If you are living in a small NYC space, the idea of composting may seem impossible. While the city of New York has great resources for urban dwellers looking to compost (checkout the NYC Compost Project and compost pickup services like CompostNow), one of the best-kept urban composting secrets is worm bins. Yes, worm bins.
A worm bin is often small and fits perfectly inside apartments or on tiny balconies and patios. And, because it does not need to heat up like traditional backyard compost heaps, there is no foul odor—allowing you to compost all year-round without worry. According to Nature’s Footprint, the compost created by worms is incredibly nutrient-rich and can be used outside or inside the house.
So, how do you create your own worm bin? Here are the steps you need to take:
Get a Worm Bin
Worm bins can be purchased from numerous online vendors or from your local gardening supply store. In New York, contact the Lower East Side Ecology Center to inquire about their worm bin which includes 1 pound of red wiggler worms. If you don’t want to purchase a bin, you can make your own using a plastic storage container. Get directions here.
Find a Home for Your Bin
If keeping it outside, place it in a cool, dry area such as under a tree or awning. You want the temperature in the bin to stay between 55 and 80 degrees, which is why almost any indoor location will work.
There are more than 7,000 species of worms, but only one type that works best for composting: red wigglers. If worms do not come with your bin purchase (see above), you can buy them online or from a local retailer. Click here for a list of local NYC retailers. It is recommended you start with one pound of worms; they will process about three and half pounds of food scraps a week.
Prepare Your Bedding
Fill your bin about two-thirds full of moistened shredded newspaper (or thin strips of cardboard, dry grass, etc.) sprinkled with a handful of dirt. Gently sprinkle your worms on top—they will burrow down on their own.
Feed Your Worms
Feed your worms at least once a week using fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves or egg shells. Avoid meat and dairy products or food scraps that have been cooked with oil. It is also suggested you avoid spicy or salty foods and large amounts of citrus.
Every time you feed your worms, evaluate the conditions of your bin—making sure it smells “earthy” like soil, has food scraps/bedding disappearing over time and is damp but not soggy. The NYC Compost Project has a great troubleshooting list for how to maintain your worm bin.
Talk to us: Are you an urban composter? How do you use your compost?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Eden, Janine and Jim
A four-day workweek means we are already headed to the weekend and once again, many of us will be enjoying the great outdoors (still need to get your outdoor space ready? Click here!). Stumped for what to bring to the next cookout or BBQ? We have some great side dishes that are not only easy to make, but most of the ingredients can be found at your local farmers market—good for you, good for the planet and the perfect way to enjoy these early summer evenings with friends and family.
Cumin Roasted Corn via Organic It’s Worth It
16-oz. package frozen organic corn (or four fresh ears of corn, kernels removed)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Pinch salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread corn on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast for 15 minutes (or longer if you want a bit crispy)
Grilled Sweet Potato and Wilted Kale Salad via Tasty Yummies
2-3 organic sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large bunch kale, 4 or 5 cups, washed, stems removed and roughly torn or chopped
1 -2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
Red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your grill.
Place your grill basket or grill bowl onto the grill, and add the sweet potatoes. Tossing every 3-5 minutes allow the sweet potatoes to get tender and browned. But don’t toss them around too much, you don’t want to mash them up as they get more tender. Depending on the heat of your grill, it will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to burn the potatoes, move the grill basket off of any large flames, if need be.
After the potatoes are tender and nicely browned, add the kale to the basket and continuously toss around to keep it from sticking. Cook for approximately 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted. Remove the sweet potatoes and kale to a large serving bowl and toss with the vinegar, red pepper flakes and fresh chives. Salt and pepper, to taste. You can add more olive oil if you ‘d like, as well as some more minced garlic. Serve immediately while warm, or it would also be good room temperature or chilled.
Roasted Mushroom Medley via Italian Food Forever
2 Pounds Mixed Fresh Mushrooms
2 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Rosemary
1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Sage
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wipe the mushrooms with a clean, damp cloth and trim stems.
Slice the mushrooms into pieces no larger than 2 inches in size.
Mix the olive oil with the garlic, herbs and seasonings in an ovenproof casserole dish large enough to fit all of the mushrooms.
