Green Living 101: Greening your office

November 22, 2010

Guest Post by: Sarah Outlaw

Many people are opting to change a room in their homes into a home office. It may be an entire room, part of a den, or a little nook in the kitchen. Wherever you decide to set up your home office you may want to consider some “greener” more Eco-friendly options.

Furniture:
Most of the office furniture on the market today is made of cheap particle board. This may seem like the economical choice due to affordability but it costs more in the long run. Particle board furniture tends to break, chip, and scratch very easily so it is less durable and needs to be replaced more frequently. Particle board, while seemingly a “green” choice because it is made up of recycled wood or wood waste, is not because of the formaldehyde resin used the bonding agent for the furniture. Formaldehyde will outgas and leach into the surrounding environment and may cause irritation to the eye, lungs, and bronchial passages. Some better options would be to go to your local Goodwill, antique or thrift stores and find real wood furniture that you can reclaim and refurbish to meet your needs. Be sure to use non-toxic finishing products if you are doing any staining or polishing. Another option would be to check yard sales, Craigslist, or even Freecycle.

Paint:
When choosing the paint for any room in your home, not just the office, always look for low VOC (volatile organic compounds), low odor paint. It is easier to find now at Lowe’s or Home Depot because there is a higher demand for it than there used to be. Using this paint will eliminate the headaches and nausea that can accompany a painting project. It is also much safer and healthier for you and your family.

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

Computers:
It is very frustrating that as soon as you buy any technology it is almost immediately out of date. Something bigger (or smaller) and better comes along just a few months down the road and you are left with a “substandard” device. While there is nothing we can do about the constant advancement of technology, which is not necessarily a bad thing, there is something you can do about making your technology a little more Eco-friendly. Laptops consume less energy than a PC and are portable so you can easily take your home office on the go. Dell has a sleek new Eco Bamboo computer that looks very promising! If a PC is a must, look for smaller computers with an Energy Star monitor. Computers also have ratings for the amount of toxic materials present or used to make them. EPEAT ratings are the EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to determine if a PC meets specific safety criteria. Buying an EPEAT certified PC is a crucial step in reducing hazardous and non-hazardous waste and energy during manufacturing.

The average American buys a new computer every three years. This means one person can go through approximately 60 computers in a lifetime! That is a lot of waste! When you are replacing your PC, please consider recycling it by sending it back to the manufacturer or donating it. It is imperative that electronics stay out of the landfills because the leach mercury, lead, and cadmium into the groundwater and contaminate the air.

Printers:
A printer is a must for every office unless you are able to go completely paper-free. Choose Energy Star printers and purchase recycled printer paper. Companies like HP are boasting new Eco-Friendly printers that are said to have energy and paper-saving features. It pays to do the research to find the best options for you and the environment.

If you own a small business and are in need of Eco-friendly products and services, I have found Eco-Office Gals to be a great resource.Utilizing the above tips and resources should be of help when designing your ideal Eco-friendly home office. Every “green” choice matters in the health of your family and of our planet.

Sarah Outlaw is a work-at-home wife and mother of 3 who is passionate about natural living, natural medicine, and real food. She is the owner of 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique, and is a Certified Health Coach & Natural Living Consultant.

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Want to know more about Natural Insect Repellents?

July 9, 2009

eucalyptus_citriodoraHappily, there are lots of natural repellents in the form of essential, or volitile, oils derived from many aromatic botanicals. Essential oils are used in very small amounts when mixed with neutral carrier oils such as sweet almond or grapeseed oils. Other repellent oils, such as Neem and Karanja, are cold pressed oils that can be used directly as insecticides and/or repellents when mixed in a formula, such as a lotion or salve.

Essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, eucalyptus globulus, lemongrass, lavender, pennyroyal (do NOT use if pregnant), citronella, mints, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all useful repellents, and these can be used in dried herb sachets tied to ankles and wrists (perhaps spiked with a few essential oils).  My prefernce, however, is to use the pure and very potent essential oils (try just a few drops at a time) in water-based spray solutions, oils, and/or balms. Such preparations utilizing repellent essential oils need to be re-applied more frequently than chemical deterants (such as Deet), but I would much rather surround myself with a cloud of essential oil-scented solution every hour or two than apply a chemical that poses health risks, especially when it comes to children. (It’s pretty incredible to me, actually, that something with potentially harmful neurological effects would appear in bug sprays made specifically for children!) For infants, try to stick to a solution with extra gentle essential oils such as lavender, perhaps with a tiny bit of spearmint or rosemary.

Try the recipe below for your own insect repellent oil spray. This will last for a long time, as water based formulas are always more susceptible to problems than oils. Vitamin E and Rosemary Oil extract are anti-oxidants that help protect the oil against rancidity.

porta_bidet_250DIY (oil based) Insect Repellent Spray
1. measure 30 drops of any of the above e.o.s
2. add to 2 oz. carrier oil, such as olive, grapeseed, or sweet almond
3. add a few drops Rosemary Oil Extract or vit E (optional)
4. Store in 2 oz. spritzer bottle

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is an Ayurvedic herb well known for its insecticidal effects, mostly by targeting the reproductive system of pesky wee critters. Unlike the volitile essential oils used in the herbs above, neem oil is a coldpressed oil derived from the pressed kernals of the neem fruit. Snowdrift farm features insecticidal recipes for a salve, lotion, and massage oil using Neem & Karanja oils for treating mange and mites in pets.

There’s a fascinating folk remedy called “vinegar of the four thieves” that I’ve recently come across. It is tied to a story about perfumers during the Black Plague who utilzed the antiseptic properties of several herbs to create a protective infused vinegar. Using wormwood, lavender, rosemary, mint, and sage, one can create an infusion that can then be sprayed on cutting boards, diaper pails, or anywhere else that some anti-septic, and insect repellent action is necessary. It can also be applied to clothing and exposed skin, it is supposed to be effective against chiggers, ticks, and fleas.

DIY Infused Vinegar:
1. Measure 1 oz of dried herbs, including lavender, wormwood (or rue), sage, rosemary, and mint
2. Put herbs in a mason jar and cover with cider vinegar
3. Steep 1-6 weeks in a cool, dark place
4. Strain into a spritzer bottle and use liberally wherever an anti-septic or insect repellent is needed.
(This will keep indefinately, as vinegar is a natural preservative)

Herbs of wormwood and garlic also have insecticidal properties, and these herbs can be used even as protection for house or garden plants. The spray below is easy to make and the materials are cheap, though I’ve never tried it. You can try subsituting beeswax for the paraffin and see how that works (and let me know how it goes!).

DIY Houseplant insecticide using Garlic:
1. chop 90g raw garlic
2. soak in 2 Tbsp paraffin oil for 24 hrs
3. slowly add 600ml water with 7g soap dissolved in it.
4. Stir well and strain through cheesecloth or muslin.
5. Store it in a glass container (do not use a metal).

Have some home remedies or recipes? Let me know about them so I can share them with my readers!

bug_bite_soother_250FYI: My own Lilith’s Apothecary “Shoo Bug!” Insect Repellent and cooling peppermint Bug Bite Soother can be found in my etsy shop!


Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

May 28, 2009
Globigerina_wondercabinet_PhillyTeam
Wonder Cabinet’s Globigerina

Wonder Cabinet

It seems that living a ‘greener’ life can actually be a very subjective process, as individuals make specific choices for lifestyle habits, eco-passions, or environmental issues that he or she considers most pressing. I realize that my choices are just as biased to my own subjective views and particular soapboxes, or so-called ‘green’ priorities.

1. Support local.
There are myriad benefits to supporting local movements and businesses. For one, you are investing in your own local economy, which adds to revitalization of the area in which you live, builds community, and provides numerous long-term perks. Second, you are decreasing the use of energy to transport items long distances. Third, you are making choices to support items p1oduced by individuals who earn a living wage for what they do. And fourth, you are considering your choices more carefully, whether that be a hand screen-printed organic cotton t-shirt, or local produce. I am lucky to have Greensgrow Farms  right here in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Greensgrow is a stellar example of an amazing local endeavor gone right.  The farm was actually built on a superfund site, using hydroponic agriculture and raised beds, and it is thriving as it directly supports, and is supported by, its local community, with a spring nursery, a CSA program, a regular farm stand full of all kinds of local produce, mik, dairy, eggs, meats, and hand-crafted goodies like arugula pesto and the most amazing smokey eggplant dip imagineable.

