Finding Balance, With Cleaning Solutions

Zen Like Balance Demonstrated

Weeks ago, I posted about the Environmental Working Groups’s Safe Cleaning DatabaseSurprisingly, most of my cleaning products were rated poorly. Oh, and if you are wondering – I really did upgrade my cleaners to better choices.

Now, my big no-no areas were the dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent I was using.  So, with the guidance of the Environmental Working Group, I upgraded to Seventh Generation dry dishwasher detergent and I started using Dr. Bronners soap for the laundry.  (Disclaimer – there are other more standard choices for laundry soap that are rated well but my girls tend to break out into eczema so I decided to go as plain as possible). 

love hate to brag, but the rest of my cleaning was green before and is still quite green.  I have found love with using vinegar and water as an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant.  I am free of having to smell bleach fumes.  Also, I love the Bon Ami cleaner for bathroom surfaces.

However, I started to realize that I wasn’t going to get a complete A+ on the green cleaner plight.

So, we have really, really hard water coming from our well and that can be a pain in the tookus with certain things cleaning-wise.  The Seventh Generation dish detergent did well for a few weeks but ultimately did not keep the glasses from looking spotty.  Also, a brown haze began to show on our coffee cups after a few weeks.

So, here is where I give completely up on the green cleaner?

Nope.

I deciced that ultimately, I do need some harsh detergent.  However, I don’t need it for every single wash.  The Seventh Generation works fine most of the time but every now and then I need to do a week or so of the harsher stuff.

Also with my laundry, Dr. Bronner’s soap will clean my clothes just fine but it is just plain soap so there aren’t any whitening agents.  Eventually whites will get dingy when washed with plain soap.  So, I find some balance in washing my whites in the Tide Free and Clear .  I wash all of the darks, towels, undies and socks in the Dr. Bronners soaps.  I actually have more loads that I wash with the Dr. Bronners than with the Tide, so most of the time I am being good to the environment.

Okay, I suppose  I could just buck-up and not care about dingy whites or spotty and/or brownish glass residue.  But, I am weak.

I would estimate that others are weak too, so that’s why I’m writing this.

…you’re welcome.

Anyway – my point being, maybe it isn’t always possible to commit yourself to the greenest cleaner available.  However, mostly using the greener cleaner and bringing the harsher cleaner once in awhile is a good way that I have found balance in my cleaning routine.

What are your favorite green cleaners?  What areas have you had to use harsh cleaners?  Could you find balance?

Easy Green – Buy Recycled Paper Products

Want to save trees, water and energy all in one action?  An easy way to be green is to purchase your paper products with recycled content.  My goal is generally to buy with as much recycled content as possible.

Toilet Paper – Recycled regular paper made into toilet paper – what were you thinking I meant?

All kidding aside – people are very specific about the feel of their toilet paper – so I suggest buying a brand that at least has some percentage of recycled content.  I buy Marcal Small Steps brand – and I’ve been really happy with it – it is 100% recycled content and the 1000 sheets bath tissue is very similar to Scott brand (which has always been my favorite kind).

Printer Paper – This takes some forethought generally because if you pick up some at the grocery store or local drug store they may only offer non-recycled paper.  You will enjoy more selection online or at an office supply store .

I found that printer paper seems to be the most price sensitive to recycled content – I think a good price/benefit compromise is 30% recycled content.  However, if you go higher – you get bonus points.

My girls are both artists so we go through paper pretty quickly here.  Of course almost all of the drawings are then recycled… Please don’t tell on me.  (o;

My Humble Cloth Pile

Paper Towels and Napkins – Okay… I haven’t actually bought paper towels in a long time.  However, when I have been cornered into buying some, I always look for as much recycled content as possible.

Yeah, well what do we do about bacon, you ask?  Try laying it over a cooling rack and letting the grease drip to a plate below… you’re welcome.

Anyways, what I use are dish cloths and old cloth baby diapers to wipe down my counters.  I keep a stash of nice-er cloth napkins to wrap snacks in for the girls.

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Super Cute but… is it Practical???

I’ve got to say – I keep seeing this set-up on Pinterest and while I admire the cuteness of it and the intention to reuse… I think it’s going to look like that once all snapped together in a roll and then eventually end up in a pile like mine anyways.  Also – how annoying would those snaps be in the dryer or as you are trying to clean?

Okay, that said – if someone gave me some for Christmas I would secretly love it…

Green Forest White Facial TissueFacial Tissue – This one is something I need to work on.  So far I have been faithfully buying the ‘with lotion’ kind feeling very sorry for myself.  However, I pledge here and now to try a box of tissue with recycled content.

Something else that you could do for an ouchie nose is cut up an old tee-shirt (one that’s too used up to donate) and use that for kleenex… nice and soft and it was going to end up in a land fill anyways.

Did I Miss Anything?  What recycled products do you routinely buy?  Have you stopped buying one type of product altogether and opted for a reuseable option?  Did you buy the snapped together roll of cute cloths and are offended by my review?  Let me know in the comments!  (o;

Halloween Fun

Proof of Fall Fun

We have been so busy lately – I haven’t planned much Halloween fun.  Although, I have proof that we have had some fall themed fun.  OH – just incase you were wondering, the girls were riding bikes while I was raking leaves. 

