Friday, May 28, 2010

TGIF: Best Posts of the Week

Who's ready for a nice, long Memorial Day Weekend? Me! What better way to officially kick off summer than with some great blog posts?

From gardening and recipes, to saving money and being green, you'll find it all here...
Time to start gardening and landscaping this weekend. Any tips you'd like to share?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Frugal Tip Tuesday: Do It Yourself (DIY)

We recently took a trip to the neighborhood garden center to pick up some flowers. I love how the hanging planters look and thought we could pick one up for the hook on our shed. I got sticker shock after seeing the price was a steep $24! These were just some average annuals. You'd think I was buying two dozen red roses!

Today's tip is DIY or Do It Yourself.

I had a hanging planter; so instead of shelling out $24, I bought a flat for $3.99. I then transplanted the flowers into the hanging planter. Not only was I psyched to save $20, but the planter looks beautiful!

Now if I really wanted to save, I would've started the flowers from seedlings. But that can be time intensive. My husband is beginning his garden from seeds and I hope to provide an update soon.

What do you DIY to save money? I'm always looking for tips!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Product Review: Marcal Small Steps Paper Products

I've always been intrigued by Marcal's Small Steps products since they are recycled and environmentally conscious. So I was more than happy to review a variety of their paper products recently when they sent me some samples.

Right off the bat, I begin to read their packaging. I'm immediately impressed that their wrapper is recyclable (and they encourage you to recycle it). Marcal Small Steps products are made from paper, not trees. In face, they note if you "change just one regular roll to a Small Steps roll by Marcal, you could help save one million trees." Pretty impressive.

Plus, the products are hypoallergenic, virtually lint free and whitened without chlorine bleaching.

Paper Towels
First, I love any paper towel that lets you pick the size. Marcal calls it "U-SIZE-IT" and touts that it saves towels for less waste. The paper towels don't feel as soft or thick as other paper towels I've used (I usually buy whatever is on sale or whatever is cheapest. No brand loyalty here.) But these paper towels get the job done, from wiping up small spills to drying my hands after washing.

I have to say that the tissues aren't as soft as some other brands (and you really need a soft tissue when you're wiping your nose). However, in terms of sturdiness, they're pretty good. I w

Toilet Paper
Now my husband and I constantly debate over toilet paper. He likes to buy what's on sale. I like some middle ground between the cheapest and the most expensive (i.e., something a little soft and somewhat thick). The Marcal recycled toilet paper is really thin, so you feel compelled to use more than normal. Anyway, a personal choice, but I prefer toilet paper with a little more substance.

Love the napkins -- they're sturdy, absorbent and soft. I would definitely use these again. I was nervous that they would easily fall apart, but that wasn't the case at all.

Dinner Napkins
I'm saving the dinner napkin for a special occasion (i.e., when we have guests). They're really nice and thick, so I don't want my kids using them for their messes.
I'm definitely sold on the Marcal's Small Steps paper products. They're reasonably priced. I always seem to find a coupon and it makes you feel good to know that you're using recycled items. Keeping it green and frugal!

Have you used Marcal Small Steps? What do you think?

Disclaimer: Marcal provided me with these free paper products in order to review them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIF: Best Posts of the Week

Kick off the weekend right with some great green and frugal posts. It was hard to pick just a few. Enjoy...
Which of the top posts do you like best -- going green, frugal tips, recipes, gardening? I'd love to hear from you so I can make sure I'm gathering what you enjoy reading.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Be an Eco-Fab Wedding Guest

If you're going to attend one of the more than two million weddings happening this year in the U.S., you may find the event is surprisingly eco-friendly. Wedding magazines and blogs are abuzz with ideas to help brides and grooms who want to take impact on the planet into consideration when planning their big day.

But whether a wedding is "green" or conventional, it's easy to be an eco-conscious guest. No need to show up in a dress made from last year's magazines. (While a fun idea, it would certainly grab attention from the bride, a definite no-no whether the wedding is eco-friendly or not!) Instead, simply consider each aspect of the wedding in which you'll participate and think about how you can make greener decisions.

