1. Painting with Benjamin Moore Natura

    Posted on July 17, 2012 by The Modern Gal

    The Greenists are on vacation. Please enjoy this recycled post.


    Primed and ready for paint

    The Modern Fiance and I a few months ago bought a 100-year-old house that, despite being in pretty good shape, has needed a little updating a lot of greening. One of the first big things on our to-do list was painting. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve lived in a place that needed some painting. In fact, the last time I painted anything there was no place I knew of locally that sold low- or zero-VOC paint — it was only available to me if I ordered it online. I like to test paint out before committing, so that really wasn’t an option.

    Boy how things have changed. The Home Depot sells Freshaire Choice VOC-free paint. Lowe’s sells VOC-free Olympic paint — really every paint store I’ve been to lately had VOC-free options. It’s great to have choices. But like most green home products, my concern was whether the quality would hold up compared to the VOC-heavy paint options.


    For this weekend’s painting project, the MF and I settled on a gallon ofBenjamin Moore Natura paint, available at our local BM outlet. Benjamin Moore is a top-of-the-line paint, which means you pay a little bit more for the Natura paint ($50 per gallon) than you would for, say, The Home Depot’s Freshaire Choice ($35 per gallon). We’d heard good things about Natura though, and it was available in every single color offered by Benjamin Moore — basically every color under the sun — whereas the Freshaire Choice colors were much more limited. Plus, we were able to grab some Natura samples in a few different colors so we could settle on the color we wanted.

    I grumbled a little bit about the cost until I realized what good quality paint we were using. It went on smoothly and easily covered our very uneven plaster walls, much to my surprise. Because we were going from a deep red color to a soft gray, we ended up priming before the color went up, but I think most paint projects could get away without primer and just one coat. It dried very quickly too — by the time we had made it all the way around the room, we could start on our touchups. And either I’m just turning into a better painter as I get older or the Natura paint just looks better on the walls than paints I’ve used in the past.

    Non-VOC doesn’t necessarily mean odor free, but the scent of the paint was very, very minimal. We painted the whole room without feeling lightheaded from the smell. We didn’t need to crack a window by the time the walls were covered, (which is good, because our 100-year-old windows don’t really open anyway!)

    I guess the important thing to say here is that I’d recommend Benjamin Moore Natura paint, even if it wasn’t eco-friendly, so I’m really, really glad it fits into our commitment to make our old house more green.

  2. How Can We Recycle Old Cassette Tapes?

    Posted on July 13, 2012 by Courtney

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    I’m getting ready to move, which means I’ve started the unholy task of packing. Boy, do I hate packing. I do my best to keep down the amount of clutter in my home, not only because it’s eco-friendly to buy less stuff, but also because I cannot stand junk lying around. Still, it feels like I have a lot of stuff when I try to pack and move it all.

    I was cleaning out a closet the other day and came across some cassette tapes from a certain few ’80s bands WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS. Admit it; you know you enjoyed some terrible music in your formative years, too. After I finished trying to remember the numerous dance routines I made up in my backyard to these gems, I decided I should get rid of ye olde technology.

    Which brings me to my question: Does anyone out there know a place that will recycle cassette tapes? I don’t want to throw them in the trash, but I’ve looked online and I’m having trouble finding someone who will take them. I’m willing to send them someplace in the mail if there’s no place to recycle them locally. They’re not just tapes I bought with my allowance back in the day; there’s a few mixed tapes in there too.

    While we’re at it, I also have a bunch of old floppy disks. Remember when computers had disk drives? Ahh, those were the days. Anyway, I’d also appreciate any suggestions on places to recycle those.

    Okay, fine. I have Genesis tapes, okay? I liked “I Can’t Dance” when I was 10. You may now commence mocking.

  3. Green Guilt: Just Let It Go

    Posted on July 12, 2012 by Melissa

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    Roof over their heads or organic food in their tummies? You know my answer.

    Last night, I threw out a glass spaghetti sauce jar. The day before that, I bought two new Pack & Play sheets (buy one, get one – plus I had a 20% off coupon) without checking Craigslist first. Last week when I went grocery shopping, I didn’t buy any organic food AND I bought generic Dawn instead of my usual Seventh Generation. Oh, and I’m currently using Tide instead of a natural brand of laundry detergent. Are you shocked yet? Gasping for air and shouting to yourself, “And you call yourself a Greenist?” Well, I do call myself a Greenist…and yes, I’m experiencing a lot of green guilt right now – that feeling of I know I can do better. I know I can do more. But allow me to explain . . . It came down to money. My family recently moved to another state and I am currently staying at home with my two children. With our new single salary household, I find myself having to sacrifice some green luxuries. Organic veggies, for example, are typically $1.00-$5.00 more than conventional vegetables. Do I prefer organic food? Yes! I know it is better for my body and for the environment. But I need to watch my spending; I can get more fruits and vegetables if I choose the less expensive alternative. Do I want to pollute with generic dish soap? No way! But how do I explain to my kids that I can’t buy them apple juice because I chose to spend the $3.00 on natural dish soap instead? Not to mention, I hardly ever find coupons for green products in the Sunday paper (search for them on manufacturer’s webpages instead).

