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Archive for Green Home
April 1st, 2013
Stainless steel appliances can give any kitchen a contemporary and fresh look. With three tween boys our stainless steel doesn’t stand a chance. Fingerprints, smudges and food end up covering most stainless steel surfaces in our kitchen.
Here are a few tips for keeping your stainless steel surfaces clean.
DON’T wipe with a damp cloth and let it dry au natural. This will cause big streaks and possibly rust. Been there.
DON’T use anything abrasive including steel wool. This will scratch and ruin your stainless steel.
If you need something a bit stronger try one of these non-toxic techniques:
Use a damp cloth (not wet) to wipe down your appliances. Make sure to thoroughly dry after wiping down to prevent water streaks and stains. This will work for most smudges and fingerprints.
Apply a small amount of olive oil to a soft cloth. Make sure you don’t over do it! Buff out the area on your refrigerator or stove top that has stubborn finger prints or smudges.
Flip over the cloth and re-buff the area with the clean side of the cloth.
That’s all there is to it!
Use dry flour and a clean, soft cloth to buff out your stainless steel. With a little muscle power your stainless will look sparkly and shinny. This might be a bit challenging on upright appliances, but will work wonders in your sink and on smaller appliances. Use this technique on your stainless steel pots and pans. Place the leftover flour in your compost bin!
One of my all-time favorite cleaners, vinegar, makes yet another appearance in helping to clean stainless steel. A simple white vinegar and water solution works wonders on stainless. Mix 3/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup water in a spray bottle and you’re ready to go. Not a fan of the vinegar scent? I happen to love the smell of vinegar, but feel free to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mixture.
If you want info on how to clean your stainless steel pots and pans check out my tutorial HERE.
How do you keep your stainless steel clean?
photo credit: jhiner via photopin
May 3rd, 2012
Welcome to week two of Green Questions, Groovy Answers. A big thank you to everyone who submitted their excellent name suggestions for this new weekly column. Rebecca from Natural Mothers Network came up with the winner: Green Questions Groovy Answers. Thank you Rebecca! If you have a question you would like answered please submit it through the comment section, Facebook, Twitter or shoot me an email.
This weeks question came from @twituva on Twitter.
What should I do with my old Teflon non-stick pans? Is there a preferable way to recycle/discard them?
Despite the ease and convenience of non-stick pots and pans such as Teflon, many health conscious people are tossing their non-stick and replacing them with healthier options.
What’s wrong with Teflon?
Non-stick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. Teflon is toxic. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures have lead to many pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year.
Thankfully, there are many green and non-toxic alternatives on the market.
Now the 20 million dollar question: What do we do with all of our old Teflon and non-stick pans?
This is a challenging question. Do we really want to donate something that could potentially harm someone else? If we throw them in the trash they’ll end up lying around in an overflowing landfill, leaching toxins into the soil. So what’s the answer?
I decided to turn this tough question over to some of my favorite green gurus in the blogosphere to see what they had to say.
Nancy from Surviving and Thriving on Pennies says ” I donated mine to Goodwill a few years back. What I think is bad might be a perfectly good pan to others. In a way helping others get stuff for cheaper. Still bothers me though.”
Suzanne from Mommy Footprint has a fantastic suggestion and Karen from EcoKaren agrees : “tough one…many play-based preschools have sand boxes with pretend kitchens. This is the perfect spot for discarded Teflon…it won’t be heated back up!”
Deanna Duke from Crunchy Chicken suggested “As much as I hate passing the toxic buck to someone else, giving it to Goodwill is a decent option. If someone else buys it, then that’s one less new pan being purchased and, in the end, produced.” Stephanie from Good Girl Gone Green agrees that donating the pans is a good option.
Anna from Green Talk came up with a few creative uses for those non-stick pans: “I wonder if you could put a picture in the middle of the pan and create kitchen art. Lots of people have those hanging pot racks. Or maybe you could take the handle off and use the pot for plant drainage.”
