Archive for the ‘green living’ Category

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Have you ever noticed how EXPENSIVE laundry detergent is? I mean, really. It is. And it’s not like you can just decide to save money by not washing your clothes….I HATE being trapped like that.

Besides the cost, laundry detergent has some toxic stuff in it.

Four of the worst offenders are:

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
1,4-dioxane
NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
Phosphates

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of making some household cleaning products at home.  I was uncomfortable with the idea of breathing in chemicals used for cleaning the house, and certainly did not want my children doing so. So when I learned that plain old white vinegar could be used as a cleaner, I was excited. And we switched to doing almost all household cleaning with plain old (and inexpensive) vinegar with water.  It works, it does not smell at all like vinegar once it dries, and I can even let the children help spray and wipe because it’s NON-TOXIC!

Speaking of Toxicity, it’s real, and most commercial cleaning products have high levels of toxins.

Here is a non toxic and extremely inexpensive laundry detergent that you can make easily at home.

Did I mention it was easy? And inexpensive? I mean REALLY inexpensive! These ingredients go a LONG way.

2  Cups – hot tap water

1  cup grated Zote bar (a little less than 1/3 of a 14 oz bar) OR 1 full bar of fels naphtha  (grated)

1/2 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*

½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/4 full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to halfway point with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 5 gallons. (total, after adding additional water to bottles. 2 ½ gallons concentrate.)

Here are my thoughts on this recipe:

I found it to be too watery when I diluted it this much, and therefore ended up using more. So I decided to use it full strength and have continued to use it that way  since. At the time of this posting, I have used this as my only detergent for more than a year and recently upped the concentration by using almost 1 full cup of each of the powders, and have been satisfied with the results. I have tried it with both types of soap and both work fine. My only complaint is the chunkiness…it is not smooth but that dissolves in the machine. It would be helpful to use an immersion blend for this; I might use my vitamix to blend it in batches but am not sure it’s worth the effort.

I also put some in an empty stain treatment spray bottle for pretreating stains. Of course, it will only spray out if it is smooth and diluted slightly.

When I have anything extremely stinky in a load to wash, I will add some vinegar and also some Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner and that certainly does the job!

The BEST Garbage Disposal

I’m into natural things, yes. But hey- I’m civilized.

There are some natural things that have always been just a little too “crunchy” for me. Things that I thought that the other people who did them were sort of, well, either “off the deep end” in this area. And, I suppose, some of these things I wanted to do someday but just absolutely could NOT fathom finding the time to do them.

Here’s my list of some of these things:

  • Growing my own vegetables in a garden
  • Making my own clothes (or really, sewing anything at all that I can use at home instead of buying)
  • Using cloth diapers
  • Having a compost bin
  • Making bread for the family as a rule, and not just for fun
  • Using scented essential oils and herbs and acting as if I believe they actually do something other than smell good
  • Giving birth at home, unassisted
  • Making my own cheese
  • Raising chickens for eggs or having any other farm type animal at all
  • Making my own bath soap, laundry soap, or any other type of cleanser
  • Using cloth anything instead of paper anything simply for the environmental and practical reasons and not only because I enjoy doing so

There’s a joke I heard one time at a comedy show in Jerusalem. You know how there are different types of practicing Jews out there, and the ones who are more strict or observant than you, you might think of as “fanatics” and the ones who do less than you do “aren’t really Jewish”…? (Said tongue in cheek, it’s a joke, please don’t write me blasting my political incorrectness)

The same joke can apply to just about any practice that you do which can be measured in comparison to others. In this case, How Crunchy Am I?

Whatever the answer, of course, realize that anyone who does more than I do MUST be an off-the-deep-end fanatic, and anyone who does less than I do isn’t really into natural health….

A while back I wrote a post describing the things I do and don’t do in the area of natural living AKA crunchiness.

The funny thing is, I guess I’m changing. Or growing. Or just moving along on my journey, because I’m starting to do some of these things.

