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

For Beginners

Product of the Month: Bamboo Spoons

Posted by on Jan 6, 2014 in For Beginners, Skin & Hair Care | 0 comments

Product of the Month: Bamboo Spoons

When going green, keeping things clean becomes a priority because your products are often made without preservatives or you’re using reusable, non-plastic containers that may not function likes ones you’ve used in the past. Being careful to not introduce impurities into your products will extend their life and keep those impurities out of your system as well. These bamboo spoons are the perfect accessory for green products in the kitchen and bathroom. Bamboo has natural antibacterial properties and is water resistant, which makes bamboo spoons a great companion for salt and sugar scrubs or lotions. They are also perfectly sized for dipping into spice jars or salt or sugar bowls, and they’re nice enough to be used when serving guests. You heard it here first – bamboo spoons are the must-have accessory for the eco-chic in 2014. What will you use your for? 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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Product Of The Month: Use Essential Oils Safely

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in For Beginners | 1 comment

Product Of The Month: Use Essential Oils Safely

Essential oils add wonderful scents, healing properties and even cleaning and disinfecting power to products when used properly. However, when these highly concentrated and powerful oils are used in excess or in the wrong way, they can be dangerous. Whether you buy products made with pure essential oils from a store or  make them yourself, it’s smart to know which oils are in the product and whether or not they’re safe for you and your family. It can also be helpful to understand the oils’ therapeutic properties so you can choose or make a product that best fits your unique needs. Both Nicole and I use The Essential Oils Handbook: All the Oils You Will Ever Need for Health, Vitality and Well-Being to look up information about oils. It’s a handy guide that profiles just about every carrier oil and essential oil you’re likely to come across. Safety First The essential oils book has a wealth of information to help you use oils safely including tips for reducing your risk of a negative reaction and a  list of oils that increase your sensitivity to the sun and, therefore, should not be used in moisturizers, massage blends or anything else that is left on the skin. Parents will appreciate the safety information for pregnant women, babies and children. Each essential oil and carrier oil in the book is given a two-page profile that notes any concerns associated with the specific oil. While many oils are described as safe for all skin types, many others warn that the oil should be avoided by certain individuals, such as those who have sensitive skin or a nut allergy, or note certain properties of the oil, such as a short shelf life because the oil goes off quickly. Find The Best Essential Oil For The Job Essential oils can ease skin conditions, treat sore muscles, calm or uplift a mood, and have a variety of other positive effects. Each oil profile in this book describes the oil’s therapeutic properties and offers recommendations for use in three categories: healing the body, easing the mind or supporting the spirit. The therapeutic information and suggested mixtures can be a great starting point when you’re making your own personal products. One of my favorite mixtures from the book is a skin mousse that I use to treat dry skin in the winter. Even when you’re buying products off the shelf, this kind of information can help you decide between different options and ensure your money is well-spent! 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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Preparing For Your First Canning Season

Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Food & Recipes, For Beginners | 0 comments

