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Displaying items by tag: christmas how to make simple changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle? Have you wondered where to buy your organic food and goods locally? Or how to be more energy efficient? Do you know what is recyclable in Belgium? We do - or we know someone who does! This site is intended to be an information rescource and focal point for ecologically minded people living in and around Brussels. Please revisit the site often, because we update it on a regular basis. http://sunbeams.eu Sun, 26 Mar 2017 22:43:49 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Top 10 Tips for a Real Holiday Season http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/211-top-10-tips-for-a-real-holiday-season http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/211-top-10-tips-for-a-real-holiday-season Top 10 Tips for a Real Holiday Season

Champagne corks flying.... late nights out... 5 course dinners... gifts... swinging parties... tempting sweets... socializing with family and friends... piles of wrapping paper... cocktails... traveling across town (or the world)... shopping... decadent chocolates... Welcome to the Holiday Season! With all the festivities and so many things to prepare and do, the holidays can easily throw us off kilter, and lead to feeling rundown, even stressed by it all! With a little planning and positive intention, you can get through the season and come out of it feeling and looking great, and even help others and the environment along the way. To help create balance in and around your life, read on!

Grazing – eat smaller portions

As difficult as it is to resist all the holiday goodies that are out there, remember the golden rule: if you aren't hungry, stay away from the food table. While socializing, it's easy to forget how many of those cheese pastries or truffles you gulped down while sipping your drink.

One trick is to eat some healthy, fiber- rich foods before you hit the party scene. Then you can graze at leisure without the risk of overindulging from hunger. Also, try to take half portions to satisfy your sweet tooth without overburdening your body. If you are the host, be part of the solution by serving smaller portions of everything so guests can indulge without overdoing. Offer healthy alternatives such as veggie sticks with a humus dip, lots of greens, and other whole foods.

And when you are in between activities, keep your fridge stocked with healthy foods so that you aren't tempted to take in more sweets and heavy foods. Plan your grocery shopping so you can prepare lighter meals to compensate for all the rich dishes elsewhere. Eat regularly to avoid overdoing it at the next occasion. With all of this planning, how about considering these actions as the start of a healthy habit!

Homemade

While on the subject of food, consider making it homemade. Leave the over packaged and processed stuff in the stores this season and go for some real food when entertaining. Have you ever thought about all the food that is inside of a grocery store? Amazingly, most of it doesn't even qualify for whole, healthy, or even real food. Nearly everything that is inside the outside aisles of the store is packaged and processed "food". Do your body and the planet a favor by buying most of your product from the perimeter and avoid the inside aisles.

Gifts – think outside the box

I love finding a great gift for giving and for me that means really nailing it when it comes to thinking of what is meaningful for the person I'm giving it to. So skip the usual trinkets and go for something really irresistible. You might be surprised to know how often the most loved gifts are the ones that recognize a creative talent, neglected interest, or a need for pampering. You can buy a gift certificate for a treatment or donate to a charity in the person's name. Or look for hidden talents yearning to come out of hiding - treat the person to a session of classes like salsa, art, cooking, or singing. Acknowledging someone's interests and aspirations can be very healing and empowering. Nice! And think of all the trees you'll be saving by avoiding all the big packaging.

Drink – get lots of H2O...

Alcohol and all of that chocolate can be very dehydrating. Too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep, inhibit your immune system, make you feel sick or sluggish the next days, dehydrate your body, and make you more susceptible to cold viruses and the flu. Here's a little trick to help keep things in check. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink and you will cut down on your alcohol consumption and keep your body liquids in better balance. Water also helps to get rid of toxic waste and keeps energy in check.

Move! (And I'm not talking about away from that dessert table (a good idea nonetheless.))

It's really important to maintain some routine of exercise to keep your energy flowing, burn off those calories and relieve stress, all at the same time.

