Ways to Start the School Year Off Eco-Friendly

7327146800_b2e65d6bf3_oSummer is coming to a close. That means it is time to prep for the new school year. which means back to school shopping for supplies, backpacks, lunch pails, clothes, and the list can go on and on. Before you head out to the store to purchase everything, here are some great tips to keep those back-to-school purchases as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.

  1. Take Inventory

    4588535631_486542047c_oClean out those desk drawers, dressers, and closets and you may find hiding treasures like packs of pencils, notebooks, or clothes you bought on sale that haven’t even been worn yet. Now that you have gone through all that you have, you can make a list of what items are needed. The list will guide you. When you hit the stores, so you won’t buy duplicate items or spur or the moment purchases.

  2. Reuse What You Can

    5093615082_3df15d285f_oLook through what you have to see if any items can be reused. Often there are many items that are still in good condition and can be used for another year. The backpack from last year may be in great shape and just need a quick cleaning to be school-worthy.

  3. Healthy Lunch Options!

    9350757417_4bf3167767_oA bento box makes a great reusable and waste free lunchbox option- no plastic baggies required! Many bento boxes have multiple dividers or containers that allow you to pack a healthy and fresh lunch. If a bento box doesn’t suit your needs, there are many other great reusable containers that allow you to pack delicious and nutritious options.

  4. Reusable Bottles

    6959989243_b5a94e95a5_oRather than packing bottles of water or juice boxes daily, send your child to school with the healthy drink of choice in a reusable bottle. There are many great designs; no need for juice boxes!

    There are many great options when it comes to reusable containers, bbut be sure to check that they are made with recycled material and are BPA-free.

  5. Buy Recycled or Sustainable When Possible

    creative-desk-pens-schoolMake your list so you know the school supplies you need, now it is time to buy. Most retailers now offer many options of recycled and sustainable materials, such as pencils made from certified sustainable-harvest wood or pens, paper and notebooks. made from recycled materials. Every little bit helps eliminate waste!

  6. Eliminate Paper Waste

    apple-desk-working-technologyRather than having many pieces of paper float around ask to be emailed important notices from the school. Every bit helps and this will save many sheets of paper that get lost in the bottom of backpacks. This also allows you to put important dates in your digital calendars rather than keeping stacks of paper around the house.

Here’s to another great school year!

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?” Excitement      According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” Sleeping_angel All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!   For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html

The Story of Stuff

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Released in 2007, The Story of Stuff takes a closer look at the linear pattern of our economy. From our constant reaping of the planet’s finite resources to the addition of toxic chemicals to our products and our overwhelming transition to identifying ourselves as consumers, this unsustainable system cannot and will not last forever.

This video illustrates the current flow of our economy and the role that government, corporations, and individual consumers play in the “big picture.” It points out the problems with our current linear model, and the possibility of change to a more cyclical model based on people coming together to make a difference.

To learn more about The Story of Stuff Project or see more videos, visit http://storyofstuff.org/

10 Ways to Relieve Holiday Stress

Everyone gets stressed out during the holidays. It could be from shopping, family gatherings, or planning too many events in a short time. Whatever the cause, you need a healthy way to relieve it. Here are 10 activities that will naturally relieve your stress.

 

  • Take a Relaxing Bath

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Take time to enjoy a relaxing bath after wrapping presents. Maybe even light some candles and add some essential oils. Make it a special occasion!

 

  •  Drink Organic Herbal Tea

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Just the act of preparing and sipping tea will give you some personal time for relaxation. Research also shows that it can lower blood pressure.

 

  • Listen to Music

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Music has a special link to our emotions, so it can have an extremely relaxing effect on our bodies and minds. It also distracts us from our stress and helps prevent the mind from wandering.

 

  • Write In a Journal

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Whether it’s a journal or a daily planner, organize your life and your thoughts. Write down your plans for the day so that you don’t feel pressed for time. This will help you feel a sense of control and give you peace of mind during this busy season.

 

  • Get Regular Exercise

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Make an effort to do some kind of physical activity and get your heart rate up for at least half an hour a day. This will help you vent frustration and relieve tension. Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation as well.

 

  • Eat Healthfully

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Eating foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids will naturally stress naturally. Examples are fish, nuts, avocado, strawberries, and leafy greens. These foods are great for your body for many reasons, and stress relief is a great added bonus! It also doesn’t hurt to eat healthfully to make up for all those holiday sweets.

 

  • Aromatherapy

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When under stress, your body heightens its sense of smell, which is a survival instinct to identify threats in your environment. Aromatherapy addresses stress issues through the use of essential plant oils, giving your brain pleasant and healing aromas.

 

  • Arts and Crafts

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Find time to do some kind of creative activity, such as painting, ceramics, woodworking, or paper maché. Having an activity to focus on, with no pressure or time restraints, is a great way to relax your mind and body. You may also find that you’ve created a great present for someone!

 

  • Get a Massage

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Getting a massage is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It can enhance circulation, improve range of motion in your joints, and help relax tight muscles that hold your stress. If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how wonderful and light you feel afterwards.

