Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tattoos Are Made From... Bones and Animal Fat? Oh, Ew.

Oh my, do I love tattoos. I adore seeing beautifully artistic tattoos on strangers' forearms and admiring them like some women admire babies. It also makes me wish I was a little more proficient at drawing, because stick figures aren't really considered "art" these days.

I would love to have half-sleeves without regret, but I'm taking my time and making careful decisions. Of course while looking into tattoos and inks, I discovered some interesting information about "Bone Black", the most commonly used tattoo ink.

Bone Black is a black pigment, called such because it is made from burning animal bones into charcoal, which is then turned into tattoo ink by adding a carrier solution (made with glycerin, which can be made from vegetable sources but is usually made from animal fats). Oh god, gross. Cannot have that on my body, never. I think this is one of those things that no one really talks about, but really, we should. Tattoos are awesome, but to have my skin full of burned bones and animal fat... no, no thank you.

So what are some options to consider when you finally are ready to get that tattoo but you don't want permanent remnants of dead animals in your skin?
  • Talk to your tattoo artist. Ask them what kind of inks and carrier solutions they use in their shop. Do they mix their own? Or do they buy it pre-mixed? If they don't want to talk to you about what inks they use, chances are they are not the right artist for you.
  • Ask your tattoo artist to use vegan (animal-free) inks and glycerin made from vegetable sources for your tattoo. You may need to add a little more money to your cost to cover the expense of ordering the items if they don't have them already.
  • Find a vegan tattoo artist. Vegans do not eat or consume any product or by-product of animals, so you can be sure that they will be knowledgeable about inks and carrier solutions.
  • If you can't locate a vegan tattoo artist, find a vegan tattoo parlor. They'll only use inks that do not have any animal products and will also have aftercare products that are vegan. They can recommend an artist to you that would best suit your needs. 

You can find your nearest vegan or vegan-friendly tattoo parlor here:

By the way, all of the above photos were done in vegan ink by the incredibly talented tattoo artist Ryan Mason. He works at Scapegoat Tattoo, vegan tattoo parlor in Portland, Oregon.

Do you have a vegan tattoo? Do you know of a vegan or vegan-friendly tattoo parlor that isn't listed here? Do you have any tattoo tips to share? Please leave a comment! :-)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Feature: StrappyKincaid

Today I present to you, dear readers, the lovely Jen Lee, the talented woman behind StrappyKincaid!

Tell us a little bit about you!
I'm Jen and I live in Portland, Oregon with my lovely husband and our 3 rescue dogs. My husband is my biggest support and cheerleader and the dogs are... really great "helpers". I have a demanding and stressful 9 to 5 job, so designing and creating are wonderfully necessary outlets for me. This past June I started a business I named StrappyKincaid. I see StrappyKincaid as my alter-ego- a unique individual that wears "sassy accessories" (that are sometimes quite racy).

If you're not making things, what would we most likely find you doing?
When I'm not working for the man at my day job or in my little studio space, I'm most likely on the hunt for heart-shaped rocks to add to my burgeoning collection, checking out style blogs for inspiration, people-watching, running, hiking, or (weather permitting) drinking a beer outside. (OK, I'll be honest, I'm usually walking a dog to a place to drink beer, going out for a beer to reward myself after a run, or hitting a pub in a small town....for a beer! after a long hike. I prefer IPA's, by the way.)

What does your creative process look like?
My creative process is peripatetic. It's bursts of overly-ambitious inspiration and a lot of trial and error, topped off with a touch of patience and loads of persistence. I'm a perfectionist and I find that those bursts allow me to take risks without becoming paralyzed by my fear of making mistakes. I spent a lot of my life not creating art because of that fear and I've had to let it go and not judge my work so harshly. The really wonderful side effect is that's opened me up to non-judgment in all areas of my life and made me a much more joyful human. If I get nothing else out of my business, I hope to inspire people to take risks and truly, truly participate in life.

A few StrappyKincaid creations

Do you have any eco-friendly tips to share?
My husband is my real inspiration when it comes to all things eco-friendly. Up until I met him 4 years ago I'd recycled, sure, but I'd always enjoyed the idea of being eco-friendly more than the execution. I have utmost respect for his sensitivity to the environment and have settled into a REDUCE/REUSE mantra, while he's the resident RECYCLE guru. My reduce/reuse mentality has permeated my whole world and become a part of my normal thought process. When shopping for materials for my designs, I first look for scrap or surplus materials, then for materials that can be re-worked such as leather skirts or leather jackets from thrift stores. Who knew that bad '80's fashion would work surprisingly well for handbags and jewelry? I've found that scrap upholstery leather is great for belts and my leg coverings (left, worn by a model at Portland's annual Modified Style show) - it's flexible, durable, soft and comes in great colors. I'm also always on the lookout for hardware that can be re-purposed-- o-rings, d-rings and buckles off old dog collars, leashes, harnesses, that sort of thing. When you tweak your mind to that "reuse" mindset it's amazing how much you can find to reuse!