    My husband and I were discussing this situation the other night and in my complaints of having to let go of some of my favorite green products (like a $20 baby wash), I accused him of not supporting the green movement. He replied with, “I do support the green movement! But I have to support my family first.” His statement got me thinking about my priorities, the first of which are my children. I want to do all I can to build them a better world – they are the entire reason I became more green in the first place. My husband must have sensed my conflict because he rushed in and pointed out all of the little things we do to help the environment. “We can’t recycle right now. There is no curbside recycling in our new neighborhood and there is a fee to use the recycling center. But you are reusing things more, like the glass sauce and salad dressing containers.” He pointed out a few other things:

    1) If I think I can make it or bake it, I don’t buy it. I’ve been bakinghomemade breads, pitas, bagels, sweets, and tortillas. I’ve been whipping together salad dressings and granola and even made a little homemade peanut butter the other day! So much cheaper, greener (no packaging waste), and tastier! Additionally, now that I’m baking more I’ve been able to eliminate spending on scented soy candles – the house ALWAYS smells like something good! Now, if only I could figure out how to bake Cheerios . . .

    Homemade Amish White Bread


    2) We are still using cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I wash them with 1/4 cup of Tide. I’ve found that natural detergents just don’t clean diapers as well as Tide does. Read any diaper board . . . the parents who use natural detergents seem to be continually stripping their diapers and complaining that they still smell after washing – what a waste of water, energy, detergent, time and money.

    3) I stopped buying lotions and creams. Everyone gets to use (or choose not to use) the Coconut Oil now!

    4) The boys share a bath. Not to mention, now that I’m a stay at home Mom, I don’t have the time to take a long shower (if I’m lucky enough to get one at all!).

    5) Now that I’m no longer commuting to work for 1 hour/day, I only need to fill up my gas tank every other week, instead of every week.

    6) All of our dish rags vanished during our move! Instead of buying new ones, I’m knitting rags from leftover cotton yarn from a previous knitting project.

    7) We still rock the reusable shopping bags, napkins, and homemade cleaning products. As well as a lot of other tiny things that might just be making a difference (like using Mason Jars for drinking glasses . . . and for storing homemade jam!).

    Even though I can’t afford to buy a new hybrid or spend $5-6/gallon on organic milk right now (oh, but it tastes so good!), I can still be a Greenist. It’s not my fault that the condo development we are renting in will not allow me to hang a clothesline or compost. I need to shake the green guilt and be proud of what I can do. I can support the green movement and my family – both of them will just have to sacrifice a little bit for now.

  4. Where the Deer and the Antelope (and I) Play

    Posted on July 3, 2012 by Mickey


    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post!

    I have often boiled down my love of the American west to one sentence: I need a big backyard. Of course, in my case this has nothing to do with any sort of desire for a lavish hot tub-waterfall-swimming pool combo or my own personal putting green. The backyard I refer to are the millions of acres of public lands that make up the western US. Nothing less will do. Read more…

  5. Voltaic Amp Solar Charger

    Posted on June 28, 2012 by Howling Hill

    When I was in Chicago for the #noNATO protests in May, I learned one very, very important lesson: we must practice what we preach.

    I participated in, and listened to, a number of conversations about moving from dependence on foreign oil, on how to prevent oil drilling in the US, strategies to close nuclear power plants, and to propel the US to move to sustainable methods of energy creation, collection, and distribution. These conversations were had while fighting over outlets to charge our phones and laptops.

    Read more…

  6. Going Green with Sir Winston Pugsalot

    Posted on June 21, 2012 by Ashley S

    My Poor Baby

    I didn’t exactly plan to start cooking for Sir Winston Pugsalot, but he became really sick about halfway through last school year. I worried that I killed him by feeding him some kind of tainted food or maybe by using clear plastic wrap over opened cans of dog food, but in the end Dr. Paws (our vet) explained that pugs are prone to developing elongated soft palates that can block their throats and cause them to choke and cough up food. Sir WP and I were extremely lucky, as the condition can be corrected by (very expensive) surgery. When I began to choke and cough at the estimated cost of Sir WP’s surgery, Dr. Paws suggested that I try feeding Sir WP a soft, homemade diet and see if it helped.