 

  • Sleep

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Sleep is, above all else, the most important activity for reducing stress. Each person is different, so it is important for you to figure out how much sleep you need to feel alert and rested. You can improve your sleep schedule by getting into a routine or pattern that lets your mind and body know that it’s bedtime!

 

So don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. Try out some of these activities and have a relaxed and happy holiday season!

10 Foods That Help You Sleep

There are so many different methods for falling asleep, from counting sheep to meditating. If you are looking for a delicious alternative to those methods here are some great suggestions for tasty snacks that you can have before bed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

1. Cheese and Crackers

house_calls_enCheese is a protein-rich food that provides sleep-inducing tryptophan, while the carbohydrates in crackers assist the tryptophan in reaching your brain helping you fall asleep more quickly. Compare cheddar cheese to turkey and you will find that cheese contains more tryptophan than turkey!

2. Almonds

5081954872_021e68ccb7_zThese delicious and crunchy nuts contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep. Eating a tablespoon of almond butter or a handful of almonds before bed may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

3. Walnuts

walnut-328091_640Another nut that helps you catch your zzz’s are walnuts. Walnuts are a good source of melatonin, helping your body respond to stress and allowing you to relax.

4. Bananas

Banana_bunchBananas are full of tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep quality. They also offer a vast amount of magnesium and potassium that both help to relax muscles and ease pain such as a charley horse.

5. Cereal and Milk

3599466415_f2df29705c_bMilk also contains tryptophan. The brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote relaxation and control sleep cycles. While the carbohydrates in cereal make the tryptophan more available to the brain.

6. Cherries

cherries-390932_640Cherries are a great source of melatonin, a sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock.

7. Decaffeinated Green Tea

8151509619_f434aca966_bGreen tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

8. Hummus

Hummus_from_The_NileChickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are not only rich in tryptophan, but also folate and vitamin B-6. Folate helps to regulate sleep patterns, (especially in older people) and vitamin B-6 helps to regulate your body clock. So spread that hummus on a slice of bread for your pre-bed treat!

9. Pumpkin Seeds

1414256_20140128070420Pumpkin seeds are another snack that are packed with a variety of nutrients and tryptophan.

10. Lemon Balm Tea

peppermint-tea-1109_640Tea made from the herb lemon balm contains naturally occurring oils with terpenes, organic compounds that promote relaxation and better sleep.

So grab a snack and catch your zzz’s!

Take Sleep Seriously!

Meet Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist who studies sleep patterns in the brain. In the following video, he speaks about a range of topics relating to the importance of sleep.

He first describes three theories on the main function of sleep, as well as which theory he subscribes to. He then discusses what happens to a person (and the person’s brain) when sleep is lacking, as well as ideas about how to improve sleep quality and duration. Foster debunks some common myths and misconceptions about sleep, then speaks about the correlation between mental health and sleep disruption. He urges people to take sleep more seriously and realize the huge role that it plays in making us happy and healthy.

Watch to learn more:

20 Simple Ways to Conserve Water

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The hot summer weather is here and it is creating a drought, making water conservation a must. This year California businesses and residents were asked to voluntarily reduce water usage by 20 percent to help save water. There are hundreds of things that you can do to help conserve water. Here are a few ideas that you can easily incorporate into your everyday life.

  1. Minimize the number of dishes used throughout the day by designating a drinking glass for yourself. This eliminates the need to wash multiple cups.7190209429_6d6b828104_z
  2. When serving dinner, serve right out of the pots and pans, as this will eliminate additional dishes.
  3. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  4. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of using running water from the tap.DIY fruit and veggie wash 4
  5. Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for cold water.
  6. Dishwashers can use less water than hand washing, especially new energy-efficient models.
  7. Collect water used for cleaning fruits and vegetables, drained from pasta, etc. to water your plants.

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  1. When doing laundry, wash in cold water, as it saves water and energy while helping clothes keep their color.
  2. Also, when doing laundry be sure to match the water level with the size of the load.
  3. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and save up to 150 gallons per month. If your whole family did this, imagine how much water your house could save!3761877701_a3858973a7_z
  4. Aim for 5-minute showers and you can save up to 1,000 gallons of water per year.
  5. Skip the baths, as a full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water.
  6. Turn off the water as you brush your teeth and save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  7. Be sure to check all faucets for leaks, as one drip every second can add up to 5 gallons per day! Also check all pipes, hoses, toilets, and faucets inside and out for leaks.6502693313_54a02fb395_z
  8. Run your washer and dishwasher only when they are full. This can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  9. In your yard, be sure to plant species that are native to your area, as they require less maintenance to flourish.
  10. Start a compost pile or bin. Using compost in your garden or flower beds adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.

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  1. Wash your pets outdoors, in an area of your lawn that needs to be watered.
  2. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, sidewalks, and driveways, and save water every time!
  3. When washing your car, use commercial car washes that recycle water. When washing your car at home, be sure to turn the water on only when rinsing.

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Try to incorporate as many of these as you can, and see what a difference a few little changes can make to reduce the amount of water you use.