The over abundance of chemicals in our food, outdoor air, and even our water has made us cautious about toxins.
We use eco-friendly cleaning products to green clean our counters and appliances, we reach for organic produce and fruit in the supermarket, and we’ve even turned to cruelty-free, all natural cosmetics in the makeup aisle. We’re making better choices, but now we challenge you to take your green lifestyle to the advanced level!
5 items you should always green clean
1. Dry Clean Only fabrics
Conventional dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (“Perc”) as a solvent. While it removes stains and odors, it also poses an extreme health risk to humans and the environment. Low levels of contact with Perc can cause dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, nausea, and skin and respiratory irritation. Prolonged exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage, and cancer. It’s possible that your dry cleaner doesn’t use Perc, but when you consider that Perc is used by 85% of the dry cleaners in America, the chances are pretty good they do.
What to do? Encourage your cleaner to offer a green clean alternative. More
If you have an empty space big enough for a garbage can, you can build your own urban compost.
It sounds harder (and smellier) than it is. You will create nutrient-rich fertilizer out of garbage; you won’t leave your apartment smelling like you’ve converted your space into a landfill.
What is a compost pile for?
Compost is fertilizer made from leftover food and plant trimmings, and used to add nutrients to plants and garden soil. Traditionally, compost piles are found in rural backyards, but urban dwellers can enjoy the eco-friendly benefits of composting along with their suburban neighbors. All it takes is the right kind of bin, a small space, and the desire to turn your leftovers into more than useless garbage.
Bins, Buckets, and Worms. Oh my!
Composting is a beautiful, natural way to turn garbage into fertilizer; your compost bin can look just as beautiful. Dozens of stylish, functional compost bins are available to the urban dweller. Choose from a variety of shapes and materials: bamboo, ceramic, and stainless steel. Be sure the lids fit well to keep bugs away, and don’t forget the carbon filters to keep the smell away.
While you don’t have to use worms to create your compost, they do make the best fertilizer – if you can get over any queasiness you might feel about keeping upwards of 1000 worms in a bin on your fire-escape, closet, or deck. Quick biology lesson: worms feast on your leftover food waste, then turn around and excrete the waste in the form of nutrients. Natural and easy, and delicious to your plants and windowsill garden.
If you’re up for composting with worms, we recommend this worm composting guide book.
How to Get Started
Now that you’ve got your bin and a space to store it, you need to start filling it up. To make compost you’ll need dead leaves, plant trimmings, vegetable and fruit leftovers, and a little water to mix everything together and break it down into fertilizer.
- Throw in the dead leaves and dirt and a little water.
- As you cook, add the leftover scraps from your fruits and vegetables to the leaves in your new compost bin.
- When you’ve got a little pile going, add some plant trimmings and stir it all together to get the process started.
Continue repeating the three-step process for several weeks until you have a dark, rich compost ready for spreading over the soil in your planters or in a neighborhood garden.
5 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Recycled
Aluminum cans, paper, and plastic are synonymous with the word recycling, but did you know about these 5 surprising items that you can recycle along with your other items?
1. Flip Flops
Flip flops are being recycled into garbage cans, chairs, rubber bands and much more. Recycling company, TerraCycle, is recruiting for their Flip Flop Brigade. They want you to save up your old flip flops and donate them in exchange for Old Navy coupons. You’ll need to send in at least 10 or 20 pairs at a time to qualify for the program, so feel free to ask friends and family to give you their old flip flops as they wear them out. It’s free and easy to participate anywhere. TerraCycle offers free shipping vouchers when you register on their website.
Old wine corks are easily repurposed—vase filler, place card holders, decorations—but did you know they can also be recycled? ReCORK America did. They’ve partnered with national retailers to establish wine cork collection locations nationwide. In addition, the organization partners with restaurants, businesses, resorts, wineries and wine retailers to collect their used corks from day-to-day business operations and recycle them into new stuff such as flooring, wall art, shoes, and other unusual items.
