In the new year, many people will be making all sorts of resolutions like weight loss, quitting a bad habit, or maybe even something like running a marathon. All these resolutions are wonderful, but I think one of the best resolutions you can make is to take steps to create a green home. What does it mean to go green? Simply put, it means implementing certain lifestyle changes designed to help you live in a more eco-friendly way of life. It means becoming more environmentally aware and changing your behavior and lifestyle to reduce the amount of pollution and waste you generate.
We can do so much of that in our own home, and for little to no cost! I will give you six super easy and inexpensive tips to help make yourself a green home this coming New Year.
6 Tips to a Green Home
1. Enroll in online statements and get off junk mail lists
Many utility providers, cable companies, financial institutions, and more offer the option to receive online statements instead of printed statements. You just need to log in to the company’s website and change your preferences, or you can try calling the company’s customer service to do it that way. Reducing the amount of mail you receive reduces your impact on the environment in several ways. First, it reduces the number of trees that are cut down, which means there will be more trees converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Second, a reduction in the amount of mail also reduces the amount of airplane/ vehicle delivery exhaust. Thirdly, it reduces the need for ink, which most of the time contains toxic chemical ingredients, and which takes a lot of fossil fuels to produce and distribute. Lastly, it reduces the amount of paper that ends up in landfills.
2. Unplug Electronics When Not In Use
Anything that has an LED (light emitting diode) that glows even after you turn it off continues to draw power (that you pay for). Your TV, cell phone charger, and printer are likely culprits. Unplug the offenders from wall sockets and plug them into power strips instead. When you leave a room, flip the strip switch to cut the flow of electricity. Just by doing this simple tip could save you up to $200 a year
3. No Shoes Allowed
Taking your shoes off before you enter your home is one is one of the easiest steps you can take to make your home more green and safe. Why? Well studies have shown that people track in all sorts of harmful toxins from outside the home when they walk into the house without removing their shoes. These toxins persist in the air in the form of dust, which is inhaled and absorbed by our skin as it settles on the floor and furniture. Chemicals stay in the air and on surfaces longer in our homes than they do outdoors, where the sun and rain help break down pesticide residues. This is especially important if you have small children, they spend most of their time on or near the floor, and can breathe in and touch chemical-laden dust or soil tracked in by shoes. Little kids who are constantly putting their hands and other objects in their mouths can ingest these dangerous particles and toxins, as well.
4. Recycle and Compost
Most cities will pick up and process recyclable material, and several (including San Francisco and Seattle) will also pick up compostable food material and yard waste. But let’s face it: You won’t recycle or compost if you don’t make it easy for yourself. Make sure to have bins for trash and recycling in every room, not just the kitchen! Tons of recyclable material is thrown away in homes offices and bathrooms because the recycling bin is too far away.
Half the trash that homes produce is composed of food scraps. When those go to the dump, they do nothing, but if you have a compost bin at your house, you can use those scraps to make fertilizer for your garden. Most outdoor composters cost between $100 and $600, depending on how large and secure they are. A more inexpensive choice is a DYI compost bin.
5. Wash Fewer but Fuller Loads of Laundry
Whenever you wash just a few clothes or dishes at a time rather than waiting for a full load to accumulate, you’re wasting water, power, and money. On average most American families of four washes around 540 loads of laundry a year, which consumes up to 21,000 gallons of water, and more than 150 loads of dishes, which uses about 1,500 gallons. All that energy is mostly consumed by washers and dishwashers to heat the water — about 90 percent in the clothes washer and 80 percent in the dishwasher. If you have to do short loads of laundry choose short cycles and use cold water. Just by washing two fewer loads of clothes and one less load of dishes a week and save up to 4,500 gallons of water a year!
6. Switch your cleaning products
What is the difference between natural cleaning products and traditional? The big difference is the active ingredient. Traditional cleaning products tend to have artificially produced cleaning agents, typically compounds that do not occur in nature. These tend to be toxic when introduced to nature and don’t break down (biodegrade) in nature very well. Green cleaning products tend to have naturally occurring compounds, like vinegar or Orange oil, or baking soda; and those that are man-made are biodegradable i.e. they quickly break down into naturally occurring substances that nature can recycle. As a result Green products are less toxic to the environment. For just about every traditional cleaning product you use, there is a natural alternative you can use in your green home. If you’re not sure where to start, try HERE.
