Inspiring DIY projects, beauty recipes and advice to green your daily routine.

For Your Home

Woolzies Dryer Balls: Review & Giveaway!

Posted by on Aug 18, 2013 in For Your Home | 27 comments

Woolzies Dryer Balls: Review & Giveaway!

The folks at Woolzies had perfect timing when they asked A Green Routine to review and give away their product. One weekend I was in a store looking at a box of a plastic dryer balls wondering if they worked and, even if they did, were they the most eco-friendly option? The product went back on the shelf. A few days later, we got an email from Woolzies asking us to test their eco-friendly wool dryer balls and give a set away to one lucky reader. We jumped at the chance and have been testing the product for two months. First, we’ll tell you about the product. Then, we’ll let you know how to enter to win a free box of Woolzies dryer balls! What are Woolzies Dryer Balls? They’re balls of 100% New Zealand wool that go in the dryer with your clothes. Woolizes are primarily marketed as an all-natural fabric softener, but they also cut down on drying time and reduce static. They’re hypoallergenic and even safe for people with wool sensitivities as they will not shed onto your laundry, according to the company. What Makes Woolzies Eco-Friendly? Chemicals used in conventional dryer sheets emit toxins into the air and onto your clothes which can then be absorbed through your skin. Woolzies are made of wool so they are chemical-free. A bunch of Woolzies bouncing around your dryer will also separate clothes, allowing air to flow more freely. This reduces drying time, which saves energy and money. The company says the product can reduce drying time up to 25%. Woolizes last for 1,000 loads before they need to be replaced. Do Woolzies Work? I’ve been using Woolzies instead of natural dryer sheets for about two months and, yes, they do work. My clothes dry faster (at least 15% faster according to my non-scientific calculations) and they come out of the dryer static-free. I’ll give Woolzies points for softness too. I never used a fabric softener but my sheets and towels have felt softer since I started using them. While we were given this set of Woolzies to test and review, we would never recommend a product we wouldn’t buy ourselves. So the big question is, would I buy Woolzies with money out of my own pocket? I can still get more than 900 loads of laundry out of my current set, but if I had to choose today to buy another set of the natural dryer sheets I was using or Woolzies, I would choose Woolzies. They perform three helpful tasks – reducing dry time, reducing static, softening fabric – in one product and the per load cost is the same as the product I had been using. Plus, Woolzies are completely handmade by women in Nepal who receive a steady source of income from making the product. It’s nice to know they’re employing people who can use the income instead of machines. Eli Feuer, the president of Soft By Nature, the company that makes Woolzies, informed me via email...

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Environmentally Friendly Shopping: My Quest For The Perfect Spice Jars

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in For Your Home, Lifestyle | 5 comments

Environmentally Friendly Shopping: My Quest For The Perfect Spice Jars

My drive to be environmentally friendly led me to start buying spices in bulk. While I was happy to be bringing home little plastic baggies of spices (my grocery store doesn’t offer reusable or paper bags for spices) instead of bulky plastic containers, my cabinet became a mess.  I was squeezing bags of spices in between the plastic spice bottles I already had and every time I opened the door little baggies full of spices came tumbling out. Clearly, I needed a better way to store my spices. So I started looking for the perfect, environmentally friendly spice jars. What Is The Perfect, Environmentally Friendly Spice Jar? When considering the type of material I wanted to store spices in for years to come, I decided my perfect spice jar is plastic-free. This decision was influenced by the documentary Plastic Planet. In the movie, families in several countries emptied their homes of all their plastic and piled it outside. After seeing those piles and learning some disturbing facts about effects of plastic on the environment and human health, I became more aware of the plastics I was purchasing and began to cut down where possible. My new spice jars would also be sustainable, meaning they would be made by a company with sustainable practices and/or made with sustainable materials. The Challenging Search I didn’t think finding environmentally friendly spice jars was going to be easy. My ideals would limit my options. Plus, I had to find spice jars that would efficiently use the cabinet space available. The search was particularly challenging, however, because spice jars are fairly generic. Like a lot of glassware, they are sold to stores as wholesale items, labeled with a price, and stocked on shelf. Companies I’ve never heard of manufacture them and most are not labeled or packaged with any information about their origin. I started my search online by simply trying to find plastic-free spice jars. Once I narrowed the search to a few options, I looked for manufacturer information by searching for wholesalers with the same items. I discovered Courrone Co. was the wholesaler for all the spice jars I picked out, and they offer two types of glass: 40% post recycled glass from China 99% recycled glass from Spain That was all I needed to know to make my decision. Only one of the bottles I picked out was 99% recycled glass from Spain. I preferred this jar because: with 59% more recycled glass, it’s the greener option. the jars from China are painted and I don’t trust the paint to be lead-free due to the lack of enforcement of safety regulations in China. Europe’s pollution regulations are stricter and better enforced, so I assume the plant manufacturing the jars in Spain would be greener than the one in China. The Spice Jars I Bought And Where I Bought Them The spice jars I chose are traditionally styled glass bottles made from 99% recycled glass from Spain. The toppers are cork which is a renewable resource...