Take those half-empty paint cans out of your storage shed and turn them into a recycled paint retailer near you. Those creative geniuses will mix and match your leftover paint with other returned paint to create new colors and shades to sell or donate.
This is only good for latex paint; you’ll still need to dispose of oil-based paint as a household hazardous waste item.
Almost 50,000 pounds of crayons have been saved from the landfill by theNational Crayon Recycle Program operated by Crazy Crayons, LLC. They offer drop-off bins nationwide and a mail-back option for unwanted and broken crayons, to be recycled—you guessed it—into new crayons. If you’d rather not participate, you can always donate unbroken crayons to your local school or art program.
4. Paper Towels
Every time we dry our hands or wipe a counter top with a paper towel, we’re adding to the world’s garbage problem. Now Canada has worked out a way to recycle paper towels, despite the fact that they’re receptacles of bacteria – the reason they couldn’t be recycled in the past.
Partners for a Green Hill turns used paper towels into compost and spreads it around toxic landfill zones to try and enrich the soil.
Until we start a similar US-based program, let’s monitor our paper towel consumption and use washable dishtowels, air hand dryers, and eco-friendly cleaning products instead.
5. Roof Shingles
When the rain starts leaking onto the floors, it’s time to replace the shingles on the roof. In the past the old shingles would be destined for the garbage truck, but now Missouri-based resource recovery company, Roofs to Roads, is turning old shingles into smooth roads.
According to the company’s website, more than 276 million pounds of roofing shingles are dumped into Missouri landfills every year. That’s enough shingles to completely cover St. Louis City and St. Louis County.
Here’s hoping more states catch on to this ingenious recycling plan!
Have you heard of something else surprising to recycle? How far have you gone to recycle something or add more environmental services to your lifestyle? Let us know here or chat with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Small apartments, crowded condos, and urban highrises can boast big city amenities and a country garden.
All it takes is a willingness to think inside the box. A windowsill garden box, that is. Bring edible nature into your home no matter where you live, and enjoy the eco-friendly benefits of gardening even in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.
Beginning Urban Gardeners Start Small
Herbs are the easiest and most rewarding way to start a windowsill garden. Oregano, thyme, mint, and parsley are the best if you’re still discovering your green thumb.
- Repurpose something you have in the house for a unique plant for your herbs. Container should be at least 4” x 6” and fit on your windowsill.
- Grow herbs on a southern facing window so they get at least 5 hours of daily sun.
- Water them until soil is slightly damp, and keep them that way.
- Trim often and enjoy what you trim off in your meals!
Intermediate Urban Gardeners Go a Little Bigger
Microgreens such as sprouts and lettuce variations can be grown indoors, even in the smallest apartment. They’re a natural progression for the urban herb farmer, and they make a wonderful nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Fill a 9” x 7” plastic container with potting soil and sprinkle seeds. Add drainage holes in the bottom of your container. Repurposing takeout containers are a great way to keep your garden green.
- Gently pat potting soil over the seeds and water (gently) until soil is damp.
- Place container in southern facing window for light.
- Keep soil moist and pour out the run off collected through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
- Seeds should sprout within 14-20 days after planting. Trim just above the soil line and add to salads, sandwiches, or eat by the handful for an oomph of vitamins.
Advanced Urban Gardeners Bring the Country into the Kitchen
If you’re ready to move on to bigger harvests, turn to resources like Window Farms, a city dwellers How To for growing crops in the middle of your apartment. Artists Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray developed Window Farms to provide vertical, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield growing methods for window gardens. They focus on eco-friendly materials so they always use low-impact or recycled local materials. They suggest—and offer construction tips—for a drip system made from recycled water bottles. Their model nurtured 25 plants, among them: beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, basil, lettuce and kale. Turn your living space into farmland with their step by step instruction
Inspire us with the ways you’re bringing nature into your home or workspace!
