Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow, snow and more snow

It's hard to be green and frugal when you're stuck in the house on account of 18+ inches of snow! The Northeast was slammed with a blizzard this week. My compost bucket is overflowing and my recycling is piling up! But I was able to get a nice frugal workout in -- shoveling lots of snow!

Cabin fever is beginning to set in. Its hard not to do some online shopping. So what's a green and frugal girl to do? Here's some free things to do when you're stuck in the house:

  1. Play in the snow...shovel the a snowman
  2. Clean the house (okay, not exactly fun, but it's something constructive)
  3. Organize and declutter (I'm already putting together items for Ebay and Craigslist)
  4. Pay bills
  5. Do laundry
  6. Play with the kids (I'm addicted to Wii House Party thanks to Santa)
  7. Begin putting away the holiday decorations (I haven't been able to bring myself to do this yet since I like to leave up the decorations until January 1st.)
  8. Read a book or magazine
  9. Workout to a DVD
  10. Do absolutely nothing -- and enjoy every minute!
What do you like to do when you're stuck in the house? I can always use some more ideas!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Planning Ahead for Next Year's Garden

I'm a big fan of The Simple Dollar and thought you would enjoy this post. Of course prepping for the garden comes right after all the holiday prep...

You might be surprised to find that, as winter sets in here in Iowa, we’re eagerly planning our garden for 2009. In fact, I’d argue that the winter season – spent planning, preparing, and organizing – is as important as the other seasons for having a manageable and cost-effective garden.

What’s so important about gardening? A well-planned and well-cultivated garden not only provides healthy food all throughout the summer and fall, it also provides a very inexpensive hobby that gives you exercise, a lot of fresh air, and an opportunity to get your hands in the dirt. An afternoon in the garden is not only fun, it makes me feel healthier, provides healthy food for my family, and scarcely costs a dime.

What am I doing right now to plan ahead for next year’s garden? Here are ten winter tactics that I use to prepare for the spring.

I plan what I’m going to plant in the spring. I spend some time thinking about what exactly I want to plant – what vegetables and fruits do I hope to get from my garden? For me, this is usually led by the dishes I want to make – for example, if I want to make a lot of salsa, I’ll plan for lots of tomatoes and make space for peppers and onions.

I research varieties. This usually involves getting a number of seed catalogs as well as searching online for more information. For example, if I’m making salsa, I like very firm tomatoes that don’t have many seeds. Knowing this, I dig through online forums and seed catalogs seeking the kind of tomatoes I’m looking for. This year, I intend to plant some Rio Grande tomatoes, of which I’ve read several recommendations.

I order seeds as early as possible. The earlier I get the seeds, the more sure I am that I’ll get the varieties I want as early as possible. I want to get them early – in January or February – so I can get the plants started in the house before spring begins.

I create a “growing calendar.” Once I have the seeds ordered, I take the information about growing times and my own knowledge about temperatures in Iowa and plan when I should start the seeds inside – usually sometime in late February. Some people start seedlings earlier than this, but I’ve had bad experiences with late frosts lately and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I start seedlings in the basement. This is actually quite easy. All you need is some soil, some reusable plastic cups, and your seeds. Poke a few tiny holes in the bottom of the cup, add the soil, then plant the seeds. Obviously, I do this in concert with the growing calendar. I also hang up a grow light over the plants that turns on and off every twelve hours, simulating daylight. Then, each day, I just go water the cups. Easy as pie.

I maintain my compost. While it’s too cold for the compost to really work in the winter, we still toss vegetable waste, egg shells, and coffee grounds into the composter. In the early spring, when the weather begins to warm, we’ll just add water and a few handfuls of soil (and maybe some compost starter) and a few weeks later, we’ll have wonderful compost.

I maintain my garden equipment. On decent winter days where I must go outside out of stir-craziness, I’ll go out and get my garden equipment in shape. I clean it up, make sure it’s dry, and sharpen things that need sharpening (like pruning shears). This way, when the weather actually gets nice, I’m ready to head right out to the garden.

I educate myself. Since winter months are time to hole up inside and read, I do just that. I grab some gardening books from the library and learn more about gardening techniques in Iowa. If I see any good ones, I jot them down and try to implement them in the spring and summer.

I collect newspapers. I love using newspaper to cover the garden (leaving just gaps for the plants to come up). With a bit of straw on the top, it’s a great way to keep the weeds at bay. So, during the winter, I save up the newspapers so that in the spring I can easily make a layer of paper on the garden several sheets thick.

I enjoy the bounty of the previous year – and use it as motivation for the coming year. On the coldest day of the winter so far, I unthawed some whole tomatoes. They were delicious – a slightly sweet taste of summer that not only fulfills me now, but motivates me to get out there and garden in the spring.
Gardening is a spectacular frugal hobby – and winter’s just as good a time as any to get started!

What do you usually do to prepare for your garden?

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Start Baking: Great Christmas Cookie Recipes

Baking cookies is one of the last things on my holiday to-do list. I'm trying to decide what types of cookies to bake, aside from the typical chocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar, etc. During my search, I came across some interesting treats, including:

 I definitely plan on trying some of these. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

What kinds of cookies do you normally bake for the holidays? Have any yummy, unique ones that you'd like to share?
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Wrap It Up Green

Did you know that if every American wrapped just three gifts in something other than virgin paper, we save 47,000 football fields of paper every year?

Unbelievable, but true.

So how to wrap pretty packages without paper?

Switch to fabric.

Whatever look you prefer can be created with fabric -- from super sophisticated to down-home cozy. And there are other bonuses from using this material instead of paper:

Depending on what you use, a silk scarf, for instance, when you wrap with fabric, you're giving a gift within a gift

Fabric-wrapped packages don't require tape or scissors. For that matter, they don't need ribbon either.
Your recipient can keep the fabric to use (in the case of a scarf or handkerchief, for example), or pass it on.
Fabric wraps have a very long life.

