It’s here—whether you garden in the back forty or in patio containers, summer’s bounty is upon us. With oh too many tomatoes and cucumbers galore, canning is a great way to savor your harvest throughout the winter months. Here’s how:
Pick at peak. It might be tempting to leave those fruits and veggies on the vine until you have time to can, but don’t. Let the produce determine when you do it–can when items are at peak ripeness, not overripe, for best results.
The right tools. When it comes to supplies, choose those that were made for the job. Kerr or Ball mason jars work best and can be used multiple times, along with the screw top portion of the lid. The flat piece that sets on top of the jar inside the screw top is for one-time use only though, so be sure to replenish your stock each season. And don’t reuse other food jars like commercial jam or mayonnaise containers, they aren’t heat-tempered and can break easily.
Use a recipe. Think of canning as a science—like baking—where you need strict adherence to a recipe for a successful result. Don’t wing it or add extra seasonings, doing so can increase bacteria exposure. Avoid adding fat, like butter, as this can increase the rate of spoilage.
Sterilize safe. The most crucial safety steps in the canning process come during sterilization and sealing. But don’t let that deter you from trying it. Find our favorite, simplified directions and great recipes at Ball’s website, http://www.freshpreserving.com.
Store smart. Canned foods last a long time; they retain their color, taste and nutritional value for about a year. For best results, store yours in a cool, dark area as temperatures over 70° and direct sunlight accelerate breakdown of ingredients. Clearly label your cans with contents and date, and be sure to use oldest items first for great taste and food safety.
Can-It-Forward. August 16th was the fourth annual International Can-It-Forward Day! What’s that, you ask? At a live taping in NYC, Bravo’s Top Chef Hugh Acheson performed live canning demonstrations and shared all his best tips and tricks for safe and delicious preserving. If you missed the fun, click here to watch video from the live stream.
Talk to us: What are your favorite items to store throughout the winter months? Do you have the best canned tomatoes or pickles in town? We want to hear from you!
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
Even the cleanest homes can smell a little funky at times, especially during the summer when your regular routine is a distant memory. If you’re ready for a refresh now that kids will soon be heading back to school, take note of these five surprising ways to deodorize your home, the natural way.
- Let Mother Nature help. Closed-in spaces have a rough time getting and feeling refreshed, so do what you can to let Mother Nature help. Keep windows open as much as possible when the air feels stale or musty. And pack plants into your space, especially the kind that help naturally remove odors and toxins from the air. Some powerful pollution-killing picks are bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, English ivy and Gerbera daisies.
- Deodorize overnight. If the air in your home feels odorous or flat, place a shallow bowl of vinegar out while you sleep. When you wake, the air should feel refreshed. For a citrus refresher, cut a lemon in half and place the halves, cut side up, in a bowl overnight.
- Dispose of smells. If your garbage disposal is in need of deodorizer, turn to citrus fruits for help. Next time you peel an orange or slice lemons, save some of the rind, cut it into strips and run it through your disposal. This natural deodorizer will eliminate bad smells and replace them with a great citrus scent. Make this trick part of your monthly cleaning routine to keep your disposal in top shape.
- DIY air-freshening spray. There are many concoctions for green, deodorizing air freshener recipes online; find one that appeals to you. Some use citrus, others essential oils. A favorite of ours is a simple mixture of water, a few drops of rosemary essential oil and a splash of vodka, which thins out the oil. A mist or two freshens up upholstered furniture, curtains, carpet and the air.
- Get help. This may come as less of a surprise, but there’s no quicker route to clean, green air than regular visits from an environmentally friendly cleaning service, like GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning. A quick phone call and visit to your home will have you set and ready to keep all kinds of funky smells at bay.
Talk to us: Have you tried any natural remedies for odors in your home that aren’t listed here? Comment below to let us know what works for you!
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
What better way to celebrate National Thrift Shop Day this Sunday than a quick stroll through one of the many NYC flea markets. We shouldn’t really say “quick stroll”—after all, most of the flea markets in our city boast large landscapes of vendors, allowing you to find everything from antiques and vintage clothing to unique pieces of art made from recycled materials.
