Happy Earth Month from my family to yours:
A is for animal sign. Look for claw marks on trees or scat (poop). Moose scat looks like chocolate almonds, elk scat resembles chocolate kisses and deer scat looks like chocolate-covered raisins!
B is for batteries. Children play longer with no-battery toys than ones that do everything for them. Wooden blocks and puzzles boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
C is for coyote. Urban coyotes can become more aggressive as they get more comfortable around people, so haze coyotes you encounter: stand tall, wave your arms and yell!
D is for diapers. "Elimination communication" toilet trains using a combination of signals, timing and body language. Fewer diapers saves money and stops landfill clogging.
E is for essential oils. Instead of DEET — a suspected neurotoxin and respiratory toxin — battle skeeters with herbal repellents containing citronella, eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils.
F is for fundraising. Turn stuff into cash for your kid's hockey team or school! Recycle e-waste and keep old and obsolete electronics out of landfills by sending them to ThinkRecycle.
G is for garden. Raised garden beds provide good drainage and act as slug barriers. Construct them on top of lawns with rot- and insect-resistant natural cedar.
H is for honey. Choose organic honey from hives that don't use non-organic honey, sugar or antibiotics. Look for the EcoCert, USDA organic, or Certified Organic Association of B.C. logos.
I is for injured wildlife. Never capture a sick or injured wild animal. Call a wildlife rehabilitation facility so staff can provide humane care.
J is for jojoba oil. Make baby massage oil. Add one tablespoon each of jojoba, sweet almond and olive oils to a bottle and shake to blend. Apply with warm hands.
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K is for killing germs. White vinegar deodorizers, cuts grease and disinfectants — tackles household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other "gram-negative" bacteria!
L is for leftovers. To avoid heating up the air inside your fridge or freezer, cool leftovers to room temperature before storing.
M is for microwave popcorn. PFOA is a chemical that coats microwave popcorn bags, non-stick frying pans — even pizza boxes. It'll be phased out by 2015.
N is for nature. Being outside reduces stress, anger and depression, and increases creativity, curiosity and problem-solving ability. Kids who spend time in nature are more resilient and cope better.
O is for outdoors. Kids are more attentive when a lesson on the same topic is presented in a park or schoolyard instead of a classroom. Teachers have to redirect the class less and students concentrate better.
P is for playground. Playgrounds that incorporate logs, flowers and small streams provide more variety of play opportunities and are better at supporting social interaction and physical development for children than concrete jungle gyms.
Q is for quats. Found in bathroom cleaning products, all-purpose cleaners and fabric softeners, quats can induce an allergic response in humans and are toxic to aquatic organisms.
S is for Sustainable Shopper's Guide. Download a copy and avoid toxic chemicals like DEA (diethanolamine), which makes bubble bath bubbly, but can irritate skin and eyes and is toxic to the immune and nervous systems.
T is for toothbrush. Preserve turns plastic yogurt containers into toothbrushes you can send back for recycling, instead of to the landfill.
U is for unscented. Even "unscented" products may contain ingredients to mask the odor of other chemicals. Read labels carefully and avoid "fragrance" or "parfum", which can trigger allergies and asthma.
V is for visit a neighbour. Human beings don't live in economies — we live in families and neighbourhoods. Hang a tree swing, organize a street hockey tournament or host a potluck.
W is for water. Many small songbirds need to drink about twice a day. Bathing helps keep their feathers in good condition. But don't set up a bird bath if you have outdoor cats!
X is for xeriscaping. Use up to 50 per cent less water by landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area.
Y is for yard. Rainfall and snowmelt pick up pollutants like garden pesticides, oil and grease from cars and de-icing salts used on roads and sidewalks that end up in streams, rivers and oceans. Turn your yard into a rain garden to help remove contaminants from surface water.
Z is for zzzz's. Rest easy with pillows made from natural rubber (renewable and biodegradable), kapok (flower seeds) or organic cotton, organic wool — even buckwheat hulls!
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green