Majestic Creature in its Natural…WAIT.

giraffen-suedafrika-5gWhat natural creatures do you see every day?  I see squirrels and deer pretty often.  And insects!  Stink bugs are common in my house, and I’m starting to see bees and moths regularly.  Occasionally I see a chipmunk or rabbit, too.

I have a good friend who has family in South Africa.  When her cousins visit the U.S., they marvel at the squirrels and deer we have everywhere.  My friend and I always find this hilarious because in South Africa seeing giraffes, elephants, monkeys, lions, zebras, and hippos is no big deal.  Really!?  A giraffe is a thousand times more interesting than a squirrel!  It’s all what you’re used to….

Which brings me to this little creature.  It’s pretty common in most of the world, and most of us are used to seeing it in our daily lives:

Pretty well done, don’t you think?

 

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Eyes On Your Kids

You’re the parent. You’re the boss. You make the decisions for your family. Right?

Well, food marketers have noticed that there’s a very influential lobbyist, of sorts, in your midst: Your child.

photo by Mike Mozart via flickr CC

photo by Mike Mozart via flickr CC

Children have an impressive repertoire of tactics to convince their parents to make purchases, including whining, crying, pleading, arguing, pretty-pleasing. Even the most stalwart of parents become weathered and worn down by these tactics at times.

The problem is, children aren’t choosing their preferred products based on what’s good for them, or even based on what tastes good. Food marketers have realized kids can be “bought” by their emotions.

When a child watches a movie or a TV show with an admirable character in the lead, they identify, emotionally, with that character. The character becomes a part of their lives, someone they adore, someone they imitate, and someone they trust.

Who better to help your child decide how to make life decisions, right? [I hope every parent is thinking “WRONG – that’s my job!”]

A Cornell University study is exposing just how carefully marketing executives are designing product packaging (specifically cereal) to make absolutely sure your child gets the message they want them to get (usually: Buy me!).

The study shows that cereal marketed to kids dons characters with large eyes that are pointed down, towards the eye-level of your child, and perhaps more alarming – that it works. The practice is seen to build brand trust and loyalty.

“Findings show that brand trust was 16% higher and the feeling of connection to the brand was 28% higher when the rabbit made eye contact,” says an article from the Food Psychology Department of Cornell University.

Some healthy food manufacturers are interested in using the same tactics to sell healthier foods to kids. Problem is, if the practice is acceptable in the healthy foods aisle, it will be acceptable in the chips & dip aisle too. What we create is a thick, nearly impassible wall of marketing to kids. On the other side of the wall, is our ability to teach our kids healthy eating habits based on nutrition, calorie needs, and taste (not just artificially-enhanced flavors, but the taste of an actual whole food!).

photo by Renato Ganoza via flickr

photo by Renato Ganoza via flickr CC

We don’t accept manufacturers using cartoon characters on cigarettes, alcohol, or power saws. Of course, we can tell our kids “No” and we can explain why they can’t play with a circular saw, and we can teach them that cigarettes are unhealthy. But, we don’t accept marketing these products to kids because it’s just wrong. We should be less accepting of these methods in food marketing as well, no matter the food.

You might already know that MOMs has a policy against carrying products that are marketed to kids using branded cartoon characters (note the Barbara’s cereals missing from the shelves currently), but you can read more about the dawn of this policy here:

http://scottscompostpile.com/2012/08/02/low-blow/

Additionally, you might consider supporting this organization: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Follow them on twitter: @commercialfree and Like them on facebook!

 

Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.

 

 

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Dandelions Are Our Friends

dandelion1Dandelions contain protein, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.  There are uses for almost every part of the plant.  The roots and greens can be used to make a tonic that promotes digestion and acts as a diuretic.  Dandelions are also known for their liver support.  You know that white milky stuff that comes out when you puncture the bud of a dandelion? Apply that to a wart several times a day and the wart dissolves!

Not only are dandelions edible for us, they are edible for animals. Small birds eat the seeds, pigs gorge themselves on dandelions, rabbits thrive off of dandelion and you can even sneak dandelion into your dog’s food for smoother digestion.

Just remember, when considering foraging for wild dandelion, be sure to gather from unpolluted and chemical free areas!

Below are some awesome uses for dandelions:

1) Dandelion Wine

2) Dandelion Root Tea

3) Sautee’d Dandelions 

4) Boiled Dandelions

5) Fried Dandelion Fritters

6) Dandelion Salad

DandelionfrittersDandelion-Wine1

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Lawn Lunch

dandelionsYou may have a salad growing in your yard.

