Composting in the Summer Has Its Opportunities and Challenges
That compost pile you started in the fall probably came to a complete stop in the composting process due to the extreme cold temperatures we had this past winter. But, now that spring has sprung and the temperatures are rising, the microorganisms will automatically start the composting process again and you could have usable compost as you start your spring planting.
But, what about summer? Experts agree that the key to optimal compost development is having the right amount of water, greens (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps) and browns (dead leaves, branches and twigs)—so even though summer is usually heavy on the “greens”, there are ways to keep the combination working even during the dry, hot months of June, July and August.
Placement of your composting pile or bin is key. You should select a dry, shady area that is close to a water source like a hose. If you feel your pile is too dry (it should always feel slightly damp—not wet or dry), hose down each new layer as you add it to the bin. You should also consider placing a tarp or lid over your pile to conserve moisture during dry periods—this also prevents water logging should you have several days of heavy rain.
While green materials are plentiful during the summer months, you may be struggling to find enough carbon—or brown—composting materials. Look for fallen leaves or old straw mulch as well as other debris like wood chips, peanut shells or even shredded newspaper. Shredding your materials prior to adding them to the pile will speed-up the breakdown process.
Is your pile beginning to smell? This may be of great concern if you are composting in a small space. The foul odor is probably caused from adding too much “green” or too much water. If you are detecting an odor, add more brown material to the mix which should help fix the situation.
You will see bugs in your compost—especially during the summer. Bugs like worms, centipedes and pill bugs are all part of the composting process and should be left alone. To keep unwanted pests such as cockroaches out of your pile, make sure your bin has a lid with small air holes and turn food scraps into the pile as you add them, burying them deep beneath your yard trimmings.
Still new to the idea of composting? Since fall is the perfect time to begin the composting process, summer is the prefect time to get yourself educated. If you live in New York, contact the NYC Compost Project in your borough for a list of indoor and outdoor composting workshops.
Talk to us: Are you an indoor or outdoor composter?
Congratulations! When smart businesses make changes to save the environment they also save money. We practice what we preach! We use only chemical-free solvents and materials and we’re happy to do our part to keep you on the green path, including doing dishes, watering the plants, and turning off lights and shutting doors.
Click this link to download the PDF 25 Ways to Green Your Business and Save Money
Incorporate these simple, eco-friendly tips in your office and make changes today that will affect the environment tomorrow.
It’s the end of the school year and your kids are headed home with what is left of their desk: broken crayons, unsharpened pencils, old eraser and unused notebook paper. Instead of throwing these mismatched pieces away, why not find a more green solution?
Here are ways you can reuse and recycle your old school supplies:
Eraser to Cleaning Tool
Old erasers can become great cleaning tools. According to momseveryday.com, old erasers can be used to remove price-tag residue from products, shine your patent leather shoes, clean your keyboard and literally ‘erase’ scuff marks from your floors. Make sure the part of the eraser you are using is clean (you can turn the ‘not so clean’ parts of the eraser into a pin cushion).
Broken Crayons to Working Crayons
Those broken crayon pieces that have been living at the back of your child’s school desk for a year? You can melt them into new crayons—creating interesting new colors and shapes that not only will be fun for your kids to use at home, but they make great party favors for little ones. Find easy step-by-step instructions at MarthaStewart.com.
Colored Pencils to Jewelry
We love this idea from DesignMom.com: Turn your old colored pencils into fun and pretty necklaces, bracelets and even a brooch (what a great craft for a rainy summer day!). Chop a few centimeters from the end of your child’s pencils, drill a small hole in the side and string them together with thread. There are even ideas for creating a “pointy necklace” so you can use all parts of the pencil!
Old Paper to Journal/Sketchpad
Your child will undoubtedly be bringing home pieces of paper where one side is used and the other is a fresh space just waiting for creativity. Combine all the paper scraps, punch three holes in one side and stitch the pages together with yarn or string to create a journal or sketchpad for your child to use all summer long.
Binders to Recipe Books
Use old binders to house those great recipes you find in magazines and newspapers. We recommend placing your recipes in sheet protectors (there are some great biodegradable options available) to keep them safe from the spills and splashes of your cooking creations. You can simply wipe down the pages as you wipe down your counters (using our EcoSpirit™ All Purpose Cleaner, of course).
If you still have leftover items that are in good working condition, stock up your child’s homework area for next year or donate them to a local organization such as a non-profit that works with children. You should also check into your recycling options—many brands such as Elmer’s and Crayola have recycling opportunities for individuals and schools.