And one more thing, wrapping with fabric is fun! It's easy to learn the many techniques for wrapping anything from a piece of jewelry to a bottle of wine or even a basketball! Celebrate Green's instruction page illustrates more than a dozen wrapping techniques.

The least expensive way to go is to use what you already have either as is (in the case of a silk scarf), or by cutting up sheets (decorate them if you like), remnants, or even a piece of clothing, into a square of the appropriate size for the gift.

You can cut squares with pinking shears; sew two pieces of cloth wrong sides together, then turn right side out and iron flat; or fold over edges and sew by hand or machine.

Or, if you're not the DIY type, you can puchase beautiful pre-made wrapping cloths or fabric bags. In addition to wraps, you'll find lots of choices in fabric bags. While you'll miss out on the fun of perfecting your wrapping techniques, these bags make quick work of getting those gifts good-to-go.

Using fabric instead of paper to is easy, affordable and Earth-friendly. Time to get wrappin'!

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF: Best Blog Posts of the Week

The weekend has finally arrived! How is that holiday shopping and preparation going?

Any holiday tips or tricks you'd like to share for staying sane with so much to do?

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Friday, December 3, 2010

TGIF: Top Blog Posts of the Week

Happy Hannukah to everyone who begin their celebration this week.

Have you started your holiday shopping, baking, cards, or the other million things that need to get done in the next three weeks? There's lots to do and not enough time to do it. What else is new?

Here's this week's list of top blog posts. I tried to find some good cookie recipes, time savers and shopping tips. Enjoy!

I'll be interested to know if anyone goes for the 12 cookie recipes for Christmas. I can barely pull off three batches of one cookie, let alone 12 different ones!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best Blog Posts of the Week -- Turkey Day Edition

This week's best blog posts are early due to the holiday week. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. If you're headed out on Black Friday, here's to getting the best deals possible!

With that, here are some of the best blog posts of the short week:
Let me know if I'm missing any posts that you think I should've included. Happy Turkey Day!

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Product Review: Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker

Have you check out CSN Stores yet? They have everything from appliances to bar stools.  I recently had the opportunity to review one of their products, a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

Ice cream -- whether you get it from the store or the ice cream man -- can be expensive. What better way to be green and frugal, than to make your own ice cream? Best of all this ice cream maker is snazzy enough to keep out on the counter. Unheard of, right?

As you may know, my husband is the cook in our house and loves to try out new gadgets. He quickly purchased everything you need for homemade strawberry ice cream -- strawberries, heavy cream, milk and sugar -- and within two hours we were eating some of the tastiet ice cream I've  ever had!! We adjusted the amount of sugar, but it didn't change the taste. It was delicious. Best of all, you just add all the ingredients, turn the ice cream maker on and you're done.

There's one piece that looks like a metal bucket that must be kept in the fridge for a few hours prior to making ice cream. (It's permanently in our freezer so that it's ready to go at any given time.) Aside from waiting for that bucket to get cold, making homemade ice cream was a cinch.

Here are the specs from

•Ice cream maker
•Transparent lid
•Freezer bowl
•Mixing paddle
•Instruction/recipe book

•Double insulated freezer bowl holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert
•Brushed metal housing with embossed logo
•Fully automatic
•Heavy-duty motor makes frozen desserts or drinks in as little as 25 minutes
•Large ingredient spout for adding mix-ins

•Limited 3-year warranty
•Overall Dimensions: 11.25"H x 8"W x 8.25"D

I highly recommend the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for some of the best-tasting ice cream you've ever had.

Do you make you're own ice cream? Any funky recipe flavors that you'd like to share?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get Ready for a Green Thanksgiving

Plan ahead Thanksgiving saves time, money and waste

You may balk, but the best way to save money, save time, save waste and save your sanity if you want to have an eco-friendlier feast this year, is to--say it with me now--plan ahead.

Planning helps zero in on when to buy, how much to buy, how to decorate, how to deal with leftovers and all the other details around hosting a fun, Earth-friendly celebration.

One hour of planning can make the difference between a pleasurable event and a frenzy of expensive over-consumption.

So gather the kids, a pen and pad (or be extra-eco and write on a blackboard), and start by posing and discussing these 10 questions:

  1. What foods do we traditionally serve? Are we going overboard? If we usually provide eight side dishes, could we cut that to six?
  2. What items should we be sure to buy organic? (Here's the list of fruits and veggies with the most pesticide residues and those with the least.)
  3. How are we going to decorate the table? Can we use décor we already have? Borrow? Use items from nature? Do double duty with edible décor?
  4. Can we check with friends and neighbors to see if they'd like to join us in buying organic produce in bulk at reduced cost?
  5. Can we aim for a no-waste Thanksgiving by avoiding pre-packaged items?
  6. Can we find what we need at a local organic farm and save money while having fun by picking veggies and fruits? 
  7. Can we consider an organic turkey or a heritage variety? (It's complicated and time consuming to wade through all the labels you may find on turkeys, but the USDA organic label offers pretty clear standards. If you're buying from a local farmer, ask about methods used in raising and slaughtering. Their turkeys may not be labeled organic because of the cost involved in doing so, but assuming you trust the farmer, you should be purchasing a healthier alternative to conventionally raised birds.)
  8. Do we have enough dishes, flatware and glasses for the crowd? If not, how will we sidestep purchasing new? (We suggest asking guests to bring their own place settings. To add meaning to the greening, ask them also to be ready to share the history of the plates. Were they a wedding gift? Handed down from great grandma? Purchased with your first paycheck?)
  9. How much of our meal can we make using in-season items instead of those imported from far away? 
  10. What will we do with leftovers? Will we provide guests with upcycled glass jars for them to take home what they like? Can we make something delicious from leftovers and take to a food bank? Freeze for later? Will we compost anything we can't use? If we don't compost ourselves and haven't asked, can we call our local trash service and ask if they will compost food scraps?
Whether you go all out in celebrating an eco-Thanksgiving or take one or two steps, be sure to give thanks for the bounty that the Earth provides.