As a company that believes in reusing and recycling, we can’t get enough of flea market shopping. Here’s our five favorite places to visit:
Artists & Fleas
70 North 7th Street, Brooklyn
Sat & Sun—10am-7pm
West 15th St & 10th Ave, Manhattan
Mon-Thu–10am-9pm & Sun–10am-8pm
A weekly flea market in Williamsburg and a daily market inside Chelsea Market, Artists & Fleas is a hip, contemporary marketplace that not only gives buyers the opportunity to find unique items, but the old marketplace atmosphere brings together some of the best artists, designers and vintage collectors. As its cofounders state, “Artists & Fleas is a community for those who love to sell and a destination for those who love to shop.”
In the Know Info: Artists & Fleas is now in LA—every 3rd weekend, you will find the West Coast version of cool and hip at 647 Mateo Street in downtown LA.
Sat & Sun—times vary by location
Founded in 2008, Brooklyn Flea operates flea markets every weekend of the year that feature vendors of antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and even a curated selection of jewelry, art and crafts by local artisans. Held outside April through Thanksgiving (Saturdays in Fort Greene, Sundays in Williamsburg and Saturdays & Sundays in Park Slope at PS 321), the markets move indoors during the colder months.
In the Know Info: Brooklyn Flea also operates Smorgasburg, two giant all-food markets in Williamsburg (Saturdays) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (Sundays) featuring 100 local and regional vendors. The Park Slope Flea includes “Smorg Jr.,” where startup vendors test and tweak their menu before heading to the larger venue.
Columbus Ave, between West 76th & 77th Streets, Manhattan
With different vendors each week (see website for this week’s market), this popular flea market has a wide range of offerings from antiques and vintage art pieces (a framer is on the premise!) to household products and handcrafted items. There is also a wide assortment of used home furnishings including carpets, lighting fixtures and architectural salvage mantels.
In the Know Info: Owned by parents associations and the Greenmarket/GrowNYC organization, the market benefits four NYC public schools.
Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market
West 39th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues, Manhattan
Sat & Sun—9am-5pm
Named one of the top ten shopping streets in the world by National Geographic, Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market offers a place where collectors and “topnotch hagglers” shop for antiques, collectibles, vintage clothing, home decorations, furniture, jewelry and more.
In the Know Info: The Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market team recently embarked on a project to beautify the streets of Hell’s Kitchen—specifically, asking people to adopt a tree bed lining the bike lanes on 9th Avenue.
Hester Street Fair
Corner of Hester and Essex, Manhattan
Sat & Sun—11am-6pm
Only open from Apr 26-Oct 26
Located in the heart of the Lower East Side, Hester Street Fair brings together a collection of some of NYC’s most unique vendors offering up a wide-variety of items that are mostly vintage, handmade or ethically-sourced. As stated on their website, Hester Street Fair supports a community of artists, collectors and first time entrepreneurs—giving shoppers the joy of discovering the next “big thing.”
In the Know Info: Hester Street Fair food vendors are amazing—grab a few items and head to nearby Seward Park for a picnic.
Talk to us: What is your favorite NYC flea market?
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
For the Cleanest Bookpacks and Lunch Boxes, Do the Daily Shakeout
I’m sure most moms can relate. You’re emptying out your child’s Friday folder contents only to find an exploded bag of cheese crackers in every nook and cranny of your kid’s backpack. Or worse, you’re cleaning out their reusable lunch bag find that it’s all sticky inside. As the school year kicks off, here’s how to keep those school sacks clean—and green—in the coming months.
The shake. For the cleanest bags, do the daily shake out. Not only will this help keep your child’s bags free of food crumbs, it also prevents their backpack from becoming a black hole. Avoid the shock and awe of holiday and end of year cleanouts by having kids empty their bags and shake them upside down over the garbage can or in the backyard. Keeping their bags clutter-free will become second nature knowing the shake occurs regularly. An added bonus? If the shake happens outside, the local birds enjoy the cracker crumbs!
