Thursday, April 30, 2009

Polish 'er up!

I am a silver girl.  Ok, sometimes white gold, but mostly silver.  But the problem with silver is that it tarnishes.  Before I went green I had this silver polish that was so toxic I got a migraine every time I had to use it.  Since going green my silver has been sadly neglected...until today.  

I had heard that one could polish silver with a baking soda paste.  So today I broke out the jewelry box that my brother gave me years ago that I haven't cleaned or polished since and gave it some TLC.  

I started with my tarnished box and my baking soda paste (just combine enough baking soda and water to get paste consistency, a little goes a long way).  I applied the paste directly to the box and scrubbed with a hard bristled brush (old toothbrush will work fine).  I found circular motions worked best.  Here it is half finished so you can see the difference.

And here it is after about 10 minutes total elbow grease and a little baking soda paste.

Best of all, no headache!  Now on to the jewelry.  What do you think?  Have you tried this?  Are you going to?  Any tips?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's in the water?

Back when I did my post on recycling Brita filters, Lisa kindly asked my opinion on well water.  Well (no pun intended), I have to be honest and say at the time I didn't have one because I was drastically uneducated on the subject.  I don't think I would say that I am now educated, but I did read a bit in O Magazine that addresses the subject that I wish to share with all of you.

"If you have a private well, the EPA recommends that you test for bacteria and nitrates yearly.  These contaminants can enter your well through cracked ground pipes or in runoff from snow and rain,  Depending on where you live, you may also need to periodically test for arsenic, radium, radon, and several other dangerous substances.  These occur naturally in the soil and water in certain areas of the country (radon, for example, is an issue in northeastern states).  Your county health department can tell you what to check for and direct you to certified testing laboratories..."  It goes on to say, "Should a test detect lead or pesticides, a simple filter-either a pitcher with a filtering device built in or a faucet-mounted system (look for one that is NSF certified)-is all a healthy adult needs...But if bacteria turns up or if you have children, are pregnant or elderly, or have a chronic disease, invest in a more thorough filter, such as a reverse osmosis system."  -O Magazine, May 2009

Of course I trust the editorial prowess of the staff at O, but I wanted to make sure to get you the whole story.  So I found you the EPA website which answers all the questions you might have, I think.

So what do you think?  Do you have a well?  Do you get it tested?  Have you ever found anything to be concerned about?  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Drywall screws

Since last Tuesday we discussed uses for drywall buckets (and y'all had some clever ones), I thought this week we could look at drywall screws.   I loved the ideas offered by This Old House.  I can't wait to try the stopper and drain snake tips.   How creative!

I have used drywall screws for a couple different things.  The first is as my own hook system.  I put some in my closet to hang purses, robes, ribbons, etc... on.   I like them better then regular nails because they stay put, tend to be stronger, and the spirals keep things from slipping.  You could even use them to hang necklaces, separating by spirals.  

Another thing I have used them for is kids tools (older kids) in play dough.  Both the head of the screw sand the spirals make unique patterns. 

What about you?  What have you used drywall screws for?  What do you want to use them for now?

Monday, April 27, 2009

My first vlog! With EcostoreUSA!

I have a very special treat for you today!  I have made my first ever vlog!  EcostoreUSA hired me to go to Meijer this weekend to help promote the launch of the EcostoreUSA products in Meijer stores and get feedback on how people felt about the new availability of green clean.  These are some of the most affordable green cleaning products I have seen.  You can also check out EcostoreUSA Facebook fan page. 

What do you think?  Do you like the vlogging?  Do you want to see more of it?  Are you going to check out EcostoreUSA?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Buy big or go home

Last weekend when we went to Grand Rapids to see the butterflies, we also made an epic trip to Costco.  Now for those of you who don't know, Costco is a big box store that sells things in bulk for cheaper then most stores.  This is great for two reasons, 1. It's much more affordable to buy things in bulk.  2. It cuts down on packaging and trips to the store, therefore helping our planet.  

We were especially excited because we do not have a Costco near us and could find many organic products in bulk there that we typically pay 2-3x more for at our small health food store that is a ways from our house.  

Now we have a list of all the products we love from Costco and are putting a list together for my mom so she can get us our favorites every month when she comes to visit.  Some of our favorites are baking soda and vinegar (for cleaning), organic PB & J (boys' lunches), and organic instant oatmeal (boys' breakfasts). Saving the Earth, saving $-you know I love it!