Looks like I have a few days left anyways before Halloween.  

Here is a round-up of fun Halloween things that are also eco-friendly.  Clicking on the pictures will bring you to the websites with tutorials.

Paper Mache Spooky Houses:

Make a spooky Victorian looking house out of newspaper and a flour/water mix.  This would make a truly cool decoration that we could pull out year after year.  Hope those aren’t candles inside…

Upcycled Tombstones:

Make your front yard look super scary with these cool tombstones. 

Green Halloween: 13 Eco-Creepy Crafts & Decor

 

Add Fun (or Scary) Color to Your Hair:

Actually, I am planning on adding very light whitish-green streaks to Jane’s hair for her costume as ‘Frankie-Stein’.  This might be fun for any occasion.  All you need is chalk and some water – when I did this with Jane’s hair, I didn’t bother with gloves or a hot iron and it turned out fine. 

For Spooky-Time After the Kids Have Gone to Bed

Super-fun – martinis that look like they are dripping in blood!  They use red cake decorating gel here – but you could also make a simple syrup with sugar and add some red food coloring.  I like the nice touch of the raven stamped on the napkin… although this being a green site, I would suggest cloth napkins (o;

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Apple Nachos:

Yeah, seriously – right?  This is a viable option for me because I’m too impatient to get the caramel just right for dipping a whole apple.  Also, this is good for grab-and-go at a party.  However, I think this is sprinkled all over with peanuts… we would go no peanuts for our peanut-free home.

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Hope you enjoyed these fun ideas.  What kinds of things do you have planned for Halloween?

How Low Can I Go With My Thermostat?

It’s that time again – time to start thinking about when to turn the furnace on. We usually like to hold out until October which is… tomorrow 🙂 It’s definitely fall in New England, the trees are turning color, the pears on our pear tree are ready for picking, the air is crisp…

…and its getting pretty stinkin’ cold in our house.

We used to set the thermostat in cold weather to 68-70 deg F and that was definitely comfortable. But… sometimes we were hanging around the house in tee shirts and even the girls (when young) would sometimes be comfortable in just their diapers.

One day, it occurred to me that I should put my collection of lovely sweaters to use and see how low could we go with the thermostat.

I was also insprired by a gal that owns a shop in town that said her doctor suggested she keep the thermostat at 60 deg F all the time to prevent her family from getting colds or the flu. I don’t know if I really buy that advice…(comment if it is really a legit thing), but it was a paradigm changer for me nonetheless because that’s the point where I thought… you know, I could go cooler and just wear a sweater.

So, How Low Can You Go?

It turns out that with appropriate cold-weather indoor wear ~ socks (or slippers), long pants and a shirt with a sweater or sweatshirt we can comfortably set the thermostat at 65 deg F. Oh, and I am pretty sensitive actually if it falls below 65 – I can definitely tell when we are on our way to 64 or 63 and I don’t like it, so I think we’re as low as we can go.

What About  at Night?

At night, we let the thermostat slip to 60 deg F- I’m sure there are arguments for going cooler… we’ve thought about it but haven’t done the night-time how low can you go challenge yet.  My excuse for not doing it before was that Megan still slept in a crib without any blankets but I don’t have that excuse anymore now that she’s bigger and in a real bed.  Maybe I will try that and then write a post about it.  It occurred to me that long ago, people would wear hats to bed, I don’t know if I am that hardcore.

With our propane heat costing upwards of $3.00 per gallon, and needing 1-2 tank fills per year,  our heating bill defintiely adds up. So, looks like our how low can you go challenge and our sweaters are saving us some money in the long term.

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What do you keep your thermostat at during the day? What do you keep it at during nighttime? Would you be willing to try the how low can you go challenge?

How to Rid a Kitchen of Flour Moths Naturally

I guess I have been lucky because I’ve been living in New England for 12 years and this is the first year that I have been plagued with flour moths.  I had noticed that many New Englanders put unusual things in storage containers such as the contents of a box of cereal.  I always thought… so why would you do that if there is a perfectly good box and bag that the cereal already comes in?

Why?  Because of these guys:

But, where to get a bunch of containers ASAP?

Well, it turns out I didn’t need a bunch of containers ASAP because I had to throw most of my dry goods away pronto.  Bag after bag of rice, nuts, beans were infested with their little tiny eggs and maggot-looking larva.  The larva can actually eat right through an unopened plastic bag – and they can eat right through a cardboard (think oatmeal) box or cylinder.

Okay, what’s grosser than gross?  Before I realized that these foods were infested, I’m sure I ate some of those eggs mixed in with powdered sugar or flour.    Uhg… extra lean protein I suppose.

It was time to consult with Google, who directed me to the following resources:

Wikipedia: Indian Meal Moth

Colorado State Extention

What to Throw Away

Anything that wasn’t in a glass, metal or hard plastic container was dumped into my beautiful compost bin guerilla style.  It was really gross when I discovered a really infested bag of something.  It was also tough to let go of that much food, even though it was infested.  I think it was a win-win situation though; I get them immediately out of my house and they get to live in a giant bin of food.