Preparing For Your First Canning Season

I’ve heard many fond memories from people who watched their mother or grandmother can ripe fruits and vegetables fresh from their farm or garden. Each story is completed with the naming of a favorite preserved food, something they still long for. Something that gave them the taste of summer in the depths of winter. What I also heard during the course of these remembrances was how time consuming and difficult it is to can your own food, and how it’s not worth the effort. Canning Is For Everyone Last year, however, with Kim’s guidance, I decided to try it anyway. During my first canning season I quickly figured out that it was not nearly as time consuming or difficult as I had been led to believe. It may have taken our mothers and grandmothers entire days to can tomatoes, but they were trying to store enough food to keep the whole family fed through the winter. When you are canning for enjoyment you can do as much or as little as you want. Once I completed a few canning projects and got into a routine, I could complete whole canning session in the evening after work. Canning is for everyone! And I encourage anyone with an interest to give it a try this year. To help you start off better prepared than I did, here are a few tips, tricks and useful links gleaned from my experience. Tips And Tricks Decide what you want to can in advance and put the “season” on your calendar so you don’t miss it. Some fruits peaks for only a few short weeks and whether you are buying or picking your own you want to make sure you get the ripest, freshest local food. Choose your recipes before you go to the store or field so you get the right amount of food to can. There’s nothing more disappointing than being a pound short or watching food spoil because you can’t get everything canned in time. Buy your jars early in the year because by the time it’s apple season most stores will be sold out of canning jars. Although you can order online it may not be convenient to wait for them to be shipped to you. Buy jars sold as canning supplies. The individual canning jars sold as decorative items cost a lot more than jars sold as supplies. Get your supplies before the season starts and do a dry run of a canning project to make sure the basket fits in your pot, your pot is tall enough to fit your tallest jar and an inch of water and to figure out how to arrange all the pots on your stove. Otherwise you might run into “technical” issues during your first project and that can spoil the fun. Read more about my mistake here. Useful Links Canning 101: Step-By-Step Directions & Recipes To Get Started: Kim’s guide to canning. It tells you what to buy and provides basic information on hot water canning. Cooperative Extension System Offices: Many cooperative extension offices...

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The Borax Debate: Is It Safe? Is It Green?

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in For Beginners, Green Clean, Skin & Hair Care | 8 comments

The Borax Debate: Is It Safe? Is It Green?

From conversations we’ve had online and offline, Kim and I know many of you are wondering about borax and what role, if any, it should play in your green routine. If you search the web you will find people who believe borax is the perfectly safe, eco-friendly answer to a myriad of cleaning problems and you will find others who see it as a toxic and dangerous substance. As with most debates, the truth about borax probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, so let’s dig a little deeper. What is borax? Borax is a naturally occurring mineral. The soft borax crystals usually range from colorless to white. Borax also goes by the names sodium borate, sodium biborate, sodium tetraborate, natrum boricum, natrii boras and tétraborate de sodium. Boric acid is not the same thing as borax, though both contain the boron compound and are similar in appearance and toxicity. Where does borax come from? Borax is mined from the earth and then refined for use. The popular brand, 20 Mule Team, has been mining borax in Death Valley since the 19th century. On a recent trip to Death Valley I stopped at one of the old borax mines. Below you see a picture of the area and a wagon used to bring borax to the city and water to the workers. What is borax used for? Borax has many industrial and household uses but we’ll focus on the latter of the two. Since borax dissolves easily in water, bleaches, deodorizes and kills fungus it is commonly found in cleaning products and laundry detergents. You may also see it on the label of cosmetic products where it acts as a preservative and on teeth whitening strips where it acts as a bleaching agent. It may be used as an insecticide or pesticide as well. Is it safe for you? It is not safe to ingest borax according to the FDA which has banned it as a food additive. This raises concerns about its use in teeth whitening strips where it can easily be swallowed. It is not safe to inhale borax because it will irritate your lungs. This is important to note because many DIY cleaning and detergent products include borax but fail to mention that you should wear a mask when handling the powder and mixing your product. Borax is a strong base so it may irritate skin. If you have cuts, open wounds or sensitive skin you will want to wear gloves when you are handling the powder. According the Environmental Working Group borax is not a carcinogen but there is concern about exposure to the mineral  since it may damage reproductive organs. EPA studies on borax and boric acid show they may disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system, especially in men. This was determined through studies on mice, rats and dogs who ingested the substance and by studying men who worked in boric acid-producing factories. These studies did not assess the risk...

