We often think of composting in the fall–which is a great time to start a bin–or even the spring when temperatures begin to rise and the composting process starts to develop that rich soil we love to use for 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 by 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 perfect 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?
Is Your Outdoor Space Ready?
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 goodbye 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. The 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?
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 on 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?
Transportation is one of the leading causes of global warming, which is why we love May 19th: Bike to Work Day. And, in honor of this year’s Bike to Work Week, StreetEasy has determined which NYC neighborhoods are best for bikers – both to live in and bike through. Click here for their list. 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.
Be sure to celebrate your month of biking to work at the Bike Home from Work Party on Friday, May 19th 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 miles will you log on your bike during the month of May?
There is a real art to loading the dishwasher—and the strategy isn’t just about saving you cleaning time in the kitchen. A full dishwasher (no half loads) is the best way to save energy and water, especially if you keep your setting to “light wash” (seriously, it should work the same as “normal” setting—read about it here). While everyone seems to have an opinion on how to load your dishes and utensils, here are our definitive tips for getting things clean and keep them from breaking:
Good Housekeeping reminds us there are three basic rules we should always follow: 1) Scrape off the food (only pre-rinse if dishes will be sitting in the dishwasher all day); 2) Secure all plastics (keep them from melting); and, 3) Never stack items.
Slots for plates are usually located in the bottom section of the dishwasher, which is where you should start to load. Face plates toward the center and, if they lean, lean them inwards and downwards. “The goal is to keep all surfaces separated and accessible to the stream of water from the sprayers,” says WikiHow. The outside of the bottom section is perfect for cutting boards or large trays.
Place Glasses at an Angle
The top section of your dishwasher is for bowls, cups, and glasses. Put them at an angle so they get the water and the cleaning solution from below and they will also drain properly. This will also give you more room. If you do have plastic items, they should also go in the top section, away from the dishwasher’s heating element.
Silverware—Handles Up or Down?
This is an ongoing debate in many homes, but here’s our answer: handles down. Knives, spoons, and forks should all go into the cutlery basket, handles down. Be sure to space them apart as much as possible—you want to make sure the water can reach the tiny parts that need to get cleaned. Large (or long) utensils should go in the top section of the dishwasher—facing down so water doesn’t collect in them. Tip: Avoid putting any wood utensils (or wood-handled utensils) in the dishwasher at all.
Check the Rotation
To make sure everything will get clean, check to make sure that the rotating devices and arms can spin freely and nothing is obstructing the sprayers. Another good check: make sure the detergent cups can fully open. If they are blocked, you won’t get a good wash.
Talk to us: What is your one tip for loading the dishwasher?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Tom Page
Mother’s Day has been celebrated all over the world for thousands of years. It has been a day to rejoice and show appreciation to all of the women in our lives and the aspect of motherhood in general. It’s the perfect time for mom to take a day for herself and openly receive the appreciation that we so often forget to give on a daily basis.
Considering all of the things our mothers do for us, this should probably turn into a monthly holiday. However, since it hasn’t yet, we’re here to make sure that her day lasts long beyond 24 hours. That’s why we’ve put together some truly unique eco-friendly Mother’s Day gifts ideas that are sure to warm her heart. Check them out below!
DIY Herb Garden
Since children could finger-paint, mother’s have crooned over hand-made gifts. They know the extra effort it takes to create something from the heart. That’s why a great eco-friendly gift for Mother’s Day is a DIY herb garden for mom’s kitchen. All it takes is a few mason jars, some seeds (or already sprouted herbs) and some potting soil! It will make her kitchen pop with color and emit a fresh scent year round. A bonus add-on could be helping her cook with her new herb garden one night! Quality time and an eco-friendly gift make for one happy mother.
Eco-Friendly Spa Day
One of the things that mom’s love most is having a day to just sit back, relax and pamper. Put together an eco-friendly spa kit for your mom this holiday and let her take the day off. You can start by making a homemade coconut oil and coffee body scrub with just a two simple ingredients! It’s one of the easiest, yet most effective scrubs you can make. All you do is mix coffee grounds with coconut oil and transfer to a pretty container! You can follow this up with a natural lotion recipe using essential oils and Shea butter. The best part? You can customize it to match your mom’s favorite scent. Throw in a few homemade facemasks and slices of cucumbers and you’ve got a sincerely divine in-home spa. Check out 9 of our favorites here! Top with a warm cup of tea (or a nice glass of wine) for an enchanting evening alone.
A Clean House
Per usual, we’ve saved the best for last. Moms spend hours on end cleaning up after everyone. This is why Greenhouse Eco-Cleaning offers immaculate cleaning services using 100% organic, biodegradable and effective cleaning products. You can get 1, 5 or 10 cleaning services to extend your mom’s special day for months to come.
This year, show your mom some much-needed appreciation by giving her an eco-friendly gift that will leave a long lasting footprint on her heart, but not on the planet. You can use any of the suggestions above, or order any of Greenhouse Eco-Cleaning’s products! If you have other ideas for unique eco-friendly gifts for mom, comment below or write on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you!
Show Your Appreciation with These Teacher Thank You Gifts!
Teachers have a tough job. They manage classrooms filled with 20 – 30, often rambunctious, children almost every day. They are also the people who spend hours and hours shaping minds and instilling good habits in our future leaders of tomorrow. With National Teacher’s Day today (May 9th) make sure that you take the time to show your appreciation. A great way to do this, while simultaneously spreading healthy habits, is by giving them an eco-friendly gift.
