Tuesday, March 31, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Copper Pipe

I know that copper piping is something that we may not all have lying around.  But I love the ideas offered in this 10 uses Tuesday.  Don't you love this toilet paper roll?  I think it would be perfect in my bathroom, far better than whatever ugly circa 1980 wood thing that is there now.

And for those artist readers we have out there, my friend Brad has given me a wonderful idea for another copper pipe use, as a new medium.  Brad calls this piece "Chaotic Copper"

I know this is a real challenge, but any other idea for copper pipe?  Has anyone used one of these tips or made their own copper art?  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Guide

Money is short right?  No one has a lot to spend.  So when we do spend our precious dollars, we should use them for the best possible purchases.  Those are of course things we need, but also things that are good for us and our environment.  

Sometimes that is easy to do.  For instance, buying second hand goods and hand made goods are an easy way to go green.  But beyond that, it gets more difficult.  There is a lot of green washing going on.  So how is someone to know what is best for us and the environment?

I found it and it is brilliant.  The solution is the Good Guide.  It takes into account all of the steps that go into making a product, from where they are made and by whom, to how they are shipped and what they are made of.  From high fructose corn syrup to bath toys, they tell you what to look out for and what to buy instead. You can use the website to check your products and find great products and if you have an iphone, you can download an application to compare items right there while you are shopping or text from your cell phone to get true green product information.  

A brilliant idea for a brilliant future!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Step Away from the Swiffer

You may have noticed that the my Spring cleaning tips did not include disposable products.  This was intentional.   In my pre-green days I was a big fan of Clorox wipes and Swiffer dusters and mops.  In fact, sometimes I still long for my Swiffer duster refills as I stand on chairs to dust high up places with my vinegar/water solution and rag.  But there is no going back.

We have become a disposable society.  I could probably write a whole post on this topic, and probably will someday.  But for now, just think about the cleaning products you may be using that are disposable in some manner.  By reverting to many of the tools mentioned these past two weeks; microfiber cloths, standard mops or washable mop heads, a re-usable toilet brush (there was a day when this was the only kind!) and rags to clean, you can save so much from the landfill.  I know that a small duster refill doesn't seem like much, but multiply that all of the times you clean, and everyone else cleans, and it really adds up.

If this isn't the most convincing argument, consider the money you will save!  I haven't bought cleaning products other than vinegar and baking soda in YEARS and that means a whole lot more green in my wallet.  

A challenge:  
If you feel up to it, I would love if you readers could calculate all you spend each month on cleaning products other than those mentioned this week-your more toxic or disposable products.  It would be fascinating to see what each of us could save by switching and to see what people are spending on their toxic stuff around the world. 

And thanks for spending Spring cleaning week(s) with me!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Giveaway winner and A NEW LOOK!

We have a winner for the Shaklee Spring Cleaning giveaway.  The randomly chosen winner (be random.org) is #4,  

Michaela said...
I also already Twitter follow you @michaelakrause

MARCH 22, 2009 10:01 AM

Congratulations Michaela!

In other exciting news, check out the new look!!! What do you think? Be honest, it won't hurt my feelings. This lovely look was provided by Pink Armchair Designs. I won it in a contest and I am trying it out. I would really appreciate hearing your feedback.

Green Grab Bag 3.28.09

I want to start today by saying I had a wonderful "Unplug" day!  It was amazingly freeing not to have a nagging feeling all day that I needed to check my computer.  And I was able to be very productive.  I ran about 6 errands all over town that I had been putting off, took my boys to a playdate, donated and reorganized toys with them, totally cleaned out and reorganized our front closet, and got to chat with my girlfriends at book club into the wee hours of the...well, evening.  We aren't exactly party animals.  Did anyone else try it?  What were the results?