Talk to us: What will you be doing with your leftover school supplies this summer?
image courtesy of Sarah Gilbert/CC BY 2.0
If your summer fun includes plenty of time at the beach, you might already be thinking about the things you need to pack in your roomy beach bag. Items like all-natural sunscreens, wide-brim hats, cute sunglasses and big, colorful towels always have a place in our summertime tote, but so do a few other items that may not be part of your current “take-to-the-beach” checklist.
Here are 5 things you need to add to your beach bag this summer:
Organic Lip Balm
Wearing a natural and organic lip balm with SPF (like this one from Eco Lips) is a great way to protect your lips from the sun, but that isn’t the only reason you need to toss it in your beach bag. Lip balm can also be used to relieve dry skin on elbows and knees, groom unruly eyebrows, stop bleeding from a minor shaving cut and can help smooth a stuck zipper.
Reusable Zipper Bags
Reusable zipper bags like those found from reuseit.com are a great addition to your beach bag. Be sure to choose those with waterproof (or leak-proof) linings and use them to store things you need to keep separated from the rest of your bag such as snacks, sunscreen, and items that become wet or filled with sand after your day at the beach. These bags are also great for keeping things such as cell phones protected from the elements and make a wonderful place to store found shells.
Never again worry about accidentally leaving your beach toys buried deep in the sand. Thanks to Zoe B, the beach toys you put in your bag are as friendly to the earth as the ocean itself. Made with a biobased material that comes from American-grown corn, these durable and adorable toys break down to organic materials in as little as two years when washed out into the sea.
You use them around your home, but essential oils at the beach can turn ordinary wet sand into a skin-softening treatment. Try this recipe from MarthaStewart.com: Add six drops of sweet orange essential oil and four drops of jasmine essential oil to a jar of sea salts. Shake to combine. Then, in a biodegradable plastic pail (like one from Zoe B), combine the scented salt mixture, a few tablespoons of natural oil (like jojoba) and two handfuls of very wet sand. Sitting at the water’s edge, work the scrub onto your arms and legs and rinse clean in the waves.
It’s always a good idea to bring reusable water bottles to keep you hydrated during your day in the sun, but also pack some reusable spray bottles. Filled with water, a spray bottle will keep your face and body cool in the sun and make a great toy for kids (what kid doesn’t love a good water fight?). You can also mix warm water, coconut oil and sea salt in a spray bottle to spritz on damp hair to give yourself “beach” waves—a trick that works on or off of the beach.
Talk to us: What is the one essential item you never forget to take with you to the beach?
image courtesy of Steve and Sara Emry/CC BY 2.0
This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the summer barbecue season and is the time when we celebrate everything great about eating and entertaining outdoors. Is your outdoor space ready? Whether you have a magnificent backyard patio or a small urban deck, getting your outdoor space party-ready is the best way to say an official good-bye to winter and hello to summer fun.
Hit the Deck (or Patio)
Clear your deck or patio of weeds and winter debris and repair any broken fixtures before you even get your outdoor furniture out of storage. You can use common household products such as vinegar and baking soda to wash down your deck or patio and pressure wash siding and steps for a quick clean.
Extra Eco Tip: Keep the baking soda close by throughout the summer season– it is a great way to get rid of stains from suntan lotion and grill grease.
Check Your Seating
Make sure you have enough chairs and seating areas to accommodate your guests. You can upgrade furniture you already have by removing rust stains (apply lemon juice and rinse after 20 minutes) and adding colorful pillows for comfort. Rearrange seating to create small conversational areas as well as allow for easy flow for party guests.
Extra Eco-Tip: Repaint old folding chairs (with zero VOCs paint) in bright colors that go with your patio scheme. Keep them folded in a closet until you need them—instant seating that will go with your other furniture!
Decorate with Plants
Potted plants and container gardens not only add color to your patio or deck, but they can hide ugly corners and define space. Purchase pots that are similar in color or style–this will allow you to have a variety of different plants without the space looking unorganized. While you can mix and match different plant types, you should combine plants that share similar water and light requirements which will make it easy for you to keep your plants looking lovely all season long.
Extra Eco-Tip: Add containers of vegetables and herbs to your patio décor—allowing you to grow and use your own food for summer entertaining.
Add Some Light
Replace old light fixtures with more eco-friendly options such LED lights from LED Waves. Not only do these options use less energy, but they provide a brighter glow—making them a great addition to your outdoor space. If you do not want to (or are unable to) install lighting, use lanterns or mason jars filled with solar-powered lights or all-natural candles to light up tabletops and pathways. Best part of these lighting elements? They are moveable.