Giving green
Start with the gift. If the couple signs up with an eco-friendly shop registry or asks for donations to a cause they support in lieu of "stuff," you've got it made. 

If not, check for eco-friendlier items on their registry. For instance, they may have chosen a set of bamboo bowls or wool blankets. Look for items that are locally produced instead of made and shipped from overseas. These may not have been selected because they're eco-friendly, but who cares? If they are greener choices, you'll feel great picking them and the bride and groom will be happy as well!

When giving a tangible gift, avoid conventional wrapping paper. The Carnegie Mellon Green Practices initiative says that "If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields."

Why buy paper from virgin trees when there are so many great alternatives--fabric made just for wrapping, silk scarves, a map from the honeymoon destination, tree-free or recycled papers, and seed embedded wrapping that can be planted once the gift is opened, to name a few.

And when it comes to ribbon, embellishments and cards, alternative choices can make your gift beautiful and guilt-free. 

In many circles, it used to be considered crass to give cash for weddings, but these days, money really is green. Just be sure to offer bills or a check and not gift cards which, for the most part, are made of plastic, ultimately are tossed and never degrade. (Even if the plastic is made from PLA--theoretically compostable plastic--the card's magnetic strip will stay around a lot longer than many marriages!)

Getting there the greenest way
One of the most impactful decisions you can make is whether to attend the wedding or not. Flying across the country for a day is not the most eco-friendly move you can make. But if you decide to go, you may want to purchase carbon offsets

If you live close to the wedding venue, walk or carpool if possible. Even if you drive alone, you can volunteer to have other guests travel with you between the ceremony and reception.

Eco-chic wearables
When it comes to choosing what to wear, avoid buying new. if the event calls for more formal wear than you own, consider borrowing, renting or buying pre-owned. The web makes it easy to find designer labels in pristine condition. And if you simply must have something off the rack, search for outfits by eco-friendly designers made from sustainable materials. Whether you're seeking clothing, shoes or a handbag, stunning greener choices are available. 

Aim for low-waste
Food and wedding receptions go together and generally etiquette will trump green when guests are offered only paper napkins and plastic stemware. But just because paper napkins are available doesn't mean you have to grab a handful. Choose to reuse plastic items like plates, glasses and utensils, rather than grabbing new ones each time you return to the buffet. And when you're finished, be sure to ask where the recycling or composting bins are located and use them. 

A lot of waste is generated from wedding leftovers. Volunteer to take remaining food to donate to a food bank or local nursing home (having called in advance to find out whether they will accept the donation), or to compost flowers, paper and food that cannot be given away.

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  

Friday, May 14, 2010

TGIF: Best Posts of the Week

Here we are, finally reaching another milestone -- Friday!! Lots of great posts this week. I've been looking for gardening tips for my hubby, who has the garden in full swing.

Check out this week's top posts:

   I'd love to hear which posts you enjoyed this week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hidden Oil in Our Lives

Given the devastating oil spill in the Gulf, I thought this great post from The Greenest Dollar was fitting to share with you...

The environmental catastrophe in the Gulf has been an incredibly sobering experience for all of us, and it’s really opened a lot of eyes, my own included, to just how damaging our consumption of oil is.

Right now, over 200,000 gallons of oil are spilling into the Gulf every single day. I can’t even wrap my mind around that much oil, and the devastating effects that it’s going to have on the coast’s wetlands and wildlife.

It’s simply heartbreaking.

Some Good News…

You regular readers probably have seen my good friend Renaissance Ronin lurking around here. He loves leaving snappy comments to get a laugh. In spite of his sarcastic, gruff exterior, though, he’s got a heart of gold. And, he’s an expert building with shipping containers.

Well, he lives in Biloxi (about 1,000 feet from the local beach). And, he’s putting together a relief center, out of ISBU shipping containers, to help feed the thousands of volunteers that are descending on the Gulf to help out. Here’s an update on his progress:

Man, has it been a long day…

I spent all day long trying to coordinate the creation of a foodbank system that will actually be able to feed over 500 housed workers, camping in the Mississippi Coliseum.

I have fresh/frozen chickens coming from Florida, meat from Tennessee, and vegs from Ga, plus a ton of water and drinks from the CocaCola bottlers locally.