Ok, onto the grab bag.  
  • I love this!  It is the Great Sunflower Project and it gives you free sunflower seeds to plant and draw bees to your yard so that you and your family can help count them national data!
  • If you don't have space or inclination to start your own garden, Tiny Choices tells us how to make seed bombs to spread the plant love.
  • Nature Moms has 8 great ideas for children's gardens.  I personally have one of these books and would highly recommend the author, Lovejoy.  Even her name makes me happy!
  • If you are up for a do-it yourself this weekend, here is a post from Gorgeous and Green on making your own toothpaste.
  • And Prissy Green has one on making your own flea repellent.
  • I was fascinated by this post on making algae into biodiesel.  We really are brilliant people who can find better solutions in almost everything.  We should trust our intelligence and nature to provide more.
  • If you are up for a kitchen adventure, here's a recipe for vegan chocolate donuts from Sweet Greens that look delicious!
  • We are going to a birthday party tomorrow and I wish everyone could throw their children a green birthday party.
No shopping tips this week.  I didn't come across any stellar sites.  But I did come across this article from Down to Earth about taking small steps towards a simpler life, and it occurred to me that maybe that's all we need this week.

I would be remiss if I failed to tell you that Earth Hour is tonight!  It won't be a problem for us since we are usually in bed by this time.  But give it a shot if you at all can.  It's just one hour from 8:30-9:30 pm in your local time zone, wherever that may be.   Switch off your lights.  That's it.  A simple step to help make a big difference.  I hope you will join us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Willo Unplugged

I wanted to let you all know that I am following the lead of Kimba at A Soft Place to Land and taking Friday to unplug.  Feel free to join me and get back to the basics.  If you do we can all report on our experiences unplugging this weekend.  If not, I will be back Saturday with this week's Green Grab Bag.  Have a very happy Friday!

Fan Friendly

I saw this tip in "Real Simple" magazine. On a side note, "Real Simple" is a great magazine to find some earth friendly tips because being green really is, well, real simple.  Don't get me wrong, it's far from a green magazine, but there are a few gems in there...like this one.  

So the idea is that you use a pillow case to dust your fans.  Just put it over one blade at a time and pull off.  This is great because it keeps the dust in the pillowcase instead of flying down into your face, as happened to me once and I had a sneezing, coughing, runny nose fit for 24 hours straight.  

Has anyone tried this?  Did it work?  Any other great tips for dusting?  Dusting fans?

Don't forget, today is the last day for entering the Shaklee Spring cleaning giveaway!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Toilet tools

That was a fun break for 10 uses Tuesday.  Now back to our regularly scheduled program.  Today, cleaning the toilet.  You will need only 3 things...maybe 4.  First our favorites, vinegar and baking soda.  Then, very similar to cleaning the drain, you dump some baking soda in and then the vinegar to create those cleansing bubbles.  

Then scrub the toilet with a brush.  Mine is just a regular plastic one I brought pre-green freak.  But I found this lovely one for you (can toilet brushes be lovely?) that is made from the fiber of coconut shells.  Scrub away and you are set.  

Unless...you have rust stains.  In which case you can use the grapefruit/citrus juice tip from earlier this week.  Let it sit a while and scrub that too!  

Ok, what am I missing?  Other toilet cleaning tips?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Wine Corks

I don't really drink.  And even if I did I have never been able to like wine.  I want to like it so badly because it makes you seem cool and sophisticated and it's supposedly good for your heart.  And, there are apparently tons of cool useful things to do with a wine cork!  Check them all out in today's 10 uses.  I can't wait until next winter to try the fire starting method.  

I haven't actually made the following project, but my friend Cherie has and I oogle hers every time I get to visit.  You can find all the directions right here.   

So have you done any of the 10 uses?  Have you made the corkboard?  Other good cork stories?  

Monday, March 23, 2009

Get Rid of Rust

I know that Spring Cleaning week is officially over, but as this is my blog and I still have tips...let the cleaning continue! Today's tip is on getting rid of rust.

Have I mentioned that I have hard well water? I think so, and I do. This leaves rust stains in my sinks, toilet, etc...Annoying. But I have found what I think is a brilliantly simple and effective way to get rid of this rust. It's called grapefruit juice, perhaps you've heard of it?

All you need is pure, 100% grapefruit juice poured directly onto the rust stain. In the sink I stop the drain and just let it sit for a while. Then wipe it with a cloth or brush (if more scrubbing is needed). Usually this works perfectly. I hear other pure citrus juices work just as well, but I have only used grapefruit. Has anyone tried any others?

What are your rust ridding tips? If you missed the launch of the Shaklee Spring Cleaning giveaway yesterday, don't forget to go enter!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shaklee Spring Cleaning Giveaway!

Yay!  I told you a giveaway was coming and here it is!  I wanted to give something away in honor of our Spring Cleaning week to keep you all motivated to clean green.  And Shaklee might well be one of the best ways to do that!

