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Archive for January, 2011

Let’s Talk Dirty, Let’s Talk Clean

Monday, January 31st, 2011
By Christa

I have two fun things for you today – alas, both are clean, or only dirty insofar as they deal with dirty removal. But talking dirty sells, and I’m feeling naughty, so feel free to dish dirty in the comments (provided you clean up after yourself). Whoa, I’m raunchy today! Who knew getting clean could end up so dirty? Okay, I’m done. For real. Let’s continue.

The first fun thing is this awesome soap dispenser. I hate bar soap. Can’t stand the stuff. It sits there in its own little puddle or dries all sticky. It’s wasteful in the shower since it’s constantly losing layers when the water is running, and it’s impossible to use that last little bit. How can bar soap get green (other than the fact that it’s more concentrated than liquid soap, easier to transport, and requires less packaging)? As solutions go, I like design student Nathalie Stämpfli’s Soap Flakes dispenser. Press the handle with your palm a la a pump dispenser and Soap Flakes grates a small amount of soap into your hand. The rest of the bar stays dry and intact.

The second fun – and clean – thing I want to share is soap nuts. Lately, everyone on my Facebook feed has been going crazy for soap nuts, and I’m all “What nuts now?” Soap nuts. According to the NaturOli:

Soap nuts are known worldwide by many names such as soapnuts, soapberry, washing nuts, soap nut shells, wash shells, soapberry nut husk, Ritha (Hindi) nut shell, Chinese soapberry and many more. Very simply, soap nuts are the dried shells (or husks) from the soapberry (or soap berry nut). These berries are the fruit from a quite unique tree species. These shells contain a substance called saponin that produces a soaping effect. Saponin is a 100% natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and cleansers.

I’m thinking of giving soap nuts a try, simply because La Paloma is apparently sensitive to chemicals in laundry soap.

Anyone have any experiences, positive or negative, with soap nuts to share with the group? I’d love to have a few more real world reviews to consider before dropping any money on a bag o’ husks!

Can You Green Your Love Life?

Friday, January 28th, 2011
By Christa

Stephanie Iris Weiss certainly thinks so – her new book, Eco-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, is all about how to reduce your carbon footprint in the bedroom. Rawr! If you’re wondering how a roll in the hay could get any greener, it’s not the act that Weiss is greening, but rather the peripherals. It covers topics like green sex toys, low-impact lingerie, fair-trade condoms, bamboo bed linens, conflict-free diamonds, green dating web sites, and eco-friendly cosmetics, to give just a few examples.

For some, Weiss’ book about greening one’s sex life might just be the best way to introduce the uninitiated to the green movement. After all, sex sells! But I could see some people – in particular, people whose sex lives don’t require a shopping bag of accessories – raising an eyebrow at the concept. Still, this is a fun book and an easy, accessible read that won’t kill your libido with too many depressing statistics or doomalicious predictions. In other words, Weiss’ message is not that buying a pack of regular old Trojans is a one-way ticket to environmental damnation. But rather, if you can green your birth control, why not? Feeling good about your low environmental impact can only make sex hotter, right?

P.S. – Thanks to A.J. for sending me a link to this book!

Do You Feel Like You Have to Sneak Dead Batteries Into the Trash?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
By Christa

Well if they’re rechargeable, stop sneaking around and get them to the recycling center. But if they’re not, there’s not all that much you can do with them other than toss them – as this video full of very silly actors explains.

UNLESS you’re in some states, like California, where it’s against the law to dispose of batteries in your everyday trash. If you’re in one of those states, you need to check out to find out what you ought to be doing with all those batteries.

Just don’t feed them to a duck or a cat, which is what a lot of YouTube commenters claim to be doing with them.

An Upcycled Rocking Horse for Grownups

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
By Christa

For an example of awesome upcycling, look no further than Tim Wigmore’s clever and fun Giddyup Rocking Stool made from old leather saddles, FSC-certified marine grade Okoume, and a natural oil finish. In the designer’s own words:

“Old worn saddles have a beauty and patina of age that I find really attractive. The use of old, tired or broken saddles is an attempt to not only utilize an existing object, but also to elevate peoples perception of the old and pre-used. After having an old broken saddle sitting in my studio for some time I began to consider how I could design a piece that would utilise the beauty of the saddle.”

Tim Wigmore’s Giddyup is meant to keep you moving while you work or watch TV – and it’s supposed to be more fun than sitting on one of those exercise ball chairs. If you opt for this over that, though, I recommend investing in some all-natural leather conditioner to keep your seat supple.

16 Ways to Go Green Without Going Broke

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
By Christa

Too often, green living tips either assume that you have an unlimited amount of space at your disposal, all the time in the world, and/or an unending supply of currency with which to eco-refit your life. Even I’m guilty of making assumptions about people who want to go green – how many people need winter cycling tips for snow day commuting… or a $250 handbag made out of recycled car parts… or even have the freedom to take the train instead of flying? Maybe the green movement really is only for fair trade latte-sipping Prius drivers?


It’s for everyone, and here’s why: You don’t necessarily have to buy things you don’t really need to support the green movement. In fact, sometimes not buying something new is the greener thing to do. And while advertisers pitch being kind to Mother Earth as a thing you do with dollars, there are plenty of small lifestyle changes you can make that don’t cost a thing. Some green living tips can even save you money, either right now or in the long term! So if what’s been stopping you from taking the green plunge are your finances (believe me, I sympathize), it’s time to change how you think about going green! Here are 16 ways to make your life a little more planet friendly without going broke in the process:

1. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs as your old light bulbs burn out. The newer ones have a warmer, softer light that looks more like traditional light bulbs, so you won’t feel like you’re still in the office when you’re trying to unwind after a long day. And you’ll save money in the long run. It’s win-win!