Yes, that holiday shopping can add up. Take public transport and walk around while shopping. If you are driving, park your car far from the shops and walk the extra bit, take the stairs instead of the elevators, basically take any option that offers movement.

Between all of the holiday activities, kids on school holiday, and relatives and friends visiting, it's important to keep some semblance of an exercise routine, even if Ii's only the abridged holiday version!

Release it!

Stress that is. High amounts of stress, especially prolonged stress, create a lot of havoc for your body and your mind. Stress lowers your immune system, reducing your body's capacity to react to infection. So in addition to regular exercise, ensure you are getting those adequate hours of sleep every night. Sleeping at least 8 hours a night for most people helps keep inflammation in the body down and the immune system functioning. Also consider a Vitamin C supplement that can raise the body's resistance to colds. Its powerful antioxidant effect assists to increase vital cellular processes and protect DNA from damage. Find a good source of non-acidic vitamin C supplements to help keep your health and keep away colds and the flu.

Keep breathing!

When you feel your stress level rising, try yoga breathing (ujjaiyi) to help regulate your blood pressure and calm things down. Also helpful is two for one breathing. Exhale for twice the count of your inhale. This can slow your heart rate, calm your mind, and lower your blood pressure. Try these whenever you feel your stress level rising.

Outdoor therapy

Go outside and do something fun with your family. Walk around the neighborhood to look at holiday displays or organize a walk in the park during family get-togethers. Chances are, if your family gatherings are stuffy and something you don't look forward to, the rest of the party feels the same. Put a new spin on some of the old traditions to keep the energy positive and flowing. Taking walks, hiking, and enjoying other family activities with relatives will also help use up the energy from the extra servings.

Think Zen

Take time for yourself – even if its 15 minutes a day just to relax, disconnect from all the holiday commotion, and really go into yourself. Meditation is a good way to lower stress. Choose a place where you won't be interrupted – try it first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night, or even in the car before heading somewhere. Don't know how to meditate? How about an audio guide to meditation as another great gift idea!

Make a bird feeder

While holiday gatherings tend to be focused on indulgence, you can balance them with some quality time with your family. Outdoor projects with kids are fun and educational. A bird feeder is easy to make and draws a lot of birds during the cold winter months. Another idea is to help solitary bees find more nesting places by preparing nesting tubes in hollow branches or plant stems. Go to http://www.buglife.org.uk/getinvolved/gardening/beenestsforgardeners for more information. Wait and hang them out in March to be ready for spring buzzing. Creating an eco-friendly activity can help make children more aware of our impact on the environment, and if children grow up green, they help the earth stay healthy too.

And finally... Just say Yes!

Say yes to staying home...sometimes less is more and enjoying family time can be a lot more satisfying.

Happy Holidays!

Nüket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy. If you would like more information, or a free sample session, contact her by email.

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Articles Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:03:50 +0000
Green Gift Ideas http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/152-green-gift-ideas http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/152-green-gift-ideas Green Gift Ideas
  • grenchmasJane Goodall Institute. This institute is close to our heart! Jane Goodall not only continues to protect and observe chimpanzees, but also does some breathtaking development cooperation and inspires young people all over the world to do something useful with her Roots and Shoots program. You can either donate money, become a member, adopt a chimpanzee or order one of the many beautiful things of her online shop. You can find her books in English, beautiful mugs and letter paper, memo blocs, peace bracelets, brass pins, a tree planting certificate and even delicious organically shade-grown coffee beans from the Gombe Reserve. Sunbeams has a selection of her products which can be bought at our events. If you send us an email well in advance you can even make your personal order to be picked up at one of our events.
  • Natuurpunt. Natuurpunt, the biggest nature organization in Belgium, has an online shop with lots of original nature presents. Have a look at their selection of binoculars, posters, books, DVDs, bat detection devices etc. You can find your items by clicking on the categories in the left column. Members get a reduction.
  • Vogelbescherming. The Belgian organization for  bird protection, Vogelbescherming, has a catalogue which you can download here. Just write them an email with your wishing list and it will be delivered at your home. Members get a reduction. We love their mugs decorated by the Belgian artist Marjolein Bastin!
  • Nature et Découvertes. Nature et Découvertes have an amazing selection of creative toys for children, books, useful items and gadgets for adults all related to nature, well being, exploring. It might be a bit expensive sometimes but a share of their profit goes straight into projects related to nature.
  • Ozfair. Ozfair is a fair-trade and organic shop which offers a nice selection of presents - necklaces, tea pots, bath products, CDs, clothing and wooden toys for children. They also serve breakfast and lunch in their boutique in Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis.

