Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I was right!! Here's what I did:
First I used my normal hand held vacuum with the upholstery attachment to vacuum out as much dirt as possible. Then I used the upholstery cleaner with a solution of about 3/4 cup baking soda and 6-8 cups of water. I let this dry and then used lemon juice and a rag to vigorously attack the stains. I used this on food stains and larger dirt stains as well as stains that looked like they came from rust. I let this dry and then used the upholstery cleaner again, this time with 1 cup vinegar and 6-8 cups water.
The couch is soft and a lot cleaner than it was when I started. It still doesn't look brand new and probably never will. I plan on cleaning it again. I want to try mixing lemon juice and water in the upholstery cleaner. I will probably do 2-3 cups lemon juice and 4-6 cups water to really work on cleaning the larger dirt stained areas. Then I'll do the same baking soda and then vinegar routine. I will probably also do straight lemon juice and a rag on some of the more stubborn stains that haven't released fully yet.
This could also be done without the upholstery cleaner though it would probably require more elbow grease. Use a spray bottle to evenly distribute a small amount of cleaning solution and a rag to rub it into the couch and then a normal vacuum with an upholstery attachment to vacuum it out. A water safe vacuum would probably be best or just let it dry and vacuum after.
The lemon juice really worked wonders, I will definitely be keeping lots of lemon juice on hand as a stain remover from now on. The acid and enzymes just eat away at the stains, making them disappear instantly.
In other cleaning news: I am frustrated that I can't find a local place to buy white vinegar in bulk. I use this for so many cleaning things but other than large plastic jugs I can only find it in liter sized glass containers with plastic tops. While I plan on re-using these it just seems silly to keep collecting small glass bottles instead of buying bulk. I may have to talk to the people at the local co-ops to see if they have any suggestions.
In somewhat related news: I am loving the soap I got at the co-op. It came without any packaging so I'm not sure who makes it (I think it might say on the display where I got it) but it is amazing. I got the almond bar and it smells great and makes me skin soft and moisturized. I don't have to use much as it has a nice thick lather and it even works well for shaving.
In other green news: I really need to get/make some cloth bags for purchasing baking supplies in bulk. The paper bags are not strong enough and leak easily when I put too much flour or baking soda in them but I hate using the plastic ones too. I want to make my own out of old t-shirts. I don't have a sewing maching so hopefully I will be able to make them sturdy enough on the bottom (and leak proof!) with sewing by hand. I will keep looking for a used sewing machine but everybody always sells their antique ones and want a small fortune for them! I don't do much sewing now but I used to (I made an awesome blanket out of old jeans) and would love to get back into it, especially in the interest of green crafts. Forget buying fabric, it's more fun to use old clothes, or clothes from thrift stores as fabric.
Friday, May 27, 2011
So I'm taking on the challenge of really greening up my life. One of my main focuses is reducing the amount of things that I purchase that are considered "throw away" items or that come in "throw away" packaging. Another high priority is reducing the amount of plastic (throw away or otherwise) in my life. Pretty much EVERYTHING in this modern world of ours is made from plastic or comes in plastic so to many people the idea of avoiding plastic is just too daunting.
The fact is, many plastics can't be recycled and even those that are recyclable will eventually end up in a landfill because plastic can't be continuously recycled. The best solution is to use less, as much less as you possibly can or are willing to give up. Like I said, plastic is in EVERYTHING so unless you're going to nearly completely remove yourself from the modern world you probably won't be able to get rid of all of the plastic in your life but it's still worth some effort.
It's been about a week since my boyfriend and I started moving into our new apartment. Surprisingly we've found a lot of success in avoiding plastic and reducing our waste. There have been some challenges along the way too. Let's go with the good news first and take a look at some of our successes.
~*~ BAKING SODA!! I'm skipping all the household cleaners that come in plastic and are full of chemicals and using baking soda to clean just about everything. I buy it from the bulk bin and store it in a glass cookie jar with a metal lid. Cleaning uses so far include:
* Laundry (1/2 cup baking soda to wash)
* Dishes (1/2 cup baking soda in the dishwasher or just a dusting of baking soda and a rag to scrub dishes by hand)
* Counters, sinks, shower (sprinkle baking soda, scrub with rag)
~*~ Vinegar - I bought it in a glass jar with a metal screw top. I would like to buy white vinegar in bulk but I haven't found a local source yet.