Diane from Big Green Purse came up with an interesting thought “Why not send them back to the manufacturer?”
Beth from My Plastic Free Life agreed with Diane “I love Diane’s idea of sending them back to the manufacturer with a letter explaining why. I donated mine to Goodwill. I don’t like ‘passing the buck’ either, but I figure if someone wants Teflon pans, better they use my old ones than buy new ones and encourage the market for Teflon.”
What do you do with your old Teflon pans?
[Photo used under creative commons from Jerry Pank/Flickr]
Linked up to Natural Mothers Network
April 9th, 2012
Fish generally ends up on our dinner table once or twice a week. Salmon is a family favorite with other types of fish being hit or miss. About a year ago I was part of a fish CSA. I loved the concept of buying fresh fish from local fishermen, but what I learned quickly was that I had a lot to do before the fish was ready to eat. The fish were delivered whole-with everything intact. That meant I had to filet it and remove all the parts that weren’t edible. For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m a bit squeamish. I don’t do well with blood, gore and guts. I tried to be a trooper and gave fileting the fish my best shot. It didn’t end well and I turned to my husband, kind friends and neighbors who took over the fileting process. As a result, my fileting days were short lived. So now I frequent the market in search of safe and sustainable fish.
Walking up to the fish counter at the grocery store or at a farmers’ market can be a bit overwhelming. The signs placed in front of each type of fish are confusing unless you know what each term means.
Here’s a general guide to buying safe and sustainable seafood:
Buy wild when possible (in most cases)
Farm-raised fish are generally placed in crowded cages and given antibiotics and exposed to pesticides. Their living environment is less than desirable. Wild fish are out in the wild-living and swimming as they were meant to be. Wild fish aren’t exposed to the same toxins as their farm-raised cousins.
Smaller is better
Larger fish generally have a higher chance of being contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals. The reason for this is bigger fish tend to live longer and have more time to accumulate these toxins. Smaller fish have a shorter life expectancy and are less likely to be polluted by heavy metals. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age need to be careful of mercury levels in all fish, whether wild or farm-raised.
Do you want to eat fish that traveled for days to reach your table? Think about all the fuel used for transport. Try to buy fish from a local source.
Avoid added coloring
Farm-raised salmon generally has artificial color added to give it that nice pink color. When salmon are raised in a farm-raised environment they are fed “fish meal”, made up of ground fish parts, and as a result, the fish color is a shade of gray rather than pink. Coloring is added because consumers expect their salmon to look pink.
You have the right to know where your fish is coming from. Ask the person behind the counter or at the farmer’s market questions about added coloring, chemicals and anything else you might want to know before purchasing the fish.
More fish info
Say no to GE salmon HERE.
Where do you buy your fish?
March 12th, 2012
Stainless steel is where it’s at in my kitchen. I’ve really been working hard to make my kitchen a “Teflon Free Zone”. The Teflon pots and pans are being swapped out on an as needed basis. The Teflon cooking utensils have slowly been replaced by their wooden and stainless steel counterparts. I finally tossed the scratched and scary non-stick cookie sheets and replaced them with stainless steel cookie sheets from ESP. Love them (as much as anyone can love a cookie sheet).
My quest for a few cast iron pans is still on, but for now stainless steel is where it’s at in my kitchen. Our family is a family filled with wannabe cooks. I am not Julia Child by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like to cook. My husband is an amazing cook and my three boys have expressed an interest in cooking. Let’s just say they can scramble a mean egg and make toast the perfect shade of brown.
Suffice it to say, our stainless steel pots and pans are constantly in use. As you probably know, stainless steel pots and pans are not non-stick. There are times when things don’t stick, but with my kids cooking the pans are generally covered with ‘stuff’ that doesn’t want to come off.
A little TIP for cooking with stainless steel: heat the pan first and then add cold cooking oil.
