Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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DogSince I was a little girl, we’ve had pets — ranging in size (with the exception of a horse we had for a short period) from hamsters to dogs. Our most recent adopted dog was named Abby. As with all our pets, she was a very dear sweet companion. She was strong willed, somewhat aloof (raised by our cats), kind, sensitive and wise. Above all else she was there for me and our family at every turn. While having a pet is a luxury, because of the time and money attached to this responsibility, I find that what you receive back from them pays off in spades. 

We recently had to put Abby — our sweet quirky dog of 11 years — to sleep. She was walking four miles on Friday and immobile by Monday. She had a tumor on her spleen that was giving her great pain, and by Tuesday night she was gone.

When the vet, Franklin Vincenzi of Cascade Pet Hospital, told me of her condition and prognoses, I wept. Thankfully, I had an entire examination room to myself with Abby. Jessica, the receptionist, gave me tissues, a shawl, a blanket for Abby, and so much understanding. Sitting with Abby, I tried my best to comfort her. I called our friends to come say their goodbyes. Then, when our daughter arrived from the airport, having just returned from a trip the East Coast, Dr. Vincenzi and Carla, their lead technician, came in and finally put Abby to sleep while we continued to pet her and cry.

It is an often overlooked luxury to forget the fragility of life — we are here one moment and can be gone the next. A house can feel empty so suddenly, empty of that unconditional love that greets you as you arrive home or even just move around your inside space. Abby was the third dog my husband and I have lost together. The vacancy created by each one’s passing never gets any easier.

In my book The Invisible Parenting Handbook, my daughter describes me this way: “To call her a people person would be an unfortunate understatement.” The fact of the matter is that I’m not just a people person, I’m also a living creature person. I enjoy interacting with most living beings and know these interactions add to my life in many immeasurable ways. Abby’s interaction and love will be missed by me more than words can say.

What pets or animals have touched your life and how? Do you have time, energy, and the financial ability to add a pet to your family?


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Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer at the ready can come in handy in situations where you can’t access soap and water, but using it too often can come with some risks. Consider the following hand sanitizer dangers and make sure your hand sanitizer ingredients are safe and non-toxic.

Soap vs. Sanitizer

Most doctors and researchers agree: soap wins hands-down over hand sanitizer. Cleaning with soap and water is better at reducing germs than hand sanitizer, and hand sanitizer cannot be used effectively in many situations. If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitizer just does not work.[1] It is designed to kill bacteria, but doesn’t remove dirt and debris, which is often how toxins and infections are spread. When washing your hands, the ingredients used are rinsed off immediately, as opposed to hand sanitizers, which can be absorbed through the skin.

Harmful Hand Sanitizer Ingredients

While we want to keep our hands clean, we don’t necessarily need antibacterial hand sanitizer or hand soap. Many products that are labeled “antibacterial” contain chemicals that are detrimental to our health.

Triclosan, a commonly used agent, is an endocrine disruptor that interferes with the proper functioning of vital hormones like thyroid hormones.[2] It is linked to detrimental effects on the nervous system, and is linked to allergies and asthma.[3] Beyond its direct effect on your health, it may also contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Triclosan can be absorbed through the skin and has been found in the urine of 75 percent of Americans sampled.[2] But for all of that risk, there’s not even sufficient evidence showing that it is effective.[2] The FDA is working to review the research on triclosan and has concluded that it is no more effective than regular soap and water at removing bacteria and provides no additional benefits.[4] However, it may take time to remove this ingredient from products on the market, so check labels to make sure you’re not exposing yourself to it.

Beware of Fragrance

Many hand sanitizers also list “fragrance” as an ingredient. This term can mask a long list of potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates. Phthalates are also endocrine-disruptors and affect the activity of estrogen and androgens in our body. Even at low concentrations, phthalates are associated with detrimental effects on the development of the male reproductive system as well as increased risk of breast cancer.[5]

How to Safely and Effectively Keep Your Hands Clean

Washing your hands often with warm soap and water is your best bet when it comes to keeping your hands clean and minimizing your exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses. Most of us do not wash our hands long enough: You should scrub continuously for 20 to 30 seconds with warm water and dry your hands afterwards.

Use hand sanitizer only when you have no option to wash your hands with soap and water. Remember that it will not work when your hands are visibly dirty. To use correctly, apply the amount directed on the bottle, and be sure to rub your hands vigorously until it dries completely.