Do you big box it?  What's your favorite store?  Any tips for buying in bulk?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Babyganics Review

Babyganics was recently kind enough to send me their Healthy Home Essentials Kit to try out. Babyganics is  a company that was founded by two dads who wanted products that are safer for their kids and the planet but still really effective.  The Healthy Home Essentials Kit cost $19.99 and includes samples of everything I needed to get my house and my kids clean.  

The Grime Fighter-All Purpose Household Cleaner
I loved this all purpose cleaner!  I used it everywhere (including mirrors and windows) and it worked like a charm!  This is truly fragrance free which is perfect for those looking for a safe all purpose cleaner that doesn't smell like vinegar or toxic chemicals.

While I am really not a fan of the disposable wipe fad, if you are going to use them, I guess it is better to use those that are less toxic and biodegradable.  I tried them out in my car where I don't like to spray the dashboard and they worked surprisingly well, even helping to clean things that I hadn't been able to in the past.

I love the way this bottle sat on my sink top just waiting for me to put a few pumps in a sink-ful of water...although you can just put it on the sponge too.  It cleaned well and washed off easily.

This was the only product I wasn't really a fan of.  The scent was too strong and unnatural for my taste.  The ingredients claim that this is "natural fragrance" but I am not sure what that means and it does not smell very natural, not at all similar to something like an essential oil.  And while I love that the spray bottle is non-aerosol spray bottle, there is a lot of pumping for very little amount of spray each time.   The one thing I can say for it is that it was pretty effective in removing smells, if even for covering them up with a stronger one.

The handy little bottle this hand sanitizer came in fit perfectly in my diaper bag for use at play dates and even the zoo.  I let the other moms in my play group try it and we all liked it, although one of them complained that it was sticky for a few minutes.  It was nice not to have the smell associated with typical sanitizers though.  

You know I am a stickler for packaging, and this came in a little too much.  The box was slightly too big and they used plastic instead of paper filler.  The good news is that the plastic bottles the products themselves are packaged in are just darling so you can reuse each of them for your own cleaning and air freshening concoctions if you are into that sort of thing (if your not please reuse for something else, give away, or recycle).  

For the most part I was extremely pleased with my Babyganics experience and think it is an excellent option for those people looking for a less do-it-yourself cleaning method.  What do you think?  Worth a try?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Green Grab Bag 4.24.09

Happy Friday!  This week putting together the Green Grab Bag is really interesting for me because of the way different bloggers have reacted to Earth Day.  So I have included some of the different takes on the event here.  Enjoy!
Before you check out this week's shopping links-look at gardening like you can't go to the store. 
And finally, a long but worth it video on the Future of Food.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Giveaway Winner: My Natural Bamboo Collection

The random number generator has chosen #23, Lisa, as  the winner of the My Natural Collection Bamboo Panda winner.  Lisa said:
Lisa said...

I just saw these at B&N the other day. I bought their coloring books! Fun giveaway!

Real Purity Mascara Review

Ok ladies, am I right in saying that when it comes to makeup, mascara is one of the absolute essentials? Even when I don't get any other makeup on, I always try for mascara and lip gloss before I go out. I have been using Real Purity mascara now for over 6 months. Real Purity was the first logical choice I came across when replacing my toxic store-brand mascara that fit my requirements for understandable, clear, and acceptable ingredients, and a price point that is similar to the store-brand (especially because this is a product I bought for myself).

At $12.99 a bottle, Real Purity is not too drastically priced above the very toxic drugstore brands which run $5-$15 a bottle depending on what you use. Beyond the price, the only other downfall that people may find is that it is not waterproof. This is because the ingredients that make that possible are incredibly toxic. But I can say that in the time I have been using it I have been running, sweating, in the rain in it and it has held up pretty darn well. If you jump into a large body of water, you are probably going to have some running, so be prepared.

The benefits far outweigh the downfalls. This mascara gives great coverage with few coats, doesn't clump, and lasts for a really long time. Best of all, it's keeping chemicals away from you and the Earth and to me, it doesn't get better than that.

Have you switched over on the mascara front yet? What are you using? What's in it? How do you like it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day 2009!

In case you hadn't heard, it's Earth Day today!  You probably know this already as everyone is trying to catch in on the Earth Day glory and the going green fad.  Everywhere you look someone is advertising a way to go green.  Just remember that this Earth day, all Mama E really needs is us to cherish her more and consume less.  And that's something that we try to do here on Green Gracious every day.  So I am not going to make a big hooplah, but rather ask you to take a small challenge with me. 

