Green Your Life: It’s Easier Than You Think!

I recently had the pleasure of reading Emily McClements’ new book, Green Your Life, and I absolutely loved it! Emily does what many authors in this field fail to do: not only gives a great overview of steps to take to make greener choices in your life, but explains WHY we should make those choices without becoming overwhelming.

Green Your LIfe: Get Started Today!

Emily’s book is well-researched but approachable, practical, and attainable. What I love the most about the book is that she is very honest, both about her subject and how she approaches it within her household. For example, she writes that LED lights are the most eco-friendly choice, and that buying fair-trade clothing is the way to go, but gracefully admits that both of these choices are usually outside the realm of her family’s budget. Being in a similar financial situation myself, I found this very encouraging. I think this really hits on the underlying theme of Emily’s book: be informed, and do the best you can for your family and for creation.

What’s more is that Emily’s book is full of easy, practical ideas that I had never thought of- and I’ve been around the block as far as reading and learning about green living goes! For example, Emily suggests that we take an inventory of our waste for a few days, and then identify trends and seek to create less waste through those trends. For me, I realized that, while I am great at recycling anything that comes through my kitchen, things in our bathrooms and bedrooms automatically just go into the trash. But, if I invest in a small recycling bin for each of those areas (even an old shoebox would do the trick) I can significantly cut down on the amount of recyclables that are leaving my home in the trash can each month! It’s great ideas like these that make Emily’s book really stand out.

Whether you are a seasoned green living veteran, or just starting out with making green choices, Green Your Life offers a comprehensive overview of the many areas in which we out to be examining our choices and taking care of creation. Here’s just some of the subjects covered in the book:

Cleaning Supplies
Cloth Diapering
Grocery Shopping
Beauty and Hygiene Items
Simplifying Your Stuff

Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living walks you through making simple changes to your home and lifestyle that can have a big impact on the world around you. Plus, as a thank you for purchasing the book, and to give you extra support, encouragement, motivation, and community to help you make changes in your life, Emily is providing a free membership to the Green Your Life Challenge she is running in February, a $14.99 value!

In just 4 weeks you will:

-Purge your bathroom cabinet of toxic and harmful personal care products.
-Choose beauty and personal care products for your family that are safe and effective.
-Make your own homemade green cleaners.
-Clean your home with non-toxic cleaners that really work and are safe to use around your family.
-Begin making simple and easy changes toward more real food and less processed, conventional foods
-Use more reuseable products and fewer disposable ones around your home.
-Work to eliminate and remove toxins all around your home.
-Determine how you and your family can make an impact on the world around you!

Read more about Green Your Life the ebook and the Green Your Life Challenge here.

GYL Challenge Collage

This post is part of a Blog Hope to celebrate the release of Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living. Check out what other bloggers are saying about the great new book:

Jan. 8 – Ninth Street Notions
Jan. 9  – Red and Honey
Jan. 10 – Running Family
Jan. 12 – Five Little Homesteaders
Jan. 13 – My Blessings Homeschool
Jan. 14 – Vintage Kids | Modern World
Jan. 15 – The Humbled Homemaker
Jan. 17 – Accidentally Green
Jan. 20 – Home With Purpose
Jan. 21 – Intentionally Simple
Jan. 22 – Feed Me Mama
Jan. 23 – Saving by Making
Jan. 24 – More Than Mundane
Jan. 27 – My Humble Kitchen
Jan. 28 – Sorta Crunchy
Jan. 29 – Simply Rebekah
Jan. 30 – A Delightful Home
Jan. 31 – Gidget Goes Home

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea, with recipes for anxiety and heartburn! via Feed Me, Mama!

One of the very first sects of alternative medicine that I adopted into my own life was studying herbs and medicinal teas. Soon after I got married, I became fascinated with the properties of herbs- the way that chamomile tea could put me to sleep, but peppermint could wake me up, but both could help a headache? Who wouldn’t be fascinated by that? It wasn’t long before I started buying loose herbs and blending my own teas- a blend for sleep, a blend for immunity, a blend for PMS. My friends would come to me when they weren’t feeling well and have me blend something specific for their ailments. I loved the empowerment that came with understanding herbs and how they could help me!

When I first became pregnant, I could barely choke down a hot meal, let alone any kind of hot tea- so, supporting my pregnancy with this kind of alternative medicine was out the window (I went to acupuncture instead…but more on that another time). However, once I finally waded out of the nausea into the second trimester, I began drinking a few cups of Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Herbal Tea each day, and supplementing that with specific blends from Earth Mama Angel Baby for heartburn and anxiety. Well, it wasn’t long before I started doing the math, and realized that it would be much cheaper for me to blend the teas myself- so I ordered some herbs from the Bulk Herb Store and got to work!

