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Could You Go a Year Without a Clothes Dryer?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
By Christa

Annie Hintsala did, after her dryer broke one day and her handy husband pronounced it dead. Rather than buy a new one, she swapped her dryer for two clothes lines… and she liked it. The bonuses were a lower electricity bill, no need to run a humidifier in the winter, and clothing that lasts longer. Oh, and a little family time.

….as the days went on and we thought about giving up and just buying a new dryer, we found that the chore became a chatting time to catch up on the day. Our son would often help, and it turned into less of a chore. It became a routine that simply was part of the daily set, like doing dishes and cooking.

Not that there haven’t been downsides. A line of laundry does take up space, especially when you’re a family of three. And a clothes dryer gets rid of lint and stiffness and a certain amount of static electricity. But if you have the space for it and don’t mind dealing with some fuzzies on your clothes, ditching your dryer is not a bad way to live a little greener.

My own answer to the question of whether I could go a year without a clothes dryer is sure, probably. Here in Massachusetts it wouldn’t be ideal in the winter, but it would certainly be doable in our particular house. And when I lived in Costa Rica, I went without a dryer or a washer – that’s right, for four months, I washed all of my clothing by hand in a great big tub, stomping on it with bare feet and ringing it out in the shower. Ever tried ringing out a soaking towel all by yourself? Not fun, but again, doable.

Could you go a year without a clothes dryer?

Image: Tabitha Blue

What Are YOU Breathing: Indoor Air Quality In the Winter

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
By Christa

How bad is indoor air pollution in the winter, really? According to some people, it can be pretty bad – as in worse than the pollution in the air outdoors. Think of outdoor air as the baseline, and imagine that everything that’s offgassing or putting out emissions in your home is adding to that. Then add to that the fact that in the battle of the wintertime drafts, we’re blocking out incoming fresh air, aka drafts.

So where’s all this indoor air pollution coming from? Cigarettes, if you’re a smoker. And incense, candles, and cooking. Consumer products releasing formaldehyde fumes and other aldehydes into the air. And sometimes even mold, if you like to keep things moist. Among other things.

None of us in cold weather climates is exempt, so it’s pretty important that we look into ways of cleaning our indoor air when we’re spending so much time breathing it in! Here are five ways to improve indoor air quality in your home for the remainder of this long, chilly winter:

1. When you have a choice, stick to VOC-free paint and organic mattresses and air-friendly, natural versions of things that tend to release nasty gasses in synthetic form. That means rugs and couches and plastic products.

2. Make sure your exhaust fans actually vent out of doors – the air in kitchens and bathrooms can get pretty moist, and that can lead to a buildup of mold. If your fans don’t vent to the outside, consider buying a small dehumidifier if your home tends to retain moisture.

3. Quit smoking! It’s not just bad for the air, it’s also bad for you. Can’t fathom quitting? Then brave the cold and light up outside where the secondhand smoke can dissipate instead of lingering in the air.

4. Make sure combustion appliances, like gas stoves, fireplaces, boilers, and furnaces are working at peak efficiency. That means changing filters, getting regular maintenance done, and keeping appliances clean.

5. Speaking of cleaning, damp dusting and vacuuming – especially with a specialized HEPA filters can go a long way toward clearing the air of allergens and particulates that settle and are disturbed, settle and are disturbed. For keeping air clean, stick to homemade cleansers like these.

Hang some houseplants!

In 1984, NASA senior research scientist Dr. Bill Wolverton tested houseplants for their ability to maintain clean air for future habitable lunar bases. Testing in sealed chambers, Wolverton found that philodendrons and golden pothos were excellent formaldehyde controllers; gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were impressive benzene purgers; pot mums and peace lilies were highly rated for TCE removal. His initial findings suggested that one to three mature plants were enough to improve the air in a 100-cubic-foot area. He also found that it wasn’t just plants doing the clean-up work, but the microbes that were specific to the plants’ roots. Another 1989 NASA study concluded that tested houseplants removed up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air within 24 hours.

P.S. – Yours truly recently posted over at Manolo for the Brides about sustainable wedding trends! If you’re engaged or weddings are just one of your favorite things, check it out.

Could You Choose 10 Essentials?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Christa

It’s pretty widely agreed that there’s a lot of overlap between the green movement and the minimalist movement. If you don’t have a ton of stuff, you don’t need a ton of space, which means you don’t need to waste a lot of time, money, or or energy heating/cleaning/maintaining/powering/etc. a ton of stuff or space.

Minimalism isn’t necessarily green, just as eco-friendly living doesn’t mean having to live like a monk, but taking a few minutes to consider what you own and why you own it can be plenty green.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits posted about choosing your 10 essentials a la the GQ series – not 10 essential possessions, but rather your 10 essentials for living. What you wear, what inspires you, where you love to be, that favorite food you can’t live without… that sort of thing. And I found the idea to be extremely inspiring.

When you create a list of your 10 essentials, you gain a whole new perspective on all those things that aren’t strictly necessary at all. Turns out there’s a good chance there’s plenty of stuff in your home and in your life that you could get rid of without ever feeling deprived.

What’s on your list of 10 essentials? What have you realized you can live without?

Image: Apartment Therapy

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!

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.

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.

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