* Laundry (1/2 cup in the rinse cycle to soften clothes)
* Dishes (In the rinse area where you'd usually put Jet Dry to reduce clouding/spotting on glass)
* Counters, sinks, shower (spray a little after cleaning then wipe down to disinfect. It will also react with the baking soda so you won't have a silty residue everywhere)
~*~ Furniture - We've collected a lot of used furniture so far and it's all in good condition. The production of new furniture takes a lot of resources and energy so used is good! We still need to find a few more pieces so I'll be yard sale hunting soon.
~*~ Trash bin - I found a 10 gallon metal can with a lid for $10. Used would have been good too but I didn't see any. I also found "plastic bags" made from corn that are completely biodegradable. The corn industry has a lot of problems of it's own but I guess we have to pick the lesser of evils in some cases.
~*~ Shower curtain - While I couldn't find one made from natural materials I did find one made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. That's good enough for me.
~*~ Washing Machine - While it's not front load (to reduce water consumption) it was used and is still in great condition. I recently learned that for most electronics 80% their energy consumption is a result of their manufacturing and that doesn't account for all the water used and waste produced during production. Used is best!
~*~ Clothes drying - I did get a dryer but I also have a metal drying rack (it does have some plastic and I did purchase it new) that I use to dry the majority of my clothes and towels. This reduces energy use and the wear on my clothes. Win-win!
~*~ Glass storage - I'm reusing glass jars I'm collecting from food purchases. So far I have a lemonade jug (which will be great for purchasing apple cidar vinegar in bulk), a spagetti jar, salsa jar, and curry jar (these all have wide tops like mason jars so they'll be great for storing all sorts of stuff like dried goods and foods to freeze or refridgerate). I will also be looking for used mason jars to add to my collection.
~*~ No plastic for eating or drinking. We have nothing but class cups, ceramic plates and bowls and metal silverware (which has been in my family since at least the 70s).
~*~ No plastic for cooking. I have all stainless steel measuring spoons and cups, all bamboo stiring spoons and spatulas, and glass mixing bowls.
~*~ Clothes Hangers. I purchased some wood and metal hangers and we have a bunch of old wire hangers. I do have a few plastic clip hangers for hanging skirts but they came with clothes I purchased back in high school.
~*~ Composting & Recycling - I have already started a compost bin (in a cardboard box for now until I can get my hands on a used whiskey or pickle barrel for cheap) and we've already started collecting recycling though we don't really have a designated place to put it yet. I even found compost starter that came in a cardboard box without a plastic bag inside. Wonderful!
~*~ Personal care products - I'm still using up a lot of lotions, soaps, shampoo, and conditioner in plastic containers. I just ran out of body wash and will be re-using the plastic bottle with a pump top for dispensing vinegar to clean. I purchased a bar of natural almond soap that didn't come in any packaging. It smells heavenly and the almond is hydrating to my skin. I have a whole host of recipes ready for when I run out of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deoderant, sun screen, and lotions. Another win-win as I won't be purchasing plastic or chemical filled products!
~*~ Toilet paper - I found 100% recycled toilet paper sold in paper wrapped rolls. I wish I could buy more than 1 roll wrapped together but this will do for now.
~*~ Food - I'm putting this in the win column even though there's lots of work to do. I've learned that buying processed convenience food is going to be nearly impossible. Most of it comes in lots of plastic packaging and it's bad for you anyway. So I'm preparing more homemade meals. I probably won't ever be able to remove plastic from my food purchsing but I have already started to greatly reduce it by making my own meals.
* Dry goods purchased in bulk (pasta, rice, nuts, seeds, flour, sugar)
* Fresh fruits and vegetables purchased without packaging (twist ties, rubber bands and stickers continue to be a challenge)
* Looking for glass or cardboard packaging when packaging is necessary. Avoiding plastic "windows" in cardboard boxes and plastic tops to glass bottles can be tricky.