How to clean stainless steel pots and pans the green way
For the past umpteen years I’ve been using good ol’ fashioned elbow grease to clean our stainless steel pots and pans. I usually let the pans soak overnight and then in the morning wash with hot, soapy water. I never wash the pans in the dishwasher-this could damage the stainless steel finish.
Friends of ours were visiting a few weekends ago and we cooked dinner together. One of the pans took a beating and was a challenge to clean even after soaking overnight. We decided to look into a few other ways to clean stainless steel.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with vinegar. Sprinkle in some baking soda. My kids love to watch the interaction between the vinegar and baking soda-they will fizz and bubble. Let the mixture sit for 2-3 minutes. Rinse it out and wash.
- Heat the pan after use and then pour in hot water. Once the water is hot use a wooden cooking spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen and remove excess food. After you’ve loosened most of the food, dump the water from the pan and wash in warm, soapy water. Don’t put hot stainless steel into cold water in the sink-this could warp the pan.
- Fill the dirty pot or pan with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cool to the touch, then wash thoroughly with hot, soapy water and dry.
- For tough stainless steel stains and burns: Mix together equal parts baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply it to the burned or stained area. Allow the paste to sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing it away with sponge or a clean cloth. Wash the pot with warm, soapy water or poor in a cup of vinegar and sprinkle in baking soda. Add a half cup of water, and allow it to simmer on the stove for at least 20 minutes. Pour the mixture out and scrub the pot clean.
How do you clean stainless steel pots and pans?
photo credit: Cooks & Kitchens via photopin cc
This week I’ve linked up to The Green Backs Gal and I Thought I Knew Mama.
February 7th, 2012
Today’s the day. It’s time to join forces with Women’s Voices for the Earth, MomsRising and Healthy Child Healthy World, to demand that Procter & Gamble (makers of Tide) strip a harmful cancer-causing chemical out of Tide Free & Gentle®.
Like many moms, my commitment to a greener lifestyle was strengthened after having children. I’m careful about what we eat, and am selective about products we use to keep our home clean.
It probably goes without saying that in a house full of boys, we do a lot of laundry. I know that some cleaning products are marketed as safe and healthy, but in truth, what’s in the bottle can hurt you.
For example, it turns out that Tide Free & Gentle® isn’t so gentle. A report recently released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in the detergent. 1,4-dioxane doesn’t appear on the product label or on the product website, so consumers have no way of knowing it’s even there.
This is especially concerning, because Tide Free & Gentle® is marketed to moms as a healthier choice for their children’s laundry. Infants and children are more vulnerable to chemical exposures, because their immune, neurological, and hormone systems are still developing.
1,4-dioxane is a known cancer-causing chemical, and has been linked in animal studies to increased risk of breast cancer.
Procter & Gamble (makers of Tide®) already have experience stripping 1,4 dioxane out of its products; in 2010, the company reformulated its Herbal Essences® shampoo to eliminate 1,4-dioxane. Unfortunately, Dirty Secrets test results show that the company has not chosen to make the same effort for its laundry detergent.
The Tide website says: Safety: The Most Important Ingredient in Tide®. If that’s true, then 1,4-dioxane should never have been in the product in the first place.
Please Sign the Petition
With the help of Healthy Child Healthy World, MomsRising and Women’s Voices for the Earth I put together a petition asking Procter & Gamble (makers of Tide) to strip this harmful cancer-causing chemical out of Tide Free & Gentle®!
Please join me by signing the petition asking Procter & Gamble to take immediate action to remove 1,4-dioxane from Tide Free & Gentle® and any other Procter & Gamble products.
Together we can make change happen.
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Pixel Drip/Flickr
January 26th, 2012
Looking for a simple way to improve your indoor air quality? House plants are the answer. It’s such an easy way to make a difference in your air quality. So often we forget that the environment has the natural ability to clean itself. Many common houseplants act as an air filter, removing toxins from the air we breathe. They are known to produce oxygen from CO2 and they absorb toxins including benzene (gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber), formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene (printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives).