Extra Eco-Tip: When purchasing all-natural candles, look for those that include essential oils known for repelling insects such as citronella or pine.
Get Grill Ready
Before you even think about flipping that first burger, make sure your grill is clean and ready to go. A simple, green way to clean your grill from Organic Gardening:
- Grab a stiff wire brush, a spatula, tongs, an old t-shirt or cloth and vegetable oil.
- Preheat the grill for 15 minutes and turn the grill off.
- While the grill is still warm, scrape the grill with the wire brush.
- Grab the cloth with the tongs and dampen it with the vegetable oil.
- Use the tongs to rub the oily cloth over the grill gate.
In addition to cleaning the grill, the vegetable oil will help prevent food from sticking, preventing additional build up throughout the grilling season.
Extra Eco-Tip: Purchase reusable plastic utensils, cups and plates as well as serving trays and bowls. This will alleviate worries about things breaking on your patio and will keep you from filling up the trash with Styrofoam or paper products after each party.
Don’t forget to stock up on all-natural cleaners such as our Ecospirit ™ All Purpose Cleaner and our Ecospirit™ Window & Glass Cleaner. Keeping products like this on hand make it easy quick eco-friendly touch-ups just before company arrives.
Talk to us: What food or cocktail will you be serving at your first outdoor party of the summer season?
image courtesy of NotLiz/CC BY 2.0
We can’t wait for May 18th—it’s National No Dirty Dishes Day and there really is nothing we love more than ‘no dirty dishes’ filling up our sinks and taking over our countertops. Matter of fact, it is one of the things we suggest to our customers as a way they can prepare their house or office space before we even arrive. Why?
As a cleaning service, we come prepared to clean. Therefore, if you do just a few small things prior to our arrival—like get dirty dishes out of your sink—we can dedicate our time to cleaning rather than organizing, saving us time and saving you money.
Here are things we suggest you do to prep your house or office for a cleaning service:
Communicate the Issues
If you have any special cleaning requests, give the service a call prior to their arrival to discuss. This will not only allow them to come prepared, but will prevent any misunderstandings regarding possible additional costs. We also recommend informing your cleaning service of any delicate items or broken pieces that may be in your home or office. If this isn’t your first time using the service, you should also let them know of any other notable changes to the space since the last visit.
Pick Up Clutter
Do a quick walk through and pick up any stray items such as papers, toys, books and dishes. A good rule of thumb is to clear all surfaces—countertops, floors, tables, etc. —of any items that don’t belong there on a permanent basis.
For our residential customers, we ask they have a mop, broom, bucket and vacuum available prior to our arrival. Some cleaning services request you put fresh linens out in the bedrooms or trash bags in the kitchen. Check with your cleaning service to see what tools you may need to provide and make sure they are easily accessible before they arrive.
Let Them In
If you will not be home or in the office when the cleaning specialist arrives, please make sure he or she can get into the space through use of an entry key or electronic code. Also, if you have a security system, leave instructions for turning it off (and back on) if necessary. Always provide a phone number where you can be reached.
Talk to us: What things do you do to prep your house or office before the cleaning service arrives?
image courtesy of Nick Olejniczak/CC BY 2.0
What are you doing on Friday, May 16th? If you have a bike (and if you don’t, you can use Citi Bike, NYC’s bike sharing system), we hope you will be joining us for National Bike to Work Day. Biking to work in New York City is not only good for the environment and good for your health, but it gives you a whole new connection to the city we love—allowing you to see and experience the beauty of New York in new and exciting ways.
Here are 5 things you should do to have a safe and enjoyable time during Bike to Work Day:
Plan Your Route
Do not assume the same home-to-work route you take by car or public transportation will be the same one you should take when riding a bike. There are a wide variety of bicycle lanes and paths throughout the city, so choose a route that suits your skill and comfort level as well as gets you to your destination. You can find a detailed map of bike lanes throughout the five boroughs by downloading the NYC Cycling Map or visit the site Ride the City which gives you an interactive route planning platform where you can save routes to your profile.
Do a Pre-Ride Check
Before you head out on your bike, check to make sure everything is working properly. You should do a quick check of:
Tires: Make sure they are properly inflated and the treads are not too worn.
Brakes: Spin the wheels to make sure they are not rubbing against the brake pads and apply the brakes to make sure they work.
Chain: Run your bike through its range of gears to make sure there are no problems with chain slippage or shifting.
Seat and Handle Bar: Make sure your seat and handle bar are set at the right height and are both secure.
