Monday, November 28, 2011

Cloth Toilet "Paper"

In preparation for this post about cloth toilet "paper", I thought I'd read up a little bit on mainstream toilet paper for comparison.  I discovered some very unsettling facts from The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia.  In fact, I was shocked.

On average, consumers use 8.6 sheets per trip – a total of 57 sheets per day. That’s an annual total of 20,805 sheets!

According to Charmin customers, the number of days a standard roll of bath tissue usually lasts in the most-used bathrooms in the house is five.

I have now been using cloth toilet paper I made at home for months (though only for number one incidents).  I have yet to find a downside.  Making them was quick and simple.  I used baby wash cloths, so they are nice and soft.  Washing them is not a big deal.  Most importantly, I am happy knowing I am helping the environment.

Baby wash cloths cut into quarters.

Zip zag stitch across the 2 open edges.

Store in the bathroom.

Here is a more  uplifting statistic I found to end on:

Tossing all the toilet paper in America would save 15 million trees, 17.3 terawatts of electricity, and more than 473 billion gallons of water annually.

I have to say it's worth it.  After looking into it more as well, I found that some families are choosing to put bidets in their homes to eliminate the need for toilet paper all together.  I think I'd be a little uncertain trying one of those for the first time, but they all sounded really pleased with their decision.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lemon Meringue Moisturizer

The other night we had two of our closest friends over for an evening.  The boys played video games while the girls made beauty products in the kitchen.  With winter approaching, dry skin is always an issue.  We found a recipe in Lauren Cox's EcoBeauty book for a hand cream and altered it to make our very own moisturizer.

Lemon Meringue Moisturizer

1/4 c water
1/8 tsp borax powder
5-10 drops lemon essential oil
1/2 c grapeseed oil
2 tbsp grated beeswax

1. Bring water to a boil in kettle and immediately pour over the borax in a bowl. Stir until dissolved.  Add lemon essential oil.  (This can of course be substituted for any essential oil, but then it won't be lemon meringue.) Set aside.
2. Place oil and beeswax in the top pot of a double boiler (a makeshift double boiler can be made by placing a small pot into a larger pot that is filled partway with water) over medium-high heat, and mix together until completely melted.
3. Pour the oil mixture into a blender and turn the blender on.  Add the hot water mixture in a slow, steady stream.  Blend on a high speed until well combined.  The mixture will become the consistency of a cream.

Finished product.

 The whole process was so exciting.  I couldn't believe that we really made such a completely different product from the ingredients that we started with.  I asked my husband, Brad the chemist, why this happened.  After looking into the chemical make up of the ingredients, he explained that we produced an actual chemical reaction.  Real science!

I love how thick and fluffy the cream is.  It is very moisturizing without feeling oily or greasy.  It soaks into skin quickly.  I like to use it as a hand cream, though it would work wonderfully on any dry skin areas.

If you're interested in or curious about why a person would want to make their own beauty products or be cautious about mainstream brands, I encourage you to watch this short video: The Story of Cosmetics

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sustainable Tees on a Mission

I had the great pleasure of winning a giveaway from Tees for Change, and my prize arrived in the mail this past weekend!  I had only just discovered them when I entered the giveaway.  Now that I have had the opportunity to try their products and learn more about their mission, I love them!

Tees for Change is build on the idea that "what you wear can make a difference. [Their] line of stylish, earth friendly tees lets you look good, feel good and do good!"  The shirts, which display positive messages, are made from a fabric blend of 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton.  Bamboo is incredibly sustainable, and the organic cotton is grown and harvest in a responsible way.  The shirts are also produced under fair trade and sweatshop-free conditions.  To top it all off, they plant a tree for every shirt purchased! 

My winnings: 2 shirts and a tote

The very first thing I noticed even just from pulling the shirts out of the package was how soft they were.  When I tried them on, they were easily the most comfortable shirts I had ever put on.  They are lightweight, breath well, and slightly form fitting.  These will definitely become "go-to" shirts for me.  Plus, I love the positive reminders every time I see myself in the mirror.

Tees for Change has many different styles of shirts, tote bags, jewelry, journals, and fun books as well.  You may think this is lame, but Brad and I are actually buying the The Couple's Love Quiz Book for a Christmas present to each other.  I encourage you to check out their site, store, blog, and support such a fantastic organization!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No Impact Man

I mentioned the discovery of a book, blog, and then documentary of "No Impact Man."  We immediately requested the documentary at the library, and finally had the pleasure of watching it.  No Impact Man documentary follows the Manhattan-based Beavan family as they leave behind their high consumption 5th Avenue lifestyle and try to live an entire year without making any environmental impact.  Colin is determined to give up everything from new items to taxis to take out to electricity whilst making no garbage to top it off.  He and his family begin to bicycle, scooter, and walk.  They eat only local foods.  They light their apartment by candlelight.  They learn a lot.

The movie was really inspiring for me.  I was impressed with how hard they worked and all the new things they were willing to try to take the experience as far as possible.  The film was also incredibly real, showing the hurtful reactions they received from others, the "cheats" they sometimes did, and of course the good times together as a family as well.  His wife really had no inclinations towards environmental friendliness beforehand, so it was really a stretch for her most of the time, and thus it was encouraging to see just a regular person make such great strides as well.  Plus it was so funny and entertaining.

The media gave them a lot of flack and were calling it The Year Without Toilet Paper to make it a joke, and my favourite line is Colin's response: "What if we called it the year I lost 20 pounds without going to the gym once, or the year we didn't watch TV and we became much better parents as a result, or the year we ate locally and seasonally and it ended up reversing my wife's pre-diabetic condition."  There are so many benefits to this change of lifestyle.  Even small steps in the right direction make big differences.