The article was originally published in the January 2009 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Articles Sun, 12 Dec 2010 14:11:11 +0000
Lease a Christmas Tree http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/150-lease-a-christmas-tree http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/150-lease-a-christmas-tree Lease a Christmas Tree

Like last year, the MYP students are currently involved in a project called 'Lease a Tree'. For just 35€, 48 fortunate families can enjoy me, and my pine tree friends', company for three weeks.

I am a tree in the garden of the International Montessori School (in Hof Kleinenberg). Every year, the MYP students dig me carefully out of the ground and place me in a lovely pot. Then they transport me to my new host family and after an awesome Christmas my pine needles would normally fall off but the MYP students take me back to the garden and re-plant me before that can happen. Then I share Christmas memories with my pine tree friends. I will get a new home again next year.

The aim of all this is to re-use and recycle as much as possible, starting with Christmas trees, and to make people aware that it is a matter of determination, innovation and imagination.

On behalf of the students at the International Montessori School in the IB MYP (International Baccalaureate Middle Year Program), Michelle Basson and Vilhelmina Haavisto can give you further ideas.

For further information contact Rinze Hoekstra (Head of School) by e-mail or you can phone at +32 (2) 7212111.

This article was originally published in the December 2009 edition of the Sunbeams newsletter.

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Articles Sat, 11 Dec 2010 21:20:55 +0000
Christmas Gift Exchange: Old Items Only http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/149-christmas-gift-exchange-old-items-only http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/149-christmas-gift-exchange-old-items-only Christmas Gift Exchange: Old Items Only

Have you got things in your house that you don't need any more but which are still in good condition? Have you bought something on impulse only to realize later that you don't really want it? Do you want to get rid of clutter but can't get yourself to throw away stuff mercilessly?

Well, why not make your unwanted items the life of your Christmas party by holding an 'all-old items' gift exchange? This gift exchange can be best done by a game called White Elephant or Yankee Swap. This game is very simple yet guaranteed to be fun. This could be an additional gift exchange or even replace the gift-giving altogether.

Just tell everyone joining your party to bring an item or two that is either used, or unused but not needed anymore. The item should be something that may still be useful to someone. The item should be wrapped, preferably using old newspaper/magazine.

During the party, the gifts are placed together and the participants gather around them. Numbers will be assigned to everyone by drawing lots.

The one who has number 1 gets to pick a gift first. He/she opens the gift and shows it to everyone. The person who gets number 2 goes next and chooses to do either one of the following: get a gift from the lot and open it OR "steal" the first person's gift. If the gift is "stolen" from the first person, he can then take a new gift and open it. The third person will then choose to get an unopened gift or "steal" the gift from person 1 or 2. The person whose gift got "stolen" can choose to get an unopened gift or "steal" another gift. This process goes on until all gifts are opened. "Stealing back" from the person who "stole" the gift is not allowed.

There are many variations to this game but it is best to set a limit to the number of times a gift can be "stolen." Rolling of dice can be used instead of drawing lots. There can be different rounds with a time limit, especially if there are people who brought more than one gift.

The "stealing" of gifts definitely adds excitement to the game and helps ensure that the one who is "stealing" really wants the gift. Everything is done in the spirit of fun! And, of course, the game is also an easy and eco-friendly way for people to give new life to old and unwanted items!