The powers that be are planning to feed the workers MRE’s. Yeah, that’s what I’d want after 12 hours of mucking oil and sand… a big plastic bag with lousy tasting “kinda food” in it…

So, we’re taking 4 20′ ISBUs and turning them into galleys. We put them on car hauler flatbeds, and all we’ll need is a hose, and a water source. We have generators to power the electrical, and the ranges are gas, and will work off LPG.

Another ISBU is being turned into a walk-in cooler storage unit, by fiddling with a Window AC unit, and sticking a foot of foam on the outside of the box for insulation.

(Okay… we’re using three units that we prepped for the build in Alabama, because the concrete floor was already in them, and they were already basically gutted and ready to rework. We’re going to just polish the floors with a surface grinder, and then paint them. We’ll prep replacement boxes for the Alabama build, after these are set.)

A church across the street from the church next door to me… has offered up their community center building, to be used as a dining hall, if we want it.

We’re waiting on a ruling from City Hall, now.

No oil yet, but I’m told that it’s getting closer, and it should start fouling the beaches by midday tomorrow.

We’re also told that they’ll start bringing people in to train the locals in oil clean-up, on Wednesday.

Local vets are already planning to start establishing a training center, so volunteers can learn how to clean wildlife. It’s going to be horrific.

The damage to wildlife is going to be catastrophic. The damage to the economy is going to be horrendous.

Sure, a lot of people will get jobs, but there is NO housing, and little in the way of a real food source, to support that many warm bodies all piled together.

We’ll have our work cut out for us.

Ronin is going to be sending pictures when he can, so I’ll keep all of you updated on his progress.
How You Can Help…

For a full list of volunteer and donation resources, check out this list put together by MSN.

The Hidden Oil In Our Lives…

This catastrophe has made me feel like I’m partly responsible. Why? Because I use oil all the time. I’m paying companies, BP included, to drill and provide me with that oil.

It makes me feel really, really bad.

I don’t drive that much, but I DO consume a lot of oil. Oil is in tons of products we use every day, and I wanted to share a list (courtesy with all of you to illustrate just how much oil we’re using. Some of these products will probably surprise you…I know it did me.

Oil is used in the creation of:

Clothing Ink
Heart Valves
Transparent tape
Vacuum bottles
Rubbing Alcohol
Epoxy paint
Oil filters
Hearing Aids
Car sound insulation
Motorcycle helmets
Shower doors
Refrigerator linings
Electrical tape
Safety glass
Salad bowl
Rubber cement
Nylon rope
Ice buckets
Hair coloring
Toilet seats
Denture adhesive
Movie film
Fishing boots
Water pipes
Car enamel
Shower curtains
Credit cards
Golf balls
Fishing rods
Plastic wood
Soft contact lenses
Trash bags
Hand lotion
Shaving cream
Paint brushes
Fan belts
Paint Rollers
Model cars
Floor wax
Sports car bodies
Dishwashing liquids
Unbreakable dishes
Hair curlers
Ice cube trays
Electric blankets
Tennis rackets
Drinking cups
House paint
Rollerskates wheels
Guitar strings
Ice chests
Life jackets
TV cabinets
Insect repellent
Cold cream
Artificial turf
Artificial Limbs
Beach Umbrellas
Ballpoint pens
Nail polish
Golf bags
Vitamin capsules
Fishing lures
Shoe polish
Petroleum jelly
Food preservatives

Last Word…

That list is mind-boggling to me.
All of us can make a big difference in the amount of oil we use simply by driving less, and avoiding the products on this list whenever we can. Buying used, and reusing what we’ve got, can also make a difference.

Again, as pictures come in with Ronin’s efforts to get his ISBU containers set up in Biloxi I’ll keep all of you updated.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Frugal Tip Tuesday: How To Make Your Own Deodorant

While I'm chill-laxing in Costa Rica, here is a great post from The Greenest Dollar. I'll be back soon!

Powdered deodorant can be stored in beautiful jars like this one.