I used to think that compost was yucky, smelly, gross, and just TOO MUCH for me to do. I was not interested  in carting my garbage anywhere for the sake of making it rot so that I can put it in my garden….especially because I had no garden!

However, the times they are a-changing.  I began my first compost pile about a year ago now, and it’s been a good experience. I’ll let you know what I’ve learned so far.

Why compost? Well, a few reasons.

Environmentally, According to RecycleNow.com ,”Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It’s easy to make and use.”

I have wanted to begin a Square Foot Garden for a very long time. I finally live in a place that has the space I need to be able to do it, and adding compost is a very important element of he garden. It’s expensive and possibly inferior to buy, and so it would be so much easier if I already had it. All gardeners seem to say that it’s just SO necessary. And most sources say how easy it is to do it….well, it was worth a try, I figured.

I started with a heap or pile, and turned it regularly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did not stink, which was my biggest concern. The problem was that when the weather turned rainy I ignored the pile, and because of a lack of walls to build it up, it never really grew and sort of seemed to disappear. By the time the weather turned cold, I stopped bothering with the turning and just threw the stuff on there. So as a result, I never really got the compost. I did, however, make many earthworms happy and help out the water treatment system just a tad by not throwing it down the garbage disposal, so I still felt good about it.

About two months ago we finally began that garden, and I knew it was time to get serious about this composting thing. So I got some chicken wire and bent it to make a cylinder about 4 feet across and 4 feet high, and started again. I raked up all my old compost from whatever I had and began with that. I add all of our kitchen produce scraps, eggshells, and occasionally dryer lint. And I turn it 2-3 times a week. This takes about 15 minutes, but I enjoy the outside time. I turn it by simply lifting the cylinder and moving it to an empty spot, and then shoveling everything back in.

It’s not compost yet, but getting close. Soon it will be time to start another one so that this one can finish ‘cooking’ without having new stuff added all the time.

Yep, I’m becoming a regular homesteading gal. :)

Back To Basics: Why Cast Iron Is the Best Cookware Choice

Non-stick coated pans have always been in my kitchen, for as long as I can remember.  Have you ever tried to cook on anything else?  For many years, I had never even seen a non-non-stick pan….and the first time I experienced attempting to fry an egg on one ( I think it was stainless steel), I vowed never to do it again, if I could help it.

And then I learned about health.  And toxins.  And how toxins affect  your health (I mean in a negative way, of course).  And I looked at my non-stick pans and pretended I didn’t know that my food may be poisoning me just for the fact that I’d cooked it on Teflon (actually called Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE.)

Now, according to Wikipedia, Teflon does not begin to break down and release these toxic chemicals until it reaches 500F.  However, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) states, “In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, elevated cholesterol levels, as well as weakened immune systems.

Now, I’m not saying that using Teflon coated pans is the thing that’s most harmful in your life and that you should concentrate on changing your cookware ahead of  making other changes, such as avoiding aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, or MSG.  It isn’t.

However,  I’m all into getting back to basics lately.  I’m reading through the Little House On The Prairie books with my kids, and I just love the idea of going back to the way things used to be (not that I’m about to give up my Kindle or decide that I no longer want an iPhone or an iPad).  I want old fashioned skills, and as part of my living simply and owning intentionally, I want to have quality items that will not only last, but can be used in a variety of ways.  And if the thing can be used in a survival/off the grid scenario, all the better.

My new cast iron skillet definitely meets those criteria.

And did you know that cast iron IS non-stick if it’s seasoned properly?  Another bonus is that bits of iron make their way into your food and into your body, helping to protect you against anemia, which for most people is a good thing.

I was a little intimidated by the whole “needing to season the pan” thing, and then I saw this brand of cast iron that comes already seasoned, ready to use.  I’d been thinking about it more and more, especially when I tried to make my whole wheat pancakes on the skillet that’s in the new place where we’re staying, and had a really tough time due to the fact that the pan was completely warped and the batter kept running all over the place.  So when I walked into Target and saw it for sale for under $20, it was a no-brainer.

I wonder what Ma Ingalls’ favorite thing to cook on hers was.