Hop on over to StrappyKincaid's Etsy shop to peruse Jen's lovely creations, and while you're there make sure you use your exclusive coupon for 15% off any item by entering the coupon code SKPP11!

You can also stay up to date with news and information on the StrappyKincaid FaceBook page.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's International Rabbit Day!

I have a dog and cat whom I love a lot (even if the cat wasn't planned, he was found on the street as a small ball of fur in the wee hours of the morning last May); the cat thinks the dog is his mother and the dog thinks the cat is a royal pain (even though she did let him "nurse" for six months). Finally she weaned him, thank goodness. She has such a big heart.


I wasn't kidding.

I suppose she has a big heart because this isn't the first furry companion in need of a little extra loving. She had Apple, an adopted Netherland Dwarf rabbit who had a fierce appetite for dandelions and made his rabbit lair behind a mirror in a corner. He was the coolest of cool rabbits. Once he had a really intense fight with a red plastic cup, he liked to wait on the couch for the mail lady to come by, and he would always try (often successfully) to drink my coffee (he could smell it coming and as soon as I set my mug down he would be in it, literally). They shared carrots that I carefully distributed and Apple decided once that he should sleep in the dog's bed with her, and after a bit of grunting and rearranging, they made it happen.

Apple and Ollie share the bed

Isn't that a handsome bunny? Ollie the pug and I agree, we love rabbits. We love their cute little tails and their noses when they sniff things and how they do those cute little running jumps when they're excited. We also think a lot of people don't realize how awesome rabbits are, that they can use a litter box and that they are great companions. Who wouldn't want to share a big spinach salad with a bunny? Count me in!

So we're celebrating International Rabbit Day by sharing that bunnies are so dear to our hearts and we hope that if you're looking for a companion that you would consider adopting a rabbit who is looking for their forever home. Contact your local humane society and check out this website for more info on adopting!   You'd make somebunny very happy. :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

CFLs: To Use or Not to Use?

The light bulb: sexy, sleek, fragile. In use for over a hundred years, these have been lighting homes with their conductive filaments. Simple to use, with colored, white or clear glass, these have been a staple of households since most of us can remember. Screw it in, it lights up. Simple! Magic!

Thanks to engineers looking for an ever-growing number of ways to reduce global energy use, the CFL (compact fluorescent light) was introduced with glowing (ha!) reviews; they last 8 to 15 times longer than our sexy incandescent bulbs and use 20-33% less energy. Well! Here's a great way to save the planet, right?

Well...  maybe.

CFLs, like all fluorescent lamps (not our sexy bulbs), contain mercury as vapor inside their glass tubing. (You know what they look like, right? Here's one.)

Spirals. Hmm. But hey, saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, right?

So anyway, CFLs generally contain about 3–5 mg of mercury per bulb, with the eco-friendly bulbs containing as little as 1 mg. Why are we even talking about mercury? Well, if you didn't know, it is poisonous. That's why we don't really use those thermometers anymore with the mercury in them, because if it breaks and comes in contact with your skin, you could um... die.

Okay, so since mercury is poisonous and CFLs contain mercury, these spiraled bulbs (can we call them bulbs? It seems unfair) need to be handled and disposed of with care. For example, if a CFL breaks you should open windows in the room immediately to air out the mercurial vapor and carefully put the broken pieces in a jar, sealing it tightly (mercury can leech from a plastic bag). If your CFL stops working, you shouldn't throw it away with your trash (the mercury may be released and contribute to air and water pollution) but recycle them.

Recycle them, okay. But how?

CFLs fall into the WEEE recycling scheme (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) and the higher price that you pay for a CFL already includes the cost of recycling it. Manufacturers and importers have an obligation to recycle these guys, so you better get them back to where they came from. In the US, you can bring them to most Home Depot locations.

Well that kind of seems like a lot of work and I don't really like the idea of introducing mercury into my home or the environment. Plus, they don't fit in a lot of current lighting fixtures and they don't work well in low temperatures. So I'll stick with my sexy bulbs please. 