Don’t sweat it if your hands aren’t completely clean all of the time. Some researchers believe that the human immune system needs to be exposed to bacteria to develop properly.[3] There is even some speculation that the rising incidence of autoimmune and allergic diseases in certain populations are associated with widespread use of antibiotics and sanitization practices.[6]

Safer Hand Sanitizer Options

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are useful to have on hand for those rare times you need it, but be sure to reduce your risk of hand sanitizer dangers by reading labels carefully. Safer versions contain only a few, safe ingredients. Try Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizing Spray, which is organic and contains only ethanol, water, glycerin, and lavender oil. Avoid synthetic fragrance, triclosan, and other harmful hand sanitizer ingredients.


[1] Center for Disease Control. 2013.
[2] J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Aug;56(8):834-9.
[3] Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Mar;119(3):390-6.
[4] FDA Consumer Updates. 2013.
[5] Climacteric. 2014 Aug;17(4):377-84.
[6] Clin Exp Immunol. 2010 Apr;160(1):1-9.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


There are many ways to use herbs in health and healing. As an herbalist, I naturally use a lot of tinctures and teas to address discomforts and ailments (if you have never made a tincture before, you can learn how to here). To a much lesser degree, I use powdered herbs and capsules. Consuming herbs in my diet is perhaps the most enjoyable and constant method of taking in the nutrients and healing constituents that the plant offers. However, it is a little difficult to eat some herbs without a vehicle for transportation.Herb-Seasoned Condiments

Familiar kitchen herbs are a sure bet when it comes to adding flavor and zest to any food preparation, but what about the more bitter wild or cultivated medicinal herbs that also help build immunity and act as antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents, just to mention a few of their actions? How do we get these in our diet without throwing them in our hot, simmering soup pots where almost anything can be disguised? Boiling stock pots may leach some of the herbs constituents but may destroy others. For instance, garlic is a wonderful herb, but its most potent healing properties are believed to be in the raw crushed clove, and not in the cooked version. Adding kitchen herbs and medicinal herbs to our condiments, where they serve to flavor our food and help build our health a pinch or a teaspoon at a time is a good way to go instead. Used as a finishing touch, they serve up the herbs in a raw form and retain much of their potency.

To get some of that raw, natural energy from plants we can add them to our salts, peppers, sweeteners, condiments, seeds and grains. While I do not recommend eating loads of salt or sugar (and there are many sugar options besides cane sugar), making a dirty salt or sugar decreases the amount of actual salt or sugar intake and increases the amount of healing herbs and flavor in your diet.

To make a good herb salt, it is best to use a natural salt that is derived from sea-beds or prehistoric salt deposits. Common table salt (sodium chloride) is a highly refined, unnatural product with added stabilizers and synthetic anti-caking agents such as sodium aluminosilicate and other additives. Natural salt like pink Himalayan sea salt is rich in iodine and minerals. When it comes to sweeteners, there are loads of options besides white sugar. They are all sweet, calorie-rich and not so great for our glycemic index, but some are better than others for added nutrients. A few to consider are stevia, barley malt syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, agave, honey, and maple syrup.

Quinoa, rice, millet, and homemade ground flours are superb vehicles. Flours can be made from almost anything if you have  a food processor, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle in your kitchen. Stay well away from highly processed, bleached white flour, and try grinding flax seed, nuts such as almond, hazelnut, or pecan, and amaranth seed. Amaranth flour and ground flax are gluten free and can be added to baked goods for added nutrition. And if you havent discovered buckwheat yet, give it a try, this fruit seed is related to rhubarb and is packed with minerals and fiber, and is also gluten free.

Homemade jams (like this easy recipe), mustards, vinegars, chutneys and honey are also a wonderful repository for fresh or dried healing herbs. The advantage of using fresh herbs is that they offer a powerful, untamed punch of potent flavor and healing properties. Take fresh leaves of sage, rosemary, basil or mint and roll them between your thumb and forefinger, smell their aromatic fragrance and taste their unique and individual flavors. Herb flavors are vibrant, sometimes pungent and bitter, but always nicely complicated. The disadvantage of fresh herbs is that they also add moisture, which can lead to mold growth. When using herbs, always dry them thoroughly and keep the finished product in the refrigerator. Drying your herbs before using them in any recipe will greatly diminish the chance of mold.