Add the mushrooms, and mix well, coating the mushrooms with the flavored oil.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through.
Remove from the heat, and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts via Chocolate and Carrots
2 – 3 cups whole, fresh brussel sprouts
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper and salt, to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the brussel sprouts in half, longwise, and place in a bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the pine nuts, to the bowl.
Stir the bowl and pour onto a baking sheet that has been covered with a silpat mat or non-stick foil.
Sprinkle the pine nuts around the baking sheet.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or when they start to look golden and delicious!
Talk to us: What is your favorite side dish to bring to a BBQ?
Most of us are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage our health, but did you realize that your indoor air may be doing the same thing? According to studies by the EPA, indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor pollutant levels; indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health.
The EPA recommends three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality: source control, ventilation improvements and air cleaners. Here are some tips for how you can implement these strategies at your own company or office:
Eliminate individual sources of pollution or reduce their emissions
- Implement a No Smoking Policy: Tobacco smoke contains high levels of indoor air pollutants (not to mention the other health implications). Eliminating this from your indoor space is the best way to increase the quality of your air.
- Keep Humidity in Check: Mold and dust mites love moisture so keep your humidity level between 30%-50%. To decrease humidity, open windows, turn on the air conditioner, fix leaky plumbing and do not overwater your plants.
- Get Rid of Dust: Use microfiber cloths for dusting furniture, regularly change the filter in your vacuum cleaner and add a doormat at your entrance to help lessen the dirt and dust brought indoors by the shoes of your employees and visitors. Also, consider changing out your curtains for blinds—the fabric of curtains holds a lot of dust and allergens.
Increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors
- Open It Up: As long as the temperature and humidity levels permit, open up the doors and windows to let in fresh air.
- Check Your Filters: Minimize contaminants in the air by having the filters of your heating and cooling systems checked and replaced as needed.
- Turn on the Exhaust: The exhaust fan that is. Turn on the exhaust fan in the office kitchen and bathroom to help circulate air in those spaces where moisture likes to stay.
Removing air contaminants
- Add More Plants: Numerous studies have shown that indoor plants eliminate toxic agents from indoor air. Find plants that are known for their air-cleaning qualities such as a rubber plant or Boston fern. Click here for a great list of plant possibilities.
- Stay Away from Synthetic Air Fresheners: While you may enjoy the scent, these products actually emit harmful chemicals into the air. Look at using some great DIY solutions or checkout some of these surprising items that can also be used to freshen the air in your indoor space (think vodka & coffee grounds).
- Invest in an Air Purifier: You need to make sure you purchase an air purifier that eliminates VOCs and does not produce ozone. Click here for things you should know before you shop.
Of course the best strategy to improve your indoor office air is to have it cleaned regularly by a green cleaning company. Here are some great tips for hiring a green cleaning service.
Talk to us: What will you add (or eliminate) from your office this month that will help improve your air quality?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Jonti Bolles
This weekend is the unofficial beginning of the summer season and if your outdoor furniture is still in storage—or has been sitting on your cold patio all winter long—you may want to take some time this week to give those pieces a quick clean. Regardless what kind of furniture you have (plastic, wicker, wood), we have a DIY cleaning solution that will work:
Mix ½ cup of castile soap with 1 cup of vinegar and 2 gallons of warm water into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on your furniture (remove cushions first!) and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Wipe with a clean sponge and rinse with hose.
Teak or Wood Furniture
Add 1 tablespoon of castile soap to a gallon bucket filled with warm water. Using a scrub brush dampened with the mixture, gently scrub away dirt and debris. Hose down when finished to avoid residue build-up.
Use a soft scrub brush or cloth dampened with warm water, a drop of dish soap and a sprinkle of baking soda. Scrub back and forth with the weave of the wicker and rinse with a hose.
Wrought-Iron or Aluminum Furniture
Hose down your pieces first and then wipe with a sponge that is dampened with warm water and a small amount of dish soap. Rinse with the hose. If you notice some areas of rust on your wrought-iron furniture, sand those spots with sandpaper and re-paint. Scuff marks on the aluminum pieces? Mix 1 cup of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of castile soap and ¼ cup of water in a squeeze bottle. Put a small amount of the mixture on a dampened cloth and scrub.