For more info, here’s an article from Natural News called “Ten reasons to try cast iron cooking.”

My Newest Kitchen Gadget

I love kitchen gadgets.  And yet, I do show restraint when it comes to acquiring them; I know well how NOT fun it is to have drawers and cabinets that are overflowing with gizmos you use only twice a year (sandwich maker and fondue set) and some which you’ve used….never (deep fryer) but don’t want to let go of just in case you have an A-list guest who simply MUST have fresh, homemade potato chips.

We’ve moved now, and in all my decluttering I DEFINITELY took to heart the concept of owning intentionally. I want to only have things which I will really use (preferably often or in more than one way), and also those which are easy to store or travel with. And if it doesn’t use electricity, that’s an added plus.

I’ve seen these old fashioned mortar and pestles, and always wondered what they were used for and why they were necessary….I mean, if you have a food processor, Vitamix, or even a garlic press, why on earth would you use one of these?

Well, I’ll tell you.  I don’t know.  But I just bought a simple wooden one and I’m excited to use it tonight in the only recipe I have that calls for one: Cuban Black Beans.   It says to crush the garlic with the salt and pepper in this way; I’ve always just chopped it and I’m sure that’s why the dinner has always been only excellent….now it will be FANTASTIC, I’m sure.

In researching now, I see that the wood is highly absorbent, and it might be better to get one made from another substance.  I thought that might be the case, but this one had the right price.  If I really like it and use it, I’ll upgrade.

Here’s a great video of Jamie Oliver teaching how (and why) to use one.  Great info.

But until then, I’m happy to use this one.  I really do like simple, old fashioned things.  Not that I’d give up my high-tech gadgets, mind you.

What’s one of your favorite gadgets (kitchen or otherwise, simple or high tech)?

I am excited to have finally bought myself one of these old fashioned things

No Shampoo For Me

Have you visited the hair-care aisle in your supermarket or pharmacy lately? You may have just gotten used to it, but next time you are there, take a good LOOK.  It’s tremendous!  Cosmetic and drug companies have spend a lot of money (and they’ve done a good job) to convince us that we need these things to make our hair look good.  I know that throughout my life, I’ve tried one conditioner after another, and especially went through an assortment of  “styling products”: mousse, gel, spray, spritz, and glaze.  And these things are not only expensive (as you probably know), but are also full of toxic chemicals which are not only hard on your hair, but also affect the rest of your body.

I have good news for you.  You don’t need them.

There’s a whole movement out there in the healthy/natural lifestyle world.  I only heard of it about a year ago and was intrigued.  It’s called “no poo” (no-shampoo), and it means that you stop using shampoo to wash your hair.

Why would you do this? To recap above:

  1. Shampoo is expensive.
  2. Shampoo is filled with harsh chemicals which are toxic to your body as they both enter your scalp and you breathe in their fumes.
  3. Your body creates natural oils for your hair which are good for it (and meant to be there).  Shampooing often disturbs this occurrence and actually causes your body to make MORE oil (since you took away the oil that was there by shampooing).
  4. Read # 3 again: Shampooing makes your hair MORE oily, not less.

I haven’t shampooed my hair for about 3 months now, and I can officially say that this method works, and works well.   My hair is not oily or stinky, and in fact looks as healthy as ever.  All I need to have to take excellent care of my hair is baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

Basically, you wash your hair with 1 tbsp of baking soda mixed with 1 cup of water, massaging the roots well.  After rinsing,  you condition your hair with 1 tbsp of ACV (apple cider vinegar) mixed with 1 cup of water (an important step for maintaining the proper pH), rinse, and you’re done.

The hardest part for me was to refrain from adding some type of gel to my wet hair, but I am getting used to it.  If I really want to add something to help it hold its position and keep from frizzing, I add a little bit of aloe vera gel, which works just fine.

It is common to have an adjustment period of oilier hair, since your body is used to making extra oil to replace what you’ve been stripping away.  Once your body realizes that you’re not doing that any more, it will reduce the amount it makes.  I didn’t have much of a problem with this, and I think that’s because I was already only shampooing about twice a week (but that’s only my theory).