The spot wash. For stickiness and stains that happen on a regular basis, keep a small spray bottle filled with a 50/50 water and vinegar solution on hand. This environmentally friendly cleanser will keep junior’s lunch bag or backpack clean throughout the week. Just a few sprays and a scrub with a clean cloth naturally disinfects and deodorizes.
The big wash. Many lunch bags—and some tote bags—are machine-washable. Check tags first to make sure and then, using green laundry soap such as Method Laundry, give your child’s bag a weekly wash and hang to dry. For those lunch bags that can’t mix with your Maytag, wash by hand in your sink with a mild detergent and dry overnight in a dish strainer.
The air out. Backpacks are tough to wash and most weren’t made for machine washing. Keep your child’s fresh by hanging it outside, or in an open area inside your home, and placing a dryer sheet or even some fresh cut lavender or rosemary inside. The natural smells will combat the stinky school ones and by Monday, the bag will be as fresh as new. (If you use herbs, don’t forget to toss and shake out before packing up for the school week!)
Talk to us: Speaking of keeping kids’ items clean, do you involve your kids in the act, or do you take care of keeping their sacks and packs in top shape? Let us know if you do and how you do it!
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
Our office cleaning tips will let you get the most from your space.
As an eco-friendly residential and commercial cleaning company, we are often asked to give tips for keeping things clean in between our regular services. This is especially difficult for our commercial clients as they try and manage the cleanliness of not only numerous rooms, but of numerous people. The good news is that some of the most effective cleaning ideas are also the easiest.
Here are some of our very best non-traditional, but very effective, tips for keeping your office clean:
Clean Your Keyboard with a Sticky Note
Slide the adhesive end of a sticky note (or a short strip of tape) in between each row of keys. Do this twice—once with the adhesive side facing towards you and once again facing away from you. Via Apartment Therapy
De-Gunk Your Scissors with Vinegar
If your scissors are sticky (we won’t even ask how that happened), dip a cloth into vinegar or alcohol and gently scrub it clean.
Get Rid of Chair Stains with Alcohol
Many office chairs are now made with microfiber upholstery making it a challenge to clean. Spray the stain with rubbing alcohol and wipe with a clean sponge. Alcohol evaporates quicker than water so it won’t leave a mark. Stains on your carpet? A mixture of vinegar and baking soda will get oil-based stains right out.
Deodorize Trash with Baking Soda
Sprinkling baking soda at the bottom of a trashcan will keep odors at bay. Using trash bags? Wad up old newspaper and put in the bottom of the bag—this will not only help absorb odor, but will keep the bag from leaking due to discarded liquid products.
Clean Your Blinds with a Sock
Grab a pair of old socks to help you clean the office blinds. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a bowl, put a sock over one hand, dip it into the mixture and run it over the blinds. Use the other sock to wipe away the dampness.
Keep the Bathroom Fresh with Essential Oils
Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to tin the inner roll core of your toilet paper. Every time the roll is used, the smell will be released.
Get Rid of Water Rings with a Blow Dryer
If your conference room table is filled with water rings (seriously, who isn’t using a coaster?), hold a blow dryer on high close to the ring until it disappears. You can dab a little olive oil on the area to recondition the wood if necessary.
Clean Your Microwave with a Lemon
There is nothing worse than a coworker using the office microwave to re-heat last night’s fish tacos. Slice lemon into a bowl of water and put it in the microwave on high for 3-minutes. Let it sit in the microwave for another 3-minutes and then simply wipe the inside clean. Another trick for quickly getting rid of odor: Place a bowl of white vinegar inside the microwave and keep the door shut for one hour.
Keep Books Dust-Free with Homemade Dust Shields
If your office has shelves filled with books, help keep them dust-free by creating linen dust shields. To make, measure the length of the shelf and the distance from the shelf above to the top of the shortest book. Add 1 inch to all sides; cut material to this size and hem bottom sides by 1 inch. Sew 1-inch-wide twill tape to top edge and fasten to underside of shelf every 6 inches. Via MarthaStewart.com
Talk to us: What tricks do you have for keeping your office clean?