Oh wait - I don't have a choice??

In 2008, the European Union approved regulations to start phasing out incandescent bulbs by end of 2012. Australia, Canada, and the United States have started planning a ban on most current incandescent bulbs. It looks like slowly but surely, the world will be getting rid of our bulbs and replacing them with spirals.

With the mercury you'll be obligated to bring into your home, please make sure to get your old and broken CFLs to a proper recycling center where they can be disposed of safely and their glass recycled. It's the only way that we can prevent doing harm to the environment - and ourselves - while cutting back on our energy use. CFLs do NOT belong in the trash, they are hazardous waste! But you will see a reduction in your energy bill, and using less energy is nothing to sneeze at.

Old vs. New
If you have any tips or experiences to share, please comment! :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tutorial: "Ring Around the Rosy" Necklace from Tee-Shirts (no-sewing!)

I spend lots of time turning tee shirts into other things. This idea came from a crafting-gone-wrong experiment, where I tried to make a series of loops made from tee shirts into earrings - they were way too big and distracting, not to mention they didn't move well. So, moving on, I realized that they could be used to make a necklace very easily with just a few knots. Hooray! I've since seen some tutorials for a scarf made similarly to the necklace I made but I decided to write up a quick tutorial so other people can make the necklaces too - especially as the other tutorials I've seen do not include making the tee-shirt strips into "strings".

How to! 

You'll need a tee shirt and a pair of scissors.

Cut 14 strips roughly the width of your finger
Hold the ends of the strip with both hands and pull out. The strip will roll on itself to make a string.

(strips pulled into string)
Wrap the string around your four fingers as such, then make 14 of these. Lay them down on your work surface.
Start to tie the loops together with your remaining 2 pieces of string.
Tie them all together until all 14 are attached.
And there you have it!

For longer or shorter lengths, just add or subtract the number of loops that you make and attach to your chain.

Good luck and happy crafting!

(For my other tutorial, click here!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kibbles be Gone! How to Make Your Own Dog Food

The joys of sharing your home with a dog - the loving, the silliness, the cuddling, the burping (err, I have a pug); they're such great companions. Dogs, like us, need to eat well in order to feel well and live a long, healthy life. Nowadays when dog food is readily available in huge bags at every grocery store, most of us take the easy way out, struggling through the front door with a 25-pound bag of pelleted "Chicken and Carrots". I too have done this, feeling like my dog was somehow proud of me for carrying the sack into the kitchen where it would slowly be depleted that month. But I'll admit (and this is rare): I was wrong.

In fact she was probably dreading the arrival of that huge bag, thinking "oh no, you've got to be kidding me. I haven't pooped in a week thanks to that food!", snorting her way to the backyard to sulk. The reality of processed dog food wasn't really one that at the time I was interested in, but as they say, the more you know...

Commercial dog foods are filled with all sorts of things, and mostly the sorts of things that aren't good for your dog. Like what, you ask? Oh, I'm happy to share!
  • Meat By-Product: this refers to any part of an animal (cow, chicken, etc.) that is not muscle. Essentially, it's heads, feet, tails, things like that. Yes seriously, ground up cow eyeballs in your dog's food. (Note: I'm all for using the entire animal if it must be consumed, however these have no nutritional value for a dog.)
  • Digest: either in "poultry digest" or "meat digest" form, is a nice way of saying "roadkill" and "euthanized pets". Yes, seriously - hold back your vomit - you could be feeding your dog ANOTHER DOG!  
This all with any number of rice, wheat, corn and soy that has discarded and not usable for anything else, aside from churning it up with eyeballs and turning it into the chow that you put in Fluffy's bowl.

Okay, so you're probably asking yourself, are there any dog foods that don't contain this crap (quite literally)? There are, you can find a list of some of the top ones here (conversely, a list of the worst ones are here). Are they cheap? Depends. How valuable is your dog's nutrition to you? You may be paying double for that 25-pound bag of food, but in my view, it's worth it.

There is another option however, one that takes a little more effort but your dog will love you SO much that you will probably stay motivated to keep doing it: make your own dog food! It's pretty easy and most importantly, good for your furry companions. If they had opposable thumbs they'd probably be doing it themselves.

A trick to making this a bit easier on yourself is to prepare a week or two of food in one batch, then freeze or refrigerate the rest in individual containers or baggies (be sure to reuse the bags though, pretty please!). Pull out a frozen one in the morning for it to be defrosted by doggy dinner time and you're all set! Your dog will go nuts for this (if your dog is a messy eater, be prepared - depending on the ingredients used you might want to use a newspaper under the bowl unless they're good at cleaning up).