Have a fun-filled Christmas!

This article was first published in the December 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Articles Sat, 11 Dec 2010 21:17:36 +0000
Fake Fir: Christmas Trees http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/148-fake-fir http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/148-fake-fir

“Oh toilet brush oh toilet brush, how lovely are thy bristles...” just doesn’t have quite the same holiday ring to it as the classic carol, does it? I know I was surprised when, in the course of researching this article, I came across the humble origins of the artificial Christmas tree: in the 1930s the Addis Brush Company discovered that their toilet brush factory could produce a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree. The artificial tree is now firmly entrenched in the ethos of Christmas consumerism.

Boring Fake Tree by DaDaAce on flickr!Generally, chopping down trees is anathema to environmentalists. And re-use is an integral part of the green trilogy, leading one to assume that the once-every-six-to-ten-years purchase of a reusable tree would be hailed as heroism by those dedicated to the rescue of Earth’s arboreal reserves. Not so, my friends. As it so happens, the toilet-brush Christmas tree is produced with non-biodegradable plastic, usually in a factory far, far away (where respect for environmental regulations and lead levels seems as plastic as the products) and often isn’t even used for the full ten-year lifetime purchasers are banking on. The branches get all tangled, the papery ‘needles’ are eaten by the family feline, one of the essential segments is on holiday in the Bermuda Triangle… and a new tree must be bought.

In contrast, the real tree is 100% natural. When you’re done with it, you can recycle it for mulch, or even better, you can have a potted one that you re-plant outside at the end of the season. Despite the harvest and transport carbon costs, real trees have serious green credibility. One acre of douglas fir, a holiday favourite, can absorb 11,308.7 lbs of carbon dioxide. Christmas tree farmers also replace the cut trees - if they didn’t, they would go out of business after one year!

Creative souls have found that the main functionality provided by the Christmas tree (namely, a festive centerpiece under which gifts are placed) can be replicated in a variety of materials. Attractive displays of driftwood, cut boughs of evergreens, felted trees, cardboard creations, stacked books and light projections are all possibilities suggested by Google Images. Why not get the children involved and come up with your own alternative Christmas ‘tree’?

This article was originally published in the Decemeber 2010 edition of the Sunbeams newsletter.

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Articles Sat, 11 Dec 2010 21:14:00 +0000
Eco-challenge: Gift Opening http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/take-an-eco-challenge/item/98-eco-challenge-gift-opening http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/take-an-eco-challenge/item/98-eco-challenge-gift-opening

Gift Opening

Open gifts with care and attention to the wrapping paper, ribbons, tags and boxes. 

The challenge is to see how much can be saved and put away for reuse during your next holiday season.

Did you know that paper can be ironed on a low setting if you find there are two many creases in it from a previous wrapping.

On the inside of sheets of paper write the dates when used and see how many years one sheet of paper can be used.  This can provide great entertainment in years to come as you remember gifts wrapped in the paper years past or simply how many years you’ve seen it come back in circulation.

Save tags and reuse again another year….saves time on writing out new tags and money buying new tags.

Ribbon can be added to new ribbons another year, can be reused as is, or added to children’s crafts.

Boxes often fold flat and take up little space.  If they can not be folded, take on the puzzle challenge to find out how many you can nest together.  Wrapping the parts of a box rather than the whole box itself saves the paper and has a prepared box for next year’s use.

Can you reuse any parts of pre-packaged gift items?

This article was originally published in the October 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Eco-challenges Tue, 13 Apr 2010 19:16:30 +0000
Eco-Presents & the Art of Giving and Receiving http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/26-eco-presents-the-art-of-giving-and-receiving http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/26-eco-presents-the-art-of-giving-and-receiving Eco-Presents & the Art of Giving and Receiving

This article consists of two parts: first is a list of original ideas for eco-friendly presents, followed by the art of giving and receiving. There are also some ideas for sustainable wrapping.