There are lots of reasons not to treat your lawn with chemicals and pesticides, and one of them is that your yard may be edible!   You may find your relationship with pesky weeds changing once you realize that they are also tasty greens.

As a kid, I remember eating salads with dandelion greens harvested from our yard, and seeing home-grown pansies as a garnish on dishes.  I felt a little weird eating them at first, but “weird” is usually adjustable.

However, don’t go out today and start gnawing on your ivy.  Always check an unfamiliar plant with someone from your local Native Plant Society or by careful research.  And try just a nibble first.  Best to find out if you dislike something or it doesn’t agree with you before you make a plateful for dinner.

Here are some of the many options!

Lamb's quarters

Lamb’s quarters

Amaranth

Purslane

Purslane

Curled Dock

Curled Dock

Lamb’s Quarters – a relative of spinach which raw actually has more iron, protein and b12 than spinach or cabbage!

Green Amaranth – mild-tasting with a hairy stem, these are a great veggie side-dish.

Purslane – a ground-hugging, purpleish-red green rich in iron and calcium.

Curled Dock – this guy can grow up to five feet tall with small, green blossoms.  Rather strong tasting, but delicious creamed or double-boiled.

These and many more wild edible plants could be growing in your yard!

Eva works at MOM’s Central Office

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Changing Up The Lawn

Even though the week started out snow-covered, I am still thinking about fixing my lawn this coming spring.

Along with my natural lawn maintenance plan, I am searching for ways to create low maintenance lawn alternatives.  I want to add some color and texture to my little plot of land, while hopefully creating a place for bees and butterflies to pollinate without being tainted by pesticides.  These are some lawn alternatives that I have found and seem relatively easy to execute.

grassesGroundcover
Groundcover has little to no maintenance, can choke out weeds, create a mulch, and some are nitrogen-fixing.  Examples of high-quality groundcover include: Alyssum, Tapien, Contoneaster, Bishops Weed, and Juniper.  The only drawback to ground cover is that it does not hold up well to a great deal of foot traffic and is better suited for areas that have low human and pet activity.

cloverClover
Clover keeps coming up! It seems to be the wonder healer to all your lawn care issues.  It is nitrogen-fixing, reduces soil compaction, grows quickly, is inexpensive, and requires no fertilizers.  The best variety I hear is Dutch White – make sure it is not covered in herbicide or fertilizer when you purchase it!

grassesOrnamental Grasses
Grasses are low maintenance, they grow well in many soils, and have very few pests.  They are also really good for privacy as some can grow many feet high.

shrubs and plants
Flower and Shrub Beds

Flower and shrub beds require the most maintenance but if you choose only a few native varieties, your maintenance will be minimal. There are many varieties of flowers and shrubs giving you the ability to grow them in sun and shade and in any color imaginable. You can plant these in open bed or raised bed plantings, and are a good option for uneven ground.

seedsI have already talked about my plans for planting clover, but I think I will also dedicate a small piece of my plot to creating a butterfly and bee flower bed. I have the seeds, I just need to sow them! 

All information based on documents published by Beyond Pesticides

Heather works in MOM’s Central Office.

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My Lawn, Your Lawn

cigarette_litterWhy is chemical treatment on my lawn such a big deal?  It’s my grass on my property.  It’s not like I’m spraying all my neighbor’s lawns or the playground or the dog park.

It was presented to me like this- sure, smoking a cigarette directly affects my body.  And sure, who can tell me what to do with my body?  But the truth is that the harmful Water Systemcomponents of cigarettes not only affect my body, but also those around me.  From the effects of second hand smoke, to the litter, to the environmentally stressful tobacco growing process, to the chemicals leeching into soil and water systems- cigarettes affect more than just the person smoking.

Chemicals used on lawns do quite the same thing.  It’s my lawn.  But where are the chemicals going after I apply them?  They’re leeching into the soil.  They’re running off with the rainwater.  They’re being tracked into the house.  The kids are going after their softballs in my lawn.  The dogs are sniffing and rolling around.  The bees are suffering.

Playing in Lawn

Culturally, we have a very quick fix sort of mindset.  We generally forget to think about the holistic impacts we have.  And quite frankly, many of us probably just aren’t aware!

Bumble-bee+and+dandelion+13332

There are great organizations out there creating the necessary awareness about the dangers associated with chemical lawn care.  Thank you to Beyond Pesticides for all your efforts!  And there are also many different resources providing alternative methods to maintaining pests and attractive yards, such as Gardener’s Supply Company.  All we need is a little elbow grease!

- MOM’s Employee of multiple MOM’s locations

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Organic Lawn Care Toolshed

handout1 handout2

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