If you have cushions you need to clean, try this recipe from DIY Network:
1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent
1 quart warm water
1 tablespoon borax
Saturate a sponge and use it to wash the cushions or you can put it in a spray bottle and saturate cushions on both sides. Let the cushion sit for 15 minutes. Spray the solution off with a hose using a strong force of water. Stand each cushion on its edge out of the direct sun to dry.
Click here for more ideas on how to get your outdoor space ready for warm weather entertaining.
Talk to us: What is your favorite part of outdoor entertaining?
image courtesy of flickr CC/jebb
Decorate Your Apartment Without Breaking Your Budget
Whether you are moving into your first apartment in the city or just looking to add some fresh design to a rental space you’ve had for years, we have 10 easy ways you can decorate your apartment without breaking your budget.
Invest in Temporary Wallpaper
This is such a great design invention for those of us in rental spaces where we are unable to paint the walls. And, it’s also great if you just happen to be someone who doesn’t want to make a wall color commitment. “Most peel-n-stick paper promises that your paint job won’t be damaged and when you do decide to remove it, wiping down the wall will be the extent of the cleanup.” –Apartment Therapy
Hang a Mirror
Mirrors always help make a room look larger, but where you put the mirror can really make a difference your space. “Place a mirror opposite a window and it will bounce light around the room, making the space feel airier. The bigger the mirror, the better.”–Real Simple magazine
Use Floating Shelves
Floating shelves will give you the storage space without the added bulkiness of bookcases. “Use floating shelves to show off a collection of decorative objects and mementos. Stagger the shelves for a unique look. Basic shelves serve as a strong basis for rotating displays. They will go with almost anything, which means you can change the look of the vignette, leaving the shelves in place and avoid making any more holes in your apartment walls”—Better Homes & Gardens
Hang Fabric Curtains
Even if you move into an apartment that has blinds, adding fabric curtains will give your room extra color and texture. Plus, it will have conserve energy—providing a buffer for hot and cold weather. “Nothing made me feel more grown up than my first curtains and roman shades that weren’t made of paper or plastic,” said Young Huh. “Fabric curtains immediately add luxurious structure and color to a room.”—House Beautiful
Add a Rug—Even Over Carpet
People often think about adding rugs to hardwood floors, but over carpet? Layering a rug—especially one in a contrasting color to the neutral carpet, is a great design element. “Plush carpet is comfortable underfoot, but a rug will add texture and help define space.”—Southern Living
Paint Your Furniture
Your walls are not the only places where color can be added. “We’re not saying every piece has to be a bright yellow or bold turquoise, but that surprising pop of color on a coffee table or your kitchen chairs can make a huge difference.”—Huffington Post
Hide Your Storage
Look for furniture that can also double as storage such as ottomans or chests. “Another fine option is placing certain furniture—such as chairs, tables or cabinets—at an angle in the corner of the room to create a built-in hidden spot for hiding extra stuff.”—Business Insider
You don’t have to paint the walls or get new furniture just to update your space. Consider switching out smaller items such as lampshades and throw pillows to give a room an entirely new look. “Just like throwing on a different pair of shoes can change an outfit completely, switching out your room’s smaller items can give it a whole new appearance.”—Apartment Guide
Change the Hardware
Give your cabinets and doors an entirely new look just by changing out the handles and knobs. We suggest looking at local flea markets for interesting (and budget-friendly) finds. “New handles can change everything, and you can even do the installation yourself.”—Style Caster
Reuse Your Wine Bottles
We are all about reusing products instead of throwing them away which is why we loved this idea from POPSUGAR. “Use recycled wine bottles to store the plethora of today’s arm candy bracelets is one of the best ideas we’ve seen in awhile.”–POPSUGAR
Another great tip for making your rental space feel more like home? Give it a good green clean. We have several all-natural products you can purchase or give us a call and we’ll do the cleaning for you!
Talk to us: What is your best trick for decorating a rental space?