Those are just six simple easy and inexpensive tips you can use to make your home more green in 2015!
What steps are you taking to create a green home?
One of the biggest complaints during winter season is having dry, chapped, itchy, and or sensitive skin. The reason is because in winter, there is cold, dry air and very little humidity. If we are not properly hydrated we lose moisture in our skin which leaves our skin feeling and looking less desirable. Before you decide to relocate to a warmer, more humid climate, take these steps to seal in the moisture and repair your winter skin.
Natural Body Care Tips for Keeping Your Skin Hydrated
The first and most important natural body care tip for hydrated skin is water. Water is the most common nutritional deficiency in America. We just don’t drink enough water here. Did you know water cannot be stored, it’s being continually distributed and regulated throughout our body. This nakes daily water intake essential for a healthy body and healthy skin. The rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day (Ex: A person weighing 160 pounds should drink 80 ounces of water each day). If you are one of those people who have a hard time drinking water visit my fruits and herb flavored water recipes and combinations post for tasty, easy ways to drink water.
Rethink Processed Foods
The second natural body care tip for hydrated skin may surprise you – its not about what you’re putting in or on you’re body, its what NOT to! Foods with refined (overly processed) sugars dehydrate your skin, making it dry and less clear. Combined with the winter elements, loading up on these foods (which are usually high in trans fats, MSG, etc.) will leave you feeling blue this winter season. Though I would love to tell you to cut processed foods out completely (we all get cravings now and then), try to limit your processed foods in your home and replace them with more nutritious, whole food options.
You might not like this natural body care tip but it does help a great deal. Even though there is nothing better than taking a long, hot, relaxing bath on a cold winter day, it doesn’t do any favors for our skin. Long hot baths and showers have a drying effect on our skin. To help limit that you can add some bath salts or even sea salt to your bath water and taking shorter and cooler showers. Also applying moisturizer to the skin (coconut oil is my top choice) within 3 minutes of stepping out of the shower or bath will help keep skin hydrated. Avoid using soaps and deodorants with fragrance, or alcohol because they can strip your skin of its natural oils.
Vitamins for Skin
In order for your skin to look great, it has to be healthy. Vitamin B helps to restore collagen (a protein that keeps it firm) in the skin, which is especially important as you age. So load up on Vitamin B rich foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds and protein (bone broth is excellent source of collagen) to keep your skin looking healthy and hydrated! Vitamin E (most abundant nutrient found in the skin) also helps with the formation of collagen, and therefore can reduce wrinkles, scaring and increase hydration. Fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and spinach are excellent sources of vitamin E.
Fruit, especially water-dense tropical fruit, is a great way to hydrate and protect your skin. Most fruit contains high levels of vitamins A and C, powerful antioxidant that replenishes nutrients in skin, promote collagen production, and help keep your skin supple and firm. Oranges, raspberries, cantaloupe, mangoes, pineapple, strawberries blueberries, watermelon, and grapefruits all contain skin-boosters, and are a tasty treat too.
Natural & Organic Moisturizers
When your skin needs a little extra in those cold, dry months and you reach for a body lotion, make sure you’re using ones with all natural and organic ingredients. Some conventional lotions contain ingredients that actually dry out your skin. Some of the better brands to look for are EO’s Everyone Lotion, Andalou Naturals, and Nourish.
I hope these natural body care tips help you to keep your skin hydrated and healthy all winter long. What are your favorite tips and tricks to keep your skin hydrated?
There are two ways to dye Easter eggs naturally; either boil raw eggs in the naturally colored water, or soak hard boiled eggs in the colored water overnight. The first way is faster if you’re only using one or two colors but if you want to use a lot of different colors, its easier to make the colored soaking water and use smaller bowls to soak the hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator overnight.