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Chain Stores Recycle Items Many Cities Don’t

Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 in For Beginners, Lifestyle | 1 comment

Chain Stores Recycle Items Many Cities Don’t

The recycling program in Pittsburgh is decent and between composting, recycling and reducing my consumption of single use products I don’t create more than a few gallons of trash in a normal week. A few months ago, however, I realized there was trend to my trash and I wanted to find ways to recycle those things that I continually threw away. I also wanted clean my closets and recycle some of the junk accumulating in my house. Much to my surprise I found several chain stores will recycle the items I couldn’t recycle through the city. I was so excited to find these programs I want to share them with you. Bags, Bubble Wrap & More I have awesome reusable bags that fold into pouches small enough to fit in my purse and mesh bags perfect for bagging produce and most bulk items. I’m rarely caught without a reusable bag, but after watching the movie Bag It I became aware of how much plastic I was still throwing away. The bread bags, plastic bags inside cereal boxes, plastic product wraps around things like toilet paper and bubble wrap used to pack online purchases. None of these plastics were labeled with a number so I couldn’t recycle them through the city and they were hard to avoid. Luckily, I found an incredibly easy way to recycle them. You know those bins at that grocery store where you can recycle your shopping bags? Well, all of the items mentioned above and many, many more can be recycled there too. Find a recycling location near you by using the recycling center locator on the A Bag’s Life website.  Lowe’s, JcPenny, Walmart, Target and most grocery stores (including Giant Eagle) have recycling centers. Hard Plastic Caps The hard plastic caps on vitamin bottles, peanut butter jars, milk, orange juice containers and soda bottles can not be recycled in Pittsburgh unless they are numbered 1-5, and most are not. The recycling information we get every year reminds us to remove and trash the caps. This requirement really annoyed me until learned about the Aveda Caps Recycling program. Caps can be dropped off at Aveda stores, where they get sent to be cleaned, ground and made into new caps for Aveda products. View the guide of acceptable caps for restrictions and since not all Aveda salons participate in the program, use the advanced store locator to find a store near you. Computers, Electronics, Small Appliances & Much More Most of the clutter in my closets, dresser drawers and under my bed was cables, cords, computer and other electronics. When everything was collected I had found 2 cell phones, 1 Palm Pre PDA, a few routers, a computer tower, a dozen installation CDs and 2 shoe boxes full of chargers, cables and cords. I was able to recycle everything through Best Buy’s recycling program and they take many more items as well. I could have legally trashed everything I recycled, but obviously recycling is the better...

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How to Make A Double Boiler

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 in For Beginners | 0 comments

How to Make A Double Boiler

A double boiler is recommended for heating oils, waxes and butters that need to be melted but not boiled. We use them often when making body butters, lotions, lip balms and other products. They are also used by bakers and chefs when melting chocolate or making sauces. You can buy a double boiler, but it’s simple to make one and you likely already have the essential parts. So save your money and the space in your cupboard and make your own. To make a double boiler, place a bowl on top of a pot that has some water in it but not so much that it touches the bottom of the bowl. The bowl should fit securely on top of the pot to form a seal. The double boiler works by heating the water which in turn heats the bowl above it. When melting your ingredients in the bowl, you may find it helpful to hold the bowl to stabilize it. This is when an Ove Glove (or pot holder) comes in handy. Hold the bowl still with one hand and stir with the other. 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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Switching To An All Natural Shampoo

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012 in For Beginners, Skin & Hair Care | 54 comments