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
Making it easier for everyone to green their home and live a green lifestyle.
What do you get when you cross a native New Yorker raised by tree huggers with an Alaskan? Thankfully for all of us, that combination gave birth to Green in BKLYN, a one-stop shop where people who’d like to live an eco-friendly lifestyle—and those who already do—can find information and products they need to easily green their home and their daily lives.
Founded by Elissa Olin (the native New Yorker), the idea for Green in BKLYN came from her family simply trying to find a balance between their different experiences by making a commitment to using products such as recycled paper, eco-friendly cleaning supplies and fair trade coffee. “We wanted to act in a way that was healthier for ourselves and our planet,” she writes on her site. “Like many busy people today, we also needed it to be convenient and easy. When we searched for these products, we found it harder than we expected.”
After discovering that friends and neighbors were having the same issue, Elissa decided to create a one-stop, earth-loving shop that includes everything from recycled paper products and linens to beauty products and kids toys.
Just as we do at GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, Green in BKLYN’s practices reflect their products which reflect their lifestyle. The shop uses eco-friendly building supplies, cleaning products and design. They are also dedicated to being active participants and contributors in our community by engaging in activities and events such as being a venue for Make Music New York, a live, free musical celebration with over 1,300 concerts held throughout the city.
College students will soon be heading back to campus and if this is your child’s first year away from home, we want to ease at least some of your anxieties by giving you tips for creating a more eco-friendly dorm space.
Yes, not many of us can resist arming ourselves with new dorm furnishings and products before we head off to campus, but shipping all this stuff across the country (or driving it there in a big energy-sucking, air-polluting truck) is not the best option. Students should buy dorm décor when they get to school, but if that doesn’t sit well with your freshman, purchase items from stores such as Bed, Bath & Beyond where you can choose an in-store location for pick up of your online order. Also checkout Ebay Local, Craigslist or even Freecycle to see if items such as shelves, desks and lamps are available to purchase and pick up in your new college town.
We all know there isn’t a lot of room inside most dorms, so storage becomes a key pre-school purchase. Look for environmentally friendly storage solutions such as canvas or metal baskets or plastic bins made from recyclable materials such as these from The Container Store that are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. This also holds true for food storage—purchase small glass containers (we recommend Pyrex since it can go from freezer to microwave) that students can use to store leftovers or snacks.
Buy Smart Appliances
In addition to looking for energy-efficient appliances (make sure it’s energy-star or other low-energy certified), consider multifunctional items like a 3-in-1 microwave, refrigerator and freezer (we like this one from EdgeStar). Not only are they great space-savers, but they are designed to conserve electricity and reduce circuit overloads. Regardless of your appliance choice, remind students to unplug all electronics when not in use—even when they are “off” they are still using energy.
Even students who spend the bulk of their lives connecting via cell phones and computers run into a paper-filled stumbling block when they get to college. Encourage students to take class notes on their laptop, subscribe to newspapers and magazines online, and submit papers and reports via email instead of printing them out (with professor’s permission, of course). Also, check with professors about using e-books instead of regular textbooks or if you can share a book with your roommate or friend that is taking the same class. These options not only help save the environment, but will save you some money.
Keeping it Clean
In between the studying and the socializing (heavy on the studying), we know you are hoping your child keeps his or her dorm room clean. Fill a reusable canvas bag with eco-friendly cleaning products (like our Ecospirit Cleaning Products), microfiber cloths, a handheld vacuum and a bottle of DIY air freshener (combine your favorite 10-12 drops of essential oil with 50/50 distilled water and alcohol).
Is your student headed to an apartment instead of a dorm? These tips still apply and you can also read “How To Be An Eco-Friendly Renter” for more great green ideas.
Talk to us: What is your best piece of eco-friendly advice for students headed off to college?
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0