Here are some recipes to peruse! (Note: many contain grains which are not really necessary for dogs in a balanced diet, you can omit them if you'd like and bulk up on the other ingredients. Also make sure to puree the veggies so their nutrients can be fully absorbed!) Additionally, here's a feeding chart to know how much to give your dog.

Chicken and Rice
Turkey "Casserole"
Lamb and Veggies
Meaty "Casserole"
Meatloaf for Dogs
Turkey and Rice
Another Turkey and Rice 

Here's a whole bunch of recipes for food and cookies!

Here's a vegan recipe (yes, dogs can thrive without meat!)

I'd love to hear about your experiences going kibble-free, please leave your tips, recipes or comments below!  

(that's my furbaby, Ollie!)

UPDATE, OCTOBER 21: the dog LOVES her food. The cat is having difficulty adjusting and it's tough going. We're being patient with him and encouraging him. Strange as it seems, though he has meat in his bowl he doesn't know/recognize that it's food. He is so used to eating crunchy pieces of cat food. (Ugh I feel so guilty.)

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 4: Ollie is still massively in love with her homemade food. She goes #2 once a day without difficulty. I've noticed she's been drinking less water but peeing just as much - I think it's because the carrots I use are pureed with water so she's still getting a good water intake. Around 7:30 in the evening she starts the "kitchen sniff", her way of letting me know that she hasn't yet eaten and is waiting EVER so patiently. :-) The cat... still slow going. We've axed the dry food and he took wet food after he refused to eat for three (terrible, horrible) days. He's on wet food now and we're slowly putting more and more chicken in it. Currently he gets about 3/4 tbsp of chicken mixed in with his wet food and it's always gone when I check the bowl... so he's eating it! Hooray!

UPDATE, DECEMBER 5: The dog is going strong. The "dinner dance" has been put into place, which involves running around the house, tail chasing and general craziness when the dog sees me preparing her meal. She gets so excited about it! She's pooping once a day, everything is normal, she seems incredibly healthy and happy. No seizures in 5 weeks, to boot (may not be related). The cat is still getting mixed food, but we're still going strong. He's a tough nut to crack!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall is Upon Us! Check Out These Eco-Friendly Coats and Jackets

Fall is here! And I love coats, oh do I love them! And if there's anything more I love than just coats, it is coats that are compassionately made and are eco-friendly. All of these jackets are made from natural fibers, without wool, leather, or any other animal ingredient or by-product. You can look stunningly stylish AND be proud to have caused no harm. Could it get much better?

Here are some picks for Fall 2011 for a few must-have coats!

Technically this isn't a coat, but that cute ruffled collar was too hard to resist. Consider it a long sweatshirt, a long, cute sweatshirt that can be yours for $240 from Beklina.
I can see myself in this one already! Just add a sweater and scarf. From Vaute Couture, $250.
The Can't Chard-ly Wait Coat is so completely adorable, I'm in love! $150 chez ModCloth.
While this may not be the warmest coat, it certainly is adorable! Available in black, caramel and emerald, this lovely from Vaute Couture will set you back $280.
BB Dakota's "Switching Trains" coat is lined with faux fur. Totally adorable and only $110 at ModCloth

Have any other coats to share? I'd love to see them! <3

Friday, September 16, 2011

Make Your Own Chalkboard Paint - in ANY Color!

This is something I've been wanting to do for a while now, since seeing some really cute flower pots like these (eek! How cute!).

And since a lovely birthday dinner for my other half, I saw an entire ceiling in chalkboard paint at the Mama Shelter restaurant (in Paris) which was periodically cleaned and redone (I can't imagine drawing upside-own!)

So I wanted to jump on the bandwagon because it seems fun and the results are always so cute! Not to mention, if you make the paint yourself you can make it in any color you want, not just green or black. The options are endless! 

So here is a basic recipe and instructions for making your own chalkboard paint and whipping up some extra special crafts.


3 teaspoons acrylic or latex paint
1 1/2 teaspoons water-based glazing medium
1/2 teaspoon non-sanded powder tile grout

Mix your ingredients up well. You'll notice that you'll have some clumps in your paint, but don't worry -  these will likely "melt" into the paint or can be sanded, if necessary.


Use a regular paint brush and paint the surface of your choice. Make sure each coat is completely dry before applying another one (you can store your paint in the fridge to keep it usable for a day). When finished and the last coat is dry, you're all set to go! Make sure you use regular chalk (the sticks), they work the best and wipe off using an eraser or a damp cloth.