This is what’s in my daily pregnancy tea. The active ingredients are identical to that of the Traditional Medicinals tea!

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea, with recipes for anxiety and heartburn! via Feed Me, Mama!

Peppermint
Red Raspberry Leaf
Alfalfa
Nettle

I mix equal parts of each herb in my french press and steep for at least ten minutes. Pour and drink!

When I am feeling anxious, I add in a half part each of Lavender and Chamomile.

When I have heartburn, I cut the peppermint in half and add some fresh grated ginger, or fresh squeezed lemon juice to the cup!

See? Mixing your own herbal tea can be that simple. I ordered half a pound of each herb, organic, from the Bulk Herb Store, and it will last me through the end of the pregnancy, and probably well beyond. The best part? I just ran across a great post from Modern Alternative Mama using these same herbs to make a hormone-balancing post-birth tea!

Do you have a tea blend that you swear by? Or a favorite that you buy without fail, that you’d like to learn to make? Tell me! Let’s try it!

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.
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Cheap & Quick Detoxifying Deodorant

Quick and Easy DIY Detox DeodorantOne of the most unfortunate things about trying to live a pure, natural, healthy life is the price tag that often comes with those choices! It’s sad but true that quality products made with responsible ingredients just cost more money to manufacture. This is especially true when it comes to health, beauty, and hygiene products.

My husband and I have had a pretty significant change in finances recently, which has spurred me onward in my quest to be able to homemake everything I can and be frugal whenever possible. I recently remarked on Facebook that I am quickly learning that everything in my bathroom can be replaced with come combination of baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and bentonite clay, and it’s pretty true! It’s amazing what a few (cheap) quality ingredients can do.

One of the first natural hygiene products I tried back in college was a natural deodorant. It was horrible. It smelled awful, made me sweat more- it was just nasty. Now, I realize that my body was probably detoxing from the years of using normal antiperspirants, which simply clog the pores rather than absorbing moisture. Sweat is natural and good! When the body sweats and you’ve used an antiperspirant, it continues to produce sweat as it fights the blockage of the pores, causing an overproduction of sweat. When you make an abrupt switch to a deodorant that doesn’t block the pores (such as this one), there can be an adjustment period as the body learns that it doesn’t have to overproduce anymore!

That said, it is important to note that this is a DEODORANT, not an ANTI-PERSPIRANT. You will sweat! However, with the addition of cornstarch and bentonite clay, I think you’ll find that you stay very dry- I know I do.

Today, I want to share a recipe that I had been dying to concoct for quite a while, and I think I’ve finally got it down. I received a lovely sample of a cream deodorant in a Conscious Box I got a few months back, and I fell in love with the concept. It took me a bit, but I adapted this recipe from Body Unburdened, which made a batch that I totally love, cost next to nothing, and will sat a really long time. Exactly what I needed!

YOU’LL NEED:

6 Tablespoons Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, 5 at room temp, 1 warmed
4 Tablespoons baking soda
3 Tablespoons organic cornstarch (you can also use arrowroot powder here)
2 Tablespoons Bentonite Clay
Essential oils, to your scent preference (I used patchouli because I like the scent, but Melaleuca/Tea Tree is a great antibacterial and anti fungal)

Combine all ingredients except for the warmed coconut oil. It is a little thick and messy! As everything starts to combine, add the warmed coconut oil, and mix together quickly. You’ll see that this binds everything together and forms a beautiful, creamy consistency. Transfer to a glass jar and you’re done!

To use, simply scoop out a bit on your fingertip and apply to your underarm. Coconut oil warms with body heat so it will spread easily.

WHAT YOU’RE GETTING:

Coconut Oil: A natural antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral. Provides a smooth, spreadable consistency and is moisturizing and healing for the skin.

Baking Soda: Neutralizes body odors.

Cornstarch/ Arrowroot: Great for absorbing moisture- I actually use cornstarch as a dry shampoo and as a mattifying powder for my face!

Bentonite Clay: Also absorbs moisture quickly, as well as helps pull out toxins from sweaty pits.

Essential Oils: You’ll get different properties depending on the oils you use. Like I said above, Melaleuca is a great antibacterial and anti fungal, which is great for funky pits. Rosemary, Lavender, and Lemon would also work for this same purpose.

Let me know if you try the recipe and like the results! I know I do 🙂

Links used in this post are affiliate links. I do earn a very small percentage when you purchase through these links, which allows me to continue doing what I love: writing!

