How I Teach My Kids About Giving Back

It Doesn't Have To Be Complicated

How I Teach My Kids About Giving Back

When I was growing up, my grandmother was a very strong influence in my life. One of the things that I will always remember about her is how she was so compassionate about those who were less fortunate and how she always gave to them in whatever way she could. This is a lesson I have happily brought into my adulthood and I am, in a way, instilling a little bit of my grandmother’s values into my children.

Raising my children to be empathetic towards others and teaching them that because they have doesn’t mean everyone else does is very important to me. They are still very young, so I teach them about why and how we should give with very age appropriate actions. As they grow older, I look forward to exploring other ways, but for now, we do simple things they can understand. If you are looking for easy things you can do introduce your child to giving back, hopefully you can find some inspiration here:

  • We donate to our food bank year round, not only during the holiday season. From time to time, when we go grocery shopping, I let the kids pick out a few things to drop in the donation bin on the way out. It’s something they look forward to and even though I have to sometimes guide them towards healthier choices (canned Dora and princess soups is sometimes their top pick!), in the end, they take pride in the fact that they picked something out that will end up on the table of a child somewhere in our city who has less.
  • In Ottawa, we have an annual holiday toy drive called Toy Mountain. We pick a day in December to go to the store and they each get to pick out a toy for a child who is less fortunate. When they bring the toy and slide it down the chute into the toy mountain, the happiness on their faces is priceless.
  • We sponsor a World Vision child. Knowing that we are helping a child on the other side of the earth is such an amazing fact to them.
  • 3 years ago, my friend Rebecca and I founded a charity event called Shopping & Sweets (it’s taking place this Saturday, December 1st in Ottawa, please come check it out!). It's an event that brings together small businesses, holiday shopping, and talented bakers for one reason: to give back to two local charities who need our help the most at this time of year. It's a win-win for everyone involved. My children refer to Shopping & Sweets as “cupcake day.” Mainly because there are bakers at the event selling cupcakes and I bring some home for them at the end of the day. But besides the cupcakes, they understand why Shopping & Sweets exists and why it is important to me.
  • Throughout the year, I go through their clothes and set aside the gently used pieces they have grown out of. We go together to drop them off for those who can give them new life.
  • This one is the most difficult for them. The toys. Oh my goodness, the toys. These children grow so attached to their toys, even the toys that have not been played with for months. The second the idea to donate the forgotten toys comes up, it’s not pretty. But we have recently introduced a new rule: if you get a new toy, an old toy goes in the donation bag. It has been going great.

By doing these simple things with them now, my hope is that being compassionate becomes a way of life for them and that they continue to do good for others throughout their lives.

What types of activities do you do with your children to teach them the importance of giving back?


Real Deal or Fabulous Fake? Choosing a Christmas Tree

The Pros and The Cons

Real Deal or Fabulous Fake? Choosing a Christmas Tree

When I first bought our artificial Christmas tree many years ago, I didn’t know a whole lot about eco-friendliness or about the safety issues I needed to consider. Now that I am in the know, I am faced with this dilemma: What kind of tree is better for the environment and healthier for my family? A real tree or an artificial tree?

These Christmas Tree Alternatives Will Add Joy To Your World

With the holiday season quickly approaching, I need to make a decision soon because our Christmas tree has seen better days. It’s the first tree I bought after getting married and it’s the only tree my children have ever known—but it’s time.

I did some research, and put together a pros and cons list. Here is what I found:

  Real Christmas Tree Pros

  • They are natural
  • They are biodegradable, so they will not sit in a landfill forever
  • Picking out a new tree can become a yearly tradition with the family. This page will tell you where the farms in your area are located.
  • You will be supporting a local tree farmer/business

  Artificial Christmas Tree Pros

  • They can be used for many years, so you will save money
  • They are low maintenance

  Real Christmas Tree Cons

  • Most are grown with pesticides which you will be bringing into your home

Note: Organic, pesticide-free trees do exist, but I was not able to find many Canadian-based sources other than this Vancouver organic tree farm.

  • They can be high-maintenance if you are not used to having a real tree
  • They may be an issue for those with allergies
  • You have to spend money on a new tree each year

  Artificial Christmas Tree Cons

  • They are made from #3 plastic, also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. PVC is known as the most toxic plastic.
  • They are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, so after you are finished with it, it will sit in a landfill...forever
  • Some artificial trees may contain lead. Lead is extremely toxic and can cause long-term health problems
  • The majority of artificial trees are manufactured overseas which means they have to travel thousands of miles to get to your home, thus creating a huge ecological footprint

Another option is to buy or rent a live potted tree. Once the holiday season is over, it is replanted in the ground and then dug up again when the next holiday season rolls around. I was only able to find two Canadian rental companies, both based in Vancouver. Check out Evergrow Christmas Trees Co. or CarbonSync. If you want to buy one and replant it on your own property each year, inquire about this option with your local nurseries.

So, after weighing all the pros and cons, I'm leaning towards a real tree. In the end, the choice is one that only you can make, basing your decision on how much weight you place on each of the points listed above.

What kind of tree will you be using this year? Why?


The Just Beautiful Eco-Market

An Eco-Event For Toronto Residents

The Just Beautiful Eco-Market

Back when I started to switch over to natural body/beauty care and safer household cleaning products, there weren’t very many resources around for me to turn to. As a result, I spent countless hours reading and researching everything I could get my hands on so I could learn what was considered safe and what wasn’t.

Nowadays, if you decide that you want to make these changes, it’s so much easier because there are many trusted places you can turn to get reliable information such as the Environmental Defence website.

The Environmental defence is an excellent Canadian resource to visit if you are looking for information on environmental issues, product info, ingredient info, and so much more.

On Wednesday November 21, the Environmental Defence is holding its third Just Beautiful Eco-Beauty Market in Toronto.

At the Eco-Beauty Market, you’ll be able to shop for safe beauty and body care products. And the best part? You can shop with peace of mind. No need to second-guess if something is safe and no need to study labels because everything is approved by the Environmental Defence and is guaranteed to be safe from what is deemed to be their Toxic Ten. You will also be able to sample products, meet with eco-experts, learn makeup and hair tips from green beauty experts, and more! Fun!

The Just Beautiful Eco-Beauty Market Details


  WHEN: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

  WHERE: Central YMCA, Auditorium, 20 Grosvenor St., Toronto

  TIME:  11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

  COST: FREE! But you must RSVP in order to attend. (RSVPing also enters your name in a draw to win prizes!)

  What Companies Will Be There? Click for the full list of companies participating the Eco-Beauty Market.

Don’t forget to bring your own bag and your holiday shopping list! It will be a great spot to pick up non-toxic holiday beauty gifts for you and your family. If you do go, come back here and tell me all about it!