Have a look at these photos below for some inspiration and feel free to comment with your tips, questions, ideas, or results! (Are you so pleased that you want to start selling them on handmade marketplaces like Etsy? Here's a how-to guide!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Reuse Coffee Grounds (Even to Reduce Cellulite!)

Like most people, our household of two consumes a pretty healthy amount of coffee (mmmm coffee, I think I'll have another, thank you!). Coffee comes from the earth, so it's natural - it can go back into the earth! Here are a few ways to reuse your coffee grounds instead of throwing them away.


If you, unlike me, have anything more than a balcony for little plants, you can use your grounds as a fertilizer in your garden and on your lawn; the grounds provide extra nitrogen for your sprouting greens to absorb. They apparently have great ability to cultivate mushrooms as well, if you enjoy growing them. Sprinkle it lightly on the soil or lawn before watering or rainfall to achieve the best results.

For those of you who compost, adding coffee grounds to your compost pile is an effective way of speeding up decomposition as the acidity increases and nitrogen. If you've got those lovely worms in your compost bin, make sure to give them the grounds as well (apparently pre-rotted is preferred) - they love them! Rumor has it that most flowering plants enjoy soil composted with coffee, and bloom brighter and stay healthier longer. Give it a try!

While you're taking care of your garden, you can curb snail or slug problems by circling your plants with the grounds. Apparently snails and slugs don't like the grounds and will back off. Ants seem to be repelled by it too - if you have an ant hill or hole in your yard, sprinkle the grounds on and around it. Apparently this is ant-speak for "go elsewhere, please!".


Coffee grounds can be used to remove odors from hands or in the fridge. Rub the grounds on your hands before washing to get rid of strong smells like onion, and put a small tub of grounds in the fridge to help absorb pungent food odors.


Using coffee grounds as an after-shampoo rinse is said to give darker hair extra shine.

And the best use that I've found so far (tried and true, tested by yours truly!) is using coffee grounds as an exfoliant - especially in areas where cellulite is present (ahem, not that I have any... doh!). You can use it as a facial scrub (mix with your favorite cleanser) to help slough off old skin and make your face softer and firmer. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and it will temporarily tighten skin and reduce dark circles (try it around your eyes!).

For areas with cellulite, mix coffee grounds with liquid soap and use your hand to massage it on the skin. You'll come out with firmer skin and a bit of a caffeine buzz - it DOES help a little! (Expensive cellulite creams are chocked full caffeine, which temporarily dehydrates fluid from fat cells, making them look smaller.)

Caffeine may protect against sun damage to skin cells. Try rebrewing your old grounds and adding it into your sunscreen or lotion. Couldn't hurt!

Special note: word has it that you can get coffee grounds from any Starbucks location if you just go in and ask!

If you have any tips or tricks for using coffee grounds, please share them!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Knowledge is Power! How to Get a Free Education From an Ivy League University

(Note: this post isn't specifically about eco-friendly living but I just had to share it!)

So I'm pretty excited that I came across this because I love learning about ... everything! Sometimes I wish I could go back to school but the cost, well... it's too much. But then, I found out how to get an education from Ivy League schools for free.

Yes, I promise, you read that right.

It's called OpenCourseWare (OCW) and it is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world (as long as they have access to the internet).
Participating in OCW does not grant credits or degrees, nor does not provide access to the university or its faculty, but there is no enrollment or registration process and you have open access to the materials for any thousands (yes, thousands!) of courses that could interest you.

Below is a list (non-exhaustive) of participating schools and universities. Just click on the name of the school you're interested in and it'll take you right to their (free) available courses. 

University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Irvine
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 
Tufts University 
Utah State University
Yale University
United Nations University
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Middle East Technical University 
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Notre Dame University 
Delft University of Technology
Fulbright Economics Teaching Program
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania - Small Business Center
King Faho University of Petrolium and Minerals

I can't decide what to do first... let me know what you ended up choosing!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Video Tutorial: How to make toy balls out of old tee shirts!

I'm so excited to finally do this!

I've been adding to my Etsy shop for over a year now, with all sorts of creations that I've been making with all my spare time (...and I have a lot of spare time). I mainly use cotton tee-shirts that have been donated to me, turning them into brooches, necklaces, earrings, belts, rings, bracelets, napkin rings - you name it! I've had so much fun coming up with new ideas, and in the past I've been asked to share some of my secrets. I've always graciously declined because I wanted to keep them all to myself (insert evil laugh here) but now... I've changed my mind.