Simple foods can be brought to a level of high intensity and greater purpose with just a few shakes of your favorite blends, or spread on liberally using fresh condiments. We encourage experimentation at the Herbal Academy of New England where we teach about healing herbs. Our rooms and hallways are filled with the scent of herbs steeping in teas, drying on racks and bundled and bottled for our classroom lectures and practices. Exploration into formulas that can be used in health enhancing dishes and wellness promoting teas, tinctures and body care products are just part of what we do. If there is a way to get more herbs in our diet, were on it!

The Dirty Additions

Here are some ideas to help get you started. Dont eat the plain, clean, boring stuff! Dirty it up with Earths goodness in the form of herbs.

Mamas Got Her Own Salt Recipe

1/2 cup flaxseed
2 tsp dried nasturtium flowers
1 tsp dried lambs quarters
1 tsp dried celery seed
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried raspberry leaves
2 tsp dried onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
cup coarse pink Himalayan sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  Pour into a clean glass jar, label and refrigerate. Use as a finishing touch for main dishes, vegetables and eggs.

Green Goodness Sea Salt

1 cup Himalayan sea salt
2 tsp dried dandelion leaf
tsp dried sage
tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried nettles
tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  This recipe can be used on fish, egg, and vegetable dishes.

Sel de Provence

1/2 cup finely cut sea salt
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried savory
1 tsp dried borage leaves
1 tsp dried lavender
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, keeping the herbs coarse, then place in an earthenware pot or a glass jar. Use this to finish sauces, soups and main dishes.  Ingredients may be placed in a small cotton bag and removed from the dish before serving. 

Spicy Salt

1/2 cup coarse sea salt
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried lemon balm
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried fennel
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
tsp dried black pepper

Salt Stimulation Sensation

1 cup coarse sea salt
1 tsp dried cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried ground ginseng root
1 tsp dried black pepper
tsp dried crushed cocoa beans
tsp dried crushed coffee beans

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency. Keep in a cool, dark place.


Curing Curry in Your Shaker

1 coarse cup sea salt
2 tbsp dried turmeric powder
1 tbsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried cardamom
tsp dried red pepper
tsp dried fennel


For the following, use dried, ground herbs/berries if you are planning to store the sugars or honeys for an extended period of time. Alternatively, you can also use fresh herbs to infuse their flavor and scent into sugars or honey for a few days or a week, and then remove them.

The following are decadent additions to sugar and honey:

Lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, geranium, rose petals, nutmeg, cocoa beans, star anise, ginger, fennel, basil, mint, clove, cardamom, ashwaganda root, shishandra berries or goji berries.

Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


As the leaves turn, and the Seattle rain pours to welcome autumn, I begin to question the more personal changes and choices I’ve made in my life. The changing seasons often lead me to heightened self-reflection. For this reason alone, this turning inward, the time between seasons may be my favorite season of all. I always find myself relishing the surprise, unpredictability, and newness autumn brings. The season’s arrival prompts my imagining of the coming foggy glow from home windows as the chilling temperatures and string of holidays move our activities inside.

Peach Carrot and Apple SmoothieOur CSA

With the beginning of each season comes necessary endings. As summer turns to autumn, I have the hardest time letting go of our summer fruit and vegetable share from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA’s are membership supported farms and have been in our country for more than 25 years. To locate a farm near you, you can check out the Local Harvest website. We’ve been members of our CSA, Helsing Junction Farm, for 22 years, when they first began and had approximately 75 members, much fewer than their current 1,200. Clearly, change is not only seasonal.

Our weekly CSA share has necessitated a continued practice in flexibility. Every box comes filled with varied combinations of fruits, vegetables, and herbs fresh from the earth, so our CSA-driven meal planning fluctuates from week to week, based on what comes to us from the ground versus what we plan for and seek out in the stores. Helpfully, Helsing posts weekly recipes on their website to aid this ”on your toes” method of meal planning. Knowing we’ll receive delicious, healthful produce, but not knowing the contents of our weekly summer box, I let go of planning and get creative. Our CSA has me experimenting with ingredients and combinations I could never have planned on my own — a great lesson to me that change can come from releasing total control.

Food keeps us moving and growing. It keeps us alive. We must feed ourselves, whether or not we welcome the task, just as we must put on more clothes when the temperatures turn colder. The more I acknowledge the opportunity necessities of life provide, the more conscious and engaged I am in my living, breathing being. Throughout all change around me, I hold to one constant, my unwavering intentionality in parenting, general living, and eating. It’s going to take a lot of us to turn around the way food comes to us. As large corporations toxically engineer our world for unsustainable growth and over-production, the purity of nutrients in organics become increasingly important for us and our planet. I urge you to critically consider what you eat.

