consider it quality bonding time with family when you work together to clean up everything. Ditch plastic With natural decor and reusable dinnerware, your plastic consumption will be low, but also look out for packaging on the food products you buy, fill water pitchers instead of using bottled water and reuse small cottage cheese, yogurt or butter containers to send leftovers home with your guests. Plan your meal carefully The Thanksgiving feast is a central component of the holiday, with Grandma’s famous yams and your aunt’s homemade pumpkin pie taking the spotlight. Keep looking forward to the favorite family recipes during the holiday, and supplement those must-have items with earth-friendly choices. Make several sides of fruits and vegetables. Also, lessen the quantity of meat, a leading cause of methane pollution for the environment. If skipping the meat isn’t an option for your family, reduce portion sizes and dish out bigger servings of fruits and vegetables. Related: How to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving dinner When it comes to planning the feast, look to your local market or fruit stand. Invest in organic produce and be rewarded with wholesome food that didn’t add toxins to the planet in its journey to your plate. In short, buy local, organic foods as the best choice for the planet. Freeze and reheat leftovers Many of us correlate the holiday with overindulgence, and it’s sometimes hard to avoid when everyone brings their favorite foods. Try to avoid waste upfront with realistic quantities of foods, and do your part to practice self-control when it comes to overeating. Once the meal wraps up, make use of leftovers with a second dinner. Invite friends or colleagues over on Friday for a Friendsgiving. You could also take leftovers to work to share. If everyone is burned out on turkey, throw it into the stock pot along with the leftovers from the vegetable tray for a delicious soup. Another option is to freeze leftovers for a later date. Celebrate the season and the planet with a plan to reduce plastic consumption, limit the impacts of travel and avoid food waste . Happy Thanksgiving! Images via Debby Hudson , Jill Wellington , Nel Botha , Terri Cnudde , Roman Boed and Shutterstock

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Tofurky Trots offer alternative Thanksgiving races for vegetarians

November 22, 2019 by  
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The average American consumes about 3,000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner, so it is no wonder that Turkey Trots have caught on around the nation. Thanksgiving has now eclipsed Independence Day as the most popular day to run a race, according to Runner’s World , drawing more than one million people to over 1,000 events nationwide. It’s a fun time for walkers and runners of all ages. But as everyone knows, Thanksgiving is not a fun day for turkeys — hence, Tofurky Trots. Sponsored by the maker of the preeminent faux turkey on the market, the Tofurky Trots, a vegetarian alternative race, lag way behind the Turkey Trots in popularity. But they are already become a Thanksgiving tradition for a small group of people. In Portland, Oregon, Northwest VEG is in its sixth year of partnering with Tofurky to host a Thanksgiving race. “It’s my favorite event,” said Jaclyn Leeds, executive director of Northwest VEG . “It’s just a really fun, wholesome way to start off Thanksgiving. And it combines all of my favorite things: food and community and nature and doing something good for animals. And it’s dog -friendly.” Northwest VEG is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness to the power of a plant-based, vegan lifestyle and helping support people in their transition toward making healthier, more sustainable and compassionate food choices. Founded in 2003, it is based in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Tofurky Trot history The first recorded Thanksgiving Day race took place in 1896 in Buffalo, New York . It was an 8K with only six participants and four finishers. But the tradition took hold, eventually leading to the many Turkey Trots of today. Portland’s first Tofurky Trot in 2012 was also an informal event, with just 43 racers. Leeds participated as a trotter that year. She’d just graduated from law school, and she, a few of her classmates and Tofurky founder Seth Tibbott put the race together. “The next year, Tofurky got a little more proper about the whole thing and invited Northwest VEG to be the race organizer,” Leeds said. “So it was Tofurky’s event with Northwest VEG organizing. Now, it’s Northwest VEG’s event with Tofurky as the title sponsor.” While Tofurky Trots have caught on strongly in Portland — the large number of vegetarians and vegans plus the proximity of Tofurky’s headquarters in Hood River, Oregon probably have something to do with that — southern California has also hosted the races. Pasadena organized one in 2013, and this year, Los Angeles vegetarians will trot on November 23. Tofurky Trots in 2019 More than 600 trotters braved Portland’s late-November weather in the last two years. This year, record numbers have preregistered for the race. “This is the first year that we added a promotional turkey trot tee if they signed up by VegFest,” Leeds said, referring to an annual Northwest VEG-sponsored festival in early October. “So that inspired a lot of earlier registrations.” The collectible T-shirt angle is a little sneaky. “I want people to register before they can see the weather forecast,” Leeds said. Indeed, Thanksgiving morning can be rainy, icy and generally unpleasant in Oregon. Trotters are doing more than getting exercise. Their $35 registration fee benefits local animal sanctuaries as well as Northwest VEG. The five original beneficiaries were Wildwood Farm Sanctuary , Out to Pasture Sanctuary , Green Acres Farm Sanctuary , Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary and Sanctuary One . Northwest VEG hasn’t yet announced the beneficiaries for 2019. “This is the first year that I’ve implemented more of an application process,” Leeds said. “There are now so many sanctuaries that I need people to commit to being present at the event and tabling and being willing to promote it.” Participants can sample foods from Tofurky and Portland’s own Snackrilege . GT’s Living Foods will set up a photo booth in conjunction with its Living in Gratitude campaign. Every time somebody posts a picture on social media holding GT’s Living Foods kombucha, the company will donate 10 meals through Feeding America . The Factory Farming Awareness Coalition , an educational nonprofit committed to empowering people to save the environment, animals and their own health, is organizing this year’s Los Angeles Tofurky Trot. It will start with a pre-race yoga session, then kick off at Griffith Park Crystal Springs Picnic Area. Professional body builder and vegan Torre Washington will give a post-trot talk. The weather is much more likely to be favorable at the Los Angeles event, but fun will be had at both locations. Both trots are dog-friendly, assuming the dogs are well-behaved and leashed. Neither race is chip-timed, but the first adult and child finishers will win prizes. There will also be awards for best dog costume (in Portland) and cutest dog (in Los Angeles). Organizing your own trot Tofurky offers two ways to start your own trot, either as a sponsored cause or a self-organized event for fewer than 20 people. Tofurky will support your race by sending T-shirts and creating a race landing page. Why trot? “It’s a really fun way to start off a family holiday,” Leeds said, emphasizing that all levels of fitness are welcome. People feel good about raising money for farm sanctuaries, and they’re still home early enough to cook — and feast. + Northwest VEG Images via Northwest VEG and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Tofurky Trots offer alternative Thanksgiving races for vegetarians

Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween

October 10, 2019 by  
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With spooky season upon us, consider illuminating your jack-o’-lanterns in an eco-friendly way. But what are some good light sources to place within or even near pumpkins? You, of course, want to avoid toxins from certain sources, so here are some of Inhabitat’s sustainable suggestions this autumn. Soy or beeswax candles Steer clear of paraffin, because it is a petroleum-based product that produces soot. Paraffin candles have also been known to release acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene and toluene — all of which are toxins . Instead, choose “cleaner” candles made either of soy or beeswax. These options are all-natural, burn at lower temperatures, and last longer — ensuring a healthier light to place within your carved pumpkins. Related: Time to put the flame out — scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality Flameless LED artificial lights LED lights can be in the form of tea lights, string lights, even bike lights — making them wonderful choices for your jack-o’-lanterns. They are, after all, more energy-efficient and have longer lifespans than other types of artificial lighting. They are also a safer choice for inside a pumpkin because they don’t emit much heat, thereby lowering the risk of fire. They can operate at a wide range of temperatures — whether hot or cold — without significant degradation. For these reasons, LED lights are safer and more budget-friendly for a sustainable Halloween. Solar lights Go green this year by utilizing your garden decor to fashion a solar-powered jack-o’-lantern. How does one solarize pumpkins? First, you’ll have to allow your solar garden lights to collect energy from the sun throughout the day. While your yard’s solar lights are soaking up the sun, that is when you can cut out the bottom of your carved pumpkins. Then, at night, you can place those jack-o-lanterns atop the now-glowing solar garden lights. Voila! Your yard will come alive with solarized jack-o’-lanterns to ghoulishly light up your Halloween night . So this Halloween, if the kids are asking why your pumpkins have bigger smiles, goofier faces or even epic expressions, you can explain that it is all because they are all lit up in EEK-o-friendlier ways. Via Chester Energy and Policy Image via David Menidrey

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Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween

Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

May 6, 2019 by  
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Mother’s Day is the time of the year to really show how much you appreciate Mom. You can always go the traditional route and get your mother a nice card and some flowers, or you can make the day more meaningful by spending some quality time with her — not to mention that gifts of time are better for the planet! From attending a cooking class to relaxing at the spa, here are 10 gift ideas that are sure to make Mother’s Day enjoyable for the whole family. Cooking class Let’s be honest, your mom is probably the best cook you know. But why not put her skills to the test by taking a culinary class together? These classes are a great way to bond with your mom while learning how to make a new dish. Cooking classes vary depending on where you live and are typically offered through a college or culinary school. Related: The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce Wine tasting trip Visiting a local vineyard is a great way to relax and try out some local wines . Vineyards usually offer entire day packages that give you a tour of their vineyard and a taste of their best wines. If your mother is a wine enthusiast, she will absolutely love spending a day with some vino — and her loved ones, of course. Painting class You do not have to be the next Picasso to enjoy a painting class. Many places even offer painting classes to take while sipping on your favorite wine, which might just be the best of both worlds. The class will usually charge a flat fee for supplies. All you have to do is show up with a good attitude, and you and Mom will go home with some art for your collections. National Park visit If staying indoors isn’t for you, consider visiting a national park. There are dozens of national parks spread across the United States, and each one offers a unique experience. All it costs for you to explore the great outdoors is an entrance fee and a little bit of time. Depending on your location, some activities you will find include horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife watching  and rafting. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials If you would like more information about National Parks and where to find them, check out the National Park Service website. Museum pass Museums rotate and add new collections all the time, so if your mom is into art, consider purchasing a day pass at her favorite gallery. You may even find an establishment that offers special tours on Mother’s Day. There are also a wide variety of museums you can check out, including art museums, natural history museums, historic museums and even building tours. Once you are done, take Mom for lunch to talk about the most intriguing things you came across during the trip. Spa day A day at the spa is good anytime of the year. If you have a little extra cash to spend, why not purchase a package for two at your favorite spa? Trust us — your mom will absolutely love it. Some spas will even offer special packages for Mother’s Day, making this gift pretty much a no-brainer. For a more sustainable gift, have a DIY spa day, complete with homemade face masks and lotions. Yoga class It can be very difficult for moms to find time throughout their busy days to relax and meditate. Take away the stresses of the work week by gifting your mom with a  yoga class. You can usually find a studio or two that offer beginning courses, which is a great way to introduce your mom to the practice. If you plan on taking the class with her, we recommend finding one that is designed for families. You could also consider purchasing a monthly membership, just in case your mom wants to return another time or is already an avid yogi. Garden gifts Taking a walk through your local botanical garden is another great way to get outdoors on Mother’s Day. The holiday is set at the perfect time to celebrate the blooming season. If walking through a botanical garden is not an option, you can always bring the plants to her. Starting a small herb or veggie garden for your mother will constantly remind her how much you love and cherish her. The trick is to use plants that are fairly easy to maintain and require little attention to thrive. Some good options include onions, cilantro or thyme. Family photos Mother’s Day is the perfect time to snap a few photos with the entire family, because everyone is usually dressed in their best  for the day anyway. You can hire a professional to take the pictures, or just enlist the help from a family member, friend or neighbor. After the photo session, be sure to have the photos printed and framed for Mom! Homemade brunch One of the ultimate ways to show your mother that you love her is to cook  brunch for her. Invite other members of your family and have everyone contribute one of your mom’s favorite dishes. With a full stomach and loved ones to enjoy, this will be one Mother’s Day your mom won’t soon forget. Images via Shutterstock

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

March 29, 2019 by  
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This year’s Earth Day theme is all about protecting the millions of species that call our planet home. The diversity of life on Earth is being increasingly threatened by human activity, which is causing the biggest extinction event since the dinosaurs died out around 60 million years ago. The global crisis in the animal kingdom is directly connected to causes largely created by human pursuits. This includes activities like deforestation, poaching, trafficking, agriculture, pesticides and pollution — all of which are leading to massive habitat loss. If something is not done quickly, the extinction of species across the globe will be our biggest legacy. Related: 10 awesome eco-activities to do this Earth Day Fortunately, there is a solution to prevent many species from going extinct in the near future. By working together, people around the world can get legislators, scientists, religious leaders, politicians and educators to act quickly to stop habitat loss and start protecting Earth’s many creatures. To that end, Earth Day has several goals in mind for this year’s worldwide campaign to protect the planet’s most endangered species . The Earth Day Network is encouraging educators to heighten awareness of the extinction issues facing our planet. The campaigners also want governments to enact policies that protect both animals and habitats. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet On a smaller scale, Earth Day hopes to get people around the world to start eating more plants and stop using herbicides and pesticides . If these goals are met on Earth Day, which is officially on April 22, then we can make great strides in protecting endangered species and habitats across the planet. This includes species like bees , elephants, insects, whales, giraffes and coral reefs. If you are interested in making a difference by participating in Earth Day, help spread the word by telling people about this year’s theme and how they can help make the planet a better place for all its inhabitants. + Earth Day Network Image via Sue Ashwill

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Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas

February 11, 2019 by  
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Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it. If you need some romantic vegan and vegetarian dinner ideas, look no further than this list of amazing appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts. We even found a recipe for a rich, velvety vegan hot chocolate that will surely impress your significant other! Vegan fondue Just because you are vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fondue. This dairy-free cheese fondue from  The Edgy Veg  really spices up a romantic date night. For this  plant-based  fondue, you will use rice, potato and cashews. It is so delicious, you will want to dip everything in it. Sweet potato and avocado bites Another appetizer idea for your Valentine’s dinner, these sweet potato and avocado bites from Blissful Basil are a show-stopping treat. The ingredient list is short, and you simply start by tossing sweet potato slices in olive oil, cumin and paprika. After roasting them, top the sweet potatoes with an avocado and lime juice mixture, and finish with a garnish of tomato and radish sprouts. It’s a delicious vegan dish for the start of your romantic evening. Grilled zucchini rolls From Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom , these grilled zucchini rolls combine herbed goat cheese , roasted red peppers and zucchini. They are incredibly easy to make, and they are a great appetizer to munch on while you are making your main dish. Vegan Caesar salad Featuring homemade elements like Caesar dressing, peppery croutons and hemp Parmesan cheese, this recipe comes from My Darling Vegan . It is the perfect side dish for your vegan or vegetarian Valentine’s dinner. Related: How to make a hearty, warm kale salad with spicy chickpeas and sweet potato noodles Grilled eggplant with tomato and feta This amazing first course from Epicurious features eggplants, basil leaves, a large slice of tomato and crumbled feta. You start by grilling the eggplant and then stacking the ingredients. Continue grilling until the cheese melted. If you don’t have a grill, or if it’s too cold outside to fire it up, but you still want a delicious vegan eggplant dish for Valentine’s Day, try this vegan eggplant Parmesan recipe from Oh She Glows . Mushroom and leek risotto This vegan and gluten-free dish comes from The Minimalist Baker , and it is a creamy, cheesy comfort food that takes just eight ingredients and 30 minutes to prepare. You will need vegetable broth, olive oil, bella or cremini mushrooms, leeks, arborio rice, dry white wine, vegan butter, vegan Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and some salt and pepper. It is the ideal side for an Italian dinner. Stuffed mushrooms A savory appetizer for your Valentine’s dinner, this recipe is from Cheftographer , and it features sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and vegan cream cheese stuffed inside bite-sized mushrooms . This appetizer pairs well with a glass of wine, and both vegans and non-vegans will love it. Cheesy spaghetti with dill and peppercorns sauce You can indulge on  Valentine’s Day  with this creamy, cheesy dish from  Gourmandelle . The peppercorns give it a spicy kick, and the sour cream, feta cheese and dill give the pasta a delicious flavor. You can also choose a gluten-free pasta and add as many leafy greens as you like. Cauliflower steak with mushroom gravy When it comes to a cauliflower “steak,” the name refers to how the cauliflower is cut. No, this is not for a steak-loving meat eater, but this  recipe  from  Oh My Veggies  is excellent for vegans. The mushroom gravy gets its complex, umami flavor from the dried porcini mushrooms. But if you can’t find those, any dried mushroom will work. Cauliflower hemp Alfredo This deliciously creamy sauce calls for 10 ingredients and just 30 minutes to make, plus it is dairy – and nut-free. The recipe comes from Making Thyme For Health , and you can add this sauce to your choice of pasta, spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies. You can also give the dish “extra veggie power” by adding peas, mushrooms, broccoli or whatever else tickles your fancy! Related: How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin French salted hot chocolate This is a decadent beverage made with dark chocolate, coconut milk and coconut cream, then topped off with a flaky, gourmet salt. This idea comes from Champagne Tastes , and it is a perfect treat that you and your Valentine can enjoy before or after dinner. Heart cutout cupcakes This idea from Food Family Finds creates cupcakes that are filled with love. Basically, you make your favorite cupcake, cut out the center into a heart and fill the hole with cherry pie filling, strawberries, fudge or anything else your heart desires. Valentine’s Day heart cookies This vegetarian recipe from Food On Paper is a classic cookie recipe that features butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, vanilla and a dusting of powdered sugar. But the most important part of this recipe is the heart-shaped cookie cutter. Alternatively, whip up your favorite cookie recipe, then use the cookie cutter to make your cookies into lovable shapes. Raw chocolate almond cheesecake This recipe comes from The Vegan 8 , which means it is a vegan recipe that only calls for eight ingredients. Not only is this dessert vegan, but the chocolate crust is also gluten-free. To make that crust, all you need is sliced almonds, raw cacao, raw agave nectar and some sea salt. Related: DIY decadent vegan, gluten-free chocolate lava cake For the filling, you will need raw whole cashews, sliced almonds or regular almond butter, lemon juice, raw agave nectar, vanilla extract, sea salt and chocolate almond butter. Images via Michael Miller , Julien Pianetti , Stacy Spensley , Klara Avsenik , Thomas B. and Shutterstock

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