The Paper-Free Kitchen

paperfree

This week, at the prompting of my husband, we made the switch back to a paper-free kitchen.  Yes, back- we had done this several years ago but had regressed back when we lived with my parents for a bit and sharing laundry between 14 people, well…paper was just easier.  But we kept our cloths, and I am thankful!

The basic premise of the paper-free kitchen is just like it sounds- no paper. We don’t keep any disposable dishes or utensils in the house at all, and we have just one roll of paper towels under the sink for emergencies (like a pet accident or something grotesque involving raw meat juices….bleh). Disposable dishes are a big step for many families- but it is a big step for the environment, too. While it definitely takes more time to wash dishes, and you may use more water, you aren’t wasting money on things you’re throwing into landfills, either! Plus, washing dishes is a great community-building activity. One person washes, one person dries, one person puts away, the others stand around and keep them company…it’s like magic. Maybe not, but remember the environment!

Steering your kitchen away from paper towels and napkins is definitely a more daunting task- though I’ve found being prepared for anything makes it a lot easier! We have a variety of different cloths for different purposes:

Hand towels: These are your standard kitchen linen, I’m sure you have some. We probably have 6-8. We dry our hands with these after washing or doing dishes. They are usually decorative and seasonal. Super cute.

Cloth napkins: We do have one set of these (4), but to be honest, we don’t use them that much. We probably should more often. Maybe we’re just clean eaters? We also use placemats, which helps keep the table clean.

Microfiber: for ‘dry-cleaning’ mostly, dusting and sweeping up dirt messes, cleaning off the kitchen table, or giving the floor a once-over with the Swiffer. Also, if there is a big spill, these are much more absorbent than our cloth rags, so sometimes we use microfiber instead. I think we have around 6.

Cloth rags: For us, these are cut-up old t-shirts. We have a big basket of them, probably around 30 or so, which works well for our household of 3. They are thin and we aren’t emotionally attached to them (anymore haha). When we would normally reach for a paper towel or napkin, we instead grab a cloth rag. They work really well with the citrus-infused all purpose spray we use for the kitchen counters! If they get crumbs on them, we give them a quick rinse and then hang them on the oven handle to dry. Once they start to get a little grimy, we take them upstairs and throw them in with our laundry, and replace them with a new cloth. It’s really that easy!

Some people prefer to use all microfiber, which does works great for everything but can be a little bit of an investment. Our shirts were headed to Goodwill anyway, and they have served us well so far! I’m so happy to put them back in action.

So yes, we do keep a roll of paper towels around just in case. But our usage is SO MUCH LESS than it was before, and we are spending much less money! Next step, moving to cloth in the bathroom….maybe when we have a house with a laundry machine 😉

Do you use cloth in your kitchen?

DIY Citrus All Purpose Cleaning Spray

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaning Spray via Feed Me Mama

Welcome to the easiest DIY you’ve ever done. It’s awesome and can replace those expensive cleaning sprays you’re currently buying- or is that just me, the sucker for marketing that has to have the latest Method or Mrs. Myers seasonal scent? Maybe. Whatever. Make this!

Take the peels of 2-3 citrus fruits. I used 2 lemons and an orange.

Put them in a glass jar and cover with white vinegar- about 1 cup should be perfect.

Leave it sit for 2-3 weeks. (set in the sun and you can leave it for less time!)

Strain into a spray bottle, top off with filtered water.

BAM! Vinegar + Citrus = extreme cleaning power! For added benefits, you can mix in a few drops of tea tree oil or oregano oil, but I personally prefer just the citrus scent.

Because this makes a fairly small batch, you can adjust the ingredients and scent it to your liking! Next time, I’m going to try all orange peels and infuse a cinnamon stick as well for a holiday scented cleaning spray.

Do you have an easy DIY you’d like to share? Do it in the comments!

How to Build an Herb Spiral

Matt and I have been getting a lot of questions and comments regarding our the herb spiral we recently built.  I want to assure everyone, this is NOT just a pretty thing!  Herb spirals are a staple of permaculture, which infuses design with function to make your yard both a beautiful haven and a forest that will feed you for minimal effort.  The herb spiral is one component of this, and probably the most attainable for the permaculture novice or suburban dweller.

To build an herb spiral, first look for a spot in your yard that gets a lot of consistent sunlight.  The point of the spiral is that all of your herbs are easily accessible, so it really should be close to the house, but it’s really up to you.  You’re looking for a spot that is AT LEAST 5’x5′.