Some of you may have heard of Shaklee.  The company has been around forever and Oprah adores their Basic H and even gave it away as one of her favorite things.  I first heard about Shaklee on a plane in August when I sat next to Shaklee distributer Marilyn Alvey.  She was flying back from a Shaklee convention and shared her passion for the products and the company with me.  She is so excited about this company and their continuous fight to make the most earth-friendly, people-friendly products possible.  

And because she believes in the company and the products SO much, she wants one of you to win a Shaklee Cleaning Gift Pack!  It is a $30 value and will include:
To win all you you have to do is visit Marilyn's Shaklee page and comment back here on something from Shaklee you would love to try.  U.S. Addresses only please.  For extra entries (please leave a comment for each):
  • Follow or subscribe to Green Gracious
  • Follow Green Gracious on Twitter
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Become a fan of our Facebook page
  • FIVE extra entries if you purchase anything from Marilyn's Shaklee page
The contest will run from Sunday, March 22nd through Thursday March 26th.  Thanks for entering and continuing the commitment to clean green!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Draino is a Dirty Word

I am going to tell you a secret, no green cleaner is probably going to work as well on your drains as the eco-evil Draino. But, it's not all doom and gloom, for you or the Earth. With a few simple tools you can get an almost just as good drain clean without the toxic chemicals.

For your mission, if you choose to accept it, you will need vingar (surprise, surprise), baking soda, and a drain snake. I know a lot of people swear by only vinegar and water to clean out their drains. At my house it works great for little clogs, but every once in a while, if we really want to get the water moving, we have to break out the snake.

Ok, tools in hand, here is the plan.

1. Pour a little bit of baking soda into the sink. No, I don't have an exact amount I usually do about 1/5 of a small box. But just use your best judgement.
2. Pour in some vinegar. Again, I am not sure on an exact measurement, but pour it straight out of the bottle and make sure you use enough to wash the baking soda down and really get things fizzing.
3. Wait for the fizzing to stop. It is such a satisying sound and it sounds so clean.
4. Pour in a small pot (there, an almost exact amount!) of boiling water.

And that should do it most of the time! I have even tried out many of the earth-friendly drain cleaners and found they didn't work nearly as well as this simple, much less expensive solution.

If that doesn't work, try the snake. Follow the directions on your particular model, but ours is so easy even I can do it.

Anything I missed? Any other drain cleaning tips? You all have been awful quiet lately.

And I might be awful quiet soon. It seems small children and modem boxes don't mix and I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I am without phone or internet until further notice. Maybe it's a sign I am supposed to get out and enjoy the world more instead of just typing about it. Hopefully I will be back soon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Green Grab Bag 3.20.09

I thought since we have been so focused on Spring Cleaning this week that I would focus the Green Grab Bag on that as well.  Don't worry, I'll still give you shopping links.  But first, more cleaning:
These are not from this week, but in the spirit of Spring cleaning, I didn't want you to miss my previous posts:
As you view this week's shopping links, shop guilt-free in the new found knowledge that online shopping is more energy efficient:
And here are a few hundred reasons from my back yard swamp why I keep doing this.  Ignore the clicking in the foreground, I don't know what that is or how to stop it, but the chirping in the background is the mating of hundreds of precious tree frogs.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Fling Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to the randomly chosen winner, Ginny.  Thanks to everyone who participated and make sure you check in later this week for the Spring cleaning giveaway.  

Get steamed

There are some areas of my house that are extremely difficult to clean.  One is the very small space between the back of my sink and the wall.  Can anyone explain to me why this little crack exists other than to drive me bonkers on a daily basis?  I have found the only way to clean this space is also the one that uses no chemicals or products at all, the steamer.  The steamer takes ordinary tap water and heats it to create a sterilizing blast of water that helps clean cracks and dislodge stuck on food like nobodies business.  

And we need to unstick food around here.  The high chair needs serious help.  Small children have the ability to stick food places you never imagined.  Like the underside of my table.  The steamer goes there too.  

It also goes to my absolutely least favorite place to clean, the toilet Tucker uses.  Now if you have never potty trained a young boy, let me fill you in...they have poor aim...every day...several times a day.  Which means the toilet is surrounded by a moat of...well you get the idea.  And the steamer is great for getting this off my tile and out of the cracks. 