You have a choice: buy organic produce and spend more money or buy conventional and save money but sacrifice health?
If you keep these 10 ingredients organic, you can safely pick and choose between organic and conventional on everything else.
In his book, Diet for a Poisoned Planet, researcher David Steinman took a hard look at the conventional farming industry to discover which produce absorbs the most toxins. Using extremely sensitive laboratory detection—10 times stronger than that used by the FDA—he tested for more than 100 chemicals and pesticides to discover which ingredients must always be bought organic.
Top 10 Must Buy Organic
- Bell Peppers
- Summer Squash
Foods You Can Buy Conventional
Turns out that there are still some conventionally grown fruit and produce that you can buy without worrying that you’re ingesting a mouthful of chemicals with every bite.
Definition of Organic
Organic is a term that everyone uses, but does everyone know exactly what it means? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program defines organic this way: organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products must come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. A government-approved certifier must inspect the farm to ensure these standards are met. In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for organic handling and processing.
They go on to explain that there are three levels of organic claims on food labels:
- 100-percent Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
- Organic. Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
- Made with Organic Ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.
What ingredients do you always make sure to buy organic? Do you commit to green living with organic food and eco-friendly products and services? What improvements have you noticed in your health or appearance by maintaining a green lifestyle?
Food travels 1500-2500 miles to arrive at your kitchen.
Consider this: an average sandwich has seven ingredients; at a grand total of 14,000 miles traveled, your Turkey Club has seen more of America than you have. Thank goodness for Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), because when it comes to the food you eat distance traveled is as important to the environment and your health as organic, pesticide-free farming.
Farmers Markets have grown in popularity by leaps and bounds thanks to the overwhelming demand for organic food. The CSA system is still relatively new to most people even though it boasts many advantages over a traditional Farmers Market.
So what’s the difference between a local Farmers Market and a CSA? The name says it all.
Community Supported Agriculture is a farm that exists through the help of the surrounding community in exchange for a portion of the harvest; sometimes financial support, sometimes pitching in to do the work, sometimes both.
A Farmers Market is in fact a market; a place where you and I can go and buy a farmer’s wares without pledging ongoing support or lending a hand in the production.
Like chocolate and watches, the CSA system was conceived in Switzerland, Germany, and Japan in the 1960’s as a response to food safety concerns and land development. The movement spread across Europe and then made its way to America in the early 1980’s.
Thanks in large part to our increasing demand for safe, nutritious food the US Department of Agriculture claims there are almost 13,000 CSA farms in the USA producing food through organic or biodynamic growing practices. Interestingly, CSAs are not always traditional farms; many more CSAs in urban areas are a product of a low income outreach program to encourage families—and even homeless people—to take control of their food and their neighborhoods by developing urban farms. These CSAs are springing up in abandoned lots, school yards, and donated land. When you support these CSAs you’ll be helping members of your community as well as purchasing local, organic ingredients and services.
3 Steps to getting the food from a CSA to your table
- Find a CSA near you
- Depending on the policies of the CSA you select, you will need to subscribe to a certain amount of food and delivery frequency. Most members pay for 1X weekly deliveries of a “Box” of whatever the harvest is that week, based on the season. You could get vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers, honey, eggs, meat – all based on the farm you choose and the type of subscription you pay for.
- Pick it up. Similar to the Farmers Market, many CSAs have a weekly drop-off location where subscribers come to pick up their “box” for the week. The fun of a CSA versus a Farmers Market is that your weekly menu will depend on the items in your box. This way you eat only seasonal, fresh, locally grown food.
CSAs and Farmers Markets offer real opportunities to support local food producers, interact with our community, maintain a green, eco-friendly lifestyle, and eat well. What could be better?
Where do you usually buy your produce, meat, and eggs? Are you member of a CSA that you can recommend? We’d love to hear about your experience! Connect with us on Facebook and post photos & recipes you enjoy with the fresh fruit and produce you found at a CSA or Farmer’s Market in your neighborhood!
