Eco Easter

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As it is Easter weekend why not make my inaugural blog post about being environmentally friendly at Easter.  Consider this a special edition.  Here we go!

Easter, like Hallowe’en and Christmas, can easily become distorted by commercialism, and this modern approach to tradition can be rather environmentally unfriendly.  It is dominated by candy wrapped in layers of packaging, small plastic eggs with one use, cheap plastic toys quick to break, another stuffed animal for the pile amassing in the corner, not to mention all of the resources required to produce and ship these items.

Now, I know, that is a rather dim outlook.  I was a kid once, and I recall just how exciting these holidays can be but, I also recall being excited about much more than chocolate.  I was excited about family time,  Easter dinner (which in my house meant Mom’s pierogies!), the Easter egg hunt itself, the thought of a giant stuffed bunny, ok, and the smarties-filled chocolate egg and my annual Easter-themed soft toy.

So, let’s not deny the kids.  Here are a few ways you can reduce your footprint this Easter without ridding of traditions:

Dyeing eggs.   We all know that this is a traditional “craft” for kids at Easter.  Each family has a unique approach whether they opt for food colouring, kool-aid, store-bought kits, markers, paints, stickers, and combinations of.  According to tradition, families dye and decorate eggs on Saturday and then hunt for said eggs on Sunday morning.

This year, why not try natural dyes, non-toxic paints, and maybe even some cooking twine if you’re feeling adventurous (I’ll explain).  In so doing you will only need to dispose of purely natural dyes and compostables with the exception of the egg carton (which, if paper, can be recycled or reused as a plant starter), and if you’re really good the vegetables used will be locally sourced.

Nature can offer quite a range of dyes.  Using beet root, blueberries or purple cabbage, chard or spinach, turmeric, onion skins and chili powder you can make dyes that would make a rainbow proud.  There are many websites with instructions on how to make and use natural dyes for Easter eggs so I will not describe it here.  Instead I will leave you with this tip: if you want to add a little flare to your eggs, try wrapping cooking twine around them before putting them in the dye, the result will be an abstract line design worthy of the Tate Modern.

A few things to remember:

  1. When purchasing your eggs, don’t forget to support local farmers with ethical chicken rearing methods.
  2. Avoid styrofoam egg cartons!
  3. Vinegar is a binding agent of sorts here, it will help the eggshell retain the dye so don’t forget to add it to your dyes.
  4. The longer the eggs sit in the dye, the deeper the colour.
Natural dyes for Easter eggs                 L to R: onion skin, turmeric, red cabbage, blueberries.                                    Photo cred: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

The Hunt.  This is the best part of Easter for kids but, it is not the prize so much as the process that they enjoy most!  Hunting for Easter eggs allows kids to use their imagination and problem solving skills, there is an element of a race and in the end they are searching for the equivalent of treasure.  Given their enthusiasm for the hunt itself, it is surprisingly easy to make the Easter egg hunt greener.

  • First, you can go old skool and hide your dyed/decorated eggs (see #1)
  • You can make eggs of other materials, like string or paper maché eggs for example
  • You can make the eggs a currency, where they can “buy” larger items, or experiences with their found eggs
  • Use homemade Easter baskets made of fabric or paper, etc.
  • Invest in reusable, plant-based fillable Easter eggs like those made by Eco Eggs
  • Do not support the sale of chicks!
  • Be conscious of what you put in the fillable eggs, or Easter baskets, here are a number of options:

Candy:  If store-bought remember, the less packaging the better!  Also, check out quality candy like that from Surf Sweets.  They make the best gummy worms I have ever tasted and they are members of “1% for the planet”.   You can also put homemade cookies, or nuts in fillable eggs.

Things: There are many options here, be creative!  Jokes, coupons (for example: go to a movie with mom, get out of chore, pick dinner, etc.), coins, hair accessories, homemade play-doh, mini soaps (bonus points if you make them yourself), rock crayons, stickers, stamps (postage or rubber), small craft sets, small plush toys, finger puppets, puzzle pieces (divided among all or a number of eggs), and so much more.  Don’t forget to support local artisans if they have small items available.

* * When hiding eggs outside, be conscious of where your little ones will be tromping

Easter Eggs


The Dinner.

I’m going to start by saying I do not advocate for being vegetarian, vegan or meatetarian.  Your dietary choices are your own and there are many arguments to support each.  I do, however, have issue supporting our current farming practices.  I will discuss this topic in a future blog post or two.

Whether you intend on cooking a ham, a lamb or a turkey for the big dinner, again, be conscious of where this meat is coming from and whether it was raised and butchered in a “humane” way.  It can be difficult to source meats in big grocery stores so I would suggest finding your local butcher.  You may live in an area with farming, if so, try to identify a farm using eco-conscious and humane practices.  When you do find a reputable farm, be sure to support them, the odds are against them when competing against the factory farms!