So, the next thing to do was to vacuum out the cabinet, making sure to get all of the eggs that were expertly crammed into the corners and along the edges.  Also, I had to vacuum up two gross cocoons that had appeared on the ceiling.

Are you still reading?  Hmm – okay cool, I’ll go on…

Moth Proof Containers are the Only Ones Left Standing

Cleaning out the Cabinet

Finally, I sprayed the whole cabinet down with my trusty vinegar and water spray to kill any missed eggs.  Some websites recommend spraying bleach cleaner but that all you need to do the job is vinegar.

Good.

Eggs gone – check

Access to food gone – check

Keeping them Gone Long-term

So, to knock them out for good; anytime I bring home something in a plastic bag or box the contents will need to go directly into a tightly sealed storage container.  Effectively removing Indian Flour Moth larva supply of food and stopping their lifecycle dead in its tracks.  You can buy pesticides to spray in the corners and traps for the adult male moths but this should do the trick without any of that nicely.

About gaining containers, I did get a bunch of containers from Mat’s grandma’s yard sale pile.  Also, my Hannaford Brand Organic coffee tins provide a slow but steady stream of medium sized containers.  I know I could go out and buy a bunch and I probably will need to buy some however I would rather try and find things used or reuse stuff.

Do my Green Cleaning Products Make the Grade?

I am very excited to finally get to play around with the newly released Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.  EWG has a searchable database of safety ratings for cleaning products. 

I try to buy things for cleaning that are safe for my family and also have a low impact on the environment.  Up until now, I have tried to choose items that are a ‘green’ brand or seem pure with having ‘free and clear’ on the label.  Here are my main go-to products:

I know the Labels are Backwards… Struggling with WordPress…

Well, what do I clean the toilet with then you ask? 

I don’t do toilets. 

…Just kidding, I scrub with the Bon Ami and disinfect with the vinegar.  Okay, so I’ve made a serious attempt to be crunchy here with my cleaning supplies.  For information on making your own green cleaners, I suggest the book Organic Homemaking by Ellen Sandbeck or this free cleaning recipe website with cute printable labels.

How did my cleaning products grade with the EWG ratings?  Not Good.  (Moi???)  So, in an effort to bring up my grades, I have some suggested future purchases (when I’m done with the bottles of what I have now):

What I noticed is that A or B rated products are common products that are available in most grocery stores.  Upgrading cleaning products is a totally do-able thing with good and affordable alternatives.  That sometimes it is just a matter of being selective of which product you buy within a brand.  This kind of information is so valuable because it shifts buying patterns and it influences companies to change formulations for the better of all. 

Cool, thanks EWG.

How I Decluttered the Playroom and Saved Money Too

 

Too Embarassed to Post an Actual Picture of my Playroom

So, our house is overflowing with kids toys and kids stuff. My first thought was to buy more shelving or maybe a nice, big cabinet. Then I thought…you know there are probably several items that are for younger kids or babies and that don’t get played with anymore.  I could probably get rid of a lot of this kids stuff.

Also, I thought of how Christmas is coming and we will be welcoming in several more pieces of clutter… uh I mean enriching toys for our children.

So, during a boring meeting at work, I outlined some goals for decluttering – because otherwise I would keep too many things.  It went like this:  Reduce books by 50%, reduce figurines by 30%, reduce stuffed animals by 50% and so on.  Also, I didn’t want to just throw everything in a landfill, I wanted to make sure that things were recycled or donated as applicable.  Yes, it was a really boring meeting and I’m sure some were wondering why I was taking such copious notes on a subject I likely cared nothing about…

Anyways, when I got home I went through the playroom with three bags:

1.   recycling (paper boxes, random unmatched puzzle pieces, plastic containers, anything that is compostable)

2.  donation bin (toys, books and playclothes that are in good enough condition to be resold at the Salvation Army)

3.  trash (what doesn’t fit into the upper two categories)

Then, I went to work sorting through all of the kids stuff and really made some good progress in thinning things out.  Believe it or not, I actually did most of the work with the kids hanging around. I just didn’t tell them what I was up to, that way I didn’t have anyone arguing with me over a toy they haven’t played with for two years. Then I waited until the kids were distracted and then stashed the donations in the basement. 

I learned the hard way that if I leave the bag out where they can find it, they will get ahold of it and ‘rediscover’ all of those toys all over the livingroom floor. Also, I brought the trash bag straight out to the can so that no items were under debate. “Mooooom! Who threw away my frog sticker???”

In the end, I did meet all of my goals for reducing the clutter.  Don’t worry, the kids still have plenty of toys and books.  I feel good about this because I was thinking of buying more storage for all of that stuff.  Now that I have decluttered I don’t need to buy any new storage furniture, it all fits in the spaces we have now.  Also, we are recycling our toys to other kids that might really want to play with them.  Green and cheap, mission accomplished (o;