    When we got home, I scoured the Internet for easy home dog food recipes and ended up with a grocery list of ingredients. And then to my boyfriend’s amusement, I began to cook homemade dog food for Sir WP. While it didn’t happen immediately, Sir WP got better—a lot better. He stopped choking and he had more energy, his eyes brightened and his fur looked better than mine, even after a special hot oil treatment. I discovered, too, that Sir WP and I had stopped supporting some truly cruel and wasteful ways in which commercial dog food is manufactured.

    Benefits of Homemade Doggie Treats

    Unlike commercial dog food—the production of which frequently involves animal abuse, and the ingredients of which are usually subpar—homemade doggie treats are very beneficial for your pooch. These are almost always made of whole ingredients, rather than processed ones, which help to keep your dog svelte and healthy. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about possible contamination as has been evidenced lately with the seemingly never-ending pet food recall.  Finally, when you know exactly what is going into your pup’s system, you also know exactly what isn’t going in—namely, unknown, potentially harmful chemicals.

    Sir WP Follow-Up

    When Sir WP returned for a check-up, we were chastised for the state of Sir WP’s teeth. Unlike human dental insurance plans, which encourage regular oral check-ups, dogs’ dental hygiene is frequently ignored—guilty as charged. I was already making Sir WP’s meals once or twice a month and freezing them, so it wasn’t a huge leap to begin to make homemade dog biscuits designed to be crunchy enough to clean his teeth. He hasn’t expressed his opinion verbally, but his breath has improved and his teeth look a little cleaner.

    Sir WP Dental Balls

    Preheat your oven to 400°F.

    Mix 1/2 cup organic crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup organic butter, 2 organic eggs, 3 cups organic rolled oats, 1 cup organic applesauce and 1/2 cup frozen green peas into a paste. Roll into balls and place on nonstick cookie sheet. Flatten balls into a lump with the bottom of a large spoon. Bake until browned, about 6 minutes. Let cool and harden. Store in a cookie jar.

  7. Review: Greenerways Organic Bug Spray

    Posted on June 14, 2012 by Mickey

    I’ve dealt with mosquitoes before. I’ve been places where you skip the whole idea of chemical repellants and go straight for physical barriers; nothing ruins a meal like trying to eat pasta through a head net.

    But those experiences were always in places where the scenic payoff made enduring the evil bloodsuckers worth it. Never in my own backyard. The lady and I recently took up residence in our first home, and no one told us that the premises were already occupied, heavily, by the winged disease-spreaders (Hello? Seller’s disclosure?) Like building a porch weren’t already challenging enough.

    I’d already been liberally applying a years-old bottle of Deep Woods Off when I happened upon a bottle of Greenerways Organic Bug Spray while making my inaugural tour of Natural Foods Warehouse (literally the closest store to our home; lucky us!) Read more…

  8. Our House is Literally Green, But That Doesn’t Count

    Posted on May 17, 2012 by Mickey

    We talk pretty big around here, even if we do tend to focus on the smaller things that each of us can do to minimize our impact on the planet, and I’ve always been bothered by an inability to actually do a lot of the things we encourage on these here electronic pages. You see, for basically all of our adult lives, the lady and I have been what you’d call renters, a species saddled with severe limitations on the influence they have over their immediate surroundings.

    That changed just this month, however, when we moved the detritus of our lives into a modest home in the suburbs. When the plumbing goes wrong, we get to fix it (a fact we’ve already confirmed.) But this also means we get to take a stab at turning our little slice of Georgia into an abode worthy of The Greenists. Read more…

  9. Green Cleaning Ingredients: How Safe Are They?

    Posted on May 15, 2012 by Chris

    green cleaners

    We all know that having a long, MSDS sheet-sounding name doesn’t necessarily mean something is bad. Take dihydrogen monoxide, for example (it’s water).

    But what about when the opposite happens, with seemingly harmless ingredients that can actually be irritating, contain higher emissions than you’d think or are otherwise not so enviro-friendly? How do you know the difference? It’s a great question, really (and as an enviro-nut, a fascinating one to me): is your “green” cleaner really green – and is all-natural always better?

    Here’s a quick sample of some common “green” cleaning ingredients to watch for and why they might not be as healthy as you think. (Please note that this is NOT a comprehensive list of cleaning ingredients; always check ingredients for safety issues.)

    D-limonene – Typically, this is shortened to lemon oil for marketing purposes, though it can be another citrus oil. Lemons seem harmless enough, but limonene, which is a terpene, is volatile and can be a skin irritant. In addition, if used as a spray, it may mix with particles in the air to form formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

    Ethanol – You drink it, right? So how bad can it be in a cleaner? Well, it may be flammable, for starters. Use great care in using this product around sources of high heat. Ethanol is also a real problem if swallowed, obviously, so if you choose ethanol-containing cleaning products, keep them well out of the reach of children and pets.