Transportation is one of the leading causes of global warming, which is why we love the month of May in NYC: Bike Month. This year, in honor of Bike Month, Transportation Alternatives has launched a Bike to Work Challenge for NYC workplaces from May 1-22. Is your company participating? According to the Bike to Work Challenge website, more than 550 NYC workplaces are currently logging their bike trips with over 72,000 miles logged in just the past 11 days. Before you embark on your own bike to work adventure, here are some tips for biking to work in NYC:
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 dry run on the weekend to get a good idea on how much time it will actually take you to get to the office.
Wear the Right Clothing
Don’t bike in a suit. Pack your work clothes in a waterproof backpack (or bring them to the office the day before) and put on biking shorts/tights and a moisture wicking t-shirt like these from Hanes. If you are not comfortable walking into the office with bike shorts, look for commuter-inspired clothing lines from brands such as Levi’s. Keep a bottle of eco-friendly wrinkle-release spray (great DIY recipe here) and extra deodorant at the office. Also, although not an NYC law for those over the age of 13, you should always wear a helmet.
While it is common to see cyclists in our great city, drivers and pedestrians are not always looking out for you. Always wear bright clothing and if you will be commuting during the early morning or evening hours, add reflective gear to yourself and your bike. Don’t weave in and out of traffic and ride about four feet from parked cars to avoid the “door zone.” Should you get “doored”, be sure to file a police report.
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.
Whether or not you participate in the Bike to Work Challenge, be sure to celebrate your month of biking to work at the 3rd annual Bike Home from Work Party on Friday, May 29th at the Pearl Street Archway in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Nearly 30 vendors will be offering food and drink as well as numerous cycling fashion items and accessories. Click here for more information.
Talk to us: How many biking miles do you log to work each week?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Alex
Try These Tips for Getting Your Room Clean in 10 Minutes or Less
Sunday is not only Mother’s Day, but it is Clean Up Your Room Day. What better gift to give Mom than a clean room, right? As a cleaning company, we understand that not everyone loves spending the day tidying up personal spaces—especially when the warm spring weather is calling you outside. If you haven’t already given us a call to do the cleaning for you (hint: great Mother’s Day gift!), try these tips for getting your room clean in 10 minutes or less. (Note: Parents, feel free to share this with your children!).
Open the Blinds
Yes, let the sunshine in! Not only will the light motivate you to get moving, it will allow you to see things clearly—including those piles of items you stuffed underneath your bed. If you can, open the windows and let the fresh air flow—this will give your room an instant refresh.
Make Your Bed
Want to make your room instantly feel clean? Make your bed. Not only does a made bed make your room appear neater than it actually may be, but it gives you a great workspace for sorting through other items such as clothes and paper. For an extra pop of freshness, spray your bed linens with a DIY eco-friendly linen spray. Just add water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil (we love lavender) to a spray bottle.
Pick up the Trash–Literally
Grab two bags—one for trash and one for recycling—and clear all garbage from the floor, dresser, desk and underneath the bed. This is also a great time to begin going through your clutter—if you run across something that isn’t necessarily trash, but you know you will never use it, put it to the side in a pile marked for donations.
Put Your Clothes Away
Put all dirty clothes in a laundry basket and place in the hallway (you can take it to the laundry room when you are done with your room). Next, hang and/or fold all of your clean clothes, put away your shoes and organize your accessories. Clothes you no longer wear? Place them in your donation pile.
Pick up any items still left on your floor—putting them away in drawers or storage boxes as needed (storage boxes fit neatly underneath most beds and closets). Create a “catch-all” bin for things that don’t belong in your room. Once you are finished with your room, you can return all the “catch all” items to their rightful place.
Do a Quick Dust
Take everything off the top of your dresser, desk and nightstands and give each piece of furniture a quick dusting using a microfiber cloth. To keep these items free of clutter, only put back those things you actually use (i.e. book on the nightstand), placing everything else in a storage bin or donation pile. Also, dust your floor—either with a microfiber broom or a vacuum, depending on your flooring.
Once everything is cleaned up, close all drawers and closet doors and take all items (trash, laundry, “catch all” bin) to their respective places in your home. The donation pile you created? Put it in a box in your closet. Once the box is filled, take it to a local non-profit organization.
Talk to us: What is the one thing you do daily that keeps your bedroom clean?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Jacky Gronow