2. If you have a baby, switch to cloth diapers. Yes, there’s an initial outlay of about $300 for fancy adjustable one-size diapers like BumGenius 4.0, but that beats the $3,000 you’ll spend on disposable diapers (and that’s per child).

3. Use the library. Turns out, some libraries are pretty well-stocked with daily newspapers, magazines, and DVDs… not to mention a lot of great books. That gets you doubly off the hook – no more subscription costs, no more rental fees, and no more bundling all that paper every other week.

4. Turn a few towels into rags and give up paper towels forever. It took me a while to convince The Beard that this isn’t gross, but really, it’s not. And you’re going to do laundry anyway, right? Rags work better than paper towels in a lot of situations. No kidding.


Say Goodbye to Suds and Toss That Sponge

Monday, January 24th, 2011
By Christa

There’s something so… comforting about nice, sudsy dishwater. It just makes the whole act of washing dishes feel cleaner. But are tons of suds strictly necessary to the process? Nope! And sponges, well, where to start? Besides being made almost entirely out of those omnipresent petroleum byproducts, they also have a tendency to harbor E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus. Just right for washing the things you eat off of, right? Ew.

So what are the alternatives? One somewhat more environmentally-friendly alternative that is certainly less gross overall is the Original Spaghetti Scrub, designed by Hiroki Hiyashi and distributed by Roland Products.

The Original Spaghetti Scrub, along with its gentle and specialized cousins, has a regrettable polyester base, but the rest of it is made of good stuff like cotton, corn cobs, peach pits, and walnut shells for those really tough jobs. They last a long time, which means buying less of them over time.

Obviously, you can’t give up dish soap completely – so use something green like Life Tree Dish Soap – but you can use a lot less with the Spaghetti Scrub since all the ground up abrasives do a lot of the work. And if you’re wondering what makes it less gross than a regular sponge, the answer is that it dries completely, quickly. No stewing in its own juices, breeding zillions of germs.

Are Eco-Friendly All-Natural Cosmetics Really Natural or Green? Does It Matter to You?

Friday, January 21st, 2011
By Christa

Lipstick’s initial destination is on the lips, but it’s final destination is often in the mouth. Likewise, some amount of eyeshadow and eyeliner will get into the eyes, powder that’s by the nose can end up inhaled, and even makeup that’s not near anything in particular can get absorbed into the first few layers of skin. So while cosmetics and beauty products are largely thought of as being for external use only, the fact is that those of us who wear makeup are eating it, breathing it, and getting it into our eyes. So I’d say yes, it’s worth the trouble and the expense to seek out cosmetics that are made with natural, organic ingredients that haven’t been processed too much. For those who only buy cruelty-free, there are even vegan lipsticks and eyeshadows that contain nothing that came out of an animal.

The only problem?


Leaf and Light: A Nightlight That Even Looks Good In the Daytime

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
By Christa

How sweet are these leaf night lights from VivaTerra? And how cool, they’re not just made to look like a leaves – they are leaves! They preserve a perfect specimen of a tree’s above ground organ (woo woo!) using a mineral dip, and the result is a shimmering night light that lets gentle illumination through its network of veins.

There’s a sugar maple leaf in copper, a maple leaf in silver, and a sugar maple leaf in brass – and on all three, the details that make them look so pretty lit up can still be seen in the daylight. While $33 might seem a little steep for a night light, I think it would make a great gift for the new parent who *will* need a night light at some point and would rather not have a cartoon character hanging from the outlet.

5 Ways to Green Your Time Off

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
By Christa

A few weeks back, I shared 5 ways to go green at work, which reader Little Red reminded me isn’t always easy. Some companies like to update software overnight. You may turn all the lights off if you’re the last one out, only to find them on again in the a.m. when you’re the first one in because the cleaners turned them all on. Your office may not have a fridge for your bagged lunch or a coffee maker for your afternoon pick-me-up. And your choice of computers? Non-existent.

Where you have total control or almost total control is in your own home and in your personal life. In other words, in your time off. Since that’s your time to do with as you see fit – at least within the confines of your family life, if you have one – it’s a lot easier to go green! Here are five ways you can make your evenings and weekends more environmentally-friendly and physically healthy:

1. Replace you usual weekend activities – going to the movies, whatever – with something healthier and simpler. For the outdoorsy types, I recommend hiking, biking, or walking. These work especially well if you happen to have nature nearby, but even the city dweller can go for a long walk in the concrete jungle. Picnics are always good, doubly so if you pack food you’ve prepared yourself using organic, locally-grown ingredients. If spending more than a few minutes outdoors isn’t your bag, how about taking those ingredients and cooking up something yummy, then having a vegetarian or vegan dinner party for neighbors and friends?


Winter Cycling Tips – Bike Green All Year Long

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
By Christa

Walking aside, biking is the ultimate form of green transportation!. There are no emissions associated with people power – none that we’ll mention, anyway. While owning a car can cost $8,000 per year (think new parts, insurance, etc.) owning a bike costs around $400 – and that’s only if, unlike me, you’re getting your bike crazy tuneups and buying stuff for it. If you take all of the resources that make up a car, you could make at least 100 totally sweet bikes with all that stuff. And pumping those pedals is seriously healthy, especially if you go the extra mile and can commute via bike instead of car.

But hold up, let’s say you’re trying to live a wicked green life and you love riding your bike to work in the springtime, the summertime, and the fall. Wintertime biking, though? The idea sounds pretty crazy to those of us who would rather spend all day sitting under a heat lamp than go snowshoeing. Turns out, it’s not so crazy and plenty of people don’t stop biking to work – or anywhere else – when the weather gets icy. And for those who are inspired to give winter cycling a go, here are a few tips from Dave from Bicycle Habitat on handling your bike on winter streets.

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