Category Archives: Ways To Be Green

7 Homemade Cleaning Recipes | Non-toxic and Cheap

May 4, 2012

Non Toxic Homemade Cleaning Recipes

 

Are you looking for safe and cheap homemade cleaning recipes? Cleaning your home with natural, non-toxic cleaners helps keeps your ecological footprint low, saves you money, and creates a safer home for children and pets. Consider how much money you can save by utilizing eco-friendly substances already on hand (which you can also purchase in bulk!), rather than purchasing a specialized cleaning product for each part of your home.

#1 – White distilled vinegar

  • Use undiluted or diluted vinegar to disinfect and deodorize kitchen and bathroom surfaces, floors, sinks and tubs.
  • Use on carpet stains to effectively blot out color or burn marks.
  • Add a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle to act as a fabric softener and to remove soap residues.
  • Clean windows with diluted vinegar (then dry and buff with crumpled newspaper).
  • Soak dishcloths and dishtowels in equal parts vinegar and water overnight to remove stains and prolong fiber life.
  • Avoid using undiluted vinegar on marble, as the acid can corrode it!

#2 – Baking soda

  • Sprinkle over carpets to deodorize, leave for an hour and then vacuum.
  • Sprinkle inside garbage cans before putting in a bag—swill with water after removing a full bag.
  • Add a tablespoon to cut flower water to prolong life—change water every few days.
  • Substitute half of your laundry powder soap with baking soda—this will use fewer chemicals, make your detergent powder last longer, as well as make the detergent more effective.
  • Place a saucer of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb odors, change regularly—pour the old baking soda down the kitchen drain and follow with a kettle of boiling water to clean and deodorize drains.
  • Combine with water and soak in teacups and teapots to remove tea stains.

#3 – Lemons

  • Swirl lemon juice around to deodorize glass water bottles and jars.
  • Use juice to disinfect and clean wooden cutting boards (wooden boards are more ecologically sound than plastic ones).
  • Make lemon-scented dusting cloths by wrapping peeled lemon rind up in a clean, dry rag and then placing in a closed glass jar until use.

#4 – Eggshells

  • Crush and combine with baking soda and water to make a fantastic abrasive cleaner for hard-to-reach places such as glass decanters and long bottles.
  • Eggshells are also a great fertilizer for plants because of their mineral content; they are easy to crush up and sprinkle in pots of household plants or in gardens.

#5 – Mild, natural bar soaps

  • Use a bar of Castille or ivory soap as a stain stick to treat stains before putting into the laundry.
  • Use as a gentle and eco-friendly hand soap in the kitchen & bathroom.
  • Any natural bar soap works wonders for skin—try Burt’s Bees brand, or handmade soaps from a market.

#6 – Epsom salts

  • Use mixed with a little water as an abrasive scrub in the home.
  • Also does wonders in the garden as a commercial fertilizer substitute—Epsom salts are high in magnesium and give natural nutrients to flowers and edibles without adding petroleum to the soil.
  • They are also proven to promote a greater yield in both flowers and edible fruits and vegetables than commercial fertilizers.

#7 – Beeswax

  • Purchase natural beeswax polish to use as a polish/wax for wooden furniture and tabletops. Furniture polish sprays create a shiny, impenetrable glaze over wood, whereas beeswax feeds the grain of the wood with a deeper, richer luster.
  • Another alternative is a drop of olive oil.

Bonus household cleaning tips:

  • Soft cotton cloths
    • Keep old white cotton shirts, dresses and towels to clean with.
    • Cotton is a reusable and natural fiber, and is a far superior alternative to paper towels.
  • Newspaper
    • As mentioned, a great way to reuse old newspaper is to buff glass windows with it after spraying with vinegar water.
    • Newspaper absorbs oils or remaining residues and leaves windows free of streaks, with a nice sparkle.
  • Essential oils
    • Adding a small drop of essential oil to homemade cleaners or after deodorizing surfaces offers a pleasant lingering scent.
    • Nice and comparatively cheap scents are lavender, citrus or clove.