This post is brought to you by: Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

I keep hearing about Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover, so when I saw it in our local library, I jumped at the chance to read it.

The book is focused on eliminating all debt, including your mortgage, in order to invest, save for retirement and contribute money for a child's college education. I completely agree with everything in the book, but I do find it lacking in providing step-by-step instructions. Instead, it provides numerous stories of people who have used Ramsey's system to become debt free.

The chapters include:
  1. The Total Money Makeover Challenge
  2. Denial
  3. Debt Myths
  4. Money Myths
  5. Two More Hurdles
  6. Save $1,000 Fast
  7. The Debt Snowball
  8. Finish the Emergency Fund
  9. Maximize Retirement Investing
  10. College Funding
  11. Pay Off the Home Mortgage
  12. Build Wealth Like Crazy
  13. Live Like No Else
I did enjoy reading the success stories and there are some worksheets at the end of the book, but it would've been helpful to include some worksheet examples. That said, Ramsey does have another book called Financial Peace. I'm going to see if the library has it so I can read it to see if it fills in some of the blanks that I've noted.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of Ramsey's books.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Website Review: CSN Stores

I love to shop online. It's easy, convenient and best of all, there are lots and lots of choices. I may have mentioned CSN Stores before. But I recently realized that they're adding more and more sites, which means more selection, convenience and cost savings!!! Plus, many of their items include free shipping.

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from stylish handbags, to modern bar stools, or great cookware. Want to learn more? Check back in a few weeks when I review an item from their home collection...

Until then, here are just a few of their sites:

Have your used any of the CSN Stores websites? I want to hear what you think.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Best Frugal is Free

If you can get it for free, why wouldn't you? That's exactly what my husband and I were thinking when we found out that you can get free wood chips from the electric company. When the electric company trims trees around their electrical lines, they have to do something with the wood chips. Normally, they'll just throw them away at the local dumps. However, if they're doing work in your neighborhood, you can ask them to dump the chips in a pile on your property.

The first time, we thought it was too good to be true. We've since received two more piles of wood chips. While it's not the best batch since there are leaves, branches and other debris, it's perfect for putting around trees or any other items set away from your house. Since the wood chips aren't treated, they could potentially have bugs so it's best to use them appropriately (away from your home or other structures).

It's amazing how far three giant piles of wood chips lasts. While it takes awhile to spread, it looks so nice once it's done.

What are some unexpected items that you've gotten for free?

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Green and Frugal: Get Fit for Less

I recently started another blog -- -- to share tips and workouts. So it got me to thinking about frugal ways to stay in shape. As we get older, it gets harder and harder to keep the pounds at bay.

Here are just a few ways:
  • Walk or Run -- All you need are a pair of sneakers and you're off. There are no excuses since you don't need a gym membership. No matter where you are or what the weather may bring, walking or running is the simplest and one of the cheapest forms of exercise that you'll fine.

  • DVDSs -- If you don't have your own exercise DVDs, stop by the local library to borrow some for free. Other options include, eBay or your other favorite site to find cheap exercise DVDs. Again, a cheap way to get a workout since all you need is a TV and DVD player.

  • Free gym membership by working at a gym -- From getting certified to teach exercise classes to working at the front desk or child care center, there are lots of ways to score a free or significantly reduced gym membership. 

  • Scour garage sales or Craiglist for free or cheap gym equipment -- The free section of Craiglist usually has some kind of exercise equipement. I scored a NordicTrack treadmill that retails for $800 for $300 and full gym set for $200 at a garage sale. Now I'm on the search for a Spin or recumbent bike...

What are your frugal tips for staying in shape?
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Green and Frugal: More on Greenwashing

I had written a previous post on greenwashing and recently came across another article by Hunter Richards regarding "Software to Hold 'Greenwashers' Accountable."

Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) is a new type of software that simplifies tracking greenhouse gas emissions. It's thought that ECA software can play a major part in stopping greenwashing if it’s as widely accepted as the use of traditional financial accounting software. There are really five key things that are going to help increase adoption:
  1. Government regulations
  2. Adoption of carbon accounting
  3. Expansion of accounting standards
  4. Economic incentives
  5. Informed consumers.
I encourage you to check out the article and let me know what you think. To be more green, it's imperative that we eliminate imposters and scam artists who try to claim that their product or service is environmentally friendly.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Green and Frugal: The Urban Homestead

My sweet husband sent me a website today to check out -- The Urban Homestead. It's about a family in California that's become as self-sufficient as possible by gardening, utilizing livestock and recycling. The most interesting aspect is that their on 1/5 of an acre! Over the last 20 years they've perfected their edible landscape while reducing their carbon footprint.

Here are some of the things they're doing, which are impressive, to say the least:

Urban Homestead at a Glance
  • Location: Northwest Pasadena, one mile from downtown Pasadena
  • Property Size: 66’ x 132’ = 8,712 sq.ft. (1/5 acre)
  • House: Simple, wood frame craftsman bungalow. Circa 1917.
  • House Size: 1,500 sq. ft.
  • Garden Size: ~ 1/10 acre (3,900 sq.ft. / ~ 66' x 66') 
  • Garden Diversity: Over 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits & berries
  • Productivity: Up to 6,000 lbs harvest annually on 1/10 acre
Food / Garden
  • Growing 99% of produce
  • 6,000lbs on 1/10 acre Garden
  • Saving seeds
  • Companion planting
Healthy Soil / Planting Methods
  • Remineralization
  • Self watering containers
  • Integral pest management
  • Square inch plantings
  • Polyculture
  • Successive sowing
Composting Methods
  • Making / Using EM Bokashi
  • Vermicomposting
  • Composting food, garden and green waste
  • Brewing compost teas
Food Preservation/Storage
  • Canning
  • Drying
  • Freezing
  • Fermenting

Food Choices
  • Buying in bulk
  • Organic
  • Local
  • Eating seasonally
  • Reducing "food miles"
  • Fair trade
  • Vegetarian (since 1992)
Raising Smallstock
  • Chickens (eggs/manure)
  • Ducks (eggs/manure)
  • Dwarf rabbits (manure)
  • Dwarf/pygmy goats (milk/manure)

We keep contemplating getting some chickens and possibly a goat or two. But we wonder if we would be getting in over our head. A garden is one thing, livestck is another.  
So this is just the short list. They do so much to be green and environmentally friendly!

