Natural Cleaning Tips For Healthy Living - April 2015

Create and maintain a clean environment of your very own.

DIY Planters Gardening Outdoor Space Tips Patio Ideas

DIY Planter Inspirations

If the 70-degree weather we have headed to NYC this weekend is making you itch for adding some color to your balcony, patio or stoop, we have some DIY inspirations for you.  Using items you probably already have in your home, you can create beautiful pieces of outdoor art when you turn them into colorful planters for your spring flowers.  Take a look at some of these ideas:

 

From The Glamorous Housewife

All those cute teapots you have in the back of your cabinets?  They make beautiful containers for flowers–especially if you have a space to hang them like this rail.  What we really love about this is that even if the pots are broken, they still work as a planter.

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Just do a quick look around your kitchen–you certainly have a pitcher or two that you are not using.  Avoid using items made from glass, but anything else goes.  Worried water will rust the metal?  It only adds character to the pot.

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From Brit + Co

If you have kids, you probably have at least one pair of boots that doesn’t have a match.  Reuse the boots as planters–which look great hanging on this fence, but can also sit straight up in the corner of your patio.  A great pop of color to your outdoor space.

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Head back to your kitchen and pull out the colander you never use.  Almost every kitchen we see has at least one too many colanders and they make the perfect planter (built in holes for drainage!).  If you don’t have a colander with color simply paint with spray paint.

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From The MicroGardener:

The very best use for recycling cans?  Turn them into these cute planters.  Again, they look great hanging on a fence, but you can also gather several together to create a beautiful centerpiece to your patio table or use them to line the steps of your stoop.

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Instead of tossing out the old dresser or desk, use the pieces in new ways.  We love this unique way to reuse dresser drawers. They would make great patio planters–especially for vegetables or herbs.

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Eco-friendly laundry tips hand wash clothing Laundry

4 Things to Avoid When Hand Washing Your Clothes

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Warmer weather often brings warmer fabrics–think cotton and silk–which means you may be spending a bit more time hand washing instead of machine washing.  Here are 4 things you should always avoid when hand washing your clothes:

 

Don’t Oversoak
Great tip from RealSimple.com:  “The longer you soak clothes, the greater chance you’ll cause bleeding or fading or alter sizings, which give a garment its drape.” The majority of the dirt will come out in the first five minutes of hand washing–even less if you are just trying to freshen up your delicates.

Don’t Scrub
When your clothing is submerged in the water, swish from side to side, but don’t scrub. “Avoid scrubbing or twisting actions that can stretch or damage the fabric,” says bhg.com.  “Gently swish the garment through the sudsy water until the items is clean.”

Don’t Wring Out the Water
It may be tempting to take your clean clothing out of the water and wring it dry.  Instead, lay it flat on a clean towel, roll up the towel and press on the rolled-up towel to absorb the water.  Repeat with another dry towel if necessary.  For additional drying tips, click here.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Delicate Cycle
If your clothing doesn’t say “hand wash only” toss it in the washer on the delicate cycle. This cycle uses a lesser degree of agitation and spin which means it is less abrasive to your clothing. This is a great option for fabrics such as nylon, spandex or acrylic.

Talk to us:  What is your best hand washing clothing trick?

 

Employee Volunteer Programs Small Business Tips Socially Driven Companies

How to Launch an Employee Volunteer Program

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As a B Corporation, GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning is focused on doing well by doing good–it’s part of our company DNA and is how we do business each and every day.  It is important for us that our employees become a part of our mission–it is through their enthusiasm and hard work that our mission to create a cleaner, healthier world is carried out into our communities.  Even if you are not a socially driven company, encouraging your employees to volunteer makes good business sense.  Studies show that employees who are encouraged to volunteer for a cause are happier and more productive–and, it will help you attract the best talent.

Where do you begin?  Here are 5 tips for creating an employee volunteer program:

Discover Employee Interest
Do a quick survey of your employees to find out which community organizations and/or overall community needs are of most interest to them as well as what type of volunteer experience they already have.  Once you have this internal information, contact local agencies such as the United Way to determine the needs of your community and volunteer opportunities that may be a good fit.

Make Sure It Fits
We really can’t emphasize enough the importance of making sure you select an organization or cause that is not only appropriate for your company’s overall mission and interests, but is appropriate for your company’s size and culture.  “It is essential to not only confirm that the non-profit has a significant impact in the community, but also that your company will have an impact on the non-profit,” writes Ryan Scott in a post for CauseCast.  “An organization and a company might, independent of one another, do great things for the community, but if your business is a mismatch with the non-profit, your partnership will not be successful.”