To make the natural dyes, choose a natural ingredient from the list below. The quantity that you use will determine how dark the color is. Add distilled water and either cream of tartar or white vinegar to a non-aluminum pot. Use 1 TBSP cream of tartar or vinegar per cup of water. If you’re using raw eggs, boil them in the colored water like you normally would to cook hard boiled eggs. You can then either remove the eggs or if you want them darker you can continue to soak them in the refrigerator.
If you’re using hard boiled eggs, you can make batches of different colors, then use smaller bowls to soak the eggs overnight in the refrigerator. If the eggs don’t come out as dark as you want the first time, you can make a darker colored soak water and let the eggs soak a second time.
Natural dyes are made with just a handful of ingredients. You’ll need water, the natural material for coloring, and a mordant to help the colors penetrate the eggshell. The mordant can be cream of tartar or white vinegar.
Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs Instructions:
- Place the eggs in a single layer in a pan. Add water until the eggs are covered.
- Add vinegar or cream of tartar.
- Add the natural dye materials. Use more dye material for more eggs or for a more intense color.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- If you are happy with the color, remove the eggs from the liquid.
- For more intensely colored eggs, remove the eggs from the liquid. Strain the dye through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Cover the eggs with the filtered dye and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.
Here’s a list of some herbs and spices you can use and the colors they yield:
Hibiscus flowers – Reddish blue/lavender
Turmeric root powder – Deep gold
Curry powder – Pale orange
Chili powder – Reddish brown
Paprika – Orange
Dill seed – Golden brown
Beet Juice – Pink
Coffee – Brown
Cranberry Juice – Pink
Red Cabbage Leaves – Blue
Onion Skins – Red or Yellow depending on the type of onion
Orange Peels – Pale Orange
Grape Juice – Lavender
Spinach Leaves – Green
Pomegranate Juice – Red
Find many of these natural dye materials HERE.
What are your favorite Easter traditions? Share with us in the comments below.
Cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers? Which am I going to use on my baby? If you are a mom, most importantly a new momma I am sure you have pondered this question once or twice before. I know I did. On average your baby will probably spend around 25,000 hours in a diaper and need about 6,000 diaper changes in their first years of life. Crazy thought huh?!
Your decision to use disposable or cloth diapers will not only have a great impact on your baby’s comfort and health; it can also impact the environment, and your pocket as well. Today we’re going to look at the pros and cons of both types of diapers! Hopefully after you read this you will get a better idea of how you want to diaper your sweet baby!
- Easy to use
- Easy to dispose
- In a baby’s lifetime it will cost anywhere from $2000-2500 if using disposable diapers and if you are using organic eco-friendly disposables it is going to cost you more around $3,000
- They are horrible for our environment it is estimated that around 5 million tons of untreated waste is deposited into landfills via disposables every year.
- Harder to potty-train; toddlers can’t feel wetness as much with disposables, so it’s harder for them to potty-train.
- More diaper-rash; according to one study, 78% of babies in disposable diapers get diaper-rash, compared to only 7% of cloth diapered babies.
- A study published in the Archives of Environmental Health in 1999, found that disposable diapers do release chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. VOCs are linked to toxic health effects over time and with a high level of exposure, including cancer and brain damage.
- It’s cheaper; cloth diapers can be expensive for the initial set-up ($250-$700), but in the long run they work out a lot cheaper than disposables, depending on what system you use.
- Reusable and eco-friendly. Make sure you are using natural detergents like Charlie’s Soap or Allen’s Naturally to get these diapers clean, and if they’re really stinky, try Stink Out, a laundry additive especially for cloth diapers.
- Less diaper-rash; cloth diapered babies tend to have less diaper-rash, because natural cotton fibers breathe more easily.
- Can be used for future children; works out even cheaper because you can use for any more children you have.
- Cloth diapered children tend to potty-train earlier, because the cloth tends to hold moisture closer to baby’s skin.
- No more of the scary pins your mom had to deal with. Cloth diapers now come with Velcro or snap closures, shapes fitted to baby, waterproof bands around the waist and legs, and removable linings, making the cloth change just as quick and easy as the disposable.