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Basics Of Raising Backyard Chickens: Learnings From An Urban Coop Tour

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in For Your Home, Lifestyle | 4 comments

Basics Of Raising Backyard Chickens: Learnings From An Urban Coop Tour

A few weeks ago I spent Sunday morning touring urban chicken coops in the city of Pittsburgh, Penn. The event was organized by Chicks-In-The-Hood, a local advocate for backyard chickens. When Kim and I were growing-up our family had about 15 chickens. We lived in the suburbs and although there were some farms in town with poultry and large farm animals, we were the only family I knew of with backyard chickens. Since I bought my own house I’ve wanted chickens because “farm” fresh eggs taste so much better than what I buy at the grocery store, but I knew it would be different raising chickens in the city than it was in the suburbs. This tour offered the perfect opportunity for me to see how other people raise their city chickens. Backyard Chickens (Usually) Break The Law Although keeping chickens in Pittsburgh can be a legal activity, only one coop on the tour was legal. As more people are starting to produce their own food, they are discovering local laws and ordinances are against them. In the past, many urban homesteading practices such as growing produce and grains, raising chickens and keeping bees have been considered a sign of poverty. To keep areas looking upscale, laws were created to prevent these activities. Until 2011, there were no laws in Pittsburgh against chickens, but there weren’t any specifically allowing them either. In 2011, it became legal to raise “poultry birds” (hens only, no roosters) but this wan’t as progressive as it sounds. The reason most coops in the city remain illegal is that you have to get a permit from the building authority to put a chicken coop in your backyard. Filing for a permit costs about $500 and you will most likely be denied. Chicks-In-The-Hood does not recommend chicken owners file for a permit as they are actively working to change the law. 3 Important Takeaways From The Tour Neighbors: A Backyard  Chicken’s Best Friend Or Worst Enemy A running theme throughout the tour was how to deal with neighbors. City law require chickens coops to be hidden from the view of people passing on the street and that’s also a best practice. You only need one nosey neighbor to complain to lose your chickens. Neighbors are often against backyard chickens because they think hens will be noisy. Since hens don’t crow like roosters and only cackle to announce a freshly laid egg, which usually arrives once a day, they are much quieter than most neighborhood dogs. Other common concerns are odor and vermin. An unkempt coop smells, but so does a house with cats if the owner doesn’t clean-up after them. Properly cared for chickens are not offensive. I’m incredibly sensitive to smells and during the tour, which was on a hot day, I wasn’t offended once. A little extra diligence is required by chicken owners to keep vermin away since, unlike cats and dogs, they are not predators and will not scare vermin who may go...

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Make Your Own Soil Sifter

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in For Your Home | 1 comment

Make Your Own Soil Sifter

This spring, I decided to finally build a soil sifter, with the help and tools of my boyfriend George. I had been wanting one for several years but kept putting the project off. This year, I couldn’t delay it any longer because I needed all the soil I could possibly sift out of my compost in order to prepare 200 square feet of my yard for a significant gardening project. When I told George what I wanted to build, he hit the information superhighway to look for better ideas. My idea was simple, requiring only a rectangular frame with a metal grate and support so it could rest at an angle to the ground. George presented me with other ideas from handheld sifters to sifters that rolled on ball bearings, but they seemed like too much work to use or build, or the end result was not versatile enough. Ultimately, we built a soil sifter much like the one my Dad built when I was a kid. Of course I might be biased thinking my Dad has the best model out there, but I do think that and I have a blog, so I’m going share with you the Gagliardi guidelines for building the best soil sifter the internet has to offer. Step 1: The Frame First, determine the size of your soil sifter by considering how you want to use it. Do you want to carry it around and sift the soil over your gardening beds or will you leave it by your compost and sift your soil there? I wanted my soil sifter to be light enough to carry around the yard in one hand (shovel in the other) so I kept mine small. Ultimately the size of my sifter was determined by the size of a wooden frame I found in my garage, which was 24″ x 30″. I wouldn’t recommend building a smaller sifter, in fact I wish mine was about 3 inches taller, though the width is perfect. If you can use scrap wood like I did, it’s the greenest and least expensive option! But remember, if it’s not pressure treated you need to stain it for protection from moisture, especially if you plan to leave it outside. If you don’t have scrap wood to use, buy 1x1s for the frame. To put the wood frame together, use screws if you have a power drill or nails if you don’t. Whatever gets the job done and leaves you with a sturdy rectangle is fine. Step 2: The Mesh Use galvinized hardware cloth for the mesh. It’s less expensive to buy the mesh in bulk so look for that option at your local hardware store before investing in a whole roll. To cut the wire you’ll need good wire cutting pliers. Even if you buy in bulk, you’ll most likely have to trim one end or trim some sharp edges. Step 3: Securing The Mesh Secure the mesh to the frame using a staple gun. Staples alone won’t hold...