The challenge is called Nine in 2009.  It involves finding nine new things you can do to help the planet in a low consumerism kind of way this year.  You can replace your toxic things with friendlier solutions, change your habits, or grow some new ones.  So whether you look through Green Gracious to find nine new things to do, or already have some you have done or are trying, will join us in trying for Nine in 2009?  

What have you already done?  What do you plan on doing?  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Drywall bucket

At the end of last week I set to the task of cleaning out my garages.  They were long due for it and once it got started it was quick easy work, except for one thing, all the random little toys that were laying around all three garages.  Where do all these toys come from and what's a girl to do with them?  I quickly found the solution in a bucket I had left over from Charlie's Soap.    I threw the toys in, popped the lid on, and set it in the corner for quick and easy kid access.  I have also used these buckets to hold soapy water for washing the car or dog, clean water for rinsing off said car or dog, and hauling rocks out of the place where I hope to have my garden.

Here is the official list of 10 other uses for a drywall bucket.  There must be at least thousands of uses.  What are a few of yours?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Butterfly Garden Observations

This weekend my family and I visited the Fredrick Meijer Gardens and butterfly exhibit.  It was great to have the boys exposed to and appreciating a new aspect of nature.  The more they experience the more they can see the need to protect and respect our environment.

No matter where I go I am always on the lookout for Mama E friendly happenings.  I was on the lookout at the gardens as usual, but the first thing I found was a toxic eye opener.  This is an employee cleaning the inside of the glass case where the butterflies emerge from their cocoons with toxin filled Sparkle Glass Cleaner.  If the smell was giving me a headache, I can only imagine what it was doing to the butterflies.  

There was an uplifting eco-find later in the trip though.  When we got outside into the gardens I came across this amazing sculpture art made out of upcycled bicycle parts.  I think they are beautiful and fun and inspire me to get creative with the things I have.

So tell me, what eco-observations have you made lately?  What, good or bad, has been inspiring you to make a difference?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A word on product review

Apparently out here in the blogosphere there is a lot of hooplah surrounding product reviews.  Because a lot of what I do here is tell you about things that I have tried, many of them products, and because I always want to be upfront and honest with you; here is my schpiel on product review:
  • I will always try to tell you up front whether I purchased the product myself or if it was sent to me by a company (for free) for review.  
  • I will always be up front and honest about my feelings on a product, even if it was sent to me for free for review.
  • I will never recommend a product to you unless I would buy it and use it in my home with my family.  
  • I will answer any questions you have about products openly and honestly, regardless of how they were acquired. 
Make sense?  Ok then, moving on.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

It always amazes me what I can find when I set my mind to replacing all things we run out of with green alternatives.  My most recent surprise came about when my husband came to me and told me that we had run out of envelopes and needed more.  We don't use a lot of envelopes, so it has been years since we last purchased the ones that we had, dating back to a pre-green period.
So I logged on to the masterful internet and ran a search for "recycled envelopes."  I came up with a couple different options.  The first, the one I ended up purchasing, are the brown Envirotech Recycled Security Envelopes.  I really liked these for a few reasons:
  • They are made with 100% recycled materials.
  • They are natural security envelopes just from their color of being recycled
  • There are a lot in each box so I won't have to reorder for a long time and save on shipping costs and resources.
  • They are almost the exact same price as non-recycled envelopes.  The cheapest box of 500 non-recycled security I found was $19.  These were only $24.
If you aren't into the brown, I also found these white ones.  But be warned that they are only 30% recycled and are not security envelopes.  

Envelopes may seem like a silly thing to get excited about, but this was a reminder to me that I can change just about everything by just looking a tiny bit further.

Has anyone else switched their envelopes yet?  Where have you found the best deals?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Green Grab Bag 4.17.09

I hope you are all having a splendid week.  I am really loving my new flowers.  I planted the bulbs in the fall and had never done it before so I was pleasantly surprised when the bright blooms popped up this week.  Now if I could just convince my son to stop cutting them down with sticks.

I hope you enjoy this week's green grab bag.  
And now (yes, they are back) this week's shopping links:
  • This video advertising an organic clothing doesn't so make me want to put clothes on, but it definitely gets the viewers attention.
  • Green and Natural parenting brings us reports on green pots and pans and washer and dryer (this one's for you Debbie).
  • I have been lusting after one of these soda makers, which are now at Kohl's.
And finally, why we need to keep making changes..