- Cloth diapers are CUTE… have you seen all the different patterns, colors and styles they come in?!
- Not as convenient as disposables.
- Have to carry your dirty diapers around with you.
- Not as absorbent as disposables causing you to change your baby more often.
Now that you have an idea of the pros and cons of both types of diapers which one are you going to choose? I truly believe that if you want to truly go organic, cloth diapers is the only way to go. Using cloth diapers ensures that you are not only protecting our planet but your precious baby more importantly. If you still decide to use disposable diapers I highly recommend finding organic, disposable diapers and staying away from conventional, diapers (Pampers, Huggies etc). As I sit here writing this blog post I can tell you that like the breastfeeding vs. organic baby formula debate, I have experience with each side of the debate when it comes to my own children. I currently have a 23 month old and I started out using cloth diapers with her then switching to cheap disposable diapers when my life got hectic (I also gave away all my cloth diapers – big mistake!). Well, you know what I just did while writing this post? I ordered more cloth diapers! Hopefully these pros and cons inspire you as well!
Some Eco-Friendly disposable diapers:
- Naty Natural Babycare
- Nurtured by Nature
- Seventh Generation Free and Clear Baby Diapers
- Earth’s Best Tender Care Chlorine Free Diapers
Have you cloth diapered your children? If so do you have any tips or tricks or gentle advice for new mothers just starting out? We would love to hear your comments!
Also check out how easily and quickly you can make your own eco-friendly, organic baby wipes.
I just finished watching the movie Genetic Roulette online for the third time. Each time I watch it, I notice some new facet about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that I hadn’t noticed as clearly before. This time, it was the stark fact that the chemical companies who promote GMOs have been promising that the use of GMOs would create higher yields of food and therefore feed the world. Read the Union of Concern Scientists’ Failure to Yield report.
The truth is quite different. First, without GMOs, there is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is not the production of food, but the distribution of food which is a whole other problem to solve. So, let’s put that misinformation to rest.
Still, chemical companies would have you believe that we NEED GMOs in order to manage our production so we can all eat more at a lower cost. In most industrialized nations, the problem is not about having enough food and it’s become more a problem of having healthy food.
According to the Union of Concern Scientists, the promises of increased production are false. According to the USC, “Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.”
In fact, many farmers are beginning to see that their yields are lower after buying these GMO seeds and spraying chemical products on those seeds. One cotton farmer interviewed in Genetic Roulette said he began to really question his initial decision to use GMO seed when he began reading the dire health warnings on the seed bag itself. Don’t eat it, don’t touch it, don’t breath it, don’t let it touch your skin….sounds like the warning label on poison, doesn’t it?
The bottom line is this – chemical companies like Monsanto have been promoting the use of chemicals under the promise of higher yields (i.e. more crops for the farmer as lower costs), and that has not been the case. As farmers see their crop yields drop and their animals suffer from eating GMO crops, they’re beginning to understand that their livelihood depends on them NOT using GMOs.
The tide is turning and as the links between GMOs and human health, livestock health, crop yields and agricultural sustainability are known, people will vote with their dollars and avoid GMOs. Our health as a nation, as a world and as a species literally depends on it.
I just finished a two hour meeting with an amazing woman who is on a mission to change the world. Her vision is similar to ours at shopOrganic, so it was great to meet this dynamic woman, Mrs. Green, as she’s known to her universe. She hosts an hour-long radio show on a local station (hoping to become syndicated for all of you out there in radio land) about how mainstream Americans can go green. But more than that, she is living the journey. She’s discovering the wide world of organics, sustainable agriculture, sustainable technologies, and all things green. What I like best about her is that she doesn’t profess to be the expert who will tell you what to do – she’s more like the trail guide on a path that she’s discovering as she leads you forward. You can listen to past shows on her site and she’s had some really interesting guests. So, visit www.mrsgreengoesmainstream.com, sign up for her newsletter, listen to past shows or tune in live for her Saturday shows (they’re streamed live) and enjoy learning more about the green possibilities in your life!