Do you have a homestead or are contemplating one? I want to hear all about it.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Green and Frugal: A Cool Pioneer Tip for Naturally Insulating Your Home

Another great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar...

According to Consumer Reports, heating costs are expected to go up this winter. Again.

Big surprise, right?

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the average American household will spend $986 this winter to heat their home. And, that’s the average. If you’re heating with fuel oil, you can expect to pay 11% more than you did last year (coming in at a winter cost of over $1,900) and if you heat with propane, you’re going to pay 7.5% more (at $1,830).

Electric users (like myself) actually going to get a bit of a breather. Our costs are down 1.9%.

These figures, however, are only an estimate. I don’t know who Consumer Reports sourced for their winter forecast, but they’re claiming that heating-degree days will be 3% warmer than last year. Because of that, these figures aren’t worse.

If you check the Farmer’s Almanac, however, you’ll see that they’re predicting a bitterly cold winter for much of the country. NOAA, on the other hand, disputes this.

So like always, it could go either way. Personally I’m rooting for the Consumer Reports forecast!

Whether we have a balmy winter or a mild one, it’s still going to be cold. And there are things we can be doing right now to make sure we spend less on our heating bill.

Saving Money on Heating Costs: Pioneer Way

Stop and think about this for a minute.

Do you ever wonder how people heated their homes before central heating was invented?

Sure, people had radiators and wood stoves. But they didn’t have insulation to keep all that heat from escaping. Or did they?

A few months ago I finished read “Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression“. And I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable books I can remember reading in a long time. It was fascinating to read a memoir that detailed how people really lived so long ago. I’m talking, what they ate, what they grew, what they read, what they did for fun…it was amazing!

One of the details that struck me was how people insulated their homes back then. On the farm, right before winter set in, people would drive 6 foot posts into the ground, three feet away from the sides of the house. They would then pile straw between the house and the posts. Then, come the first big snow, they would pack snow over the straw, making almost a wall of ice.

And that’s how it stayed until the first Spring melt.

The author said this “makeshift insulation” did a wonderful job keeping the cold out and the heat in. So I started to wonder, could we do this now?

Well, we could if we lived in a smaller home. And if we didn’t have straw, we could use leaves. I even found a tutorial on on how to insulate your house with leaves. The cool thing about using leaves (once they’re bagged) is that you don’t have to pile them on the outside of your house. You can insulate your attic and basement with leaves!

I love this idea because if you can’t afford to go out and get insulation, or if you’re renting and don’t want to pay for improvements you might not benefit from long-term, using bagged leaves as insulation is the perfect solution. Now, I can’t attest to how effective this is. BUT, leaves are like down; they have plenty of open air space between them, which slows the transition of hot and cold air.

To me, this basic principal means that leaves would work just fine to insulate your home, especially in the attic.

Last Word…

What do you guys think about this? Would you use leaves to insulate your home if you had to (or if you wanted to)? Do you think it would work? And if you’re on a farm, would you ever consider using the straw-packing tip to insulate the outside of your home?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trick or Treat for Good

With one notable exception, Halloween has traditionally been about getting, not giving. That exception began 60 years ago, when a mom in Philadelphia had the idea to turn the getting into something bigger. With nothing more than a desire to see change, Mary Emma Alison spread the word through schools, churches and community groups, encouraging kids to collect pennies that would go toward food, medicine and other needs of poor children around the world through UNICEF (the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund).

Her efforts were noticed by UNICEF, which eventually took over the campaign.

President John F. Kennedy recognized the willingness of children to move beyond self-interest:

"UNICEF has caught the imagination of our people-especially our nation's children whose Halloween collections have become a symbol of concern and an expression of tangible aid."

Children still can collect for UNICEF, but in addition, there are a number of other ways in which they can turn Halloween into a good-for-others event.

For instance, kids can collect eye glasses. Organized by OneSight and Lions Clubs, Sight Night is a non-traditional way to go door-to-door for good. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, children and community groups collect used prescription glasses as well as sunglasses which are then recycled for usage by global clinics. Click here for more information and download materials for Sight Night.

Do your kids have allergies? The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network's Trick or Treat for Food Allergy is an alternative way for kids of all ages to have fun during Halloween. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, which may contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, kids will trick-or-treat for donations to fund FAAN's food allergy education and research programs. This way, they can dress up as their favorite characters while raising awareness to an important cause. Participating kids can even win cool prizes.

Older children may want to raise awareness of Fair Trade Certified chocolate and help end abusive child labor conditions in the cocoa industry. If so, they can try "reverse" trick-or-treating with Global Exchange. Instead of accepting candy (or in addition), they will hand out Fair Trade chocolate and/or informational cards on why supporting Fair Trade practices in the cocoa industry is a year around must.

And finally, with kids bringing home pounds of candy, most parents won't allow them to eat it all. Instead of tossing the loot, check with the Halloween Buy Back program to see if your local dentists are listed. Participating dentists pay children $1 for each pound they bring in. Kids can keep the money or use it to help defray the cost of sending collected candy to troops overseas.

If dentists in your area are not participating, see whether your local food pantry or Meals-on-Wheels might accept the treats.
This Halloween, why not take the focus off collecting as much candy as possible and offer your child the opportunity to be generous. That idea is anything but scary!

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Green and Frugal: Hertz Announces Electric Vehicle Partnership Featuring Nissan Leaf

"Fueling up" the Nissan Leaf

The Hertz Corporation announced a Commitment to Action at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to bring the next generation of electric vehicles to the general public through its car rental and car sharing operations.

As the world's largest general-use airport car-rental brand, Hertz is uniquely positioned to introduce multiple groups of consumers - urban drivers, university students, travelers and corporations - to all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Hertz's leadership in this initiative will catalyze other partners and cities to provide additional infrastructure for mass scaling of electric mobility.