If this is more than you needed to know about my son's bathroom habits, I apologize, but I do hope it makes you realize how special the steamer is.  Sterilized clean with no chemicals and no cost (besides the initial out lay for the steamer)...priceless.

Do you have a steamer?  What do you use it for?

Did I mention that I am having a CLEANING GIVEAWAY at the end of this week?  No?  Well I AM!  So make sure you keep tuning in for all the details!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Window Washing

I have a good number of windows.  Most of the time I love this fact.  The one time I am anything less than in love with my windows is every spring when I clean all of them inside and out, as I am this week.  No matter how many windows you have, you no doubt enjoy them less when they are dirty.  So, let's get them clean the green way and make it as easy as possible.  

First step, erase the word "Windex" from your vocabulary.  The bright blue color, the obnoxious smell, the annoying commercial with talking birds, all of it is a very bad sign.  This stuff is AWFUL for the earth and not so hot for you either...can you imagine your kid drinking this stuff?  It does look an awful lot like kool-aid.  

Instead we use...you guessed it, vinegar.  A 50/50 mixture vinegar and water will help your windows achieve a streak free shine.  I usually use a microfiber cloth specifically designed for glass cleaning.  But this week, at the suggestion of reader Emilie, I finally tried newspaper.  I have been saving up our weekly free newspaper for a couple of weeks and have finally used it on the windows.  Here is what I learned...
  • While newspaper will work really well to give you a streak free shine, you have to make sure you don't leave any residue on the window or it will show up.
  • This means to spray less and wipe more.
  • Shiny glossy newspaper pages don't work.
  • Packing paper does work just as well.
  • Newspaper is great for big jobs where a cloth would too quickly get dirty/wet.
  • Newspaper does not scratch the glass like I was afraid of.
  • Newspaper works really well on glass, not so well on the rest of the window (frame).  You might want to stick with a cloth on that.
While you have the newspaper and vinegar solution out, don't forget to hit your bathroom mirrors, microwave, refrigerator (especially if you have kids), and oven.  

The very best part about using newspaper is that when you are done you can put it right into your compost!

Are you off to clean your windows?  Any other window tips I missed?

Don't forget today is the last day to register for the Spring Fling giveaway!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Vinegar

After today there is no way you will be able to doubt the power of vinegar ever again.  Read this article on 10 uses for vinegar and find out why it is liquid cleaning gold.  Ok, did you read it?  Are you amazed?  I was!  And I was already a huge fan!
And here is another.  Use vinegar for mopping!  Mix 3 tablespoons vinegar in each gallon water (I don't actually measure, just pour some in there) and that is all you need for completely clean, totally streak free floors.  As always you can throw in a few drops of essential oil if you are looking for a pretty smell while you mop.  I have used this on hardwood and tile with no problems whatsoever.  I use a plastic mop handle with washable microfiber mop pad.   It works well.  But there is also at least one recycled mop out there if you are in the market.

Don't worry, we aren't done with vinegar yet.  You will see it at least a couple more times this week.  What mopping tips did I miss?  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Cleaning! The basics

Yay!  It's Spring!  Ok, not officially but it's close enough that I am saying Spring has sprung.  And in honor of that, all this week I am cleaning and sharing some of my green cleaning tips with you.  Lucky people!
The first step in green cleaning is realizing why it is important.  I know I have mentioned this a couple times before, but your cleaning products go into your bodies (through your lungs and skin) and into the Earth and water all of us share.  And today's cleaning products are filled with bad news for all of us.  If you don't recognize the name of some of some of this stuff, chances are it's bad for you.  And the question is, why would you want to use stuff that makes you and Mama E sick when there are perfectly good (often way less expensive) green alternatives?
So once you get that (you get it right?) it's important to make sure you have the tools to get a good green clean.  Here are a few basics I always have around, and you will need for this week's tips:
  • Cleaning Cloths. Remember, we want to be able to reuse things so cloths are great.  You can buy the fancy microfiber sets they have out there or use old clothes.  
  • White vinegar. It's a disinfectant AND deoderizer.  Tomorrow you will really start to see what a gift from the Gods white vinegar is, but today just trust me, it's a precious tool.
  • Baking soda. This is another little gem that works wonders on it's own and especially with vinegar.
  • Spray bottle.  Reusable, preferably made out of recycled glass or plastic.
  • Essential oils.  These aren't actually required, but they are fun to have around to spice things up.
That's it!  There will be a few more tools mentioned throughout the week, but 90% of your home can probably be cleaned with only the things mentioned above.  Pretty amazing huh?  

