Earth Day has come and gone for the year. A week ago, Sunday, the children played in the dirt with their shovels and pails, digging up a chunk of my rhubarb plant in the process of making mud pies. It was quite a beautiful day here and we needed it. The cold weather has been hanging heavy on us for the last couple of weeks.
My interpretation of Earth Day is one of celebration of this beautiful place we share as well as inspiration to change. The need to change stems from the negative and sometimes careless impacts that humans have on the planet caused by daily habits. On every level, it is virtually impossible to remain ignorant about the effect that we have on our oceans, land and wildlife. For many, the shift in weather and unpredictable storms has been a turning point to say “let’s do more.” For others, it may be the images of Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sea turtles choking on plastic bags or finding trash along the paths of a local conservation area. Still, for others it may be tied in with health and a desire to have a smaller footprint or connect with the earth through eating organic and locally grown foods.
There were many encouraging and hopeful sentiments expressed on social media. I’ve enjoyed reading them this past week and want to maintain this positive and hopeful energy. I feel that the most important statement of all is the recognition that every day is Earth Day. Let me repeat, Every Day is Earth Day! With this recognition comes the question “what can I do to help?" It is easy to feel overwhelmed but important to start somewhere. Begin with one small habit change and go from there.
One recent habit changes I’m attempting is how I give and receive children’s toys. As a mother of 3 young children I have felt both grateful and overwhelmed by the gifts given to my kids. Gift-giving is entwined with birthdays, holidays and visits from friends and family. As toys are given as an act of love and joy, it is a delicate subject to address with the giver.
My problem with toys relates to the volume and the quality. It is well established that children thrive and actually play (rather than expecting to be amused) when they are surrounded by fewer toy choices. Imagination is thought to spark more easily when there is less distraction and more room for invention and chance. From a parental perspective, when fewer toys are in the house, less time is spent cleaning and organizing them. From a quality perspective, the majority of children’s toys are a combination of brightly coloured plastics and metals that quickly become damaged. Many of them break or lose their lustre after several uses and end up in the overflowing toy box with all of the other, forgotten toys. Damaged or broken toys cannot be recycled as they will contaminate the recycling stream due to the combination of materials used to create them. Donating damaged toys or those with missing parts is putting the task of managing them onto someone else and is irresponsible. So, it seems like an endless cycle of waste but there are ways to be more mindful. Either as parents or as gift-givers, we have to take responsibility of reducing our consumption and establish some boundaries. Here are some suggestions on how to get started:
If you are throwing a birthday party for your 1-year old.
- Clearly state in the invitation that no gifts are necessary. You can be creative with your wording by writing “please bring only your company and your appetite” or “your good wishes are the only gifts that we wish to receive.” If invitees inquire about a gift, assure them that the party is being held to celebrate your little one through spending time with him or her. If they are insistent that they would like to bring something, suggest bringing an appetizer to the party.
If you are throwing a birthday party for your child:
- In the invitation, state the no gifts please phrase or suggest that invitees can give a donation to a charity of your choice instead of a gift. Try this wording “Charlie has an interest in saving turtles. In lieu of a toy, we would gladly pass on any contribution that you would like to make to our local conservation authority.”
- Instead of sending home a “loot bag” full of plastic toys, stickers or candy, have the children bring home a craft that they have made at the party, an edible gift or… nothing!
- Buy less, buy better quality. Use your purchasing power to demand better quality items.
What to say to family and friends:
- Again, encourage buying less, buying better.
- Provide suggestions of what your child needs. Summer camp or helping out with music lessons? A new pair of shoes or a bike helmet? Chose suggestions that get your kids active and outside.
- Gently suggest that instead of a gift, spending time with the child is preferable to a toy. Suggest activities that loved ones can do with your children such as taking them to the skating rink, the playground, the local pool or the library. It is the time spent playing with them that children remember and not the "who gave what toy" to them.
What to do if all of your “no-gift” suggestions are ignored:
- Graciously accept the gift. Consider donating unopened or duplicate gifts.
Finally, when gifting is appropriate here is what to look for when purchasing a good quality toy:
- Wooden blocks in assorted sizes. I purchased tub of blocks at a second hand market several summers ago and they continue to be a favourite amongst my children.
- Organic cotton or wool toys.
- Natural rubber toys.
- Crafting materials such as crayons, pencils, scissors and coloured paper.
Have you made any changes that help with any environment or social movement? How do you feel about the toys in your house? Do you feel that you need to bring a gift when you attend a party? So many questions! I would to hear what you're up to!
I created this recipe as a nod to my one of my favourite treats, chocolate covered blueberries (second only to chocolate almonds). Dried blueberries provide texture and chewiness that one would expect with an oatmeal cookie. The blueberries are also a nice alternative to raisins. It is during the end of winter and early spring that I find myself relying upon dried fruits and nuts in baking rather than fresh produce.
Chocolate Chip Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 55 1 ½ tbsp. cookies at 25 g each
Time: Prep time (20 minutes) + Baking time (10-12 minutes per batch)
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (188 g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine grained salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cups (135 g) rolled oats
1 cup (100 g) dried coconut
1 cup (155 g) dried blueberries*
1 ¾ cups (300 g) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until pale. Lightly mix in the vanilla extract.
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add to the wet mixture and mix until combined. Mix in the oats, coconut, blueberries and chocolate chips on low speed.
4. If baking straight away: drop by the spoonful (1 ½ tablespoons or 25 g) or use a cookie scoop to achieve a more consistent shape. If saving until later, measure 1 ½ tablespoons/25 g and roll into a ball. Place on a cookie sheet to firm up. Refrigerate or freeze for later use. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow your freshly baked cookies to firm up about 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack or eating them while they are fresh from the oven!
Serve with a glass of cold milk.
*Dried blueberries can be found at bulk food stores. I purchased mine at the Bulk Barn.
Adapted from the Centennial Recipe Book (1862-1962). Recipe credit to Mrs. Floyd Capling.