The reality is, I would LOVE for people to start looking at their old or unused items in a "what can I turn this into?" way. Heck, this morning I was convinced I was going to saw our metal globe in half to make two big salad bowls and my better half was horrified, snatching it from my hands. But that's the way I see things, really. And I want to share it with you! And you should share it with your friends, your family, your kids. We buy too much these days, and we don't think twice when we toss things in the trash. Maybe you'll be inspired to make your own amazing creations from stuff you have laying around in your house (and if that happens please do let me know, I would love to hear about it!).

These little tee-shirt balls are so easy to make and can serve a million purposes. A few things I can think of are: cat or dog toys, decor (so cute in a big glass vase!), beads, pin cushions, hair accessories, wedding decorations (made in specific colors and spread out on a table - cute!), curtain weights, curtain ties (if a U-shaped string was sewn on the two), Christmas tree ornaments (just add a hook!), door hangers, necklaces, I could probably go on forever. The point is, they are easy to make and super cute. :-)

                                                                A necklace I made

                                        Admiration from my dog and cat, pre-pounce (by the cat)

                                                           Yet another necklace I made 

So here is my first video tutorial on how to make these cute little balls out of old tee shirts! I'd love to see your comments and pictures or videos if you make your own.

Happy crafting!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cleaning Up, Naturally.

So around my house we don’t use any cleaning products.

“…wait, what??”

Well, okay, we do - but not the typical kind. That’s right, no toilet bowl cleanser, no countertop cleaner or any of those harsh liquids that can be sprayed from a plastic bottle that have scents like “Lemon Fresh” or “Lavender Fields” or come with a "guarantee!". No, neither of us have any allergies to chemicals or scents. I just really, really don’t like using some chemical concoction to clean my house – we’d been cleaning for thousands of years before Clorox came around, right? How ever did they manage?

Well there are a thousand natural products from nature that are just as effective deodorizers, cleansers and disinfectants as the ChemicallyClean! (not a real brand name) stuff you’ll find lined up and down multiple aisles in your local supermarket - and they're non-toxic!

Of all the amazing things that mother nature gave us,  I have my favorites, I do: baking soda and vinegar.

It's true, all true: I honestly can’t imagine living my life without these two. They’re like my right-hand (wo)men, my maids of honor, my best friends who I am constantly learning new things about. Miracle products. But what can they do? Oh, it's more like what can’t they do!

So I have to share this with the world, because I can’t get enough of this stuff.  Here are a few (of the many!) ways that you can use baking soda:
  1. Dilute with water and use to clean marble countertops 
  2. Put a cup in your toilet bowl and leave it for an hour. Presto change-o! 
  3. Use it to clean any porcelain surface (bathtubs, sinks, ovens, etc.)
  4. Spray a water-baking soda mixture on your mirrors to make them sparkle
  5. Add it to your laundry to keep your clothes extra clean
  6. Remove rust by using baking soda as a scrub 
  7. Place silver and gold jewelry in a damp rag with baking soda and gently rub. Sparkly!
  8. Use it as toothpaste (and it lightens teeth over time!)
  9. Some swear by its acne-reducing powers when used as a facial scrub 
  10. Use it in place of dish soap to remove grease from pots and pans
  11. Wet clothes or dish rags been out too long? Throw baking soda in the wash with them to remove the smell
  12. Apply it on rashes, bites, or skin irritations – it will calm the skin
  13. Wash your fruits and vegetables with it
  14. Put it in your kitty litter box to absorb those icky smells 
  15. Use it as shampoo or add a tablespoon to a nickel-sized dollop of shampoo to extend the life of your favorite shampoo (!) <--- my favorite! 
And definitely not least, vinegar.
  1. I learned that cats do NOT like vinegar, so it’s a great deterrent if your kitty likes getting into places and things he shouldn’t. Just dab or spray it around the area. (err... not the litter box!)
  2. Polish anything chrome with vinegar, it’ll make it shiny!
  3. It can be used (diluted) as an after-shampoo wash to leave your hair shiny
  4. Gargle with water to relieve a sore throat or to cleanse the tonsils
  5. Use vinegar as a laundry fabric softener. It also brightens colors! <--- my favorite!
  6. Vinegar and salt (to form a scrub) will get rid of coffee stains on cups 
  7. Eggs won’t crack if you add some vinegar to the water you boil them in! 
  8. Pour vinegar down sink drains and flush. It breaks down gunk and keeps things smelling clean.
  9. Boil water and vinegar in the microwave to loosen up any splatters inside
  10. Clean your (eye)glasses with it
  11. A small bowl of vinegar will cleanse the air of a smoky room 
One of the best parts of all of this? You could EAT (or drink) these if you wanted to. All to say, you and you're home will be sparkling clean without inhaling any toxic chemicals.