Once you find your spot, you want to make a mound of healthy dirt that is circular, five feet in diameter and about 3 feet high.  Don’t worry about making it spiral shaped just yet- just get the dimensions right.  If you compost, this is a great time to work that in.  For our spiral, we layered healthy soil from the yard with bunny droppings compost- one of the best natural fertilizers you can find.  It took many wheelbarrow runs, but we finally had our mound.

Next, shape the mound into a spiral.  Gather as many rocks as you can find, ranging for large ones that you could sit on (for the base) to smaller ones that will decoratively form the top of the spiral.  Start by building the outer circle with larger stones, packing the soil down tightly to the rocks as you build.  As you close the circle, start the spiral, working with medium- sized rocks as you move up and around as evenly as possible, until you reach the top of the mound.  Don’t worry about packing dirt yet, just get the general shape.  You want to leave 12-18″ between each ring for ample planting space.

Image

Once you have your basic spiral down in stones, start forming a sloping planting bed between the rings.  This is the hardest part- you have to be diligent to make sure everything will slope downwards to the end of the spiral, but that the planting beds are even and water won’t just run down the sides, but will stay in the spiral bed.  You’ll be moving a lot of dirt around, perhaps from the top to the bottom, or from one side to another, until your spiral is balanced and even.  Putting in extra time here is well worth it- if you rush, your water flow won’t be as effective and this will result in more work for you later.

As you finish spiralling the planting beds, you may notice that you need to build up the rock part of the spiral to keep the dirt in place- we had to build up significantly.  You want the rocks to hold the dirt in place, but also form a ‘lip’ over the outer edge of the planting beds to help with water flow.  To be honest, building the rock walls up makes everything look great, so go for it!

Once you’ve finished forming your spiral and building up your rock walls, you can think about planting.  We let out spiral sit for a few days and get rained on, which compounded the dirt a bit and give the nutrients in the soil and compost a chance to begin working together.  You don’t have to do this, but it’s nice for your plants.

I recommend putting a nice, inch-deep layer of organic compost or potting soil over the entire spiral just before planting.  Not only does this give the spiral a finished look, but it gives your new plants a healthy foundation.  Notice the difference in the rock walls from the previous photo.

Image

Now that you’ve constructed your spiral and prepped your soil, you can get ready to plant!  Herb spirals require a bit of homework, but that’s what makes them so effective.  I started by listing out the different herbs that’s wanted to include- things that I liked and used frequently, and others that I wanted to become familiar with.  While a true permaculture spiral will focus on perennials, you can do whatever you like in your garden.  We have a mix of both.

Here is where your research begins.  Plants that need a lot of sunlight will need to be planted on the sides of the spiral that get the most sun.  Plants that tolerate or need shade can go on the other side.  In addition, you’ll want to place plants that need well-drained soil near the top of the spiral, where the water will run off quickly, while plants that need consistent soaking all be placed near the bottom.  Examples from my garden-

Lavender- placed at the very top of the spiral.  Lavender needs extremely well drained soil to thrive- in native France, lavender is often found planted in limestone shale.  In addition, lavender requires a place with full sunlight- as much as possible.

Pineapple sage-  a new favorite of mine, this versatile sage smells exactly of pineapple when the leaves are bruised.  Great for teas, mixed drinks, fruit salad, desserts.  Can tolerate a bit of shade and is indiscriminate with water content, so I plopped it in a free space in the middle of the spiral.

Peppermint- easy and generous, peppermint is very shade tolerant, but loves to be soaking wet.  We placed peppermint directly at the bottom, where the runoff frm the entire spiral will pool.  This is also perfect mint placement due to mint’s tendency to spread- it’s surrounded by stone on three sides.

Once you’ve got your list of herbs (feel free to include flowers, too, it’s your spiral after all) begin researching each one and grouping them together according to their needs or where you will place them.  I bought my herbs, researched on my phone/with a book right next to the spiral, and placed them in the appropriate place on the planting beds as I went.  Once it was time to plant, I dug my hole, nestled them into place, and covered with a bit of soil.  All done!

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Feel free to leave space in the spiral to add more plants at a later time.  You don’t have to pack out your spiral all at once!  It will still be effective and beautiful.  I’ve got some great sweet basil, lemon balm, and chocolate mint that I plan to transplant over when I get the time.  Don’t stress over everything being perfect- it will all come together.

Variations on the spiral- some people choose to make a small pond at the end of the spiral, rather than closing it off, and cultivate aqua plants such as watercress, or event small fish.  I’d love to move towards this someday, but it’s a bit of an undertaking right now.  In addition, some people will run an irrigation system up the center of the spiral when building the mound- also awesome, but we like to feel a connection to our plants 🙂

If you decide to give this a go, be sure to post some pictures!