Deodorant is something that pretty much all of us use on a daily basis. And, the price of all that deodorant really adds up.For instance, I used to use Dove deodorant, until I found out how unhealthy it was from the Cosmetics Safety Database. Not good. So, I started buy Tom’s of Maine Lavender deodorant, which is aluminum-free, and much safer.

But, Tom’s is pricey. I pay almost $5 per stick for Tom’s. And while I dearly love this deodorant, I realized that perhaps I could start making my own.

A quick search online yielded a fabulous payload (what did people do before the Internet?).

The Magic Ingredient of Homemade Deodorant…
What did I learn? Baking soda is the big winner in homemade, natural deodorants. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Baking soda is an excellent cleanser, and it neutralizes odors. Eureka!

So, I’m assembling a few of the recipes that I found online for you to check out.

Recipe 1: Baking Soda and Cornstarch Powder

This first homemade deodorant recipe comes from Melinda at One Green Generation. This was an excellent post, and this is probably the recipe I’m going to try first.

Her recipe is as follows:
1. In a reusable, resealable container, mix one part baking soda with six parts cornstarch.
2. Close the lid, and shake the container with gusto for at least a minute to mix the two powders.
3. Apply the powder with a cotton ball, cotton pad, or cosmetic applicator (like a powder puff).
Melinda has had great results with this recipe, so I’m excited to make it for myself. I have high hopes! I don’t have a powder jar as pretty as the one pictured, but maybe I can find one at the Salvation Army…

Recipe 2: Stick Deodorants With Coconut Oil
I found this YouTube video online, and it’s actually pretty good (if you don’t like Techno music, though, turn down the volume).

This recipe makes 12 sticks of natural deodorant, and there are several great recipes on the video (including some foot deodorizing powders) that include lavender and rosemary essential oils that I think would smell heavenly. Keep in mind, you will need some empty deodorant tubes for this recipe!

Recipe 3: Spray Deodorant With Baking Soda
I found this recipe on wikiHow, and it looks pretty easy.
  1. Fill your spray bottle about halfway with water.
  2. Mix in a bit of baking soda
  3. Keep adding small amounts of baking soda until the mixture is slimy and smooth. The amount you use depends on your water and the size of your bottle.
  4. Add a drop of lavender oil if you want.(or any kind of fragrance you like)
  5. Shake the bottle gently to mix all the ingredients together. Now you have your own deodorant.
  6. Spray on your underarms. Do not rinse. Gently massage underarm so the skin will absorb the deodorant faster, and so that it spreads to your entire underarm.
I have to wonder a bit on this one; if it’s a thicker paste, how’s it going to come out of the spray nozzle? Seems like it would be better to keep the consistency thin. Hmmm…might have to try this one just to experiment.

Recipe 4: Baking Soda and Shea Butter Cream

This fantastic recipe comes from Amy at The Angry Chicken, a wonderful blog I found while doing research for homemade deodorant recipes. If the recipe from One Green Generation doesn’t do the trick, this is definitely the next one I’m trying.

Here is Amy’s recipe. The final deodorant is a creamy texture (which can be poured in a shallow jar) and applied with your fingertips.
3 Tablespoons shea butter
3 Tablespoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter
2 vitamin E oil gel caps (puncture and squeeze out the oil)
Essential Oil (Amy used ylang yang and orange)
Melt all the ingredients (except the oils!) together in the microwave, and then stir well. Next, add the oils and give it another good stir. Pour in a small jar and put it in the fridge to set.

This recipe filled a 1/4 pint jar.

Amy has more tips for making this recipe (you can go directly to her post here), and I highly recommend you check out her article. She had to add more essential oil than you might think to cover up the shea butter smell, and she thinks next time she might add a bit of vegetable glycerine to make it softer.

Last Word…
So, now I’m super excited to make some homemade deodorant. I don’t have any essential oils on hand, so I’m going to try the basic recipe with just baking soda and cornstarch first. But, I really would like to try The Angry Chicken’s recipe, so I might give that one a go this weekend.

Have any of you made your own homemade deodorant? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
I’m interested to find out if homemade deodorants work as well as store-bought. There’s no doubt it’s cheaper, but does it keep the stink down?

We’ll find out. And if you’ve done this before, please write in and share!