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The Great Natural Giveaway

It’s summertime and the giving’s easy. (I couldn’t resist.) drugstore.com is sponsoring a very cool DAILY giveaway of an array of products, many of which are from Martha Stewart’s Annual Whole Living Healthy Skin Awards. Yes, I said daily!  Just go to http://budurl.com/mslgiveaway EVERY DAY and enter for a chance to win one of our favorite skin care products being featured that day. Winners (hopefully you) will be announced at the end of June… and prizes will be delivered to your door. Told you it was cool.

NO SUBSCRIPTION OR PURCHASE REQUIRED TO ENTER OR TO RECEIVE A PRIZE.  Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.), Age of Majority or older,  Ends 06/30/12.  To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, free methods of entry and prize descriptions, visit: http://budurl.com/mslgiveaway. Void where prohibited.

Are you allergic to Grandma’s candy dish?

I would wake up and I cough like a ninety year old man.  In the shower, my eyes would itch. And, pouring a cup of coffee usually spilling it all over me because of my non-stop sneezing jag.  Sound familiar?  I was allergic to my life; turns out that having an allergy is the most common denominator among people of all ages, sex and ethnicity. In fact it’s estimated that approximately 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of allergy.

Here is a short list of things I did that made my life less of a sneezing, coughing, itchy-fest.

  • No fresh flowers.  Sad, I know, however they are often the culprit
  • De-clutter. Knick knacks are fun — but seem to collect every speck of dust on the planet
  • Vacuum your mattress and cover it with a hypo-allergenic mattress pad. Unless you are allergic, the best materials are cotton and bamboo
  • Use unscented soaps, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, moisturizers and lotions
  • If you want to use room deodorizers find an organic fruit spray. They are a lovely alternatives and have been proven to be effective at killing viruses and bacteria without harmful side effects
  • Brush the dogs outside and often

The more you about common allergens in your life the less Kleenex, nose sprays and pills you’ll need to buy.

How-to Throw a Naturally Fabulous Party

Love having parties and entertaining but worry about the waste you and your guests are creating? Don’t worry—you can be a social butterfly and an eco-friendly party expert at the same time! We put together a few handy how-to tips on for a chic shindig with natural flair.

1. Send electronic invitations. Considering most guests don’t save invitations, the paper variety isn’t a very sustainable option. Instead of buying pre-printed invitations or making your own using a printer, create an email invite with a service like Evite or Punchbowl.com.

2. Use washable plates, silver, and glassware. We bet your first instinct is to head to the store for disposables—but why not use the dishware you and your family eat off every day instead? Or head to your local thrift store for an eclectic mix of used items. You can create a colorful tea party with an array of thrifted teacups.

3. Choose decorations that can be reused.  Pass right on by those latex balloons, unless you’re okay with seeing them pile up in your trashcan. Invest in come colorful paper lanterns instead—they’re party-friendly for all occasions. You can also scoop up handcrafted party décor on Etsy.com, or follow a DIY tutorial and make your own.

4. Make your own snacks and cake.  Creating your own party buffet from scratch will not only impress your guests, it will also satisfy cravings and leave them talking about your yummy dishes for weeks afterwards. If you’d rather skip kitchen duty, find a local catering company or baked goods shop and place an order.

5. Use creative wrapping paper. Save money and resources by creating a wrapping supply chest full of colorful comics from the newspaper, or pretty pieces of craft-store fabric that giftees can save and reuse. You can also buy plain white silk or muslim and dye them with color-saturated veggies like beets, spinach, and onion skins.

 

Getting creative with these ideas will make your event memorable—as well as eco-friendly!

Earth Day Giveaway!

Let’s continue to celebrate earth day – because we can!

We’re always so inspired by the effort those in our community make to keep their daily habits and environment green and clean. This year’s Earth Day was just another opportunity to celebrate those commitments, but we’re not quite done. Share with us your all time, can’t live without, green and natural product and why it’s so good for our planet! Once you’ve commented, you’re automatically entered for a chance to win a Laundry POD Environmentally Friendly Washing Device, valued at $100!

The POD is a manually operated system for washing clothes. Compact and portable, but stands up tough to laundry. It’s great for camping, college, boating, RV, apartments, and more!

We’ll select a winner Friday April 27th. Good luck, and thanks for sharing with us :)

Repair or Replace? Things to Consider When Things Fall Apart

Consideration for the environment is one important factor to weigh when household appliances and electronics wear out or break at home. How do you know whether it’s best to replace something with a newer, more efficient model, take it to the repair shop, call in an expert or drop it off at the nearest recycling center?

While there’s really no hard and fast rule, here are a few common sense guidelines to consider:
Age and replacement cost of what’s broken

No guarantees, but we should expect to get at least ten years out of a major appliance, and frequently more. So for example, if your refrigerator conks out before its time, research the manufacturer online or search by “troubleshooting” and the name of the appliance. Chances are you’ll find several great clues as to what you’re up against.