For further exploration on engaged eating, I highly recommend GMO OMG, a wonderful endorsement for practicing a life in communication with our planet by organic seed appreciation and seasonal eating.

Questions for healthy consideration: What will you eat today? Where is it being grown? Can you feel the difference in your health and body depending on what you eat?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


There’s a Slow Food movement gaining momentum, a movement dedicated to being everything fast food is not. With roots in the Slow Movement — which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace — Slow Food believes in healthy, sustaining, fair food for all.

Creating a Slow Time Movement

I look forward to living in a society that holds our time spent with loved ones up to similar standards as the Slow Food movement. Call it a Slow Time movement. Quality time spent together would include "healthy time," concentrated, without distraction; “sustaining time,” deep with lasting nourishment; and "fair time," equally shared and accessible. Every child would know that they’re surrounded by communities and adults who are there to teach, care for, and support them as they grow in the abundance of time and love.

As the idea’s taken hold of me, I’ve been noticing the presence of Slow Time all around me. On a recent walk, I saw a mom jogging with her toddler. Instead of the mom tuning into ear buds and the child into some handheld device, this mom was exchanging thoughts with her child. It was just the two of them, concentrating on one another—counting trees, identifying birds, chatting away as they cruised the neighborhood.

My next moment was almost identical to the first, only the child was a young lady. From what I witnessed of this mother/daughter relationship (pictured below) had been practicing Slow Time for years. They were out for an early morning summer walk, spending time together, an activity as easy to replicate as it is to mutually enjoy. Slow Time, like Slow Food, is simple, basic, and accessible to most of us.

An Example of Slow Time Shawn Hosford Slow Time

Most recently, I encountered a wonderful example of Slow Time while traveling home from New Jersey. I happened to be making the trip with an incredibly inspiring family. A set of grandparents and their granddaughter were journeying home after a 42-day, Internet-free adventure in South Africa and Tanzania. They noted how much they’d learned about each other on this trip, through undistracted and mutually shared time. What a wonderful gift for them all.

While our ever-increasing variety of tech tools can encourage obsessive distraction, they rarely necessitate it. We still choose to lose ourselves in our phone, TV, and computer screens, but we have other options. Although I can certainly slip, I choose to continually practice the patience and presence of Slow Time. When I see families doing the same, I’m the one taking mental note and remarking on how wonderful it is to see Slow Time spreading.

With regards to intentional parenting, I find Slow Time to be personal in practice and multi-generational in payoff. When I took the time to be present with our daughter through her childhood, we both felt a fullness that allowed us to navigate the world securely.

Cultivating a Slow Time World

Daily, when life gets busy, I like to take a moment and picture this: our country populated by people enjoying Slow Time. The air filled with stories, discussion, laughter, and even tears, free from screens—amplified by each other’s company.

Here are a few questions to think about. How much Slow Time do you think you weave into life with your loved ones? How do you prioritize slowness? What do you choose to do with your Slow Time? It’s definitely worth looking at.


Is Chewing Gum Bad For You?Opening up a pack of gum to keep yourself busy or to freshen your breath after a meal is a common habit for many and may increase alertness and enhance sustained attention.[1] Several studies also suggest that sugar-free gum containing ingredients like xylitol can actually decrease cavities. However, the effect of gum on oral health is debated among researchers[2,3] and many people are wondering, “Is chewing gum bad for you?” If you chew a pack of gum a day, it can be. Here are four things you need to know about gum chewing.

Why is Chewing Gum Bad for You?

It can cause headaches and migraines. A study in adolescents with either migraine or tension-type headache produced rather startling results on the relationship between headaches and gum chewing. All participants chewed gum anywhere from one to six hours per day. After discontinuing any gum chewing, all headache symptoms completely disappeared in 19 out of the 30 patients, and seven had partial improvements in symptoms. When they restarted their gum habit, 20 of the children experienced a relapse of headaches within a few days. The researchers believe that pressure on the temperomandibular joint caused by prolonged chewing triggered the headaches, and exposure to ingredients in gum like aspartame may also be involved.[4]

Many sugar-free gums contain aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has been used to replace refined sugar in food, candy, and gum for decades. Although there is continued debate over the subject, aspartame has been considered carcinogenic, and many researchers suggest that it be removed, or at least reduced in quantity, from public consumption.[5,6] It may also have negative side effects like influencing brain function and contributing to conditions like fibromyalgia.[7,8] Look for brands that use xylitol to sweeten instead, which seems to be a safer alternative.