Additional resources and references:

  • A Guide to Green Housekeepingby Christina Strutt
  • Non-Toxic Housecleaningby Amy Kolb Noyes
  • Green Housekeepingby Ellen Sandbeck
  • Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Ofby Vicki Lansky
  • Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of by Vicki Lansky

How to Save Money on Electricity – Six Easy Tips

October 28, 2011

How to Save Money on Electricity

Looking at the electric bill at the end of the month can be quite a shock, particularly during seasons of extreme temperatures.  Luckily, if you follow these tips on how to save money on electricity, you can significantly cut that bill. Plus, by saving energy you will reduce your impact on the environment.

Turn off those lights!

Image credit: lemasney, Flickr.com

Tip #1 – Turn off the lights

It’s very easy to forget to turn off the lights, but remembering to do so can create big energy savings in the long run. If you are in a room that does not get much traffic such as the kitchen or bathroom be sure to turn off the lights whenever you leave the room. It may take some time to get used to doing this, but after awhile it will become second nature. If you are still having trouble remembering, consider installing lighting occupancy sensors. Worried that turning on and off the lights too quickly wastes electricity and wears out light bulbs? The MythBusters buststed that myth!

 Tip #2 – Check the energy savings settings on your computer and monitor

Using screen savers help save energy, right? Actually, not at all. It is much better to have your monitor automatically turn off after a certain period of time (I have mine set for 10 minutes).

You can save even more energy by letting your computer hibernate when it is inactive. Hibernation mode uses up virtually no energy and you do not have to go through the entire start-up process again. EnergyStar estimates that you can save up to $350 dollars over the life of your computer (4 years) by smartly managing the power settings on your computer.

Tip #3 – Make your dryer more efficient

When you move your clothes from the washer into the dryer, most people simply bunch them up together in a wet lump and toss those clothes into the dryer. However, if you untangle your clothes and separate them before you throw them in the dryer, they will be dried more efficiently and you will save money on electricity.

Tip #4 – Off-peak hours

Contact your electric company and see if they have off-peak hours. During off-peak hours, the cost of electricity is reduced. Electricity is generally less expensive late at night, early in the morning and on weekends, so it is cheaper to run the dishwasher and washing machines during these times. How much you will save will vary depending on your location, but here in Oregon off-peak rates are 66% less than of on-peak rates.

Every degree counts!

Image credit: Mick Wright, Flickr.com

Tips #5 – Check that thermostat 

Even a one degree change makes a big difference. Turning the thermostat down (or up during the summer) when you are out of the house will help you save money on electricity without sacrificing comfort. By following EnergyStar guidelines you can save $180 annually on your heating and cooling costs.

We hope you found these tips on how to save money on electricity helpful. You can realize big savings just by making small changes to your daily routine and habits. Are there any other methods that you use to save money on electricity?

Cash4Books Employees Volunteer To Clean The Tualatin River

October 4, 2011

Cash4Books Employees Volunteer Event with The Tualatin Riverkeepers

 

On Saturday, September 23 more than 20 Cash4Books employees, friends and family members helped the Tualatin Rivekeepers clean the waters and banks of the Tualatin River. This was our second year participating in a cleanup event on the Tualatin and we were more than happy to help out again this year!

Although the day started out foggy and overcast, the instant we hit the water the clouds parted and the sun shone down upon us. Which was a very good thing, as the large amount of rain we received this year made the water of the Tualatin the color of dark chocolate milk. Without that sun illuminating the murky depths of the river we never would have seen the shopping carts, lounge chairs, couches, the back seat of a car, a teddy bear, an exercise ball, a sawhorse, etc.

 

 

As you can see from this photo, there was plenty for us to do. And this is only from about a mile stretch of a river that runs 83 miles!