Once you’ve got an idea of the problem, call a local repair service and speak with a service rep for an idea of repair costs over the phone. Check the price of a service call and see if diagnostics are included.

If it’s sounding expensive, try the old “50 percent rule”: If the repair costs more than half the replacement cost — and your budget allows — consider getting a new one.

Rebates and tax credits

In a nod to energy efficiency guidelines, many utility companies offer rebates to customers who replace inefficient models with newer models offering higher efficiency ratings. Likewise, also be sure and check for federal tax credits for replacing windows, roofing, doors, water heaters, insulation and heating/air conditioning with super efficient products.

Energy efficiency

Great strides are being made every year in improving the energy efficiency of appliances, electronics and household products. To determine which products offer the best energy efficiency for the money and related rebates that may be offered, check out the EnergyStar website, complete with a “Save Energy at Home” tool to help identify and calculate the best savings opportunities.

Natural Makeup: Why and How

We are what we eat…and put on our faces. With the potential side effects of the chemicals in makeup including things like cancer, reproductive and hormonal problems, birth defects or brain damage, the more educated we are as consumers the better.

The first step is learning which chemicals to avoid. Check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics or the Environmental Working Group for up to date information on new studies. EWG’s Skin Deep database is also a great resource where you can enter the name of a product you use and search for both ingredients and associated health effects.

Labels that explicitly state, paraben-, phthalate- or PCB-free are a good place to start. For products that contain food ingredients like avocado, honey or cinnamon, search for the USDA-organic certified label. Know your organic terms before you go. “100% organic” means the ingredients must be (you guessed it!) 100% organic, while a product with “organic ingredients” must only
contain an organic ingredient here and there.

As with all advertising, watch phrasing carefully. Don’t be fooled by the words “green” or “natural” which, in some products have as much validity as saying a drink has “natural flavors” when in fact chemicals outnumber them ten to one.

If you want to enhance your natural beauty naturally, break up with your normal routine. The beauty industry is making great strides toward delivering natural products. If you’re having trouble finding what you need, reach out to your network, see what others are using and connect with other like-minded folks who are concerned with similar issues. And of course, the internet is a great resource for deals and information on natural hair care, makeup, personal and skin care products.

The chemicals that make cameos in our beauty regimens are scary, but there are plenty of great natural options if you’re willing to do a little research.

Additional references

Greening Your Thanksgiving

Say what you will about the Puritans, they were pretty green. This Thanksgiving, get back to the meaning of the holiday and celebrate the harvest like they did back in olden times: with local, organic food.

If you live in a region lucky enough to have a true autumn, you’ll likely be able to stick to the classic Thanksgiving foods.  For our autumn-less brethren, take a good look at what’s in-season within one hundred miles and get creative. You will likely find produce for at least one or two classic Thanksgiving meals, and your new find will save your guests from the tedium of another one of great-grandpa’s, “When I was your age, we didn’t even have food” stories.

Try going organic and free range with your turkey or with a heritage breed ­­­- one at risk of going extinct due to the favoring of breeds better for mass production.

Once you’re in the store, apply the same kind of thinking to all of your purchases. Buy local, organic produce, and consider your real needs carefully. How many sweet potatoes do you really think any given person can eat? That said, if  you will be entertaining a big crowd, buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste. And don’t forget your reusable bags!

When setting the table, ask your friends to supplement your chinaware with their own and fully load your dishwasher to cut down on energy usage. If you must go disposable, at least make it biodegradable.

Now, what to do when it’s all done and you’ve still got an excess of food? Send it home with guests, donate to a food bank or freeze it and enjoy the fall bounty year round!

Even excess fat can be recycled into biofuel – the turkey’s, not your own.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Upcycled Home Decor

Stuff. Most of us have way too much of it. Even as we grow more eco-savvy trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle, sometimes we still are faced with the question of what to do with what we have. Used to be we would throw it away, give it away or store it. Today there’s another option: Upcycling. Upcycling is the process of converting useless things or products you no longer want – including waste materials – into new goods or objects of a higher environmental value. In other words, you get creative with the stuff you already have by fashioning it into something new! It’s all about ingenuity, and having fun, too. But if crafts aren’t your thing, you can still participate by buying upcycle merchandise, which cuts back on the consumption of raw materials for new products. And that ultimately ends up reducing energy use, air and water pollution and even greenhouse gas emissions.

The following is just a tiny peak at what some people have done with their discarded stuff to decorate their homes and at the same time efficiently upcycle their odds and ends. Keep in mind, if you are not handy with crafts and the like, there are a number of websites that offer upcycle home decorations. Buying upcycle is a great alternative to purchasing something new plus it helps keep our landfills free of needless waste.

iMac Aquarium from home-designing.comSo here’s a wild one: The Mac Aquarium. Do you still have one of the original iMacs kicking around? Remember the Apple computer that came in thirteen “flavors”? Imagine turning it into a colorful fish aquarium! Well, that’s just what some folks have done, and it’s a real showstopper.