Having said that, at the end of the day, animal farming practices are less than desirable for a number of reasons including the rather loose definition of “free-range” and “hormone-free”.  This is what makes it difficult to discuss this topic here as each country has its own regulations.  As this blog is meant to guide you in becoming more green using “baby-steps”, let’s start with organic meat for this Easter.  Organic meat is often sold by large grocers, and the difference in the quality of meat is tangible.  I will discuss why this is so in a later post.

When grocery shopping note things like packaging, how far the product had to travel and I do promote buying organic.

  1. Packaging.  If you were to look in your garbage and recycling bins you might notice that the majority of items in there are food packaging items.  The only way to rid of the packaging plague is to be wary when in store, or start shopping at Farmer’s Markets.  Some of the packaging you may encounter when shopping for Easter dinner:
    • Produce bags.  Produce bags are the bane of my existence, in fact, all plastic bags are. Do your potatoes need to go into a plastic bag?  No.
      • If you are concerned about your produce being “dirtied”, try soaking it in the sink with baking soda when you get home.  Be sure to rinse well.  This also saves you having to wash it later.
      • Alternatively you can buy, or make, reusable produce bags.  Mesh fabrics work well for this.
      • This is of course assuming you are already using reusable shopping bags.
    • Styrofoam.  Meat is packaged on styrofoam trays and eggs can be packaged in styrofoam cartons.  Styrofoam is not easily, nor timely, degraded and is beside plastic on the environmentally unfriendly list.
      • In order to avoid styrofoam, the best place to purchase meat is from your local butcher, who should be using butcher’s paper.  Though not perfect, it is a far better alternative!
      • You can also carry a container in which to put meats after being weighed.
    • Plastic jars.  Nearly every liquid/semi-liquid product is now packaged in plastic.  The day apple sauce was no longer packaged in a glass jar was a very sad day for me.  If there is the option to go glass, do so.  Avoid plastics at all cost.  Glass is easily recycled, not made of petroleum and not found accumulated in the stomachs of marine wildlife.
      • When I cannot find a particular product packaged in glass I walk away and figure out how to make it myself.  This ends up being healthier for my family and the environment anyway.
    • Waxy plastic bags.  Boxed products, like Stove-top, tend to be contained in a waxy-plastic, or aluminum-lined paper bag within the box.  To my knowledge, this kind of bag cannot be recycled because of its mixed-material nature.  This is a very hard one to dodge!  Some artisans will package these products, like cookies, crackers, cereals, etc., using alternative materials but, they are hard to come by.
      • I usually end up walking away and learning how to make the product myself.  For the record, I now make a wicked granola (recipe to follow in a future post)!
  2. Food mileage.  Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have to deal with a short growing season.  In addition, we rely on prairie regions to grow grains, which are a fundamental component in our diet.  All aspects of a well-balanced diet will need to travel some distance it is true but, you can reduce that mileage by opting to buy products as local as possible.  This requires some planning when preparing for Easter dinner.
    •  Luckily some big grocers promote local sourcing, and farmer’s markets are a great source for local goods, weather permitting.
    • Eat seasonal fruits & vegetables, heartier ones being harvested later in the year.
    • Try freezing and/or canning fruits & vegetables during the growing season for use during the winter months.
  3. Organic.  Not everyone believes organic is necessary.  In my opinion, there are a number of reasons to eat organic including the lack of chemicals found in and on organic produce!  The chemicals used by farmers to fend off weeds and pests are harmful to both the environment and our health.  On soft fruits and vegetables in particular, those with thin skins, these chemicals are absorbed by the tissue of the fruit/vegetable.  When we consume it, the chemicals are then absorbed into our tissues.  Yuck!   In addition, many of the pesticides used are greatly harming bee populations and those of other pollinators.  What may not be common knowledge is that pollinators are absolutely necessary for the continuation of both wild and agricultural plants.  I will go into detail on that topic in a future post as well.
    • So, this Easter, try your best to find organic products, you will be making a healthier choice and supporting more responsible farming practices.

 

These habits have greatly reduced packaging in our trash and recycle bins at home, we no longer buy processed food, and we are eating healthier.  You may need to make a few sacrifices, cut-out a few novelty foods but, you and your family as well as the environment will be healthier for it.

Cheers to a happy Easter, a healthier planet & a healthier you!

 

 

 


Photo Credits:

  1. Natural dyes from Arina P Habich from Shutterstock.com
  2. Easter Eggs from photopin.com: <ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/65231736@N07/16424541884″>Colors of Easter – Sony A7II, Voigtlander 15/4.5 III</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

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