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Exotic Citrus Foaming Hand Soap Recipe

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in For Your Home, Green Clean | 1 comment

Exotic Citrus Foaming Hand Soap Recipe

Last weekend, I ran out of foaming hand soap for the kitchen and invented a new recipe worth sharing. My previous kitchen foaming hand soap recipe used lavender essential oil so it had a strong floral scent. This time I went a little lighter and brighter in anticipation of summer with an exotic, citrus scent. When I make foaming hand for the kitchen I always include a bactericide to kill any bad bacteria, like salmonella  that may be left on my hands if I’m unlucky enough to handle contaminated food. Bactericidal essential oils also act as antiseptics, cleaning and prohibiting bacteria growth in cuts. In kitchen soaps you may also want to include an antibacterial agent, a grease cutter, and, if you work with other foods that tend to leave your hands with a fragrance, a deodorant. For this recipe lemon essential oil is the bactericide, antibacterial agent and grease cutter. Sweet orange is added for it’s fragrance though it’s also  a grease cutter, like most citrus essential oils. Lastly, since I chop lots of garlic, eucalyptus essential oil is included as the deodorant. I love making my own foaming hand soaps because it’s an inexpensive way to get chemical free soap and it reduces my consumption of single use containers and the pumps which are not recyclable in my area. If you have a foaming hand soap bottle that’s empty, you can reuse it to make your soap. If not, the Cuisipro 13.2-Ounce Foam Pump is the pump featured in the picture. Both Kim and I have one, and we think they are fantastic. If you have any recipes you love for foaming hand soap, please share it with us in the comments below. I’m always looking to try something new. Exotic Citrus Foaming Hand Soap 2015-03-06 18:19:46 The scent is light and bright, but this is a serious kitchen soap with a bactericide and antibacterial agent to keep you safe. Write a review Save Recipe Print Ingredients 13 ounces distilled water 2.5 ounces liquid castile soap 20 drops lemon essential oil 20 drops sweet orange essential oil 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil Instructions Put all ingredients in your foaming soap dispenser and stir. A Green Routine http://agreenroutine.com/ Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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iRecycle App Helps You Find Local Recycling Options

Posted by on Apr 27, 2013 in For Your Home, Green Clean, Lifestyle | 0 comments

iRecycle App Helps You Find Local Recycling Options

This winter, I was on a mission to clean out my closets and basement. It was incredible how much stuff had been stashed in the dark recesses of my house. Although some of this stuff was my own, much of it belonged to the house’s previous owner who left the it fully furnished and complete with towels in the dryer, computer equipment in the spare room and construction materials in the basement. I thought a lot of the stuff I found might be recyclable, but I didn’t know where to bring it. Finding recycling programs for uncommon items can be difficult because many places don’t advertise their programs or the program gets such a small mention on their website it doesn’t show up in search engines. Enter the iRecycle app from Earth911.com, available for iOS and Android. The makers of this app have done the hard work of finding those recycling programs for you and put the information at your fingertips. If you have an item to recycle, the app’s home screen allows you to search for a recycling location by keyword or category. Then you can tap the item to reveal recycling locations or programs. By default the search results are based on your current location. Each location or program can be tapped for details such as a list of all materials accepted, an address, a phone number and/or hours of operation. Once you find a recycling program to participate in, and before you get excited and rush over to the location with a car full of stuff, call to confirm the information in the app is accurate. I’ve already found a few inaccurate or misleading listings for my area. For example, iRecycle suggests I can recycle ceramic tile at Construction Junction but they do not recycle used tile, they only take donations of new tile or good condition tile from a deconstruction (usually in for form of a mantle or other decorative piece.) In addition to local recycling programs, the app also includes mail-in programs, like Terracycle Brigades. Even when I don’t have something I need to recycle, I enjoy exploring the app by category because the lists get me thinking about recycling things I hadn’t considered recyclable, like carpet and carpet padding. All of the information in the app is also in Earth911.com’s recycling section, but the app is more convenient when you’re on a mobile device. I encourage you to download the app because I’m sure you’ll glean some useful information that will help you divert trash from your waste stream and be a little greener. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Planting Your Potted Easter Flowers

Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Planting Your Potted Easter Flowers

This Easter, my mom gave me a beautiful pot of tulips. (I also gifted her a nice pot of tulips in a slightly different shade of pink. Great minds think alike?) Sadly, all good things must come to an end and after enjoying the flowers for a few weeks, I now have a pot of dying leaves topped with wilted buds. Not wanting to throw out the bulbs, I first turned to the web to try to figure out if the bulbs could be planted and would bloom again next spring. Some websites said no, others said maybe and offered a long, involved process that might work. Then, I called up an expert for some solid advice. My brother, James, is a horticulturist who patiently answers all of my plant-related questions. He’s also been known to offer advice to USA Today, The Washington Post and PBS and is editing his first book. So he’s quite a get for A Green Routine. James said that most potted tulips grown today are Darwin tulips that are forced into an early bloom with the goal of producing gorgeous flowers for one year. Planting the flowers is a bit of a gamble. They might grow back and bloom next year or they could be duds. As long as you’re not banking on them coming up to complete an elaborate landscape concept, there’s no downside to taking the risk. If you have a pot of daffodils, Easter lilies or hyacinths, you can follow the same process, outlined below, for tulips. Unlike potted tulips, which are often treated as annuals, the daffodil, lily and hyacinth bulbs are very likely to sprout and produce flowers for years to come. Perennials, plants that return year-after-year, really are the gift that keep on giving. It’s the “reuse” nature of perennial bulbs that makes them the greener option. To set the plants up to bloom next year, here’s what you need to do: When the flowers have finished blooming and are wilting, transplant the bulb with the stalk and leaves still attached. The leaves must be left on because the photosynthesis that continues to happen will put energy back into the bulbs for next year. The bulbs will also need water until the leaves die. Most likely, naturally occurring April rain showers will take care of this. Let nature do the rest. Tulips need to spend 10-12 weeks in frozen ground so as long as you live in a cold-weather area, all you have to do is wait to see if your bulbs sprout in the spring. If you live in a warmer climate, you can try to fake the cold, but it’s more work. You can leave the bulbs in the pot and keep the bulbs watered until the leaves have died off. Then remove the bulbs from the dirt and dry them out in a dark, cool place through the summer. In August, place the bulbs in a paper bag and chill them in the refrigerator for 10-12 weeks. Plant the bulbs it...

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It’s Sew Easy Being Green

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in For Your Home, Lifestyle | 0 comments

It’s Sew Easy Being Green

This weekend I was at my boyfriend’s house and noticed his sewing kit in the dining room. I had given it to him a year ago and he told me that he uses the it all the time. I believe it because I haven’t seen him wearing a shirt with missing buttons lately. I’m not the type to wear shirts with missing buttons and, unfortunately, I’ve been lazy about mending my clothes too. When I lose a button, stitching comes undone or a seam rips, I’ve been throwing those clothes in a box at the bottom of my closet and ignoring them. When I got home from my boyfriend’s house, ashamed by my procrastination, I decided to attack the box. So I sat down in front of the TV with my sewing supplies and within three hours I had mended everything from pajamas to dress pants, adding 10 tops and 2 bottoms back into my wardrobe. Mending your own clothes is a great way to reduce your consumption and your carbon footprint. In 2010, an independent project attempting to raise awareness about the “true cost” of a single, non-organic, foreign made cotton t-shirt compiled the data below. Water Use: 570 gallons (45% irrigation) Energy Use: 8kWh (machines), 11 to 20g fuel (land+sea) Travel: 5,500 to 9,400+ miles Emmisions: NOx, SO2, CO, CO2, N2O, volatile compounds Toxins: 1-3g pesticides, diesel exhaust, heavy metals (dyes) Import: 60 cents to $1.05 per shirt Child Labor: 17 countries, 50 cents/day Misc: 53-91g fertilizers If you’re in the position of my boyfriend where you have the skills to mend but don’t have the supplies, I highly recommend the Singer Mini Sew Essentials Kit because it has everything you need for basic repairs. If you feel like your home economics teacher failed to teach you these useful life skills, don’t worry, we have YouTube to pick up the slack and show you how to: sew a button, sew a torn seam and mend a tear. If you’re like me and just need a little kick in the pants to do the right thing,  here it is! Instead of going out and buying a new, blue button down shirt, sew the button back on the one you have to save water and energy and decrease pollution and child labor around the world. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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