Staying with the tech theme, how about that stack of useless old floppies? Here are several clever solutions:  assemble a small book using recycled paper for the inside and two floppies for the outside.  Punch two holes through the ‘book’ and bind with a couple of loose leaf rings. Take four floppies to construct the sides of a pencil holder with a fifth for the bottom.  Use old CDs to craft a lampshade or the face of a small clock.

Fabricate a fashion statement: Cut up the bright sides of soda cans, add earring hooks and you’ve got a unique set of earrings. Speaking of jewelry, dust off those outdated vintage brooches, remove the fittings on the back, glue on a super strong magnet and you’ve got yourself some glamorous refrigerator magnets!

Upcycled can candle holderLight up the room: Create eye-catching candles out of graphic tea tins, sardine cans, olive oil cans, etc. Break a tea saucer? Fill the cup with candle wax and add a wick for an elegant flame.  Single coffee cups, cute but never used eggcups, teapots – they all are good vessels to hold wax and can be one of a kind gifts to give.

Mirror mirror … on the table? Repurpose small wall mirrors as decorative trays. Glue on a backing of felt and dress up your dresser top!

A stitch in time could save nine or it could make a new table runner, rug for the hall or throw pillows for the window seat.  Sew together vintage napkins for the table, tea towels, napkins or soft shirts for the pillows and rag rugs for a comfy hall runner.

As you can see, the ideas are endless and the results original, distinctive and eco-friendly.  Repackage ordinary objects in your house and delight your family and guests with your surprising design and decorative solutions! Who knows, you just might inspire them to do the same.

Check out these and other great ideas at:

home-designing.com

countryliving.com/crafts

countryliving.com/homes

Have your Halloween pumpkins and eat them, too

Few things say autumn and abundance more clearly than the sight of pumpkins piled high at our local farmers’ market or an old-fashioned hay ride with family and friends through an organic pumpkin patch.

This quintessential fall favorite lends itself to any number of entertaining uses, far beyond its jack-o-lantern heritage. Here are a couple of unexpected twists for an old-time favorite that takes one humble little pumpkin from harvest to table and on to its next life with a lot of style and little waste.

Many years ago, my mom went all out for Halloween and baked up a batch of “Pumpkin Stew” – a hearty and delicious Argentinian beef stew (sometimes called “Carbonada Criolla”) served in a 12-pound pumpkin.  Note that this recipe calls for a “sugar pumpkin” – Mom’s take on this was to brush the inside of the pumpkin shell with soft butter and coat it with sugar before baking to give the stew a sweeter taste.

The beauty of this tasty recipe is that you can get multiple uses out of one pumpkin – just remember as you’re preparing the pumpkin to save the seeds for another day’s activities.

Young kids love separating the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, so roasting pumpkin seeds makes for an easy, family-friendly activity before this festive (and nutrient rich) fruit makes its way to your compost bin. And speaking of nutrition, who knew the humble pumpkin seed is such a nutritional powerhouse rich in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins?

These days, time often runs short despite my best intentions and I must simply stop and enjoy the beauty of the autumn days around me – and marvel at the creativity of those who take a humble pumpkin and create a work of art or a family feast. Enjoy this beautiful season!

A Very Green Halloween

Your kids can rest assured: a sustainable Halloween doesn’t have to mean swapping candy for fruit or toothpaste (lame!). There are plenty of fun, easy, eco-friendly ways to get your family as green as a gourd this October 31st. So brush aside those mounds of candy wrappers and green Halloween!

Pairing a good spring-cleaning with autumn is the best way to rid yourself of unsustainable plastic costumes. Link your DIY mentality with the slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” by reimagining what every day objects can do. That old tablecloth could make a great cape, and are you really wearing that colorful poncho you bought several decades ago when you were backpacking through South America?

Consider reusing costumes from past years or hand me downs from other kids. Some cities even run costume swaps, and never forget the power of charity shops. Many costumes share the same base elements, so that ladybug can easily become a turtle with a simple dye job.

Speaking of which, when it comes to hair dye and makeup, try making your own organic vegetable dye and make sure to purchase only natural brands.

Now, what about the candy issue? Try filling your own candy bowl with organic and fair-trade candy or chocolate, and hand out less of it to reduce both tummy aches and the amount of wrappers on the sidewalk. Or you can try getting your neighborhood involved in a reverse trick or treat, where kids hand out cards with information on how to purchase free trade candy for next year.

And hey, if you’re really committed, you can set out recycled toilet paper for teenagers. If they’re going to TP your house, it might as well have a sustainable angle, right?

We wish you a very green Halloween!

Additional References