2. Cloth Diapering.
I know that there have been studies ‘demonstrating’ that the use of energy and water to wash cloth diapers negates its environmental benefit. But I’m sorry. There are plenty of studies that show that water use is wholly dependent on where you live (and I live in the most flood-prone state in the union) and in my opinion, untreated human waste, wrapped in plastic, sitting in a landfill for the next thousand years (trash in landfills don’t really decompose very quickly, to say the least) is simply not the same as using a bit more water and energy. It’s not equal! Check out an earlier post about greener breastfeeding support.

3.  Kitchen Gardens
I live in the middle of a working class, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, I have a fantastic organic farm minutes away from me (right in the middle of the city), as described above, but I have no community garden in site. Community gardens are a fantastic investment of time and energy, and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I might try to mobilize the formation of on. However, despite my absence of actual ‘land’ (we have what they call a “pavement” around here), I manage to grow quite a bit through the use of pots, trellises, and window boxes. Nearly everything in my garden is either a food or an herb, so that I can maximize the space rather than growing annuals that might not help feed the family. I just wish I could do more! Though I am an herbalist, that doesn’t mean I’m a gardener, and I am definitely learning more with every growing season, especially with a handy subscription to Organic Gardening. Someday I’ll have a ‘real’ plant-things-in-the-ground garden.

4. Keep your own Chickens
I had to put this in here because I think this is a brilliant move; many individuals are engaging in raising their own chickens, which is awesome! Fresh, organic eggs in your own yard; lovely fat chickens when needed; and certainly, a smaller population of pests such as ticks, a favored snacks of our poultry friends.  This is a fantasy for me at the moment, but again, someday when I have my own yard, perhaps!

Mushrooms_Pigeonsintheattic

Pigeons in the Attic's Toppled Mushrooms

 Pigeons in the Attic

5.  Composting, urban or rural
There is just no excuse for not composting this day and age, no matter where you live. I am a hypocrite here, because I have really wanted to figure out a good system for urban composting that is going to work for me and my family with extremely limited space. However, I have heard that many Montrealers have this down, and I have no doubt that there are resources out there for figuring out a good system. There is simply no excuse for throwing away kitchen scraps, tea and coffee waste, and especially herbal matter when one could be turning it all into garden GOLD!

Extra!  Recycle, upcycle, downcycle, whatever
I love the many artisans out there who upcycle sweaters, vintage clothing, leather, plastic–you name it–in order to create incredibly useful, beautiful hand-crafted pieces. I’ve purchased leg warmers upcycled from cashmere sleeves, notebook cases from recycled herringbone fabric, and other items with this focus on re-purposing goods that would otherwise go to waste, languish in thrift stores, or end up in the trash. I was walking outside one night and it happened to be ‘trash night’, when I happened across a pile of so-called trash left out for the trucks. Full art boxes filled with sponge stamps, paints, brushes, markers, and other crafty items intended for children! I was shocked that anyone would throw this out rather than even trying to take it to the thrift store, but Americans are notoriously wasteful. We would do better to learn from our European cousins or even our Canadian sisters and brothers to the North: even the plastic wrapper from a tea bag can be recycled. Do it! (and pay no mind to this hilarious blog post that pokes a little fun at those who prefer to recycle.) Just as an FYI: there’s a new on-line venue, Cosa Verde, that tries to bring together many of these artisans with ‘green’ practices.

Girls can tell moleskin

Girlscantell crafted moleskin

So tell me, what are your favored strategies for Greener Living? Comment below so that I and my readers can benefit from all that creativity and originality out there!