* Make your own frozen fruit - I buy it fresh and cut it up and freeze it myself. No plastic required! (Unless it has a stupid sticker on it)
Not a bad start if I do say so myself. I was even able to convince my boyfriend, (who I am not forcing to participate but who is already doing his best out of guilt), not to purchase soda because he usually gets it in a plastic bottle. He opted for chocolate milk from a local diary that comes in glass. There have been some challenges though. Let's take a look:
~*~ Vaccuum - I needed a small one for the stairs and small spaces in our apartment. I couldn't find one that would work used so I purchased new. It's made of palastic and came in some plastic packaging. They did use molded paper (which is almost always recycled just because that's easier) instead of styrofoam to keep everything in place.
~*~ Toaster Oven - I don't have, nor want, a microwave but a toaster oven is a nice way to use less energy and heat when baking smaller things. The only used one I found was terribly stained and dirty so I bought new. This came with lots of plastic and styrofoam packaging.
~*~ Meat - I currently only eat chicken and fish but it seems nearly impossible to buy meat without buying plastic too. I will probably be giving it up all together as most fishing is horrible for the planet. I might try to look for a local seller of properly raised chicken and get it without plastic. Giving up meat may take some time though, I'll do my best for now.
~*~ Cheese - It is probably impossible to buy cheese without plastic unless you buy it right from the maker. I won't be able to give up cheese any time soon so I'll do my best to pick cheese with less plastic for now.
~*~ Bulk foods - I have yet to figure out a no waste way to take them home. I might have to find some metal tins or glass containers to bring with me and have the store weigh them empty. So far I have been using paper bags with the intention to reuse but they get small holes easily and leak. My boyfriend did buy bread in a bag for his sandwiches so I will probably use that bag when he's done with it.
~*~ Aluminum & Non-stick - Most of my pots and pans are aluminum or non-stick. Both of these can leach into food and aluminum has been linked with Alzheimer's disease. I will be replacing them with stainless steel and/or cast iron. I will be hunting for used but may have to get new. ***TIP*** Use a magnet to determine if your pans are stainless steel or not. Magnets stick to steel and not to aluminum.
~*~ Shower head - We need to replace the existing one and I have never seen one that doesn't have at least some plastic.
So there are a few hurdles ahead and I'm sure I'll discover more along the way but so far it really hasn't been a difficult transition. I know that I have to be forgiving of myself and not try to guilt trip my boyfriend when he purchases something with plastic or unneccessary packaging. I know that ultimately greening up my life will improve my health and the health of the planet. Hopefully my green choices will influence others to make the same choices and we can really make an impact together!
Monday, May 23, 2011
Used items are always a good place to start so I checked out Craigslist and also went to my local thrift store.
I found a washer and dryer pair for $200 that was fairly new and lightly used. The washer is top-load but I figure I'm still saving the world energy and resource use by buying used instead of new and by only doing full loads on a short cycle (even when the washer is full I use a medium water level and it still gets all the clothes clean). I also only ever use cold water to do the washing. Since I'm forgetful (I prefer "busy") I often leave the clothes in the washer for a bit after they are finished washing. This lets more water drain from them so if I do use the dryer to dry them (I also have a rack on which I dry most of my clothes) they take less time. Be careful with your dryer's sensor dry settings, sometimes they aren't very accurate. I usually dry my clothes for 20 minutes and then check them. Most of the time they are dry enough to let them air dry the rest of the way...unless drying heavier items like towels and jeans (which I usually line dry anyway).
I also found a dresser and night stand set that was in great condition and came with a mirror. It's a nice set that I'm sure I'll be able to keep for a long time. And it's got lots of storage which is great!