    Perfume – Don’t even ask. Actually, let me amend that: do ask. Call or e-mail the manufacturer to find out exactly what the perfume is and how it was derived. If the company won’t give you that information, keep looking down the cleaner aisle.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – Don’t “a-ha!” so fast: here’s a common sudsing agent that may give us less to worry about than we thought. Yes, SLS is harsh as a cleaning agent and can definitely be an irritant. But OSHA has cleared its former negative indictment of being a “potential carcinogen.” Snopes has some good information on this; check it out.

    Cinnamon Oil – Another ingredient that may hurt more than it helps. Cinnamon sounds just so innocent, doesn’t it? (Not to mention yummy.) But cinnamon added either as an oil or as a dry ingredient added to a wet cleaner can actually cause skin burns. Ask me how I know this (ouch). Watch out and use gloves. And don’t eat a cinnamon stick whole. That’s another story I’m not going to tell!

    Borax – Borax, or sodium borate, is commonly used as an ingredient in laundry detergent, and is also used in pottery, toothpaste and soap. It’s also an effective anti-fungal, and a large amount turns it into a herbicide. Many people confuse borax with boric acid, which is a mild insecticide. All these “-cide” properties makes it a less-than-kind cleaner for the environment, but it is safe if used properly. In years past it was used in food preparation, but ingesting a teaspoon is enough to seriously harm a young child, so definitely don’t store it in your pantry! I would stay on the safe side and not use it in a homemade dishwasher recipe, either.

    Some Go-To Green Housecleaning Recipes

    If you love concocting your own cleaning products, here are two I rely on, and they’re so easy:

    Simple Household Disinfectant

    • 2 c. water
    • 18-25 drops tea tree oil (depending upon the strength you want)
    • 2 tbsp. castile soap powder

    Pour the water into a spray bottle. Add the soap; shake very well, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tea tree oil and very gently shake. Use a small amount on surfaces at first so you know whether the product will be gentle enough not to harm the finish.

    Baking Soda Paste Stain Remover

    • 1 tbsp. baking soda
    • 2 tbsp. water

    This works particularly well on porcelain counters. For a more stubborn stain, use a little less water for a thicker product. Mix baking soda and water together and rub gently on stain; allow to sit 10-15 minutes. Wipe away carefully so as not to harm finish.

    Oven Cleaner

    • baking soda
    • water

    In the evening, liberally apply baking soda in the oven, then spray with water. In the morning (or after 8 hours), wipe clean. For really tough stains, mix baking soda and vinegar, and wipe after a few minutes. I actually line the bottom of the oven with tin foil (reflective side up), and replace when necessary.

    As always, enjoy and be well!

    Chris Molnar is a writer and volunteers for a variety of environmental organizations, and  is a work at home Dad of two children. On the lighter side, he edits Themeaparty.com, a birthday party website for kids. All his cleaners are homemade concoctions – one tip is to NOT use too much dish soap on a tile floor recipe. It took three rinses before most of the suds were finally wiped clean!

  10. Throwing in the [Paper] Towel

    Posted on May 10, 2012 by Stefanie

    Image credit: milajake

    I know we usually save the videos for A/V Fridays, but I recently watched a brilliantly simple TED talk that I think is worth sharing on a Thursday. If you’ve got four minutes and 28 seconds to spare, go watch it now. The gist is that if you use paper towels to dry your hands, you’re probably doing it wrong, and if you switch to Joe Smith’s “Shake! Fold!” method (which guarantees you dry hands using only ONE sheet of any thickness and size), we could save 571,230,000 pounds of paper a year. That’s no small figure. It is, however, a small change, and the small, easy changes that make a big difference have always been some of my favorite posts on The Greenists. So bookmark that for later if you must, but seriously, watch that video. You’ll hear Joe saying “Shake! Fold!” every time you wash your hands in a public restroom from here on out, and you will use way less paper as a result; I swear.

    For the record, I do avoid using paper towels at all as often as I can, and I’m sure you probably do too. I keep a tea towel on a magnetic clip under my desk at work; I would never think to waste a paper towel to dry my hands at home; and it annoys me no end when people reach for paper towels in the gym locker room when they’ve got a washable cloth gym towel hanging out on a bench ten feet away. But it drives me crazy to leave a public restroom with wet hands (or damp jeans from trying to dry them on my legs), so I’ll admit that I cave to using paper towels outside the work/home/gym/friends’ homes venues. Now, however, at least I use only one when I do so.

    Of course, people use paper towels for more than just drying their hands. Read more…

Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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