Create Levels of Involvement
Make it easy for all employees to participate by creating different levels of involvement.  For example, plan a company sponsored service day where employees are given the day off to volunteer as part of a community-wide program, organize volunteer efforts via your internal teams allowing them to volunteer time that is in line with their skills (i.e. your accounting team could provide a day of bookkeeping services for a nonprofit) or allow employees to participate in individual volunteer programs during work hours (i.e. attend a nonprofit board meeting).  Knowing that your employees lead very busy lives outside of your company, you want to make sure you have ways for them to participate even if they are time-crunched.

Keep Employees Motivated
One of the best ways to keep your employees motivated is to show them the affects of their efforts.  A great idea we found from BusinessDoingGood.com is to calculate the value of volunteerism.  Record the hours served doing volunteer work and apply the rate for a volunteer hour (find this at the Independent Sector).  Share this information with your employees on a regular basis.  Also, consider offering employee incentives such as earned time off or dinner with the CEO for those who have served.  “A word of caution,” suggests BusinessDoingGood.com.  “What’s meaningful to one person may not be meaningful to another, so keep that in mind. For example, dining with the CEO at a great restaurant might motivate the more outgoing employees on your staff while doing the opposite to those who prefer to stay behind their computer screens and would rather wear shorts and flip flops instead of suits and ties.”

Don’t Forget Your Business Objectives
A good employee volunteer program is not only good for the community and your employees, but should be good for your business. Create a business plan for your program that includes your overall business objectives–this will make sure your efforts align with your company’s overall mission, values and bottom line goals.

Talk to us:  Does your company currently have an employee volunteer program?  Why or why not?

 

 

image courtesy of flickr CC/San José Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Design How to hang pictures Picture Wall

Picture This! 3 Tips for Creating the Perfect Picture Wall!

Picture Wall

Are all those great photos you took during the holidays still sitting on your hard drive?  It’s time to print them out and frame them up.  A dramatic picture wall—whether filled with photos of your family or artistic images you have found—can turn an ordinary room into an extraordinary space.  Even if you don’t have the most artistic of eyes, these easy tips will help you create the perfect picture wall in your home:

Choose Your Wall
While any wall will work, if you want to create the perfect picture collage look for a space that is between 6 and 8 feet wide.  “This will give you enough space to get frames of varying sizes to fit without them feeling squished,” suggests Amanda Thomas of QuickandDirtyTips.com.  “If you’re planning on including pictures with people and other small, personal images, you want your guests to be able to walk up and view these pictures from very close range.”  For spaces above bulky furniture (i.e. sofa), consider using larger photos that you can enjoy from afar.

 

Create A Layout
Martha Stewart, the queen of all interior design tricks, suggests putting paper down on your floor and experimenting with different design layouts with your frames.  “Once you are happy with the frame layout, trace the outline of each frame onto the paper with a pencil,” adds Stewart.   Some tips for creating a great layout:

  • Heavier pieces should go below lighter pieces—this doesn’t necessarily have to do with size, but color.  “A large, delicate oil may seem lighter than a small, darker, more rustic woodcut,” writes Katharine Kaye McMillan and Patricia Hart McMillan in Home Decorating for Dummies, 2nd Edition.
  • Leave several inches of breathing space around each frame.  “Pieces hung too close together lose any sense of individuality; those hung too far apart don’t look like a group.”

Click here for more design inspirations.

 

Master the Art of Hanging
“Don’t use nails—well, not JUST nails,” says Bob Vila.  “A single nail hammered into drywall is not stable enough to support much weight, so invest in the right hardware.”  His go-to options include self-tapping threaded anchors and screws, which provide a wider balance point without using wire.  You may also wan to consider steel, hooked wire hangers.  Not looking forward to the drywall dust that may accumulate?  “Add a simple, folded Post-It underneath your marked hole to collect most of the dust,” suggests Vila.

Talk to us:  What is your biggest picture-hanging hang up?

 

image courtesy of flickr CC/Travis Isaacs

 

 

#safefood Food Preparation Food Safety Kitchen World Health Day

4 Ways to Keep Food Safe: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill

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Today is World Health Day and this year’s focus is on the issue of food safety.  Did you know that one in six Americans could get sick from food poisoning this year alone?  According to FoodSafety.gov, food poisoning not only sends more than 100,000 Americans to the hospital each year, but it can also have long-term health consequences.