We want to thank The Tualtin Riverkeepers for their efforts in keeping the river clean and usable for all forms of life (including humans!). We are happy to support them, and if you live in the area we highly recommend you head over to their website to check out and support their current projects.  If you don’t live near the Tualatin, there’s no need to feel left out; there is probably a river near you that needs help too!

5 Easy Steps To Build A Chicken Coop

July 22, 2011

Keeping chickens is fast becoming one of the best ways to ensure organic, fresh food “delivered” daily to your home. The cost of keeping chickens is relatively low compared to other pets that don’t give back in the form of food and they provide hilarious entertainment for you, your family and your neighbors! My family decided chickens were a must-have to start our small urban farm so we decided to build our own coop. Little did I know how easy it would be…

chickens

happy chickens in a safe enclosure

1. When you embark on a journey like this, its important to make sure you can keep chickens in your area. This is going to depend on state, county and city laws as well as, if you rent, landlord permission. Most counties will not let you own roosters, so make sure to check the specifics. There are also usually laws regarding where you place your coop on your property.  Double and triple check!

2. You should draw up some plans. Do you want a mobile chicken coop – called a tractor – or one that is a permanent home? How many chickens do you plan on keeping and how big do you want the coop to be? What do you want to use for building materials? There are a lot of websites that have free plans for you to browse. One of the best is Backyard Chickens. They have a plethora of information about coops and chickens. For our own coop, we found a truck canopy at Goodwill for $30 that we used as the “base” (the roof) and built onto that. You could even search for “unique chicken coop images” and see all the different things others have made coops out of.

3. Next, build! Easy, right? We found some 2 X 4s and plywood and then screwed a wooden frame into the truck canopy so it was over six feet off the ground. Then, using the plywood, we built the actual henhouse under the canopy. The henhouse refers to the place where the chickens sleep at night and lay their eggs. We filled in any cracks with a foam insulate and covered the floor with a piece of linoleum for further draft protection and easy cleaning.

4. With the walls completed, we moved on to the safety of our chickens. The frame we set the canopy on is mostly 4 X 4s, very easy to staple gun chicken wire to. Make sure the chicken wire is taut and secure. Raccoons and other animals are very strong and tricky, and they want your chickens!

chicken coop

coop before decoration? or leave it old school.

5. Finally… decorate! The chickens probably don’t care what it looks like, but you do! Paint, glitter, macaroni art that coop up! Ok, maybe not macaroni… But I definitely want to see pictures of your masterpieces!

If you gather all the materials beforehand, you can kick out a quality chicken coop in one weekend. Don’t forget to have fun!

Cash4Books Employees Volunteer at Cathedral Park

July 11, 2011

As we mentioned in a previous post, Cash4Books employees recently participated in a clean-up of Cathedral Park in Portland, Oregon. You may be asking “Why is it called Cathedral Park?” Glad you asked….

Cathedral Park Portland, OR

The view of the underbelly of the St. Johns Bridge as seen from Cathedral Park. Photo credit: Joan Stevens

The original plan was to clean up the riverbank running on the west-side of the park.  However, thanks to the wettest spring on record in Portland, there was no riverbank.

Park Bench Submerged

Something's not right here. Photo: Joan Stevens

Fortunately, not all of the park’s residents were upset with this situation:

Ducks Swimming

"Quack, quack" Photo: Joan Stevens.

So instead of cleaning the riverbank, we headed over to the nearby Baltimore Woods restoration project. We spent several hours cleaning trash and debris from the area. Despite occasional scrapes with blackberry bushes and shrubs we had a great time clearing the area and we were glad to be able to help! Our haul (see below) included a tire, shopping carts, about a dozen articles of clothing, a shovel and for some reason a “for sale” real estate sign.

Cathedral Park/Baltimore Woods Clean-Up

The Clean-Up Crew! Photo Paul Schertz

A big thanks to SOLV for coordinating this event, as well as many other volunteer events in Oregon. If your’re in Oregon, check out solv.org for more about the organization and for information about other volunteer opportunities. For those living outside of Oregon, visit volunteermatch.org.