Switching To An All Natural Shampoo

Switching from a typical commercial shampoo to an all natural shampoo was difficult for me. It took a month of research and lots of experimenting with different recipes and processes until I finally succeeded. I want to save you all that effort and frustration and share everything you need to know to make a quick and painless switch. In the end the results were worth the frustration. As I watch my hair grow out in preparation to donate it, I am thrilled to see that it is healthier than ever before and without the split ends that sent me back to the hair dresser every few months last time I grew it for donation. I’ll never go back to a commercial shampoo and once you’ve made the switch and seen the results, you’ll never go back either. What’s the problem with your current shampoo? The most important thing I learned during my research is also the most disgusting; most commercial shampoos contain petrochemicals. Yes, that is “petro” as in petroleum. Petrochemicals are derived from petroleum, and every time you wash your hair you are coating it with petrochemicals, absorbing some through your skin and washing the rest down the drain into your local water systems. Scratch your head. No, not in wonder about these disturbing facts. Literally, scratch your head. Did you get a bunch of white gunk under your fingernails? I used to think that was just dead skin, but now I know that was the petrochemicals left behind by my shampoo. What should you do now that you know? You should start the process of switching to an all-natural shampoo by making or buying a cleansing shampoo and a rinse. I made my own Cleansing and Calming Shampoo using a castile soap base, tea tree essential oil and lemon essential oil. Switching shampoos stresses the pores on your scalp and stressed pores produce more sebum which will make your hair oily. The tea tree essential oil calms the pores to keep the sebum production to a minimum, while the lemon essential oil acts as a detoxifier and an astringent. View the Cleansing and Calming Shampoo recipe page for additional information and instructions. For a rinse, I made an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse and Conditioner with apple cider vinegar and distilled water. The rinse will help clean your scalp and hair of the petrochemicals, and leave it feeling incredibly soft. View the Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse and Conditioner recipe page for additional information and instructions. During the first week, or until your scalp and hair feel clean, you should rinse with the apple cider vinegar solution, wash with your shampoo, then rinse again with the apple cider vinegar solution. Most people with average length hair will experience the “gross stage” first. Since this stage usually lasts until the third rinse/wash/rinse cycle. I recommend you start switching your products Friday night so you look decent for work Monday morning. During the gross stage your hair will feel oily and heavy because the gunk is being dislodged and your pores are stressed (remember you are cleansing them and they will be open for the first time in a long time)....

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Canning 101: Step-By-Step Directions & Recipes To Get Started

Posted by on Jun 3, 2012 in Food & Recipes, For Beginners, For Your Home | 0 comments

Canning 101: Step-By-Step Directions & Recipes To Get Started

It’s June and my local farm just opened their pick your own strawberry fields. For me, this signals the start of canning season. Preserving locally grown food is an easy way to save the taste of summer for the dead of winter when we would otherwise be eating a mix of frozen vegetables and bland fruits shipped from hundreds of miles away. It’s also environmentally friendly because the food travels a short distance (for me, it’s five miles from the farm to  my house) and you can reuse the same jars year after year. There are also some health concerns around eating canned foods that can be avoided when you do your own canning. A recent study found that canned foods such as peaches, soup and pasta, can expose people to dangerous levels of BPA. To avoid ingesting BPA from canned foods, you can do your own canning or buy canned food in glass jars or safe plastics (numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5). To start canning you need a few tools which are often available in the seasonal or produce section of your grocery store and you need to understand the simple but very important steps to properly sterilizing and sealing your jars. Tools If you’re planning to make preserves, jams and butters, you will be canning highly acidic fruits and can use hot water baths to seal your jars. This means you do not have to buy a pressure canner which is the only safe way to can vegetables, meat, poultry and fish. To can fruit, you will need: A large stock pot. The pot should allow you to completely submerge the jars and still have room for  at least an inch of water on top of them. A smaller pot for boiling jar lids and bands. A canning basket or rack that can withstand the boiling temperatures and keep your jars from resting directly on the bottom of the pot. Canning utensils – including a funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter and headspace tool. I have a Ball utensil set which includes everything you need. A kitchen timer. A clean cloth. A ladle. Canning jars. For jams and butters, I usually fill some 4 oz. and some 8 oz. jars. I use plain jars for myself and quilted jars for the food I plan to give as gifts, because they look a little nicer. Band and lids which come with new jars. If you’re reusing jars, you will always need to use a new lid but bands can be reused. Fruit and vegetable wash (optional). Buying Fruit or Vegetables Choose foods that are at their peak and full of flavor. Also choose foods that are in good condition, which means there are no bad spots or mold. If you have a garden, you can harvest your food from your own backyard. That’s the least expensive way to do it. You can also get your food from local farms. I like to get involved in the process so I usually go...

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