Since my used item shopping yeilded limited results I knew I'd have to go out and buy new. I went to KMart because, while I want to make green choices, I'm not rich. I knew it would be a challenge to find everything I needed without purchasing a lot of plastic or non-green items. There was plastic everywhere I looked and all sorts of chemicals and not very natural materials. But I did pretty well for myself. Here are some of the things I bought:
* Shower curtain made from 100% recycled plastic bottles (no plastic packaging)
* Rugs made from recycled cotton (they did have a spray vynal bottom)
* Bamboo kitchen spoon, and spatulas (better than wood as a renewable resource)
* wood and metal clothes hangers
* metal colander
* wood hand painted trash bin (painted by some under privilaged population with proceeds to help them)
* Metal hanging shower caddy (with rubber suction cups)
* wooden handled metal garden trowel (it was in a plastic bag but I left that at the store).
I did need a few other things that KMart didn't have so I went to an upscale kitchen store. There I found:
* A french style rolling pin (100% wood)
* Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons
* Stainless steel vegetable peeler
* Stainless steel cheese grater (no plastic!!)
* Metal tray for sorting silverwhere (This did come in a plastic wrap)
* Ceramic counter compost bin (This was also wrapped in plastic and has a plastic seal around the rim).
* Glass and metal cookie jar (for my flour or other goods, I will probably end up buying more).
We also got free furniture from family including a bed, futon matress, couch, and a few lamps.
We still need a trash bin for the kitchen, a recycling collecting bin, a table and chairs, a coffee table, more lamps, a compost bin, other gardening tools.
I'm hoping to be able to find most of these things used but I'm sure I'll have to be shopping again!
Also, I need to purchase some organic soil. My local gardening store sells this in bulk so I will be able to buy it without plastic! They also sell compost starter in a wooden box so there is no plastic. I am looking forward to gardening though I need to finish getting moved in first!
Friday, May 20, 2011
I also included here the nonstick pans that I have which I know are not good for me or the environment. My knives I couldn't tell if they were plastic or wood handled so I included those as well, just in case.
I need to test my other pots and pans to see if they are aluminum as there is a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's read more here. I learned that aliminum is not magnetic whereas stainless steel is so testing with a magnet will indicate which type of pots and pans I have. If they are aluminum I will post them here as well.
On Saturday I will be heading to a local thrift store in hopes of finding some plastic, aluminum, and nonstick free kitchen items such as jars, pots, pans, and other gadgets (like the vegetable peeler, measuring cups and spoons, and cheese grater pictured).
The plastic lids shown below go with my pyrex bowl set that I love. I have yet to find information indicating that Pyrex glass is bad in anyway though I haven't really looked that hard.
Luckily not much of the plastic I currently own is likely to end up in a landfill any time soon as it can all be donated and used by someone else. I will have to check the number on the container of wasabi powder to see if that can be recycled once used. I have a few other plastic spice jars I'll have to add to my collection as well. I'm thinking about using glass and metal salt and pepper shakers to store spices going forward. I wonder if screwing them closed with a bit of reused paper would keep them fresh enough.
Tomorrow is sure to be a busy day, there are so many things to think about when trying to create a green, healthy, low plastic, low waste home!
(And please excuse the poor formating of my photos, HTML can be a real pain for this kind of stuff!)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
* Disposable pens Reusable pen made of metal or wood with replaceable cartriges (they still use some but a lot less plastic)
* Print outs on white paper (I use a LOT of this, but we recycle!) Try to avoid printing out whenever possible by keeping the information on the screen
* Post-it notes (again, we recycle these) Write notes on the back of print outs before recycling them. That way I'm reusing and recycling!
Some are things I don't really need to use but haven't yet switched to greener alternatives.
* Tissues hanky or the hanky book! which I am thinking of making myself from old shirts!
* Paper cups (with plastic lining...double ouch) Bring my own water bottle and/or mug. I currently own a Klean Kanteen but it does have a plastic spout and I also have a plastic coffee mug that was given to me when I started my job. While the mug isn't ideal it would be better than paper cups. I should note that I do use the same cup for several days at a time.
* Disposable mechanical pencils Natural sustainable or recycled wood pencils with natural rubber erasers. I'd have to provide my own but they tend to last a while.
