Friday, April 8, 2016
Earth Day is Every Day!
You hear this phrase all the time. In one very important sense, it's true. We should be considering our impact on our planet home every day, with all of our decisions. But is there any value in actually taking time out to celebrate a single "Earth Day" each year? Yes, I believe there is.
Like any holiday, celebrations remind us of things that are important to us that we may have lost track of in our busy schedules. Celebrations help us rejoice and come together as communities with shared values. So I believe it's well worth taking note on April 22nd of all the activities that effect our environment and having a little fun together in the process.
So, what should you do for Earth Day?
Attend a Fair or Festival
Many conscious businesses, artists and organizations spend a lot of time and effort to set up earth day festivals. So check one out. Learn, mingle and just enjoy all of the effort.
The Earth Day Network has a Find an Event in Your Area option.
The EPA has a small listing of Earth Day events.
Events12 has listings of all fairs and festivals for a number of larger cities.
The best way to find a local event is to do a web search using your city name, check with your local paper or contact your city hall.
Here in Oregon, I'll be attending the Portland State University Earth Day Festival on Friday. It's free and located along the PSU Park Blocks. On Saturday, the Oregon Gardens is offering free admission for it's Earth Day event.
There are so many beach, trail and forest clean-up efforts centered around Earth Day. This is a great time to chip in a few hours, get outside, and meet up with other caring folks. While there's no single website or link that covers every area, a quick web search should point you in the right direction for a local event.
For example "Oregon Earth Day Clean Up" produced these helpful links:
EarthShare Oregon Volunteer Opportunities
SOLVE Oregon's Environmental Clean Up
Chip in a few hard-earned bucks to an environmental charity. There are so many great organizations, you can definitely find one that resonates with your values. Charity Navigator rates charities based on how they use funds that are collected. It's a great way to ensure the charity you give to is using your money wisely. The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Guide also helps donors make more informed giving decisions.
Vote for the Environment
The League of Conservation Voters is a non-partisan, political action group that "works to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities." Check them out to find out how your elected representatives are voting when it comes to the environment.
Contact your Congressperson and Representatives to let them know you're pro-environment.
Get Outside and Enjoy the Day
The single best thing you can do for the environmental is to get outside. People fight to protect what they love, and they only love what they know. So go introduce yourself to the beautiful places in your area.
Friday, March 4, 2016
The benefits of Baking Soda
Baking Soda is another inexpensive, miracle cleaner. Good Housekeeping advocates 21 Cleaning Problems You Can Solve With Baking Soda.
There are several brands that sell steel wool pads filled with cleaning agents. Let's face it, sometimes you need the strength of steel wool and elbow grease to clean burnt-on pans, ovens or other really tough stains. But you don't need to buy pre-fab steel wool at the grocery store. Any hardware store will have medium grade steel wool that you can augment with your own cleaning agent.
Earth Friendly Products Creamy Cleanser - When you need to really scrub down that kitchen or bathroom this scrubs without scratching.
Zum Frankincense and Myrrh Granite and Counter Cleaner - This has an intoxicating scent that I absolutely love. But beyond the scent, it does an excellent job on my granite and quartz surfaces. It has no acids, so it's completely safe. If this scent is too much for you in the kitchen, it also comes in several others.
Biokleen's Bac-Out Bathroom Cleaner - This enzyme-based cleaner helps keep mold and mildew at bay. It's an easy spray-on and wipe or rinse off. I tend to spray this in between deep cleanings for a quick clean. Leave it on for a few minutes before you wipe it, rinse it or flush it to allow the enzymes to work.
Friday, February 19, 2016
If you're reading this blog, you probably already know about the harsh chemicals and detergents in mainstream cleaning products. Chlorine bleach and ammonia are the most well known, but the list is long and filled with toxins particularly hard on the lungs. Happily, there are a lot of resources already available to find eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaners. The Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning is among the best. Additionally, a few eco-friendly brands have moved beyond the health food store and into the mainstream. Big grocery and department store chains are now carrying brands like Biokleen and Seventh Generation.