Read: “5 Things to Check Every Time You Ride”
Follow the Rules of the Road
In NYC, bicyclists have the same traffic rules as motorists and are also subject to the same penalties and fines. Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians, stay off the sidewalk, obey traffic lights, ride with traffic and use marked bike lanes or paths when available. Click here to download a complete list of bicycle laws, rules and regulations.
Lock Up Your Bike
New York City has numerous bike racks and shelters for you to park your bike throughout the city. Click here for a map of rack locations or use the Citi Bike app for Citi Bike stations. You should use a U-lock or heavy chain to not only lock your bike to a designated rack, but to lock your wheels to your frame and all “quick release” parts. If you would like a little art with your ride, park your bike in a David Byrne Bike Rack. These eye-catching pieces of art were fabricated by the musician’s gallery PaceWildenstein. There are eight locations in Manhattan and one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Click here for a map.
Participate in the Fun
Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) will be hosting numerous morning “fueling stations” throughout the city where you can grab a free Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee, KIND bars and granola as you head into the office. You can also join the T.A. folks for a fun “Bike Home From Work Party” with pop-up shops showcasing bikes and accessories, local food and drink vendors and even free T.A. Bike Valet and extra Citi Bike parking. Click here for more details: http://bikenyc.org/biketowork
Talk to us: Where is your favorite place to bike in NYC?
image courtesy of Forrest Samuels/CC BY 2.0
Yes, you’ve waited too long to have that perfect item shipped to Mom for Mother’s Day and if you would like to do something a little more than bring her flowers, we have some great DIY eco-friendly ideas for you. After all, every mom loves to get a homemade gift from her child—regardless of how old that child may be!
Glass Jar Terrariums
Terrariums are not only quick to put together, but you can use almost any glass container you have around the house (make sure you wipe down the inside to avoid “terrarium contamination”). Fill the bottom of your container with rocks, charcoal, and soil and then add your plants. Succulents, sedums and ground coverings all work well. Dwell suggests using a variety of plants—starting with a centerpiece (something tall) and adding in smaller plants with different colors and textures. You can also add little “toppers” to complete the look. Dwell gives you step-by-step instructions and tips for creating your own terrarium.
Organic Spa Treatment
If you missed the opportunity to book Mom an appointment at the spa, bring the organic spa experience home. Create a calm environment by using organic candles and serene sounds (think rainforest, waves, etc.) and help Mom relax with homemade, all-natural spa products such as body scrubs (made with sugar and coconut oil), lotion (made with olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax & essential oils) and facial masks (made with honey and lemon). Don’t forget to purchase soft, organic towels like these beauties from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
As a cleaning company, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to use coasters on wooden surfaces to avoid water rings. But, coasters don’t have to be boring—especially with these great DIY ideas from DIY Candy. Using old items you probably have around the house (i.e. old magazines, fabric) or simple things you can pick up at your local craft store (i.e. tiles, felt), you can make a beautiful set of coasters that Mom will love showing off when friends and family visit. Click here for 20+ ideas.
Moms love gifts made from their kids and this idea from Red Ted Art is the perfect afternoon project. Go on an adventure to find large smooth rocks and “bake” them in the oven (set at 350 degrees) for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the rocks and place on a heat-proof surface (place several layers of newspaper on top of the surface). Take pieces of broken crayon and gently rest on each stone—moving it ever so carefully as the colors begin to melt down the sides. Get complete step-by-step instructions from Red Ted Art.
Another great last minute gift idea? A clean home! Check out our online gift certificates and give Mom a gift that will keep on giving long after Mother’s Day has ended.
image courtesy of flickr CC/Sonny Abesamis
Wet towels on the floor. Clothes that never hit the hamper. Toys everywhere. Never-ending papers and wrappers. Open drawers and unmade beds. CLUTTER. Are you picturing the scene? As a professional eco-friendly cleaning company, we spend a lot of time trying to help mom and dad keep their homes clean, organized and healthy and we know that one of the biggest parenting challenges lies within the endless struggle to get kids to clean their rooms. Fear not, there is hope.