* Styrofoam plates (seriously, I try not using a plate at all if I can help it, I hate stryofoam!) Bring a reusable nonplastic plate
* Food in disposable containers (yogurt, frozen meals, frozen waffles, nuts, energy bars) Make my own food and bring it in reusable, nonplastic containers
* Plastic forks (I bring my own metal fork usually but sometimes I forget)
* Lip Balm in a plastic tube Lip balm in a metal container or better yet, home made lip balm
* Hand lotion in a plastic tube Make my own or buy in a tin
It seems like half of the stuff on my desk is made of plastic: my keyboard, phone, monitor, the stand I put my papers on, the stand that holds important papers, my stapler, tape dispenser, pen organizer, phone headset, highlighers, post-it despenser, calculator...the chair I'm sitting in!! How do we stand a chance in a world full of plastic and disposable stuff?!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I just discovered a great website: MyPlasticFreeLife.com. I'm sure I'll find it very useful as I head into my own plastic free journey. She has a section on there where she challenges readers to track and post their own plastic consumption. I will definitely be taking part and posting my results here as well. I need to do my research as I need to buy vinegar (lots of it!) and other cleaning supplies as well as things like toilet paper and probably other items that will be difficult to find without plastic. It's going to be a challenge!!
I'm pretty busy for the rest of May but I'm hoping to find time soon to start making my own beauty and cleaning products and some good home made foods like bread.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
As you may know, grocery store vegetables often come from all over the world, often times from farms in deforested rain forest climates. The farming practices aren't the only reason grocery store produce is bad for the environment. Then consider how far that produce has to travel and all of the fossil fuels used to get it where it's going. A large amount of organic produce sold in the US comes from Hawaii, even if you live in California that's a long distance for food to travel.
It's evident that grocery store produce is bad for the environment but what about your health? If it's not organic it's been grown in soil that is not very nutrient rich and sprayed with harsh chemicals to keep away pests making the nutritional value low and the rish for exposure to harmful chemicals high. And to make matters worse produce travelling from so far away has to be picked way before it's ripe so that it doesn't rot before it reaches the store. Many foods, such as tomatoes, are chemically treated to make them appear more ripe than they are. This is why a tomato that looks red at the grocery store may still be very firm and tasteless.
What other choice do you have? Believe it or not, even if you live in an urban area, chances are there are local farms that can provide you with most of the produce you need and maybe even the eggs, dairy, and meat you want. You may even have a neighbor that raises chickens for eggs that you could buy. Local food is all around us and isn't hard to find. You can often get great prices on local food if you look in the right places, making it a better option than purchasing from a grocery store all around.
Let's go over some of the local food buying options available:
~*~Farmer's Market: These are events that are usually held weekly or monthly through out the growing season (many towns also have winter farmer's markets for crafts, cheese, and specialty food items). Several farmers get together to sell their produce and you may also find eggs, cheese, specialty foods, meat, and crafts. This is a great way to meet your local farmers and find out what they have to offer. Farmer's markets are a convenient way to shop for local foods without having to commit to any one farm. You can also often purchase bulk vegetables if you ask, especially toward the end of the growing season. If there are lots of farms around you there may be more than one market worth checking out!
~*~Farm Stand: Aside from selling their goods at farmer's markets many farms will have stands on or near their farms. If you don't drive past one in your normal travels it may require an adventurous Sunday drive to find one. Farm stands will most likely have the freshest produce as they will refill it every day as opposed to other options that are weekly. Farm stands are great for purchasing in bulk and getting deals on produce that is close to going bad. Some farms, especially those with berries, will offer a pick your own as well.
~*~CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture): If you eat a lot of vegetables and don't mind being suprised by what you get each week then this is a great way to get lots of fresh veggies every week at a great price and it is a great way to support a local farmer. It's kind of like buying stock in a business but instead of a cash return you get great local food. You purchase a share at the beginning of the season (you may need to sign up early depending on how popular CSAs are in your area) and then each week pick up a box of that week's harvest at a set destination (often times the farm). Some CSAs offer delivery or several pick up locations so be sure to choose one that works best for you. Remember, the closer the farm is to you, the better it is for the environment. Not all CSAs offer organic produce so ask your farmer about their farming practices before you commit. Becoming certified organic takes several years and can be costly so your local small farm may have organic practices without being certified. Depending on how many people you're trying to feed you may have leftover vegetables so be sure to know ahead of time what you'll do with them. Will you preserve? Share with a friend? Donate to a soup kitchen?