Some dread it, some look forward to it as the end of a long, dreary winter, but no one can avoid it: Spring Cleaning.
March has long been known as month for spring cleaning because the weather is warm enough to open the doors and windows to let the dust out, but it’s still cold enough to keep the insects away. With that logic, the March spring cleaning tradition was born!
Not just a physical purging, spring cleaning is a mental and emotional new start; a way to start anew in a cleaner, more organized space.
Make spring cleaning a group activity
Taking on the task of scrubbing a living space from top to bottom can be daunting, unless of course you can enlist some help.
If you’re spring cleaning at home, get the family in on the fun. If you’re using spring cleaning as a time to organize the office, encourage your employees to join together and tackle the job.
Hint: music, rewards, and a sense of fun will entice others into lending a hand!
What you’ll need to get started
There’s no getting around it, spring cleaning involves some elbow grease and the right mindset. But, a few powerful cleaning items can help as well. We recommend sticking to eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products. You’ll be spraying, scrubbing, and breathing in long forgotten dust and grime; your cleaning products shouldn’t add to the toxic overload. Keep the windows open if you can, even though your eco-friendly cleaning products won’t cause health problems, the fresh air is rejuvenating to your mental and physical well being.
Spring Cleaning Checklist
Discover the how, what, and why behind each of these common spring cleaning areas. If you work with a regular cleaning service, you have permission to skip the heavy cleaning in areas that regularly receive attention and focus on organizing closets, storage spaces, and even medicine cabinets instead.
- Kitchen Spring Cleaning
- Bathroom Spring Cleaning
- Living Areas Spring Cleaning
- Bedroom Spring Cleaning
- Dining Room Spring Cleaning
How to organize a medicine cabinet
The medicine cabinet is rarely the first place to get organized, but it is one of the most important areas to keep clean and stocked. After all, that’s the place you turn in an emergency.
Warm weather means sun and outdoor activities, which translates to sunblock (check the SPF), band-aids, and insect repellent. Make sure you switch out the winter cough medicines for these spring and summer standbys.
Are items outdated, old, or smelly? They need to be thrown out, even if they’re not empty. Expired items just don’t work anymore, and they may even be hazardous to your health. Do you have three of each item crowding your cabinet? Move the extra items to another area: a storage closet or pantry.
Check for a well-stocked first aid kit. Your at-home emergency kit should include band-aids, sterile wash for cleansing wounds, ointment, gauze, and burn relief. It’s always better to take the time to make sure you’re prepared before an emergency.
Don’t forget to clean outside items
Spring and summer mean that you can rediscover your grill, patio furniture, and open your windows. But, first they need to be cleaned. Deep breath; jump in!
- Clean Patio Furniture
- Clean a Grill
- Wash Windows
What to do with all the stuff you don’t want
- Sort and recycle items such as paper, plastics, cardboard, aluminum, and glass
- Repurpose items that can be used to fill a need in another part of your space
- Donate items that can be used by someone else: clothes, furniture, books, toys, household items, appliances.
- Throw away items that should not be reused or recycled: old medicine, expired food, and other genuine garbage.
Keep your environment clean
There’s nothing like the feeling of a clean living and work space. Keeping it that way is a different story, which is why I always recommend maintaining a clean space is easy if you work on it every day or even every week. If you’d like a partner in your cleaning goals, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Your spring cleaning challenge
To inspire you to get started on a deep cleaning, I challenge you to look around your space and find an area that you haven’t tackled in awhile. Is it a storage closet? A medicine cabinet?
Find the one area you’d like to see clean and organized and make it your goal to accomplish it this month. We’ll make it worth your while with a FREE box of EcoSpirit all natural cleaning products awarded to the most outstanding spring cleaning transformation!
To enter for your chance to win a box of EcoSpirit cleaning products remember to take before and after photos or video and post them on our Facebook page. We’d love to celebrate your spring cleaning challenge this year!