Any basic tools that you use every day that I missed?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sugar, Sugar

After my Zevia review I got a couple questions about the Stevia sweetener that goes into the soda.  Why use Stevia (or other natural sweeteners) instead of sugar? From a green perspective, a lot of people don't realize that sugar has a huge impact on the environment. 

It starts with the tax it takes on the land to grow the sugar.  The wildlife suffers or disappears altogether and the soil fertility declines.  After that the sugar has to be milled.  This uses huge amounts of energy and water and causes chemicals to be introduced to the sugar.  Then the water and chemicals used to process the sugar have to go somewhere...usually back into our soil, lakes, streams, and water supply.  

Not so sweet, huh?  So using naturally occurring sweeteners like Stevia help to make less of an environmental impact.  And as I mentioned before, Stevia is sweet for diabetics too.  

A little bit goes a long way.  So if you are baking with it, make sure to follow directions of exactly how much Stevia to use.  If you are looking for a natural sweetener for larger projects, or just a different taste try organic raw cane sugarXylitol ,Agave nectar.  And see how sweet food that's good for you and the Earth can taste.

What are your favorite eco-friendly sweeteners or sweet treats?

Don't forget about the Spring Fling Giveaway that ends Wednesday!

And make sure you check in tomorrow and all of next week for Green Gracious Spring Cleaning!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Earth Day Books

My son brought home his usual scholastic book order form this week from preschool and I was happily surprised to find all kinds of Earth Day Books! They have Dora , Magic School Bus, Recycling books, etc... All of them are focused on getting your kids to understand the importance of the Earth Day and, well, the Earth.

Of course I always think that leading by example is the very best way to raise little environmentalists, but books help too.

Do you have any favorites for helping to raise little eco-activists?

What great Earth friendly books have you found?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Green Grab Bag 3.13.09

Happy Friday!  I told you it would get cold again in Michigan...it has.  But it is supposed to warm up this weekend so I am looking forward to going outside and getting my hands dirty.

And here is the grab bag of green goodies for this week...

And while you are self-pampering, you should of course do some shopping...or at least browsing.  Read this for some meditation on consumerism first.  Then dive in:
  • Ok, is it just because I adore tea?  Or are these upcycled tea things not the cutest?
  • Yummy green smells.
  • Not only does Sohomode make beautiful skirts and dresses, but unlike other vintage clothing, she makes them in sizes that can fit real women of many sizes.
  • These monogramed pillows made out of 100% recycled plastic felt are definitely on my wish list.
  • I am over the moon about these shirts from Re-shirt that tell the story of where they come from.  Now you can conserve resources, wear history, and feel closer to your fellow human at the same time!

Whew!  That was a lot of good stuff this week.  

Now one really big reason for fighting the good fight!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ringing Cedars Recap

As I mentioned before, I went to the Ringing Cedars of Russia conference this past weekend in Chicago.  It was based on the series of books (featured to the right).  I have to admit the books are a little bit out there but the conference was totally rewarding.  It taught me so much about raising kids, gardening, and how nature is so perfect that almost all the answers we seek can be found there.

There were a couple really interesting facts I took away from it that I wanted to share with you so please read on...

Did you know that the Russian word for garden, "dacha", literally means "to give."
Compare that to the English word "farm" which literally means "to take."
There is this idea growing, especially in light of the current economic times, that people should get back to growing and eating their own food.  This would certainly benefit individuals health and wallets and help the Earth to flourish.  Some Americans might argue that we don't have the space or capability to do that here.  But consider this...

In Russia where there is a severe climate and only 110 day growing season...
Gardeners, not farmers, use 28,800 square miles to grow 53% of the country's food.

In the United States individuals use 72,000 square miles of lawn to create a $25 billion lawn industry.

Seems like we have our priorities a little screwy.  

This is inspiring me to get started this year.  I am really going to start gardening.  I may not be able to do a lot this season, but I am sure going to try.  And I am determined to make my family, my lawn, my food, make a difference.  

Will you join me?