04/19/2013 12:16 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT

Green Your Celebrations This Earth Day

child's hands holding jigsaw...

It's not easy being green.

When Marc was 13, an attempt to make home-brewed, eco-friendly cleaners wasn't just a science project, it was also a solution to a problem that existed 20 years ago. Back then, it was tough to find sustainable, environmentally-friendly products. That was before the green revolution. Now, the challenge isn't finding green products, it's detecting greenwashing (companies misleading consumers with green PR but shoddy goods); deciphering organic or fair trade labels; and looking for maximum impact in a saturated market. Heightened consumer interest has lured big companies to buy up small, sustainable start-ups, making it harder to trace ingredient and manufacturing origins.

But consumer interest has also spurred green-friendly trade shows. Everything from hybrid cars, to botanical-based cosmetics, to information about Canada's oceans, can now be found in one convenient location. In preparation for Earth Day on April 22, and with a nod to the Green Living Show held this past weekend in Toronto, we've compiled some of the show's featured products and services, as well as some hand-picked shops and tips from our book, Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians, to help make it easier to be green.

Celebrate Sustainably

Spring is coming. We hope. And with it comes wedding and barbeque season. It can be tough to plan a big event and still leave a small carbon footprint. Why not seek help from an event planner with a roster of farm-to-table caterers and venues with garden-topped roofs on file, like Toronto-based Common Sense Events or Vancouver's Refresh Events.

Party tip: If it's a causal or family affair, have everyone B.Y.O cutlery. Or, make your wedding favour a personalized mason jar-turned-drinking glass. Make your own or add decals from an online store. Save money on rentals and cut down on the caterer's industrial dishwashing; guests will use only one glass instead of getting a new one with each beverage. If you can't stand the cleanup, check out these biodegradable plates.

Clean greener

This one takes us back to Marc's science project: a company in York region employs people to make natural cleaning products from their homes. Buncha Farmers Inc. swears by their natural stain removers and honey-based soaps.

Scrubbing up tip: Don't underestimate the power of baking soda. Dig it out of the back of your fridge and add a half-cup to your bath as a natural cleanser and moisturizer -- a two-in-one. Add vinegar to clean the tub afterward.

Shop Vintage

One person's trash fills another person's boutique furniture shop. Or "Thrift shop" -- think rapper and producer duo Macklemore and Lewis. Vancouver's Deluxe Junk is the city's oldest vintage shop, with a mix of consignment and recycled items. If you're looking to decorate your wardrobe, visit Montreal's Ethik Boutique .

Decor tip: Upcycling is the latest in green hybrid words. Take a used item -- from Goodwill or even around your own home -- and reduce waste by increasing its use and value. Turn an old television into a planter or make a patchwork pillow out of old denim or prints: you'd never be caught dead wearing it again, but your couch might.

Observe Earth Day: It's an unofficial Earth Day tradition to plant trees. But that's not realistic for everyone. If your green thumb is broken, or you're an apartment dweller without a backyard, why not donate a few household items or do some spring cleaning with homemade products.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are co-founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit

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