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: John Master's Organics Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Gel

You may recall my review of John Master's Organics Sea Mist.  At the same time I purchased that,  also bought the John Masters Organics Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Styling Gel.  I have been using that more now and I thought I would tell you about my experience.  

The gel definitely gives my hair more definition and control then the mist and performs very similarly to how my old toxic gels did.  It gets crunchy if you use too much but provides much better hold and bouncy ringlets.   Again, this is for curly hair, I am not sure what it would be like on wavy to straight hair.  It has a couple big benefits over the toxic gels though being that it a.) isn't full of nasty chemicals that ultimately strip my hair and b.) smells way better...not like fake added fragrance smell, but like actual oranges!
I'll admit that the ingredients are more complicated than the sea mist but they are still easily understandable and it's clear to see that they don't include many of the toxic chemicals contained in your typical run-of-the-mill drugstore gel.  I broke out some of my husband's Aussie brand gel for comparison.  I think it's great that we have this gel to compare because I think it's a brand most people might think "Hey, that's natural and earth friendly!" when they see it and never stop to compare ingredients.  Do you know what laureth-23 is? Polyquaternium-4?  Acrylates/Beheneth-25 methacrylates copolymer?  And those are all just in the top 6 ingredients!  Here's a clue, if the company won't give you the ingredients on their website, they probably don't want you to know them.

So when I tell you that the John Master's gel cost $17.50/8 oz., I know you may scoff at the price.  But please believe me when I say that it lasts, like most things organic and good, longer than the typical product.  And even for us while we try to watch our budget very closely, it's worth it to know I can read and understand what I am putting on (and in by default) my body.  

What are your thoughts on gels?  Can you believe what's in the typical stuff?  Is there a great non-toxic brand you found you want to share?  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A literal family tree

My husband and I have been thinking a lot lately about how we want our yard to look and what kinds of plants we would like to grow.  We were really lucky to have landscaping with so many native plants that don't need watering in place when we moved here.  We have thoroughly enjoyed those for almost 3 years now and are now realizing that it's time to put in some work of our own.

One of the things my husband told me was, "We have enough trees.  No more trees."  Which I countered with, "But honey, we have no fruit trees, and we do eat a lot of fruit."  My husband, being a practical man, saw the wisdom in this and agreed that we could plant some fruit trees. Score!  He's on board.  But (and I think I have mentioned this before) my husband is not only practical, but frugal and is not a big fan of buying a bunch of fruit trees.  

Mom to the rescue!  My mother calls me up last week and says, "You know, Grandma and Grandpa have a great pear tree and you could just grow one right off of theirs.  I told them you would be by Easter weekend to get it started."  Great!  After getting a detailed description from my mom on how to do this, I headed over to my grandparents this weekend to start my own pear tree.  
The process goes something like this:
  • Pick a small branch that sticks straight up in the air.
  • Scratch the bottom of the branch down past the green to the inner wood in a couple places.  The length of scratches should be twice as long as the diameter of the branch. 
  • Cut the top off a 2 liter soda bottle and punch two small holes right next to each other towards the top.
  • Feed a rope through the two holes.
  • Place the bottle small down over the branch.
  • Secure the bottle to a near by (sturdy) branch with the rope. 
  • Place small stones in the small side of the bottle (now the bottom).
  • Place a couple scoops of dirt/compost over the rocks.  Be sure it covers up the scratched part of the branch.  
  • Leave until Fall.
Now hopefully in the Fall I will go back and the parts of the branch I scratched will take root in the soil. I will then cut it off below the roots and plant it at home! I love the idea that I am taking a little piece of my grandparent's tree which they have taken care of and has taken care of them for so long. It is a literal, family tree
I am sorry I didn't take more pictures.  I was a wee bit frazzled with the whole process.  If you have any questions I will be happy to try to answer them and if you have a better way of explaining it, please, share!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Egg Carton

So on this Tuesday following Easter I thought it might be a good idea to focus on practical (and fun) uses for the many egg cartons that many of us probably have lying around.  So here are the 10 uses for egg cartons suggested by This Old House.

And I found these ADORABLE crafts that you can make with your kids to utilize egg cartons. Celebrate Spring with this pig and this bee.  Or make a bouqet of flowers, tulips, and roses.

Any brilliant egg carton uses?  How was your holiday if you celebrate?