Hertz and its partners are planning to roll out the EV rental program starting this autumn with full-scale deployment in both the U.S. and other countries beginning in 2011. Hertz Global EV will be the first to provide a range of all-electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and charging stations on a rental and car-sharing basis at this scale.

"Our Hertz Global EV program will galvanize support for building out the infrastructure platform necessary to make electric vehicle travel an everyday reality," said Mark P. Frissora, Hertz's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "With our rental and car sharing expertise, industry relationships and global footprint, we are in an ideal position to lead this new frontier in transportation. This is the game-changer for electric mobility."

Hertz is building partnerships that will help scale up electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid usage for the general public. Hertz is forming strategic partnerships with manufacturers, charging station providers, municipalities, NGOs, corporations and other stakeholders.

"Done right, electric vehicles can help the environment and represent a leap forward in transportation," said Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund. "We look forward to working with Hertz and its partners to ensure that this leap drives measurable benefits for both consumers and the planet."

In February, Hertz announced a joint commitment with Nissan to bring the 100 percent electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF to its select US and European car rental and sharing locations. Additionally, Hertz will supply EVs and PHEVs from other manufacturers including GM, Toyota and Mitsubishi. In Europe, Hertz EVs have already been introduced in London and Zurich with additional cities adding EVs this fall.

During the next several months, Hertz Global EV will leverage the company's rental and car sharing locations as bases for vehicles and charging stations, and tap into its technology - including sophisticated fleet management tools and the consumer-facing NeverLost GPS system - to help form an EV grid.

Looking forward, the company will build on its EV grid and explore new opportunities - including potentially bringing other areas of the business, including Hertz Equipment Rental, into Hertz Global EV.

Electric vehicles are catching on. Would you like the option to rent an electric car?

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green and Frugal: Save Money and the Planet with a Costume Swap

It may seem early to be talking about Halloween, but one of the best ways to celebrate green is by planning ahead.
In 2009, $4.75 billion was expected to be spent by consumers for Halloween. And you can bet that this spending ultimately results in a lot of waste, some of which is attributed to costumes.

Swapping half the costumes that kids wear at Halloween would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equal to the weight of 2500 mid-sized cars, says Bob Lilienfield of
Millions of parents buy new costumes each year wanting to fulfill their childrens' fantasies. But like a wedding day, in general, costumes are worn once, then thrown away. Relatively small numbers are kept in dress up boxes and reused or donated to thrift shops. Most are likely sent to the dump.
So this year, why not make a boo-ti-ful Halloween resolution and swap?

It's easy to plan a family or neighborhood swap. Just sent out e-invites inviting guests to bring outgrown costumes in good condition. Make it a party by adding activities like the design-a-bag contest from ChicoBag where your kids can win $250 for them and the same for their schools. Or dunk for apples, make goodie bags or add other Halloween/seasonal games. Or how about staging a fashion show with kids wearing their new-to-them outfits!

If you're interested in staging or attending a public event where more costume choices should be available, check out where you'll find a database of swaps plus tips on how to set one up.
Add another aspect to a public swap by teaming with a non-profit. Charge a small swapping fee that goes to your partner.

And if you can't make it to a swap or there is none in your area, the internet comes to your rescue. Do a search for "costume swap" or "clothing swap" and you'll likely find online alternatives.

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Friday, October 8, 2010

TGIF: Saving Money with Groupon

Another great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar...

So, have you guys seen those Groupon Ads yet?

You can hardly visit a blog anywhere on the web without seeing them. The ads claim you can get services, dining and “stuff” for up to 90% off in your local city. Heck, I’ve even got a Groupon ad up on my own site, courtesy of Google Adwords.

I didn’t pay any attention to Groupon for months. I kept seeing the ads, but barely spared them a thought.

Finally, yesterday, I clicked on one. And boy, was I impressed with what I saw.

How Groupon Works…

Groupon works by purchasing large quantities of coupons from local (to you) business. Restaurants, bowling alleys, spas, classes, carpet cleaners, outdoor outfitters…the wide variety of businesses and services selling to Groupon is impressive.

Once you sign up with Groupon and let them know where you’re coming from, you get “A Deal A Day” from your area. And there are some really awesome deals; all are at least 50% off. Many are discounted way more than that.

Groupon earns money because you “buy” the coupon from them. Everyone wins here: the business gets loads and loads of customers, you save at least 50% on a product, service or meal you wanted anyway, and Groupon earns enough to keep offering these amazing coupons.

The Deals…

So, what kind of deals are we talking about here?

For instance, today’s deal for Detroit was $59 for 2 rooms of carpet cleaning and 2 coats of protective finish from OxiClean.

Ok, not exactly my cup of tea (even though the OxiClean claims to be ecofriendly), but let’s look at the deal. This would normally cost $118. You’re getting this service for 50% off. If you were going to get your carpets cleaned anyway, this is a pretty great deal.

You would then pay Groupon the $59, and schedule your appointment. Simple.

Another recent Detroit-area deal was $20 for 2 dinners and 2 tickets to Late-Night Comedy at Andiamo. This would normally cost $50. So you saved $30. Over 2,500 people bought that Groupon in the Detroit area.


Groupon has over 9 million active members. And they’ve been featured in The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, the Today Show, Fast Company, CNN…the list goes on and on. Forbes has dubbed Groupon “The Fastest Growing Company Ever”. And with good reason. It rocks.

Signing Up to Groupon…

Because Groupon automatically picks up on where you’re coming from, you might have to change the city.

You can also earn money on Groupon. If you refer a friend to Groupon and they sign up, you get $10 Groupon bucks to spend on a deal. You can spread the word through links, Facebook, Twitter and email.

The Biggest Perk to Groupon

The coolest thing, I think, that Groupon offers is that it exposes you to businesses and restaurants you might have never heard of before. For instance, I had no idea that Andiamo Comedy Club existed. There was a deal back in March for Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in Redford. Sounds deliciously amazing, and I had no idea the place was there. Now I want to go check it out!