Why eco-friendly? Well, recently the Environmental Protection Agency ranked indoor air pollution to be among the top environmental dangers in our day-to-day lives1. Not surprisingly, this is due to most of the common cleaning products that are frequently used. That means that the places we spend the most time are often the most dangerous for our long-term health. Spreading eco-friendly gifts is just one way to help reduce the impact we leave on the environment. Check out some suggestions below for great eco-friendly teacher gift ideas.
A Piece of Mother Nature
One great way to give an eco-friendly gift is by passing on a piece of Mother Nature. Instead of delivering cut flowers that will wither away, bring in a potted plant or a small planting set. Your child’s teacher will love the thoughtfulness and will have a constant reminder in their classroom. It’s also a great learning opportunity for children! Some plants can even help combat indoor pollutants and thus create a safer environment for your children. Check out some of the best indoor plants that will improve air quality.
A Eco-Friendly Cleaning Caddy
One of our favorite ways to show appreciation is through creating a gift from the heart. You can do this by putting together an eco-friendly cleaning caddy with DIY cleaning solutions! Get together some BPA-free spray bottles and have a craft day with your children by making safe, effective cleaning alternatives. You can make natural floor cleaner using ¼ cup vinegar, 10 drops of lemon oil and 4 drops of oregano oil. Include an all-purpose cleaner by mixing ½ cup of vinegar with ¼ cup of baking soda in 2 liters of water. A great option for disinfectant is by mixing 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 25 drops of tea tree oil. Include some cellulose sponges and reusable dishcloths for a complete set. If you’re looking for another option to DIY, check out the great starter pack at Greenhouse Eco-Cleaning!
A Everyday Necessities
Teachers, like most adults, are fueled by coffee, tea and tons of water. Give them an eco-friendly glass, stainless steel or BPA-free container to enjoy their favorite drinks. Another great option is a reusable lunch bag or fabric shopping bags. Not only will they save on those pesky disposable bags, they will also be reducing their carbon footprint along the way.
Remember, people are increasingly becoming more conscious about protecting our environment and schools have taken initiative as well. Make sure to show the teachers in your life appreciation while still showing love to Mother Nature with these eco-friendly gift ideas. If you’re stuck on ideas, simply grab any one of Greenhouse Eco-Cleaning’s products. Also, if you have other great suggestions for eco-friendly gifts, comment below or write on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear what you have to say.
Make Your Fiesta Eco-Friendly with These Cinco de Mayo Party Ideas!
This Friday is Cinco de Mayo and while your head is filled with visions of delicious food and drinks, we wanted to share some ways you can make this fiesta more eco-friendly.
Keep the vibrant Mexican culture alive by supporting local merchants such as taquerias (taco shops), tortillerias (tortilla factories) and panaderias (bakeries) as well as purchasing food and supplies from locally-owned grocery stores in your community. Click here for places in New York where you can find Mexican ingredients. Another way to keep it local? Hire Mexican musicians. “Supporting local Mexican musicians keeps the local Mexican music scene strong & will set the audio mood for your eco-chic fiesta,” suggests EcoPartyTime.com.
Stock up on organic drink options such as beer and wine as well as Mexican colas such as these from Maine Root, which are sweetened with 100% Fair Trade Certified organic sugar. You can also make an organic margarita. We love this recipe from the Go Green Blog. Cheers!
Have party guests BYOP—Bring Your Own Plate—to cut down on wasted paper plates and flatware. If you do opt for disposable tableware, look for eco-friendly, biodegradable options. Party City has a great selection of “Eco Party” products that come in numerous colors (green!) and include everything you would need from plates to flatware to cups.
Make It Easy for Others to Cleanup
Make sure there are trash receptacles and recycling bins located in areas where disposables will be used such as the bar and buffet. Double- or triple-line the trash cans, so there is always a clean bag once a full bag is removed. This will help minimize your after party cleanup. Still dreading the clean up once the party is over? Give us a call for our post-party cleaning services.
Talk to us: How will you be celebrating Cinco de Mayo this year?
image courtesy of cc/unsplash
The spring flowers are blooming and if you are waiting until you find the perfect vase before bringing your blooms inside, we have some great ideas for you. As you know, we are all about recycling and reusing–which is why we love these tips for turning items we already have in our home into unique flower vases.
Another great excuse to drink more wine. The narrow bottleneck of a wine bottle is the perfect way to display long stemmed flowers like daisies and roses. Organic Authority suggests leaving the label on the bottle to give it a vintage look. Click here for other ideas on how to reuse your wine bottles.
We loved this idea from Pop Sugar. An old metal lunchbox—or really any tin container—is a great way to create a low floral arrangement, perfect as a centerpiece on your table. Simply insert floral foam to keep flowers in place.
Who knew PVC pipe could be so attractive. With this great tutorial from Modpodgerocksblog.com, you can easily turn plain PVC pipes—and old photos–into beautiful vases for your spring blooms.
We suggest keeping this idea for an end-of-school teacher gift. Wrap colored pencils around a soup can, fill the can with water and add flowers. Click here for complete instructions from HappyClippings.com. As soon as you are done enjoying your flowers, you can use the pencils!
Talk to us: What is the most unusual household item you’ve turned into a vase?