Sunday, 23 April 2017 00:00

Recently we provided a list of the top 20 best uses for white vinegar around the house. Today we’re going to share with you the secret recipes that keep houses clean without the chemicals!  

Here are the first ten secret white vinegar cleaning uses!

1. Clean windows.  One part hot water to one part white vinegar in a spray bottle.

2. Carpet Stains.  Two parts cold water to one part white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray directly on the surface, and let it sit for a couple minutes. If the stain is difficult to remove, I also add additional water directly to the stain after the original spray application. Then dab with a paper towel or soft towel to soak up the moisture. Remember not to scrub the surface; this will cause the stain to spread.   

3. Remove water stains.  One part water to one part vinegar. Spray on the surface directly to hard-water stains. Let it sit for a couple minutes, and then scrub the surface with a sponge. Rinse and repeat if needed.

4. Clean toilet bowl.  Use undiluted vinegar, and pour a cup directly into the toilet bowl. Then scrub and flush just like other toilet bowl cleaners.

5. Clean ceramic tiles.  One part hot water to one part white vinegar in a bucket.  Remember to make a new mixture once the water is dirty.    

6. Clean pet accident areas.  One part water to one part vinegar in the spray bottle.  Spray directly on the surface, and dab clean. If the accident is on a carpet or rug, remember not to scrub the surface; this will cause the stain to spread. Repeat if needed until the area is clean.

7. Clean the fridge.  One part water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray directly onto to the surface, and wipe it clean.

8. Clean coffeemaker.  One part water to one part vinegar, and pour directly into the coffeemaker. Begin brewing to run the solution through the coffee maker. Once complete, add only water to the coffee maker to rinse, and begin brewing. Rinse as many times as needed.  

9. Wood floor cleaner.  Mix ½ cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water. Use a soft sponge to wipe down the floor, and repeat if necessary.    

10. Clears drains.  Pour distilled white vinegar directly down. Follow with hot water after a couple minutes. Depending on the age of the drain and the clog, this may need to be repeated. I’ve used up to one gallon of white vinegar in one cleaning session in the past.  

Keep checking back for the next ten!


Sunday, 09 April 2017 00:00

Store-bought dog treats come with lots of extra packaging and extra ingredients, but what’s a good alternative? These simple, homemade treats! Dogs can’t digest a lot of the food that humans eat, but they can have some fruits and vegetables. One of these is the sweet potato, so I recently learned how to make very simple dog treats with just this one ingredient. You could also do it with any other vegetables, legumes, or starches that are dog-friendly—check online whether or not dogs can have a certain food. Some of the fruits and vegetables that dogs cannot have are garlic, onions (and all things onion-like; for example, shallots and scallions), and grapes. However, there’s no problem with apples (remove the seeds), strawberries, and, as in my example here, sweet potatoes.

Here is how you do it:

1. Very thinly slice the sweet potato (or another vegetable or fruit).
2. Bake it in the oven at 250 °F for around 40 minutes. What you’re essentially doing is dehydrating the sweet potato.
3. Cool it, and let your dog enjoy! Store it in a closed container in the refrigerator.

The best part is that it’s low-cost and zero-waste (as long as you don’t use bags from the store), and my dogs love them!

Friday, 03 March 2017 00:00

Our dogs are part of our families.  We spoil them with treats, toys, daily walks, and playtime.  On occasion, they even might sleep in our beds at night.  We even shop for them for birthdays and holidays.  Therefore, it only makes sense that we want for them the best food and preventive medicine that will keep them healthy for a long happy life.  Did you know, though, that some ingredients in dog food, and even preventive flea medicine, are dangerous to humans, and could also be harmful to your pup?  Let us take a closer look and review some safe, eco-friendly options for your fur-family member.

 Pet Food Tips

When looking for the healthiest food for your pet, there are three main elements that should be kept in mind. 

1. PROTEIN.  Dogs need protein—when comparing dog foods and brands, protein should be the first ingredient listed.  It is especially important for puppies as they continue to grow and use that ample puppy energy.  Ensuring that protein is the first ingredient in your fur-family member’s diet benefits your pups’ health throughout its life.

2. BYPRODUCT.  This is essentially a filler with questionable benefits for your pet, and should be avoided.  Meat byproducts are ingredients that were left over from human food production and removed because they are not approved to be part of the human food process.  Your pet isn’t receiving any health benefits by eating meat byproducts.  A great resource when changing food is your local veterinarian, who can guide you on brands and what would be best for your dog’s diet depending on age and activity level.

3. MELAMINE.  This is a dangerous ingredient, and should always be avoided to keep your pet its healthiest.  In 2007, there was a large pet food recall due to kidney failure among cats and dogs in the United States.  The culprit was melamine.  According to petMD, it was the largest pet food recall in US history, “affecting foods and treats made by twelve manufacturers.”