Some original ideas for eco-friendly presents

Just try to imagine all the waste and pollution resulting from the Christmas season - it will make you sad. But, with a little bit of imagination, you can find many original ideas for an eco-friendly Christmas! Here is a list to give you some inspiration:

  • Local products: Belgian beers, cheese, chocolates, waffles, Speculoos, wild game products, jams, honey, vinegars, crystal, crafts, lace, books with regional recipes (this way you can avoid long transport and reduce green house gases)
  • Fair trade items from Oxfam world solidarity shops
  • Fair trade or bio baskets (e.g. check out your Delhaize, Colruyt, Oxfam world solidarity shops)
  • Hand-crafted items made by you or a local craftsperson
  • Seeds, a tree or bush (local species) to plant or donate for planting (see our gardening articles or check the UN Billion tree program or a tree planting certificate for the Jane Goodall Gombe Chimpanzee Reserve)
  • Guides to ecological wine or a book on the Slow Cooking movement (e.g. Cook&Book shop, close to Woluwe Shopping)
  • a nice water jar to serve tap water at the table
  • a thermos drinking bottle and lunch box (check at A.S. Adventure or other outdoor shops)
  • invite a cook to your house
  • kitchen tools to use/enhance cooking at home
  • a caddy to shop in the neighborhood
  • Donate an amount to a charity organization or finance a child in a developing country and gift the receipt (e.g. www.oxfamunwrapped.com, worldgifts.cafod.org.uk or gift certificates for the Jane Goodall Institute)
  • charity projects for children at www.giraffeproject.org
  • a "Green Seat" to offset emissions (CO2 or GHG) flight of your visitors
  • adopt an animal at the zoo or abroad (e.g. a chimpanzee in Africa) or support a seal sanctuary in the Netherlands
  • adopt a goat/chicken donated to a person in a developing country (e.g. on Cows'n'Things)
  • a course in eco-driving (e.g. with Safe Drivers Plan or at a workshop of Ecolife)
  • electronic newspaper subscription or periodical membership
  • a cooking, crafts, ice skating, sports, or dancing course
  • warm socks, sweater, shawl, or blanket and an invitation to the receiver to turn their thermostat down by two degrees
  • an electronic use (watt measurement) meter
  • a pedometer or speedometer (with calorie counter!) to encourage walking or cycling
  • a bicycle basket and/or panniers or cycling lights and a reflective vest
  • personalized service coupons for mowing the lawn, doing the shopping, preparing a dessert, a home-made bread or meal once a month for a set number of months over the year (especially wonderful for the older person who has everything)
  • make coupons for biking tours, theatre evenings or massage for members of your family
  • solar chargers for iPods and mobile phones
  • membership card to download music from a website (such as the iTunes gift card which is available almost everywhere)
  • a book of cinema passes and public transport passes to get there (great for teens)
  • bikes, roller skates, a public transport membership or a Cambio (carsharing) membership
  • a membership card or tickets to the theatre, opera, movies, museums
  • Have a look at Nature et Decouvertes for young and old: parts of their turnover are donated to different projects)
  • Basket or box of second-hand books
  • a membership for an organic fruit and/or vegetable basket (see our article on organic baskets)
  • A composter and a kitchen container for collection of scraps
  • Make a basket for the avid gardener with ecological products.
  • Give a certificate for an ecological gardener/horticulturalist (see our gardening info).
  • Give a coupon to assist in the setup of an ecologically sound garden
  • Bird feeders or houses, beneficial insect or bat houses, hedgehog houses, frog and toad houses (see our section on Presents for ordering online)
  • A chicken, feed, and a chicken house to start someone on the way to their own free-range, organic eggs and garden fertilizer.

What to avoid

  • Plastic
  • Batteries
  • new paper wrappings
  • exotic food from far, far away
  • Purchasing food or drink in non-recyclable containers for your consumption while shopping.