So, Groupon allows you to kind of play tourist in your own city. It exposes you to places and events you might have never heard of. And it enables you to go out and have fun (or buy services) for far less than you’d normally have to pay.

What’s not to love here?

There’s even a guy who’s travelling the country and living entirely off of Groupons. Yes, of course he’s blogging about it, at

Last Word…

I’d love to hear back from you guys on this. Have you used Groupon? Have you scored any amazing deals, or discovered a new place or event because of the site?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Groupon, if they’ve been good or bad. So send ‘em in!

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Friday, October 1, 2010

TGIF: Top Blog Posts of the Week

Let's hear it for Friday!! To end the week, let's take a look at best blog posts. (These are compiled from the last few weeks.) We've got a nice mix of recipes, money-saving tips and green recommendations.

Let me know if I missed any or if you'd like to nominate your blog post for inclusion in the next round of top picks.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green and Frugal: Are You Ready to Go Electric?

General Electric is participating in a new eco-themed project that's part of a new interactive program called "The GE Show." This month's episode is focused on the future of electric vehicles. There are some amazing tools included, so be sure to check it out.

Some interesting facts from the show:
  • Electric cars aren’t just part of the future – they’re part of the past as well. 35% of our cars were electric-powered in the early 1900’s, but were not widely adopted due to limited range and a lack of powering infrastructure.
  • Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle
  • Most people don’t know that many electric vehicles can handle their daily mileage easily. The average American drives 32.88 miles per day. The Nissan Leaf, for example, can go 100 miles in a single charge.
  • Projections show that there will almost be 14 million electric vehicles on the road in just 10 years.
  • For every mile, an EV owner only pays less than 2.5 cents per mile (as opposed to 10 cents per gas-powered mile)
  • If the estimates of 14 million EVs on the road by 2020 are accurate, it would mean close to 65 million tons fewer emissions
You can check out the whole episode below:

I'd love to hear what you think.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Green and Frugal: Do You Pay Attention to Companies Going Green?

When it comes to being eco-friendly, it can be easy to make changes to your lifestyle. But have you ever considered how the companies you patronize are going green? Does it make a difference to you?

The survey asks readers if a company's efforts to go green  influence purchase decisions. Click here to participate in the survey.

The survey coincides with an article about five companies that are greening their supply chains. In the article, the efforts of IBM, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Patagonia, and Pepsi are discussed and they are working to reduce their impact on the environment, which is certainly commendable. But should they be doing more? What are the real motivations behind a greener supply chain? Are consumers even aware of these efforts?

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Green and Frugal: 20 Ways to Improve the World...Even If You're Broke

One of my favorite blogs is The Simple Dollar. If you haven't read it, you should definitely check it out. Trent Hamm offers numerous tips and solid information on how to get out of debt, save money and enjoy life with less.

Below is one of his most recent posts, which I couldn't help but share. As a huge proponent of trying to use, reuse and recycle everything, this list covers just it all and then some...

Personal Philanthropy: Twenty Ways to Improve the World, Even If You’re Broke

So often, people assume that charity and philanthropy mean stretching an already-tight budget even further. “If I donated $100 to the food kitchen, I’d have to start using the food kitchen!” goes the common train of thought. (That’s not to say that donating money isn’t useful – it certainly is.)

Money can often be a very tight resource, but it’s far from the only resource you have. We all have so many things available to us to share with others that it only takes a moment of thought or effort to make a real difference in someone else’s life.

Here are twenty things anyone can donate to make the world a better place – and put a little bit of extra spring in their step – without blowing up their budget. Even better, many of these ideas will help you clean out your closets and declutter your home a bit. If you’re in need, this list might even help you find a charitable cause that can help you.

Donate your hair Locks of Love ( is a non-profit that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children suffering from long term medical hair loss. It’s easy to donate – just grow your hair out to ten or more inches in length, cut it off, stick it in an envelope, and help out a kid that could really use a boost.

Donate your blood and/or plasma The Red Cross ( runs blood drives in your community quite regularly, and many large communities have places where you can always donate. Keep an eye on your community calendar, then stop by and donate. It’s just a little prick on your arm, then you get a cookie and a drink and you’re on your way, while your blood is used to save someone’s life.

Similarly, donate your bone marrow Another renewable body resource you can donate is your bone marrow. The National Marrow Donor Program has a very detailed FAQ that discusses in detail the process of marrow donation.

Donate your vacation time Many workplaces make it possible to donate unused vacation time to people in dire need. Spend a day less at the beach next year and give that day to someone who is fighting a serious medical situation.

Donate your body space It’s all about the awareness for many charitable causes. Simply by having a band on your wrist or a ribbon on your lapel, you remind the people who see it of a charity and also let them know that there are people out there that passionately support the charity. Here’s a list of different charity awareness bracelets available.

Similarly, donate your bumper Get a big old bumper sticker describing your favorite charity and slap it right on the back bumper of your car. The next time you’re stuck in traffic, your car is increasing the mindshare of the charity you care about.

Donate your wedding dress Making Memories ( is an awesome charity that helps women with metastatic breast cancer live out their dreams. Many of the wishes granted by Making Memories involve weddings, so the charity makes great use of the wedding dress you’ve got hanging in your closet. Unused gowns are auctioned to earn more money for this charity’s work, so even if your dress doesn’t get used by a needful bride, it still can help them.

Donate your unused home repair supplies Did you buy too many shingles and now have a big pile of them just sitting in your garage? Got a few gallons of leftover paint from a job where the paint didn’t match or you overestimated your needs? Habitat for Humanity ( can put those resources to good use building homes for the needy instead of those supplies going to waste sitting in your garage.

Donate your flowers Got extra flowers after a wedding or other event? Donate them. Contact your local florist or local hospital and ask about giving the leftover flower arrangements to people who need them for other events or who could really use them to brighten their day. You can do the same if you have flowers that grow around your home.