Flea Prevention Tips

In addition to giving your fur-family member a monthly flea preventive from the vet, here are some easy eco-friendly tips to ensure those pesky fleas stay away.

1. WASH BEDDING WEEKLY.  Remember that timeless quote, “A clean home is a healthy home.” Well, same goes for your pet; a clean dog and bedding make for a happy, healthy dog.  This is one of the easiest preventives to help keep fleas at bay.

2. GIVE THE GRASS A HAIRCUT.  Keeping the lawn short helps keep fleas, ticks, and other rodents awa,y since they hide in longer grasses.  The sun helps dry out any flea eggs and larvae that may be in the yard, and therefore kills them.  In addition, keeping your lawn short helps predators spot fleas.  A natural cycle! 

3. GOOD GROOMING HABITS.  During the flea months, be sure to check your dog regularly by using a flea comb, which will help catch any fleas early.  Flea combs can be purchased at most pet stores, and are fairly inexpensive.  This is great way to ensure that your pet is healthy during flea season!

4.THE ART OF CEDAR.  Cedar is a great natural repellent to use in dog beds.  Blocks can be placed under furniture, in clothes closets, and outside in the yard, in play areas.  Even oils can be added to your dog’s collar to help keep fleas away.   

There you go—easy tips to keep you, your fur-family member, and the environment healthy!

Sunday, 26 February 2017 00:00

The sun is out. The windows are slightly open, letting spring's natural fragrance into a house that has been shut tight for the cold winter months. A newfound sense of energy and excitement is in the air for the coming warmer youthful spring ahead. How exciting! That first step into this season is the age-old remedy of spring cleaning. Dust off the layer of winter on the windows, clean out the closets and shine the wooden floors that have salt, snow, and dirt on them. It’s time for Spring Cleaning 2017!

spring cleaning

Spring cleaning is a way to keep you and your house healthy, yet the majority of mainstream cleaning products are not good for our health, forcing us to breathe toxic chemicals that could cause long-term issues and are damaging to our own, our pets', and our family’s health. Below are five tricks of the green trade for keeping your house clean and yourself healthy through spring cleaning.

Green Cleaning Tip #1: White Vinegar
White vinegar is an amazingly tough stain-fighting, grease-fighting, and odor-fighting solution that is easy to use and safe to clean with. Clean windows with a soft cloth and a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Remove that stubborn soap scum from shower doors spraying undiluted vinegar directly on the doors, and don’t forget those toilet bowl stains while cleaning the bathroom. Spray white vinegar directly inside the bowl, and scrub with a toilet brush. Once the bathroom is complete, head into the kitchen with your spray bottle of undiluted vinegar, and hit the countertops, stove, refrigerator, and all other appliances that need a good scrub down.

Green Cleaning Tip #2: Baking Soda
Besides being one of the cheapest cleaning supplies, baking soda reacts great with water or white vinegar, adding a bit of grit for areas that need a little extra elbow grease when scrubbing. When combined with water to create a paste, baking soda can clean most of those tough countertop, shower, tub, and toilet stains. Its multi-usability isn’t just for the kitchen or bathroom; it can be used around the entire house! Leave an open container in the fridge to help rid those lasting odors from yesterday’s leftover pizza. Or add a cup to that next load of whites in the laundry to help get clothes cleaner and brighter.

Green Cleaning Tip #3: Olive Oil
Olive oil is another magical solution that will already be in your cupboard and can be used for cleaning around the house. It is a great green solution to rid dust from the wooden furniture and make them shine! Grab a spray bottle, olive oil, and a fresh lemon. Add 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice in a spray bottle, and mix well. Then spray onto a soft cloth and watch the wood furniture begin to shine. Did you know olive oil also gets paint off hands? It does! Simply pour a little olive oil onto a cloth, and scrub the painted skin-covered area.

Green Cleaning Tip #4: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a great bathroom cleaner, especially for tough grout areas between shower tiles. Simply spray directly onto the dry shower tiles, and let sit for a bit and do its magic. Then come back and scrub with an old toothbrush. It may take a couple of times before the white shines through, depending on how thick the layer of mildew is on the grout, but before you know it, you’ll have shiny white grout again, and with a green, non-toxic, no-fume solution.

Green Cleaning Tip #5: Lemons
Wouldn’t you rather smell lemons instead of chemicals when cleaning? I would! Yet did you know it can also be used for cleaning and not just for the lovely citrus scent it leaves behind? Lemons also act as a natural bleach solution. However, keep in mind they should not be used as a disinfectant when cleaning a countertop after working with meat, for example. In comparison, they are great to use when adding a fresh scent to the garbage disposal or bleaching white linens during laundry, and can be used as glass cleaner. They are also great when used on shower doors to remove soap scum. Simply add some lemon juice to a sponge, and wipe down the shower door.

Now, with these hot green cleaning tips, when you start your spring cleaning for 2017, those opens windows can let the fresh air in and not just the strong chemical smell out. Enjoy!