~*~Food Co-Op: These grocery store-esque stores are consumer owned (you could become a member to receive a part of the profits and have a say in what is sold). They sell a variety of products with a focus on local food. Depending on your co-op it may only sell local foods or it may sell a variety of natural, organic, and "regular" grocery items. These are a good way to buy local when you can't get what you need at the other options or need the convenience. Some food co-ops do require you to become a member to shop with them so be sure to ask!
Now that you know about the different options for buying food locally, how do you know what is available near you? Here are a few tips:
~*~Check out LocalHarvest.org for a comprehensive list of farms in your area and all of the services they offer. Just type in your zip code and go!
~*~Look for signs along the road advertising farmer's markets. They usually list the time and location. Sometimes they are held it parks, churches, schools, or privately owned property.
~*~Try a Google search of your zip code and "CSA", "local food", or "farmer's market". There may be online resources specifically dedicated to local food in your area. Like VitalCommunities serving VT and NH.
~*~Ask around! You never know which friends, neighors, or coworkers have a local food connection. You may even discover some hidden treasures!
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
To prove to you just how easy it can be I have taken on the challenge to stop wasting and start greening!
On May 18th I will be moving into a 2 bedroom apartment with my boyfriend. I should warn that he is not the most environmentally conscious individual, but if it saves money and reduces waste he's all for it! I've got several waste and chemical use reduction goals in mind. We'll start with the first ones on my list and make changes in our lives and shopping habits to meet each of these goals:
1) No chemical cleaners. This includes how we wash our house, our dishes, and our clothes. We'll be making our own - such as citrus vineager cleaner - and we'll be purchasing some items.
2) Reduce "disposable" product usage. This includes cleaning products, paper towels, cotton balls, tissues and other disposable items. I'd like to get it so toilet paper is the only disposable item we use!
3) Buy local. This means no ordering things off the internet, supporting local farms, and local stores. It also means we'll need to limit purchases from chain stores. We've already stopped shopping at WalMart long ago, but we'd like to limit our purchases from other large corporations as well when possible.
4) No chemical health/beauty products. I'm a believer in waste not want not, so I'm not about to throw out the fairly new stick of deoderant sitting on my dresser. I'll slowly be transitioning from store bought products to homemade ones including shampoo, conditioner, deoderant, toothepaste, and soap.
5) No more pastic! This is going to be a challenge because SO much of what we purchase at the grocery store or otherwise comes wrapped in plastic. I'll start by replacing the plastic dishes we have with glass, ceramic, or metal. This means donating the plastic ones and purchasing used when available. We have lots of great resources in our area for used items, not to mention tag sales! The next step will be to reduce the things I purchase that come in plastic. That means everything from lettuce, bread, yogurt, dressings, and cheese to batteries, nylons, lip gloss, and take-out. This is really going to require a lifestyle change. Purchasing fresh bread and supplying my own bag or making my own bread, for example.
6) Reduce waste. I didn't mention recycling on this list because it's sort of a given. Once we reduce our "disposable" products and plastic consumption our waste stream should be greatly reduced but we'll want to look at what else we can stop throwing away at that point. Our new apartment has a small patio and lawn space so I might try to find a used compost roller or start some other kind of composting program. I guess I'll have to wait and see what's left in the trash bin at this point. One thing I'm planning on doing right off is using biodegradable trash bags.
So that's the list. Once I move into the apartment I'll keep you posted on how it's going! I'll also be providing website recommendations and let you know what my experiences are with different products and recipes.
Step 1: Furniture. I had to sell everything I owned the last time I moved so I don't currently own any furniture. To acquire furniture I will be asking friends and relatives for items they don't want. I'll also be looking for used items at our local thrift stores and possibly at yard sales. The only piece of furniture that I will be buying new is a matress. With all the bed bug horror stories and knowing that beds collect a LOT of human skin I will want to start fresh there. We probably won't be starting out with the most fashionable home decor, but it will be a great place to start!