I was thinking the other day about the repair of my ancient printer (see “The World Around Us” entry at shopOrganic.com/community) and realized that the true cost of things is often not accounted for. It’s like a gaping hole in our accounting systems and metrics that allow us to disregard certain costs – those enormous, universal, hits-all-of-us kinds of costs.
For example, that old printer part. I purchased a part for $20 to fix my printer. The old board probably needs a single component, like a $0.10 capacitor, to make it run like new. However, I long ago sold my oscilloscope, I have an old soldering iron out in the garage, but I think my skills are just rusty enough that I would likely toast the entire board in the process of trying to discover which component went bad. That said, I’m sure there’s someone in this town that could repair that board. I’d be happy to give the part to him or her just to know it would be repaired and reused. But, I doubt I’ll find that person primarily because I don’t have the time to spend searching for someone to repair a $20 board that I don’t need.
But is it really a $20 board? What’s the cost of that board just being tossed in the landfill? What’s the cost of the metals and the toxic substances seeping into the water table beneath the landfill? What’s the cost of that part just sitting, mostly unchanged, in a landfill for generations to come?
Now, that part is not in a landfill nor will I be the one to put it there. It will, no doubt, live in my cache of ancient, unusable technical spare parts for years to come. Every now and then, I’ll pull it out, look at it, remember fondly the time I fixed that old HP IIP laser printer and put it back in the box. At some point, I might even get it together to bring a box of old spare parts to the computer recycling center so they can tear it apart and recycle whatever materials they can.
Still, most people would take that old part and toss it in the trash because it is, after all, only a $20 part. Our landfills are filling with things that may not be perfectly good, but things that might have a useful afterlife in some sort of recycled format – only there’s no economic incentive to do so.
More than that, we don’t account for all these costs. So, that $20 part isn’t really a $20 part. If we add up the environmental impact and the time it will live in the landfill and…..well, you get the point and it’s more like a $2,000 part at that point. Now, if it was a $2,000 part, I bet someone would be more interested in fixing it, don’t you?
We may not ever change our accounting systems to look at the cost in a holistic manner, but each of us can perhaps become more aware of the larger costs of our consumer products and begin to make small changes. Critics will argue that small changes by millions of us won’t change anything, but in fact, that’s the only thing that creates change – all of us together, one by one.
There’s been a big flap in the organic world lately regarding the recommendation by a reputable organic association that consumers should buy conventionally grown fruits or vegetables that are not heavily sprayed with pesticides if price is a concern. This was picked up by many national news organizations and has lead to some pretty loud virtual arguments going on. The gist of it was that some fruits and vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides and eating conventionally grown varieties is not recommended. On the other hand, this same report said that there were some conventionally grown varieties that were not full of pesticides and that if you wanted to save on your food bill, you could ‘safely’ consume these conventional varieties.
So the discussion has centered around whether or not you should ‘ever’ buy conventionally grown produce. My take on it is this: we each have to make choices that are appropriate for ourselves, our families and our budgets. Life is not black and white, all or nothing. It’s about constantly finding a balance. Whether you go (or have gone) all organic or part organic; all green or part green is something you choose for yourself based on a variety of often complex factors. Clearly, the arguments for all organic, all green all the time are strong – but most of us find some blend, some mix that works in our lives.
From my perspective, it’s about making conscious choices and making incremental improvements over time. If each of us takes whatever tiny steps toward a greener future that work for us, it will make a difference. Is organic better for you, for the community, for the planet? Sure it is, but sometimes we have to make tough choices given the economic realities of our lives. We founded shopOrganic.com, in part, to provide a wide range of organic products at fair prices to people across the U.S. We, too, have to make those choices each day as well.
My hope is that one day we’ll look back on this time and laugh at the notion that we ever sprayed chemicals on food we ate. Still, we have to deal with the economic realities we face and sometimes the cost difference between organic and conventional can be prohibitive for those on tight budgets. I have noticed that the price difference seems to be disappearing on certain products – so smart shopping will help you find organic products at the same (or, gasp, even lower) prices as conventionally grown items in some stores.
I’ll end with two quotes that perhaps sum up this entire discussion.
“It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead
Now, go out there and enjoy your day.