There are plenty of instructions out there, with variations.  Do a google search on “no poo”, and you’ll get plenty.  Here’s a simple one: How To Go No Poo .  If you are considering trying this (which I encourage you to do), you should definitely spend a few minutes researching. If you’d like more detailed information, you can download The No Shampoo Method e-book for a few dollars.

And if you’re looking for a community of no-pooers, “like” the No Shampoo Method on Facebook.

I have a desire for a simple, non-toxic lifestyle in which I spend as little money as necessary and don’t need to worry about running out of, buying, or needing to store lots of STUFF.   So since I can  also use baking soda for brushing my teeth and cleaning, and apple cider vinegar as a wonder-tool as well, this definitely fits my criteria for intentional owning.

Now it’s time to get the rest of the family with the program…

Baking Soda Works for Me!

Yesterday I shared my new quest for a more simplistic lifestyle.  In doing so, I’m not only massively decluttering, flylady style to get rid of “extra” stuff, but I’m trying to go greener, cleaner, and all-around more purposeful. FamilyNatural style.

One of the ideas I’d been tossing around my head for awhile was going “no poo,” meaning not using traditional shampoo. I have begun that endeavor and will post about that soon (update: here’s the post), but the reason I bring it up now is that in doing so, I employ what is quickly becoming my new good friend: sodium bicarbonate AKA baking soda.

I’d also been thinking about toothpaste and wanting to make my own less expensive, all natural alternative, and also am using my new good friend: baking soda.

I’m seeing a trend here.

Just thinking of the things I won’t need to buy or store (because I can use baking soda instead) makes me feel inspired in an “I’m headed for a simpler life” – kind – of – a – way.

Here’s a great article listing 40 uses for baking soda. I can’t wait to try more of them out.

And as far as the toothpaste thing, all I did was mix some baking soda with a little sea salt. I dip my moistened brush in and use. It’s definitely salty tasting, but boy, does my mouth feel clean afterward! As soon as I can get my hands on some mint oil, I’ll add that in.

I like the looks of this recipe from Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey, 2007) By Stephanie Tourles.

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
1 drop peppermint, spearmint, sweet orange, clove, or cinnamon bark essential oil
A few drops tap water

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix them thoroughly with a toothbrush, your finger, or a small spoon until a smooth, thick paste forms. The paste shouldn’t be too runny; it has to stay on your toothbrush.

Dip your toothbrush into the paste and use as you would regular commercial toothpaste.

Baking Soda is one of those things that definitely works for me. What’s your favorite way to use it?

What Do You NEED?

Have you seen these tiny houses?

I have 5 children, 2 dogs, and a cat.  I grew up as an only child (own bedroom) with plenty of space to call my own.  Sure, I shared bedrooms in college, but for the most part I’ve had tons of space, always.

I’ve lived with boxes that I never unpacked from the last move, and then moved again.  Boxes of things that hadn’t been opened for years.

I’ve held on to shoes I never wear since they’re uncomfortable, because, well, I already have them, so…why not?

Why not is because the clutter taketh us over…..it’s time to simplify.

No more owning things we don’t use or don’t want.  No more shoving things just anywhere because they don’t have a place they belong.  You’ve heard of “living intentionally?”  Well, I want to own intentionally.

I want to be a family that will have no problem living in a small house (like this family) or, better yet, be mobile.  I’d love to be able to easily transport all of our belongings easily, and for us to be comfortable sleeping on our sleeping bags wherever we go, whether we’re indoors or in tents.

I recently stopped using shampoo (more on this in another post).  I’m the guinea pig, but I hope to get the rest of the family on the program once I get the hang of it.  Besides being better for our health (and our finances), think of the simplicity of being able to use only household products (like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and eggs) for our hair and not needing to buy or store (or move, if we’re traveling) shampoo, conditioner, and hair gel.  Less stuff, simpler life.