Define your expectations. Before your child can meet your expectations, they must understand what you require of them and when they need to deliver. Set a schedule for room cleanings, maybe twice weekly. If you utilize a cleaning service like Greehouse Eco-Cleaning, plan for kids to clean the day before your service day. Then clearly outline what a clean room means to you and write it down in a step-by-step process. Keep it simple, no more than 4 or 5 steps that cover pain points. Here’s a sample:
- Pick up laundry and put in hamper
- Place all trash in garbage can or recycle bin
- Make bed
- Put all toys/gadgets/papers where they belong
Live by example. If you’re messy, your kids will likely be messy, too. Keeping your home clean and ticking off the same steps in your own corner of the world will show kids just how much a clean home matters. And there’s more than myth behind the theory that a messy room equates to a messy mind; the idea is actually deeply rooted in the principles of Zen and feng shui. In essence, experts believe physical clutter may prevent mental clarity—something we all need. Promote yours and your kids’ by practicing what you preach.
Give them tools. Oftentimes kids keep clutter around because it’s not obvious where things belong. Colorful bins and boxes are inexpensive and provide receptacles for kids’ stuff. Let them help select containers and decide what will go where—they’ll be more apt to use them if they’ve participated in the plan. And while you’re at it, provide two extra bins to collect charitable items and those things that should be tossed or recycled. Once a month, make a date to donate no-longer-used items together. Not only will your child’s room stay cleaner, but you’ll diminish the risk of storing things longer than they’re useful and help those in need.
Pick your battles. Tips and tricks aside, sometimes parents just have to let things go. Kids need spaces of their own, apart from the rest of the house, where they feel safe, in control and can de-stress. Seek out a compromise to avoid endless power plays over clean rooms. While it may make you feel great to peek inside and see dusted surfaces and clean floors, it likely doesn’t matter much to them. Work together, determine your must-haves and then let the rest go so you can focus on things that really matter, like time with each other.
Talk to us: This age-old battle has surely inspired many tricks of the trade for getting kids to keep their rooms clean. How do you find success with this on the home front?
The Perfect, Eco-Friendly Way to Pamper Your Mom
Moms cook, clean, chauffer, plan, manage family affairs and keep the rest of us on track. Simply put, no one works harder than moms. This Mother’s Day, give mom the gratitude she deserves and the relaxation time she needs, in the place she loves most: home. It’s time for a spa day like never before.
Start fresh. The last thing mom needs during her respite is clutter or a less than clean bathroom space. Before she settles in for spa time, take a few moments to de-clutter the room and wipe down surfaces with an eco-friendly solution, like those in the Ecospirit green cleaning product line.
Go green. Literally. Set the stage for mom’s spa by greening things up. Not only do plants make a space more aesthetically pleasing and naturally help lower stress levels, they also rid the surrounding air of toxins. For a functional and beauty-filled spa, focus on air cleaning plant powerhouses like aloe, English ivy, rubber trees, bamboo palm and peace lilies.
Get the light right. Ease mom into a state of relaxation with candles galore. But be sure to choose products made with 100% beeswax or vegetable oil and paper or cotton wicks to avoid the pollutants that come from those based in paraffin or petroleum. If mom loves the scented variety, go for it. Just make sure the scent comes from essential oils, not chemical additives.
Make music. Nothing says “spa” more than serene sounds that feed mom’s soul. Think about what will promote the most relaxation: rainforest, rushing water, whale sounds or soothing music. Search online playlists for spa-friendly melodies mom will love.
Soak simply. When it comes to mom’s soak, choose baking powder. In a past post, we shared numerous uses for this inexpensive little wonder, and it’s a high achiever in our at-home spa, too. Add 4 to 5 tablespoons to a warm bath to promote detoxification and reduce skin irritation. Pregnant women and those with high blood pressure should check with their doctor before enjoying a baking soda bath.
Scrub safe. Prepare a homemade exfoliator with a 1:1 ratio of table sugar and coconut oil to help mom scrub her cares away. Refreshed and renewed with these on-hand products, mom will emerge with soft, supple, glowing skin.
Wrap well. Top-notch, eco-friendly spas boast the best linens, and at-home spas should, too. If you’re able, select organic, 100% cotton or bamboo-based bath towels for mom to snuggle in after her soak. If budget is a concern and you opt for the non-organic variety, be sure to wash new towels with a half cup of vinegar prior to using. This pre-wash removes chemicals used to give a fluffy appearance in stores and sets the color.
Go nuts. Before the spa session ends, set mom up with organic coconut oil for an indulgent massage. A favorite of many massage therapists, this oil leaves the skin with a luxurious feel and protective barrier, without staining towels. The best part? This oil delivers its benefits without petroleum and other non-renewable resources or carcinogens.
Really want to pamper mom this year? Take housework completely off her list by using an eco-friendly cleaning service such as our Mint Green offering. This will make mom feel relaxed even after Mother’s Day is over.
Talk to us: What are your favorite ways to create an eco-friendly spa environment in your home?