Donate your nasty old shoes Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program ( (check that site out – it has a great video explaining what they do in great detail) takes old, nasty running shoes and turns them into materials for public playgrounds and basketball courts. All you have to do is send ‘em in!

Donate your voice LibriVox ( creates free audiobooks for the public domain, which enables everyone to have access to great free listening materials. Such books are used as educational materials for the visually impaired, radio material for public stations, and countless other good uses. You can participate by volunteering to read and record a public domain book. You’ll learn something and make the world a better place.

Donate your old carpet Many animal shelters will accept donations of old, clean carpet for bedding for the sheltered pets. Contact your local shelter the next time you update your carpeting and see if they can put that old carpet to use.

Donate your cupboard excess or your extra garden vegetables If you’re anything like me, the next time you clean out your cupboards, you’ll find a bunch of items way in the back that will make you wonder if you can ever possibly use them before they expire. These are perfect items to donate to your local food pantry, where someone in need will have those items on their dinner table this week.

Donate your old computer Many charities would love to have that old computer of yours. It might not be up to snuff for watching downloaded high definition movies, but it’s perfectly good enough for a church to install Linux on and use for accounting purposes. Ask around at the local charities you support and, if you can’t find a home for it, ask TechSoup (, which facilitates technology donations for nonprofit groups.

Donate your aluminum cans Our local high school has several groups that go through the neighborhoods once a year and ask for aluminum can and bottle donations. We simply store our used cans and bottles in a bin under the sink and when these groups come around, we gladly hand our cans and bottles over. If you don’t have such “to your door” service, many national groups facilitate the collection of cans and bottles – almost every Habitat for Humanity office will accept can and/or bottle donations.

Donate your used books Better World Books ( accepts donations of used books, which they then sell and give some of the proceeds in support of global literacy. If you have a bunch of books sitting around (and PaperBackSwap doesn’t excite you), this is a great way to turn a big box of used space into children who can read.

Donate the old stuff in your medicine cabinet Got medications you no longer need (especially sealed items that you never got around to using)? Got items to help you treat a condition that you’ve overcome? World Medical Relief ( will happily take those items and distribute them in a non-discriminatory fashion to people in real medical need.

Donate unwanted suits and business clothes Everyone has a suit or two in their closet that they rarely wear. Yet, at the same time, there are people out there beating the pavement, looking for work, and they can’t afford to dress for success and impress their potential employers. Two great charities, Dress for Success ( and Career Gear (, do exactly that, transforming the suit taking up space in your closet into opportunities for life-changing success for people who are reaching hard for that brass ring.

Donate your eyeglasses One of the best things (in my opinion) that the Lion’s Club ( does is run their eyeglasses donation program ( When your prescription changes, you’ll get new glasses and your old ones no longer have any use. Give them to your local Lion’s Club and they’ll help someone out there in need with vision impairment.

Donate your old magazines Once you’ve read that copy of The New Yorker, check and see if there isn’t a place in your area that could put the item to use. Senior citizen’s centers are almost always happy to receive magazine donations. If that doesn’t fit the bill, try hospitals and libraries in your area.

One final thought: donate your body When you pass on, your life has ended, but you have the ability to give the gift of life to others because of the life you left behind. Donate your organs and tissues to people who can use them. ( provides everything you need to know about the need for organs and tissues and about how easy it is to be an organ donor.

The biggest lesson from this list is that we all have a lot of resources within us and around us that are of value and use to others. Sharing them, especially when it’s “no skin off our backs,” does nothing but make the world a better place. It makes you feel better, too.

I’ve collected these ideas from many different sources over the years. There are many great sources for ideas similar to (and overlapping with) these, including How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist by Nicole Bouchard Boles, The Generosity Plan by Kathy LeMay, and Give a Little by Wendy Smith. If these ideas excite you, dive into these books for more ideas than I could possibly share.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: I Will Teach You to Be Rich

I was skeptical when I first saw the title of this book. It struck me as another one of those get-rich-quick schemes. Then, another review I read said it was geared towards 20-somethings. As a 30-something, I thought I would know everything the book covered. Boy, was I wrong!

I've been following Ramit's blog (also called I Will Teach You to Be Rich) for some time. Then I took the plunge and decided to try his course Earn 1K where he gives you valuable, actionable advice for consistently making money on the side while you work full-time. It was after I started taking the course that I thought it may make sense to check out his book. So I did.

The book is divided into a six-week program, so each week you have an action to move you closer to being rich. Mind you, being rich means different things to different people. While it may mean gobs of money to one person, it could mean spending more time with family to another.

Chapter 1 -- Optimize Your Credit Cards
How credit can help you be rich, what not to do with your credit cards and what you should definitely buy with a credit card

Chapter 2 -- Beat the Banks
Negotiating bank fees, why online banks offer the best rates and how banks make money

Chapter 3 -- Get Ready to Invest
Why inbvesting is the single best way to get rich, the ladder of personal finance and the importance of crushing debt

Chapter 4 -- Conscious Spending
Spend less without a budget, guilt-free spending, how to make more money and handle unexpected expenses

Chapter 5 -- Save While Sleeping
Setting up a bill-pay transfer system, irregular income and how to spend only three hours per month managing your money

Chapter 6 -- The Myth of Financial Expertise
Why you can't time the market, you don't need a financial adviser and pundits worth reading

Chapter 7 -- Investing Isn't Only for Rich People
The beauty of automatic investing, creating your own portfolio and investing the easy way

Chapter 8 -- Easy Maintenance
The tricky part of managing your portfolio, when to sell, a tne-year plan and don't fear taxes

Chapter 9 -- A Rich Life
Weddings, negotiating your salary, the benefits of renting and buying a car or house

To be honest, I was so engrossed with the advice in the book that I finished it in two days flat. I'm now going back and figuring out what I need to do to get my financial house in even better shape. I highly recommend this book whether you're in good or bad financial shape. There are definitely many nuggets of great info to take advantage of in this book.