Friday, 24 February 2017 00:00

I recently purchased a copy of The Better World Shopping Guide (5th edition) by Ellis Jones. This fascinating research project gives companies grades (A, B, C, D, or F) based on factors like human rights (fair wages, worker health, child labor, etc.), the environment (toxic waste dumping, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, sustainability), animal protection, community involvement (volunteer efforts, donations, local business support, etc.), and social justice (unethical business practices, cover-ups, illegal activities, discrimination, etc.). This project is based on the idea that money is power. Each dollar makes a difference, and if we start making smarter choices about what companies we buy products from, we can make a change and work toward living in a better world.

Jones writes, "As trillions of dollars accumulate in the corporate sphere, we witness the growing power of corporations to shape the world as they see fit. The power is not limited to controlling the face of our own government through consistent, record-breaking campaign contributions, but also the fate of millions of people and the planet itself through jobs, recourse exploitation, pollution, working conditions, energy consumption, forest destruction, and so on."

If you’re like me, the process of changing your lifestyle to be more ecologically friendly is sometimes overwhelming. The Better World Shopping Guide gives us an easy place to start. I found it captivating to flip through the pages and discover which companies I should start or stop supporting. The first few pages of the book give a list of the top ten things to change, including bank, gasoline, car, chocolate, coffee/tea, and cleaning products.

As the author points out, “As citizens, on average, we might vote once every four years, if at all. As consumers, we vote every single day with the purest form of power…money.” The Better World Shopping Guide helps to inform us about what we are voting for with our purchases. Just by changing which brands of shampoo, orange juice, and bread I buy, I am exercising my power as a consumer. Once I have done that, I can move on to bigger changes like dental care, airlines, credit cards, and cars.

To get more information than is available in the book, go to the website or download the "Better World Shopper" app to your iPhone. 

Friday, 27 January 2017 00:00

The more blogs I post, the more you’ll come to realize that I am not a fan of the cold, and unfortunately for some of us, we still have a few months to go. Winter is the time of year when people bundle up inside and turn up the heat. Unfortunately, heating is expensive, and drains a lot of energy to boot. Today, I want to provide some helpful tips to not only keep yourself warm, but maybe even keep your wallets full, too.

A good place to start is to close off any unused rooms or potential cold air pockets—close any air vents and doors, especially in rooms you’re not using. This might sound silly, but I would even recommend taping your windows shut. Even when every window is sealed perfectly shut, cold air can still seep in. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with concrete walls, so you'd think heat wouldn’t be much of an issue, considering that we have only two windows. However, so much cold air seeps out of them that not only did we tape our windows shut, but we also placed towels at the bottom of the windowsill to absorb some of the frigid temperatures. You know something? As silly as it may sound, it works! However, if you prefer something where you don’t have to peel off a bunch of duct tape as soon as the weather turns, then I recommend buying some thick curtains.

Make sure to keep your blinds and shades open during the day, as the sun is definitely your friend here. Try to use the sun more than space heaters, as space heaters are notorious for causing house fires. Other heating appliances, like gas fireplaces, should be used sparingly as well, as gas fireplaces use more energy to heat a room than central home heating does. However, if you have a wood fireplace, feel free to use it as often as you can, as wood fireplaces provide a lot of heat, and take care of any yard waste you want to dispose of.

Adding more to the topic of insulation, which is so crucial to keeping the heating costs down, any chance you have to better insulate your walls, attic, and roof, do it. There’s even recycled insulation made out of recycled paper and blue jeans that you can use. Sometimes it’s a matter not of insulation, but of maintenance. Keeping all your appliances up-to-date can help combat some of that nasty cold weather.

An interesting tip: try to avoid using any sort of exhaust fan that you might find in a kitchen or bathroom, as this can deplete your home of warm air. If possible, you should also reverse the rotation of your ceiling fan—some ceiling fans have a reverse setting.

If you enjoy baking, this is the best time of year to do so. Once you’re finished with those tasty cookies or casserole, leave the oven door open—it provides another handy and unexpected heat source. 

Heating your home efficiently means more than a watchful eye on the thermostat; it also means finding a low, comfortable, and steady temperature for your house. Contrary to what some might think, including me, it’s not necessarily a good idea to turn the heat off at night, as the drastic drop in temperature will only make your unit work hard to heat the place up again come morning. Turning off the heat completely at night can also be a risk for your pipes bursting. The best strategy is a consistent light heat. Using a programmable thermostat might also help alleviate that problem.

The last thing to do is insulate yourself. Plug in those electric blankets. Grab the extra sweaters, socks, and blankets out of the closet. Don’t leave your feet exposed. Eat or drink something warm. But best tip of all? Cuddle with your pets and loved ones, and enjoy the body heat.

Luckily, I haven’t had many issues so far with the cold, but I’ll never back down from an opportunity to bake something—especially if it serves two purposes!

Happy New Year, everyone, and stay warm!