It can contribute to temperomandibular joint disorders (TMD,). TMD (which is commonly referred to as TMJ) can cause pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders, as well other unpleasant symptoms like a decreased range of jaw motion. One of the major causes of TMD is the overuse or improper use of chewing muscles. Chewing gum is associated with increased TMD symptoms, and restraining from this kind of habit is recommended as a self-management tool for those suffering from the condition.[9,10]

It may cause you to choose less healthy foods. Many people claim that chewing gum can help you to lose weight or to eat less. While preoccupying yourself by chewing gum when you are hungry might help you to restrain from a snack, research shows that it isn’t quite that simple. A study in the journal Eating Behaviors found that chewing mint gum prior to eating reduced intake and preference of healthier options like fruit. The authors suggest that there was “a reduction in consumption of nutrient rich foods” when participants chewed gum for a week compared to a week without any gum.[11]

Changing Your Gum-Chewing Habit

If you chew gum regularly, many times a day, try to cut back on your habit. It might help to replace gum with natural, sugar-free mints at first. Sometimes, sugar cravings can cause you to chew gum to satisfy the need for sweets; reducing your intake of sugars overall will help to curb your sugar cravings and halt your need to chew gum.

Reserve your pack of gum for special occasions and use a piece as a reward or a treat to yourself when you need one. Make sure you choose a sugar-free gum, but avoid aspartame by choosing a natural brand, like Pur Gum or Glee Gum, that uses xylitol instead.

Share your experience

Does gum negatively impact your health? What are you favorite alternatives to gum? Share your experience in the comments section below.


[1] Physiol Behav. 2014 Jun 22;133:244-51.
[2] Br Dent J. 2011 Oct 7;211(7):E15.
[3] J Am Dent Assoc. 2013 Jan;144(1):21-30.
[4] Pediatr Neurol. 2014 Jan;50(1):69-72.
[5] Am J Ind Med. 2014 Apr;57(4):383-97.
[6] Am J ClinNutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1419-28.
[7] Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(1):10-7.
[8] Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Dec;16(15):2092-101.
[9] J Man Manip Ther. 2009;17(4):247-54.
[10] Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2006 Oct;102(4):482-7.
[11] Eat Behav. 2013 Apr;14(2):149-56.


Although I have danced through each of my pregnancies and although I have cherished the power of a woman’s body to birth a baby both naturally and peacefully, it was not until my third pregnancy that the Dancing for Birth concept was made a reality.

Dancing For Birth

Something about dancing at my belly dance classes with a babe in utero felt very right. Rotating my hips in my living room with my pregnant self and a video called Bollywood Booty also felt very right, almost spiritual. And, then there was the one specific moment in the midst of doing a ‘figure-eight.’ “This,” I thought, “is what pregnant women need to prepare for childbirth!”

I was in the middle of doula training through Birthingway College in Portland, OR and in the middle of an extensive reading list including books from Ina May Gaskin, Tina Cassidy and Michel Odent. I had the head knowledge to promote positive, low-intervention births and I had both personal and professional experiences seeing those births first hand. But dance, I concluded, was the ticket to get pregnant and laboring women from fear to freedom. I had a long term plan to develop a program which utilized dance in this way. Thankfully, in a local birth support meeting, another doula mentioned Dancing for Birth. I went home that night and immediately signed up for the next available workshop in my area.

I knew that the workshop would be fulfilling and exciting. However the workshop far exceeded my expectations. Founder Stephanie Larson displayed such conviction in her instruction and such wisdom. To what I had come to believe about dance and birth, she gave words, she gave names (dilation gyration), she gave inspiration and she gave confidence. At this point, I knew dance to be a powerful way for women to trust their bodies in birth. And at the DFB training Stephanie Larson had given me an arsenal of tools to further communicate the message. But, could I convince women who didn’t dance and who had neutral and even negative feelings towards labor that this could be an essential part of their pregnancy and birth? Once I completed my demonstration class, the answer was a resounding yes. One first-time momma in attendance said, “I really bonded with my baby and realize that the baby and I are in this together.” This was also a momma who claimed not to be a dancer. I am pleased to say her coin scarf jingled the loudest.

So, to the Dancing for Birth sisterhood, I bring my skills as a doula, as a world-dancer and as an advocate for empowered birth experiences and could not be more pleased to do so.

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