On this day where we bring awareness to this local, national and global issue, we wanted to share some tips from FoodSafety.gov for how you can make sure the food you prepare is as safe as possible.

CLEAN

  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water can stop the spread of illness-causing bacteria.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils:  Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops.  Be sure to wash all surfaces and utensils after each use.
  • Wash fruits and veggies, but not meat, poultry, or eggs:  Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.  No need to wash meat, poultry or eggs–washing raw meat & poultry can actually help bacteria spread and commercial eggs are washed before sale.

 

SEPARATE

  • Use separate items for produce, meat, poultry, seafood & eggs: Use one cutting board for fresh produce and one for raw meat and use separate plates for cooked and raw foods.
  • Separate food at the grocery:  Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart and at the checkout ask that raw meat, poultry and seafood be placed in plastic bags to keep their juices from dripping on other foods.
  • Separate food in the fridge:  Bacteria can spread inside your fridge if the juices of raw meats drip onto your ready-to-eat foods.  Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood in sealed containers (if you’re not planning to use within a few days, put in freezer) and keep eggs in their original carton stored in the main compartment of the fridge.

 

COOK

  • Use a food thermometer:  Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria—color and texture alone won’t tell you whether food is done.  Click here for a chart of safe minimum cooking temperatures.
  • Keep food hot after cooking:  The possibility of bacterial growth actually increases as food cools so keep your food above the safe temperature of 140 degrees by using a heat source like a warming tray or slow cooker.
  • Microwave food thoroughly:  To make sure harmful bacteria have been killed in your foods, microwave them to 165 degrees or higher.

 

CHILL

  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours:  Cold temperatures slow the growth of illness causing bacteria.  Chill food promptly and properly.
  • Freeze:  You can freeze almost any food, but remember that freezing does not destroy harmful bacteria—it keeps food safe until you can cook it.  Your freezer should be at 0 degrees or below.
  • Never thaw food on the counter:  Since bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature, thawing or marinating foods on the counter is one of the riskiest things you can do.  Instead, thaw/marinate in your refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Know when to throw food out:  While looking and smelling may give you a good idea on what is good and not good in your fridge or freezer, you really need to know the safe storage times for your food.  Checkout this great chart for proper storage times.

 

Talk to us:  What is the one thing you do daily to keep your food safe?

 

image courtesy of flickr CC/Kurt Bauschardt

 

Entertaining Seating options Small Spaces

5 Unique Ways to Add More Seating

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If you are hosting this year’s Easter celebration or are just having a “Welcome to Spring” get together, you may be scrambling to find enough seats to accommodate all of your guests.  When you live in a small space, you need to get creative on how you can add more seating for your visitors.  Here are five tips we have for making sure even the tiniest of spaces has room for everyone to sit:

Buy Smart
If you are in the market for new furniture, look for those pieces that will work well when additional seating is needed.  Invest in a multi-piece sectional where individual sections can be moved to create new seating areas or avoid sofas altogether and instead purchase smaller-sized furniture (think love seats and chairs) that give you more seating without taking up more space.  Also, purchase multifunctional furniture like ottoman coffee tables.

Eliminate Small Tables
To make room for more seating, consider moving some of your smaller tables to other rooms.  If this seems to limit your lighting options, consider adding floor lamps or sconces to the space to keep things well lit without the bulk of a table.

Invest in Folding Chairs
We know folding chairs don’t seem that glamorous or inviting, but when extra seating is needed, this is one of your best (and least expensive) options.  You can now purchase folding chairs that are colorful (see these from Wayfair) or even design-worthy (we are loving this green design available from Overstock.com) or you can spruce up the chairs you already have by repainting them in colors that match your décor.

Create Floor Seating
Oversize floor pillows with lots of color and texture (we love this one from BrooklynLotus via Etsy) are a great way to add extra seating without sacrificing design.  If you don’t have floor pillows, group multiple throw pillows together against a wall or sofa for inviting seating options.

Use Other Furniture
Coffee tables and ottomans work great as extra seating options (and can easily be moved where needed), but also look for not-really-furniture items such as milk crates or step stools.  Again, a quick coat of paint can make even these items look like they fit in your space.  There are more great ideas for things you can use for seating from thekitchn.com.

As we begin to move ourselves every so slowly towards the summer entertaining season, keep some of these great seating options on hand for last minute guests and visitors.  Most of them can be stored in a closet or under a bed where they can be easily grabbed as soon as the doorbell rings.

Talk to us:  What is your favorite way to add more seating to a small space?

 

image courtesy of flickr CC/Marjut