Here is the trailer.  I highly recommend watching the film!  Free at your local library.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Making

As part of the Healthy Homemaking series I had done a post on meal planning.  To be completely honest, we have not kept up with it.   One way we thought we could make it more concrete was to make a menu to display in the kitchen.  After seeing ideas on Pinterest, this is what we made.  It's so quick and simple, plus we didn't have to buy a single thing.

What you need:
-picture frame with glass
-paint (optional)
-dry erase pen

1. Cut paper to required dimensions to fit inside frame.
2. Print title and days of the week onto paper either through a computer printer or by hand.
3. Paint frame if desired.
4. Put paper in frame.
5. Write on glass with a dry erase marker.

While going through and getting rid of most of our possessions, we found a few unused picture frames, so this was as great opportunity to repurpose one.  The paper is leftover from when I used to make cards and scrapbook.  The frame was originally black, which I didn't think suited our style or house, so Brad painted it brown with acrylic paint.

We still work hard to meal plan each week, but having the menu sitting in the kitchen staring at me makes me think about it and helps me remember to do it.

Do you meal plan?  What strategies to do you use?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Zoodles" - Zucchini Noodles

While perusing Pinterest I came across this amazing creation: zucchini noodles!  I have now renamed them "zoodles."  Zucchini is my favourite vegetable, and throughout the summer we were eating about one a day.  I always like finding new ways to prepare it.  This was something I had never seen before.  I am sure there plenty of different ways to cook them, and some people I've seen even leave them raw.  This is how we made ours.

Zucchini Noodles

1. Thinly slice zucchini into noodle-like strips.  If you have one, using a mandolin, peeler, or spiralizer might make work faster, but we just used a knife.
2. In a frying pan, lightly sautee with extra virgin olive oil and garlic.
3. Top with pasta sauce of choice.  Ours is a homemade tomato based sauce with chick peas.  Other vegetables, beans, or meat could easily be added.

Bon appetite!

It was so tasty!  We actually sliced up 2 big zucchinis right afterwards and froze them so that we will be able to make this even quicker for future meals.  The zucchini works wonderfully as a pasta substitute which adds more vegetables and eliminates some carbs from the meal (though I know carbs aren't all bad).  It is also a great option for those with gluten intolerance.  We will be eating plenty more of this in the future.

What unconventional vegetable dishes have you tried?

Monday, November 7, 2011


I read an article in Natural Solutions magazine that really made me think.  It asked the question, is clutter affecting your health?  I had never really considered this even as a possibility before.  Here is what I learned.

In this article, clutter was defined as anything that gets between you and the life you'd like to be living.  It claims that it is impossible to be your best and healthiest self in a cluttered space.  We lose our ability to focus on what we're doing in the midst of a mess.   This loss of mindfulness can lead into an unhappy cycle.  A PhD at Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living says that clutter can make us depressed and being depressed can make us cluttered.  "Depression contributes to clutter by causes fatigue, giving one less energy and motivation, and impairing ability to focus," and then "having a lot of clutter leads people to feel ashamed and socially anxious."  There are even speculations that clutter can lead to overeating and weight gain.

How can we combat this?  Decluttering!  This is the process that Brad and I went through.
-throw away obvious garbage and put recycling in the recycling bin
-do what is visible first - countertops, desks, etc
-empty out a drawer/cupboard working on one at a time
-consider each of the objects - do I need/use/love it, how would life be without it
-pack up unwanted items to donate

Brad and I have eliminated multiple boxes and garbage bags in the last couple of months, and we're not done yet.  We essentially got rid of everything we didn't use or love.  In fact, we even got rid of some things we sort of love because they really have no place in our life right now.  I think it is important to figure out what we want from our lives, not what we want for our lives.  Deep down inside myself I know that authenticity, serenity, and joy are more desirable than a new wardrobe, the latest iPad, or a new car.  We are trying to break the cycle of consumerism that society so heavily pushes.  Buying less stuff is also so much better for the environment.  I don't consider it denying myself or losing out on anything.  It is about freedom, space, and time.  While browsing Pinterest, I pine over simple, open rooms like this:

Minimizing and decluttering are ongoing processes that require constant maintenance.  This is the hardest part for me.  It is encouraging though that little changes really can make a big difference.  You can start anytime, anywhere, with anything.  Every little bit helps.

What are your strategies for decluttering or maintaining?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Scent of Home - Air Freshener

Way back when I talk about my homemade laundry detergent, I promised 2 other homemade cleaning product recipes.  Today I am going to share with you a homemade air freshener from Keeper of the Home that I use.

First though, why would someone want to make their own air freshener?  Apparently having "fresh" air is a major first world problem, since 75% of Americans have some sort of air freshener in their home. Unfortunately all types of air fresheners (sprays, wicks, electric, etc) have a long ingredient list filled with toxic chemicals.  Just one example I found is trichlorofluoromethane.  With the help of my chemist husband, I was able to look into the safety of this chemical.  It has been assigned the exclamation point "danger" symbol because of its severe toxicity and damage to the ozone layer and environment in general.  Another harmful ingredient is called 1, 4-dichlorobenzene which has already been proven in studies to reduce lung function.  That is not exactly what I think of when I hear air freshener.

So, what can we do about it?  Make our own natural air fresheners!  Here is how.

I've moved to a new website! Head on over to Heartful Habits for the deodorizing bathroom spray recipe. Thanks!