What to do

  • Use your own reusable bag to carry home any purchases.
  • Consider purchasing online and saving on international shipping costs.
  • Try to be creative with wrapping using reusable materials such as clothing, towels, sheets blankets, previously used paper, flower pots, baskets. Or look into Furoshiki.

The Art of Giving and Receiving

The other day, one of my friends shared with me that she would be knitting a scarf as a gift for her sister this year. She and her husband live quite comfortably, but she acknowledged that the state of the world economy gave her a moment to pause and think about what she might do rather than buy. Admittedly she is skilled in hand-crafts and naturally derives pleasure from her skill in the art of knitting, but economy aside I found myself reflecting upon her desire to make a gift versus purchasing one. Is it better to make than buy or the reverse? Is it better to buy something made locally than made a long distance from home?

wrapping001t wrapping002t wrapping004t wrapping005t

Two styrofoam meat containers hinged together and then wrapped. The container can then be used to carry hot or cold foods to parties.
Alternatively it can be use as a reusable, protective gift box.

wrapping007t wrapping009t

Shoebox: lid and bottom wrapped separately to allow for reuse.

It would be so easy to be judgemental as to what is better when considering the environment, but I think it is healthier to evaluate the art of giving and receiving and not critique the actions. It has been relatively easy in Western cultures over the years of plenty to give because we can give, and because media has driven us to believe that we must give. We give to family, we give to friends, we give to neighbours, we give and we give, and we give more especially during the season of giving. As a result, there has been pressure to buy more, buy bigger, and spend to the point where we feel undue stress and panic. Often we are unable to take comfort, pleasure, or satisfaction in what we are doing. Was it the right gift? Will he or she like it? Will he or she think what I’ve made is ugly, silly, or cheap? Do they already have one? Is it the right colour? Did I spend as much on him as on her? Is it just going to be returned and exchanged? Should I just have bought a gift card, which is easier for me and the recipient can pick out what they want?

I have had many of these thoughts in the past at one time or another, but have come to realize there is more to giving than just buying something. There is an art to giving and receiving and it doesn’t require a specialist to practice it. Economics and marketing, nor the environment need drive our act of giving or receiving; they may play a part in the final decisions, but need not drive it. I would offer as food for thought that giving and receiving is an art form as easily practiced by a child or an adult – no age discrimination, no gender discrimination, no economic discrimination. Simply, it takes practice. Trust your own abilities to know the receiver of the gift (this may include their cultural background) and stick to your values and your budget no matter what. Give yourself permission to be a creative thinker and escape the confines of the media and monetary-driven gift giving.

Think outside the box. It may take more time than usual, but when practiced will creatively express the sentiments for giving. Perhaps it is time to break out of an old pattern that keeps you locked in traditional gift giving. Art has been defined as an “undertaking of a creative activity or type of artistic expression that is intended to be beautiful or thought-provoking; an undertaking or activity enhanced by a high level of skill or refinement”. Presenting or receiving a gift is all of this and more. Do consider the presentation. Must it be wrapped in paper? Can gifts be presented in reusable containers? Can gift tags be reused on travel bags, backpacks, or could you possibly make ones that are edible by birds and can be placed on an exterior tree afterwards for their enjoyment? Give your mind the space and freedom to think creatively.

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Reusable wrapped Christmas Gift Boxes made by children under 10. Mark the inside of boxes with years when wrapped
and in future years enjoy remembering the children's handiwork and possibly the gifts in them.

Have a look at ideas for environmentally sound gifts listed below. Develop your own art of giving and add to this list by sending us an email info@sunbeams.eu Remember that the art of receiving falls hand in hand with the art of giving as you open up your heart and mind and reflect upon what the giver was thinking about you with their choice of gift. You might like to consider the following:

This article can be found in the December 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Articles Wed, 17 Mar 2010 15:55:52 +0000