How do you use baking soda and vinegar? Please share! :-)

Plastic is Not Fantastic!

2-2.5 million per hour in the United States: that is the total of plastic bottles being used in the United States in just sixty minutes.

While paper enjoys a nearly 80% recycle rate, plastic recycling lags far behind at just 25%, which means that unfortunately only one in four of these bottles will end up finding its way to a recycling plant. The remaining bottles end up in landfills (it takes up to 1000 years for it to decompose thanks to some nifty chemical additives that inhibit decomposition). Currently those plastic bottles make up a significant portion of landfills; the rest have been incinerated with the trash.

One of the most important reasons why plastic needs to be recycled is because the first production of plastic requires petroleum, to the tune of 331 million barrels of petroleum and natural gas - equal to about 4.6% of total U.S. petroleum consumption each year. By recycling plastic it eliminates the need to use petroleum, plus it ensures that one less bottle will end up on the side of highways, in rivers, parks, and in the ocean.

 Yes, that one little bottle does make a world of difference.

Please avoid using plastic. It’s really not as difficult as one might think. Here are a few ideas to get started:
  • Instead of buying bottled water, get a reusable water container (be creative! A wine bottle, a jar with a lid would work!) and fill it up at home.
  • Say no to plastic bags! Bring reusable bags to the supermarket. Plain ones could also be purchased to put a company logo or personal website address on it, look at all that free marketing!
  • Take old plastic bags to be recycled (several large supermarkets now have dropoff locations).
  • Re-use any ziploc-type bags that are used at home. They can easily be rinsed, dried and used again! (Do not put these in the dishwasher, in extreme heat they may melt.)
  • Make sure any recyclable gets into the proper bin at home. If you notice a neighbor with empty bins, offer to show them how to use their bins or even do it for them.
  • Offer to give a “Recycling is Awesome!” speech at your child’s/local school. You can easily find free printouts online to take with you.

It’s up to each and every person to start making a difference for future generations and the planet. Say no to plastic!

...Can I Recycle Those Pesky Bottle Caps?

In 1988 the Society of the Plastics Industry created the resin code numbering system to define the different types of plastics on the market. The different type of plastics are numbered from 1 to 7, and are generally found within or near a set of three “chasing” arrows. These are indications to the consumer to show it’s potential ability to be recycled and for recycler to be sorted with like plastics. The most commonly used plastics fall into the #1 (Polyethylene terephthalate) and #2 (High-density polyethylene) plastic categories, as they are the easiest to recycle and generally all recycling plants can process them.

There are “easy” plastics to recycle and there are the “more difficult”, often because of the type of resin used in the plastic production process.  Bottle caps fall into the #5 plastic category (Polypropylene), a lesser-used plastic and not as many recycling centers accept it as it has a low rate of recyclability. However, because #5 has a similar resin to #2, many centers are finding good reasons to recycle and reuse items made with the once “too difficult” #5 plastic.

Recycling bottle caps is an easy way to protect the environment. As most of the caps are currently not being recycled and are discarded into the trash, they can be found littered in rivers, parks, beside highways, and polluting the oceans. Often times birds and small animals mistake the caps for food and ingest them, which can ultimately cause death.

If you’re ready to recycle your bottle caps, here’s how!

  • Simply call your local recycling center and ask them if they accept #5 plastics. If they do, you can put the caps in your curbside recycle bin. If they do not, ask if they know of local center that does.

  • Drop off your caps at your local Aveda store or salon, or get in touch with Aveda’s Cap Collection program. They have programs with over a thousand schools in the US collecting and recycling bottle caps which become new packaging for Aveda products. As of August 2011 their program is at capacity, but if you want to inquire about future enrollment email or call 1-877-Aveda09.

  • Support Preserve, a sustainable company who converts #5 plastics into household goods by taking your #5 plastics to a local Whole Foods Market and other select locations participating in the Gimme5 recycling scheme. Available in 38 states by drop-off, otherwise caps can be sent in by mail! For drop-off locations and more information consult Gimme5 Locations.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Portland, Oregon: Ultimate Green Living!