A few years back NASA scientists studied nineteen different plants over a two year span to see which did the best job cleaning the air. They found that some house plants were better than others. The NASA studies recommend that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house. The more they grow the better job they’ll do for you.
My slightly brown thumb has been working hard to keep 7 indoor plants alive for a few years. I wish I could tell you that I always remember to water them and that I talk to them when I’m bored, but I don’t. My 7 plants are low maintenance and thriving.
If you’re like me and your thumb isn’t the slightest bit green, it’s still worth investing in a few house plants to help remove the toxins from your indoor air. Take this list with you and add a few plants to the spaces you spend the most time indoors- your office and/or your home. When it’s time to buy a gift for your children’s caregivers, a plant makes the perfect present.
Top 10 Houseplants that Clean the Air from the NASA Studies
- Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea Seifritzii
- Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema Modestum
- English Ivy Hedera Helix
- Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii
- Janet Craig – Dracaena “Janet Craig”
- Marginata -Dracaena Marginata
- Mass cane/Corn Plant – Dracaena Massangeana
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
- Pot Mum – Chrysantheium morifolium
- Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum
I have a peace lily and I’ll be investing in a few more plants from the list. Do you have indoor houseplants?
[Day lily photo used under Creative Commons from Koshy Koshy/Flickr]
January 9th, 2012
This is part two in a two part series of discussions with Roger Cook and Kevin O’Connor from This Old House. Part one focused on the host of This Old House- Kevin O’Connor. Part two focuses on green landscaping techniques from This Old House, Landscape Contractor, Roger Cook.
It’s January and recent weather has been far from the wintry weather we would expect this time of year. Given the lack of snow on the ground, it’s not that far-fetched to imagine a green, thriving lawn and the beautiful landscaping we normally see in the spring. A few more months of winter are in our forecast, but it’s never too early to start planning out your strategy for your landscaping in advance.
I had the opportunity to chat with Roger Cook, Landscape Contractor for the Emmy Award-winning television series This Old House. Roger has served as the shows Landscape Contractor for over 20 seasons and is a wealth of information.
Gardening isn’t always synonymous with a green lifestyle. Roger was eager to share ways to create green landscaping that thrives without the use of pesticides and without wasting precious water. He emphasized that the trick is to work in harmony with nature, not against it.
Here are a few of his tricks:
Call Before You Dig
Even small, shallow excavation jobs can be a risk if you don’t know where underground lines are buried. Call your utility company to let them know you are planning to dig. They will generally send a representative out (free of charge) to verify that it’s safe to dig.
Prepare the Soil
Before you can plant, soil preparation is a must. Soil requirements vary from region to region and a soil test will be needed to find out what it is lacking or not lacking. If the soil is properly prepared then the plants will grow and won’t need as much water and less pesticides to thrive.
Buy Native, Local and in Bulk
Using plants that are native to a region will:
- Decrease the amount of water needed.
- Require very little long-term maintenance if they are planted properly.
Try to buy locally grown plants. Buying local reduces the energy resources needed to get the plant or tree from the nursery to your home. Buy plants in bulk to reduce the need for excessive packaging.
Reuse and Recycle
Save yourself some money if you are thinking about changing around your landscaping-transplant existing trees, shrubs and plants to a new spot. Roger suggests reusing plants at least along the edges of the project.
Build a Raised Garden
Raised gardens have a number of benefits:
- You can control they type of soil used by bringing in your own soil.
- The walls of the garden act as a barrier to pests.
- Less water will be required for the plants to thrive.
- Raised beds will reduce the strain on your back when bending over to pull weeds or plant.
- Raised beds heat up faster in the spring.
What are your tricks for a ‘greener’ landscape?
Thank you to Roger for taking the time to chat ‘green landscaping’ with me.
[Photo credit: Webb Chappell]