Featured Seller for April – All Natural Baby & New Mama Care – Baby O’Really

April 20, 2009
When I became pregnant with my wee Maeve (now 2 1/2 yrs old), I was excited to research the natural, organic products available to support as sustainable and ‘green’ a pregancy, labor, and delivery as possible. The herbal support and natural baby care products were already at my fingertips, but baby slings, nursing pads, non-disposable baby wipes, and other cloth products were still yet to be discovered.

Baby O’Really contacted me a while ago about providing her with samples of my Mama’s Milk lactation tea and then later for samples of my lavender-scented Tender Baby Bum Balm to include with her orders of sweet felt baby hair clips and cloth nursing pads, available in a wide array of wonderful patterns.  I immediately wanted to trade for one of her hairclips, which are incredibly well made and just equsitely precious. I also thought it was absolutely wonderful that she would include samples from a variety of sellers with all of her sales. There is nothing more delightful than getting a free sample or two with a new order, and trial sizes often lead to full sizes when someone is given the opportunity to fall in love with a handmade product.
As an example of green living and sustainable products for pregnancy, baby, and postpartum/breastfeeding support, I am delighted to feature Baby O’Really for the month of April.  Baby O’Really’s proprietress, Amber, is a wealth of helpful information and green advice, and even writes about the downsides of using bamboo cloth in her Etsy shop profile. She’s full of innovation and has a great sense of style and craft, more of which you can discover at her blog.  Amber lives with her husband, 4 year old son, and 2 year old daughter in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, and they are happily awaiting the birth of another daughter in August. Here’s the story of Baby O’Really, as told in Amber’s own words:
“I started making cloth nursing pads in March of 2007, my daughter was a few months old. I remember staring at the box of disposable pads, really not wanting to have to use another one ever again! The shifting in the bra, sticky plastic…. and all the waste! I had probably gone through 4 or 5 massive boxes already and my baby was only 3 months old. It isn’t much fun having to buy things you hate to use. I decided to try my hand at making my own, out of fabric I had at the house and I was so very glad I did! It was so soothing to use cloth instead of the scratchy paper and plastic pads. Even the little things can make a huge difference.

I had also found Etsy in March of 2007 quite by accident, while looking for a wool felt supplier. I began selling my little felt hairclips there and had success. I was hooked! After realizing what a demand there was for natural, reusable, products I listed my first set of nursing pads. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy nursing pads with cute fabric print… plain white seemed to be the normal thing. But I liked them and they were easy to find in the wash! So I went with it. And I sold the first set the same day I listed them. And then another 20 sets in those last few days of June! I am so happy to be providing moms with something pretty and comfortable. Like I said, it’s the little things that make a difference. AFter almost 2 years, and over 1400 sets later, I can officially state that nursing pads are a major part of my life. My children refer to them as “mommy’s circles”, and my husband very patiently tolerates my sewing messes, and thinks the whole idea is pretty amusing. Felt hairclips will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I add them to my shop from time to time, but nursing pads have become my business! My only regret is not discovering the wonderful world of cloth pads while nursing my firstborn!”

Thank you, Amber! I am happy to have a source for those well-loved cloth nursing pads, the likes of which I, too, was happy to use while breastfeeding. No more yucky disposables necessary now that we’ve found the gem that is Baby O’Really!
If there are other eco-conscious sellers of babywear, baby support gear, such as slings, or pregnancy & postpartum products you’d like to share with me and your fellow readers, please do comment below!

DIY Movement

February 5, 2009

For those of us getting nervous is this economic downturn, there’s more of a push than ever to engage in DIY projects..and DIY education! The blogosphere is a place that is offering more and more of this information and advice. Even trade professionals like electricians are offering DIY technical help via phone or web for those who would rather not expend the money to hire someone to come in their house. Do-it-Yourself!

As part of my G R E E N L I V I N G category, I’m going to start offering more DIY recipes and advice for natural body care, using materials that are often readily available, in order to cut down on some of our most costly products: bath, beauty, and personal items.

I’ll also link you to others who are offereing DIY instructions for making personal care or baby products that will save you loads of money and be better for the Earth in the long run!