Have you ready the book already? What did you think?

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Green and Frugal: Fall Gardening

Are you planning on planting a fall garden this year?

Fall gardens are an excellent way to continue to grow homegrown goodness even when the weather starts to turn chilly.

I’m not going to show you what has happened to my summer garden. It’s just…sad. I’ve learned over the past few months that I have much more talent for growing flowers than I do growing vegetables, and the few puny tomatoes I managed to produce didn’t even taste that good. My squash simply never happened and my beans…

Well, you get the picture.

That being said, however, I’m determined to try again. So, I’m going to plant a fall garden! I’m now dreaming of snipping Swiss Chard on chilly mornings, and pulling up bright orange fingers of carrots on crisp fall afternoons.

Fall Crops to Grow

So what kind of crops can you grow in your garden? Oh boy, lots of good stuff!

There are different varieties of crops you can grow. And you have to consider which ones will work for you based on your area, and the timing of your first frost. There are cool-weather crops, and cold-weather crops.

Cold-hardy vegetables include the following (maturity is in parenthesis):

Brussels sprouts (90 days)
Cabbage (70 days)
Collards (75 days)
Kale (55 days)
Parsnips (100-130 days)
Spinach (45 days)
Garlic (best planted when winter is really close)

Cool-weather hardy vegetables include:

Lettuce (45-60 days, depending on variety)
Mustard greens (45 days)
Radishes (25-50 days)
Rutabaga (90 days)
Snap peas (50-60 days)
Turnips (60 days)
Carrots (50-70 days, depending on variety)
Broccoli (70 days)
Cauliflower (60 days)
Green onions (50-60 days)
Beets (55-60 days)
Swiss chard (30-50 days)

How to Plant a Fall Garden

If you’re going to start your fall garden from seeds then you need to start them now (it might even be too late for seed-starting in many areas). Mother Earth News suggests counting back 12-14 weeks from your average first frost date, and choosing that week to start seeds.

P. Allen Smith also has a great bit of advice on this. He says:

The average date of the first killing frost in your area is the most important thing to know when it comes to fall vegetable gardening. Your local garden center is a good source of information for this date. To determine when to start planting, find out the number of days to maturity for the vegetable. Next, count back the number of days from the first average frost date. Some people add a week or so to allow for a few extra days to harvest the produce once it’s mature. You will find maturity information on seed packets and some plant labels.
If you’re already past this date, as I probably am, then you might want to start buying crops that have already been started. Farmers’ Markets are a great place to get veggies for fall planting. This is what I’m going to do, and then save my seeds for next year’s spring planting.

If you do start seeds, then it’s vital you know which seeds you absolutely must start indoors. Some plants, like various cabbages and salad greens, simply won’t grow if the soil is warmer than 85 degrees. This handy guide from Mother Earth News will teach you more about what crops you can grow, and how to find your average first frost date.

The key to successful fall planting is to get the plants growing to catch the last wave of summer heat AND allow them to mature before the first frost hits. You have to know how long each plant takes to mature so you know when to plant.

You also have to keep seedlings wet; drought stresses young plants, especially fall veggies, so it’s important they not dry out.

Mother Earth News suggests starting fall seeds in the shade outdoors. The shade will enable you to water just once per day, rather than 3-4. Here in Michigan we have had incredibly hot, dry conditions all through August.

Where to Plant

In most cases, you can use the same gardens you used for your spring/summer veggies. You can help your fall veggies along by mulching heavily; this will help protect the roots from hot late summer sun, and keep them moist.

You can extend the life of your growing season by using row covers to protect plants from frost, raised beds, and cold frames. Spinach and other lettuces do especially well in cold frames.

Last Word…

Are any of you planting a fall garden this year? If so, any tips? I’d love to hear them!

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Green and Frugal Way to Revamp Old Furniture

Whether out of a desire to save money or a duty to keep still-useful furniture out of the landfill, it can be difficult to turn down a secondhand sofa or armchair when it is offered for free or a small price. The downside can be that while they may still be quite comfortable, they may not look the best or go with your current décor. Fortunately, slipcovers offer the ideal solution for a variety of reasons.

Save money

Buying new furniture for a home is an expensive proposition. It can be much cheaper to let someone else buy new and then take their castoffs. Owners very often get rid of furniture not because it has outlived its usefulness but because they no longer like the way it looks. Pay attention when family and friends are remodeling and find out what they are doing with their old furniture. Don’t worry what it looks like, just find out if it is still comfortable and not in need of being repaired. Often, owners will part with it for next to nothing just for the opportunity to be rid of it.

Help the environment

Recycling old furniture and keeping it in a home means it is not going to the landfill. This not only saves money, it helps the planet. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, furniture accounts for more than 9 million tons of waste in American landfills. It only makes sense if a sofa or chair is still comfortable that it should be kept out of a landfill.

Make it look good

Unfortunately, older furniture often has upholstery that is downright ugly. That is where slipcovers come in to play.

Furniture slipcovers come in a variety of colors and styles for sofas and easy chairs. With so many choices available, it should be easy to find something that will make that old furniture fit in with the rest of the décor in your house.

Prices range from around $35 up to $100 for sofa covers. With their affordability, several can be purchased and the look of furniture can be changed year round.

Get the right fit

Of course, taking advantage of slipcovers does not do much good if the wrong size is purchased. Below are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for the right slipcover.

First determine if a stretchable or non-stretchable slipcover is desired. Stretchable slipcovers fit tightly to the furniture, while non-stretchable types will have a skirt or similar piece of hanging fabric covering the bottom.

Measure the maximum seat cushion width in the front from arm to arm. Then, measure the circumference, or total of all four sides, around the sides of the couch.

Slipcovers offer many options if you have a habit of rehoming unwanted sofas or recliners. They help protect the environment and they save money, while adding a dramatic change to a room.

This is a guest post from Caroline Smith, who tries to make green and frugal choices when furnishing her home. She has written for a number of blogs and owns a website all about slipcovers for loveseats and ways to use them to recycle old seats.

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