At the top of the Willamette Valley in the lush Pacific Northwest lies a bustling city that is green, quite literally: Portland. Surrounded by trees, rivers, parks and the people who are committed to preserving them, this city has been named the most eco-friendly city in the United States. Here are a few reasons why:

BIKING: In an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road as well as the city’s carbon footprint, 315 miles of bike paths accommodate Portland’s tens of  thousands of cyclists. The nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters (8%) live here - the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average. It’s easy to go by bike, and if you get caught in the rain (eventually you will), you and your bike are welcomed on light rail trains as well as buses, which are all outfitted with bike racks. Bike-themed events span the entire year, one in particalar, Pedalpalooza, claiming two weeks in June which encompasses 200 events to celebrate the cycling culture.

CAR-SHARING: Portland was the first U.S. city to implement car-sharing. ZipCar was implemented in 1998, allowing users to book one of the agency’s fleet of hundreds of vehicles in the Portland metro area in a timeshare-type scheme. With designated parking all over the city, members can reserve their car for their weekly visit to the grocery store or a drive to visit family at a small price, while not having to worry about insuring or maintaining their own vehicle.

TRANSPORTATION: A quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation. Light rail service between the airport and downtown, and free train and streetcar service within the 330-block Free Rail Zone, Portland’s public transportation is accessible and affordable.

ENERGY: Half of Portland's power comes from renewable sources. Solar and wind power are quickly becoming popular methods for supplementing energy and eco-roofs and living roofs are catching on as an environmentally-friendly way to not only grow your own food but keep your house or business safe from the elements while avoiding manufactured roofing.
Even working out has gone green. The Green Microgym strives to be self-sustaining: it channels the energy from the various treadmills and incumbent bikes on-site and converts it to power. In 2010, through their energy creation and saving culture, they generated 36% of their own electricity.

RECYCLING: Portland’s households and businesses recycle and compost 67 percent of waste generated, one of the highest rates in the country. Appliances and computers also have a healthy recycle and reuse rate!

PARKS AND RECREATION: There is no lack of trees nor people who care about preserving their environment. With 200 parks within city limits, hiking and camping are all in close reach. Portlanders want to maintain their “green” status: in 1995, voters in the Portland metropolitan region passed a regional bond measure to acquire valuable natural areas for fish, wildlife, and people. Ten years later, more than 8,100 acres (33 km2) of ecologically valuable natural areas had been purchased and permanently protected from development.

SUSTAINABLE EATING: More than 20 farmers’ markets and 35 community gardens in Portland – promotes the “farm to fork” culture that is quickly spreading. Backyard chicken coops are a growing trend for those who appreciate fresh eggs, and raised vegetable beds are commonly seen in front and back yards.

The city is also known for being the most vegetarian-friendly city in America. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine can be found everywhere, from the city’s numerous (200+ and growing!) food carts to the most elegant of dining. Portland is also home to vegan grocery stores, bakeries, and even a vegan tattoo parlor. (A vegetarian diet reduces the production of carbon dioxide (CO2).  Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for three weeks!)

FURRY COMPANIONS: People in Portland have a heart for animals. This year the Oregon Humane Society hopes to place 11,000 animals with loving families (of which Portland has plenty!). As the largest no-kill animal shelter in the area, there are no time limits placed on how long an animal is available for adoption, and they are never euthanized because of space limitations. When finding a new family, dogs generally wait an average of 8 days or less and cats wait an average of 9 days or less! Adoption rates for dogs in 2009 was 97 percent; for cats it was 95 percent (quite impressive when compared to the national average of 25 percent for dogs and 20 percent for cats).

A CULTURE OF GIVING: Nonprofits thrive in Portland, where many people are employed, volunteer, donate, and/or benefit from the many registered non-profit organizations located in the area. Donating to local groups is encouraged; one of the city’s largest weekly alternative newspapers, the Willamette Week, distributes a publication called the Give!Guide, which is inserted in all 90,000 copies of Willamette Week. One of the goals of the Give!Guide is to encourage people age 18-35 to get involved in philanthropy. If young people begin supporting non-profit organizations at a young age, even at smaller levels, they are likely to continue to give as they get older, and the amount of their support is likely to grow with their incomes.

With its roller derby, Voodoo Donuts (where you can actually have marriage ceremony), coffee shops on every corner, a city block of books chez Powell’s Books, First and Last Thursday art festivals, and the amazing music that flows from the city is unstoppable and renowned worldwide: Portland, it’s awesome, and awesomely green.