I’m planning to get a Kindle soon and then we can have books we like to refer to and re-read every so often on one little device, and not need to store (or carry, if we’re mobile) so many books! We LOVE books. But do we really need to OWN so many of them?

Less stuff, simpler life.

I know we’re too many people to fit into one of these. But looking at these pictures is inspiring to me.  To me, this says: SIMPLICITY.

What changes have you made, or would you like to make, to simplify your life?

Gender-Bending Chemical on Receipts

You’ve probably heard of BPA. If not, here’s a one minute lesson: Bisphenol A, also known as BPA has been known as a synthetic estrogen since the 1930’s.

“Bisphenol A is used primarily to make plastics, and products containing bisphenol A-based plastics have been in commerce for more than 50 years. At least 8 billion pounds of BPA are used by manufacturers yearly. It is a key monomer in production of epoxy resins and in the most common form of  polycarbonate plastic.  Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. (Wikipedia)

The problem is that it’s bad for our health. Not just bad like toxic and so we need to detox, but bad like it disrupts our endocrine systems because it mimics estrogen. So kids who are hitting puberty at earlier ages have BPA at least partly to thank for that. What ore other health effects of BPA?

Scientists have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities in adults as well as brain and hormone development problems in fetuses and young children. Other tests have shown that bisphenol A can promote human breast cancer cell growth, decrease sperm counts in rats, and cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems  in men. (Source)



OK, here’s where I was suprised, and hence decided to write this blog post on the evils of BPA. I found out another place it’s found almost all the time, and we who go out and about buying things from stores get on our hands….RECEIPTS. Yes, receipt paper. Almost all receipt paper from gas stations, fast food restaurants, etc contain bisphenol A.

And while it is too big a molecule to be absorbed through your skin, (only small molecules can get into skin cells) if you touch your food with BPA, the chemical gets in you. This happens when you eat canned food or touch your burger bun after taking your receipt. Just one receipt has more than 1000 times as much BPA as baby bottles or canned foods. (source)

The good news is that all you have to do is wash your hands after handling a store receipt before touching your mouth or handling food. Also, one company is starting to produce BPA-free receipt paper.

The tougher thing to do is to eliminate plastics in your environment. While it’s virtually impossible to get rid of all of them, there are many that we can live without. I recently came across a few individual-sized glass water bottles. Since I seem to get water spilled on my laptop, I have a new rule of no open water containers near the computer; this is a good solution for me since I need to have water nearby to drink.  I’ve also been trying to allow myself to feed the children on ceramic and glass instead of the plastic kids’ dishes we have; it does mean more broken dishes though. Definitely not as convenient.

Of course limiting or eliminating the use of canned foods (BPA in the lining definitely contaminates the food you eat) is a good thing; with some planning you can eat fresh or fresh-frozen veggies instead. They have more nutrition and taste as well.

What steps have you or could you take to eliminate some of the plastics or other BPA containing products  in your environment?

Think Before You Pink

It’s October. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Are you aware of Breast Cancer? Did you realize that one in EIGHT women are diagnosed with it?

Whether or not you are genetically at risk, the biggest factors are the CHEMICALS YOU ARE EXPOSED TO. You can do something about this.  And spending money on a pink bucket of fried chicken is NOT the way to do it.

That’s right, even KFC is getting in on searching for a “cure” for breast cancer. Here’s an ABC article about the pink buckets from KFC.

I’ve recently seen some videos about breast cancer and preventing it.  I share them with you.

The first, supports an organization. I’m neither in favor or against the organization per say, but I do like the message in the video and thought it was well done.

Apparently this Christina Pirello has a TV show called Christina Cooks. I’ve been out of the country and away from TV for so long that I was not aware of it, but it seems like a good show; she takes traditional meals and teaches you how to make the healthier version. Here’s the link to her show site; there’s a great video there demonstrating clips from her show. Seems like a good watch.  Anyway, here she is discussing Breast Cancer Awareness.

A Wake-Up Story, by Healthy Child Healthy World

This video is amazing. I’m inspired.

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