We’ve all done it: filled a big black trash bag with wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon and bows. Instead of buying paper and stick-on bows, wrap your Christmas gifts in brown grocery bags (no one will know!) and tie them up with leftover ribbon or fabric strips from craft projects, old clothes… whatever you can get your hands on. After the presents are opened, recycle the paper and either reuse the ribbon or toss it outside for the birds to feather their nests (natural fibers only, please!). Your presents will be infused with shabby-chic elegance, you’ll cut waste and save money.
More holiday tips to come!
You roasted a free-range turkey. You baked local squash. You served organic wine. You had a green Thanksgiving and it was great! Now you have to clean up. But don’t whip out the overpowering cleaners that sting your nose and make your head hurt. You can get your kitchen clean without using nasty chemicals and spending a lot of money with a few basic supplies:
Microfiber cloths. Dampen with water and apply a little elbow grease and your microfiber cloth can clean just about anything. I use them to clean countertops, walls, the inside of the fridge… I’ve cleaned just about everything in the kitchen with a microfiber cloth. I even use one in place of disposable Swiffer cloths. They require no cleaning solution and you can use them over and over.
Vinegar. Clean glass surfaces with an equal mixture of white distilled vinegar and warm water. Wipe the stovetop with it, too.
Baking soda. Baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive, making it easier to scrub messes without harming the finish on your counters or appliances (don’t use on marble countertops). Just mix a little baking soda with water to form a paste and scrub with a damp sponge. Try this paste on plastic storage containers – it eliminates smells and discoloration without scratching the plastic.
Lemons. Yep, just lemons. Cut one in half and use it to polish copper.
Salt. Salt is both an abrasive and grease absorber. Just don’t use it to scrub anything you want to maintain a shine on (stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, shiny copper, etc.). Mix some salt with lemon juice and baking soda to scrub the oven.
When you’re done cleaning, skip the air freshener and simmer some apple cider, cinnamon sticks and orange peel on the stovetop. Happy Thanksgiving!
Yesterday we talked about how to find the shortest distance between two (three, four, five…) points in order to reduce gasoline consumption. Today I want to share a few simple ways to optimize your car’s performance to reduce that consumption even further.
First, stop speeding. Your lead foot is costing both you and the environment dearly. Accelerate to a cruising speed slowly, then avoid exceeding the speed limit. According to fueleconomy.gov, you’ll reduce consumption between 7 and 23 percent.
Next, perform some basic maintenance. Change the air filter regularly and make sure the tires are properly inflated.
Avoid excessive idling. If you’re stuck at a train crossing or that reeeaaaally long light, turn the car off. Starting it back up takes less gas than sitting idle for 20 seconds.
I have a terrible sense of direction. I mean, really terrible. I use my GPS to get just about everywhere, but I recently discovered a new tool that has saved me lots of time and gas money: online trip planners. You can type in each address you need to visit and it automatically finds the most efficient route. In this season of errands and shopping, a trip planner can save you lots of time and CO2 emissions. Try Google Maps or Mapquest Route Planner to find the shortest distance between two, three, four or more points. If you want to save paper and get directions on your smartphone, you can download mobile apps for these services, too.
I love pulling out the good china and silver to use for the holidays, but I hate polishing silver! The chemicals give me a headache and it makes my hands grimy. If you’re tired of polishing silver, try this green trick instead:
- Find a glass or ceramic container big enough to hold your silver. Line the bottom with aluminum foil.
- Next, put your silver in the container. Don’t overlap the pieces.
- Sprinkle all the silver liberally with baking soda. You just used all the chemicals you’re going to use for this chore. Awesome, right?
- Now pour boiling water (carefully!) in the container until your silver is submerged. You’ll see and hear the baking soda fizzing away the tarnish.
- Let it sit until the fizzing stops and the silver is cool enough to handle. Admire the tarnish that has magically adhered itself to the aluminum foil.
Rinse the silver and dry it with a soft cloth. You’re welcome!
Celebrate America Recycles Day by participating in some fun events happening in and around Lake County! Follow this link to see the list of events happening in the area. I’m looking forward to the Trashy Fashion Show tonight in Skokie — it’s a fashion show featuring the work of 30 designers. Each desginer has created a piece of clothing from materials that would have otherwise been thrown away. And speaking of creating clothing items from stuff that could be thrown away, have you heard of T-shirt yarn?
Have fun celebrating recycling today! Go fly a paper airplane into the recycling bin.
I love living in Lake County. It seems like there’s always something fun or educational going on, and this weekend is no exception. On Saturday, November 19, you can bring your “hard to recycle” items to the corners of Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville so the county can dispose of them properly. You can learn more about the recycling event by following this link, and more about America Recycles Day tomorrow!
I’ve been thinking about composting for months now, but there seemed to be too many obstacles in my path. One book suggested an outside compost heap, but I live in an apartment. Another book suggested a special rotating bin that can be placed outside on the deck, but the bin is expensive. Another book suggested vermicomposting (composting with worms) but the specially designed worm bin was too expensive. Finally, I have found a blog that describes composting — simply! I have a quiet shelf under my sink just waiting for this project. Check out this inspring blog here. It may have just the information you need to start composting!
Have you ever noticed how many more bags of trash leave your front door during the holidays? Start reducing the amount of trash you produce this Thanksgiving with small steps: trade cans of soda for large bottles, use real china and silver instead of disposables and pull out cloth napkins instead of paper (no, you don’t have to iron them). Instead of buying flowers for a centerpiece, scatter some leaves from the front yard down the center of the table and cut holes in the tops of apples for tealights. Easy!
I am terrible at math, but I love energy calculators! I plug in the numbers and they do all the hard work. When’s the last time you used a carbon footprint calculator? Try this one from the Environmental Protection Agency and see how your energy usage compares to the usage of other Americans. I like this calculator because in addition too seeing how you stack up against your neighbors, you learn about small changes you can make to shrink your footprint. In the next few posts we’ll talk more about water calculators, electricity calculators and nifty ways you can reduce your consumption.