With all this information already out there, I thought I'd bring you some personal tips on cleaner effectiveness (it's great that it's eco, but does it actually work?), as well as a few tricks I've put together over the years.
This week we'll tackle Laundry.
Biokleen Sport Liquid Laundry detergent is my personal favorite. While it's designed to get sweat smells out of sport clothing, I end up using it for everything. It makes all my clothes smell great and cleans very well. It's also reasonably priced compared to some other natural brands.
Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash, which we sell at FaeriesDance.com, is absolutely
amazing for hand or gentle machine washing delicates. The Jasmine scent is intoxicating. It smells so good, I've tried using it for the regular wash, but it just gets overwhelmed by the rinse cycle. Though I have added a capful to the fabric softener tray when I'm out of lavender bags.
Use lavender bags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets and fabric softener. This is a great tip that can be very cheap if you take a few minutes to put them together yourself.
- Buy a bulk lot of small, cotton muslin drawstring bags. You can get them at craft stores or on eBay.
- Buy a large bag of bulk lavender flowers, again on eBay or Amazon or at a craft store or apothecary.
- Fill the muslin bag with lavender flowers until it's stuffed.
- Add a cotton ball at the top to avoid having any spill out.
- Make a double knot at the top.
You can also untie your knot and reuse the muslin bag over and over again. Use the remnant lavender flowers in craft projects, your composter or sprinkle them directly on the lawn. There's no reason to throw them away.
There are a number of products out today that use a hydrogen peroxide base bleaching agent to clean and brighten without the use of chlorine. I have personally tried Earth Friendly Products Oxo Bright and Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus. I have not noticed a significant difference between the two brands, and generally buy the cheapest.
Advantages of oxygen bleach:
- Brightens whites
- Completely safe and non-toxic
- Readily available in stores, and inexpensive
Disadvantages of oxygen bleach:
- Doesn't seem to work well in cold water washes
- Requires a bit of effort as a stain remover
As a stain remover for white clothes, just putting oxygen bleach in the machine doesn't seem to make much of a difference. For the best results, make a paste with your powdered oxygen bleach and hot water. Gently rub your paste directly onto your stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before putting the item in the wash to allow it to really soak in.
Finally, the very best thing you can do to green your laundry is to do it less. Laundry uses a lot of water and energy. Here are a few guidelines.
- While you should wash undergarments after every wash, jeans and sweatshirts can often be worn a few times before washing.
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. (I wash almost everything in cold except whites and workout/running clothes.)
- Do laundry at night and on weekends when power usage tends to be lower.
- Hang dry clothes if you can.
- If you live in a rainy area or just don't have the time to hang dry, set your dryer to a low heat setting to save energy and make sure the lint screen is cleaned after each dry, as that can also effect drying time.
- If you're in the market for a new washer, check the energy star rating and choose one that is both energy and water efficient. Most front-load washers use much less water than top-load varieties.
Friday, February 5, 2016
On Wednesday, I received a $362 check (woohoo!) from the Energy Trust of Oregon. This isn't the first check I've received, but it's been the biggest so far. And why did they grace me with this new found money? For insulating my attic. The 1957 home I purchased in 2012 still had its original, now much compacted, insulation and was leaking heat. This October, I finally upgraded to R38 insulation before another winter set in.
The surprising part of completing this project is how the living room "cold zone" almost instantly became the same temperature as the rest of the house. Even better, my heating bills are down 25% this winter over last! I hadn't honestly believed it would make that much of a difference. And while it's unseasonable warm right now, we had a good snow and freeze early in January that I've already seen the bill for.
While conscious consumerism is an essential part of green living, we have to look well beyond shopping to make our largest impacts. So to answer my own question; Yes, getting a Home Energy Audit is well worth the time and money. Here's a good intro video, though each state handles them a little differently.