Posted on July 25, 2012
The Greenists are on vacation. Please enjoy this recycled post.
My last year of college, I lived with two roommates in a surprisingly spotless off-campus apartment. Rather, it was surprisingly spotless when we moved in. (We looked for housing a bit late in the prior school year, and given that it was slim pickings at that point, we felt lucky just to find a place where we weren’t afraid to walk around with our shoes off indoors.) It was well into first semester before it apparently dawned on any of us that in order to keep the place looking as clean as when we moved in, we would have to, you know, clean it. We were all in our early 20s, grown adults who had presumably dusted a shelf or swept the floor in our dorm rooms at some point prior to our off-campus living arrangement and who had undoubtedly been tasked with cleaning portions of our parents’ homes for any number of years prior to that. And yet, somehow it hadn’t occurred to even one of us to develop any sort of proper cleaning regimen or to purchase any cleaning supplies.
My roommate Erin was the first to acknowledge it. “Are your rooms getting dusty?” she asked. “How do you guys dust?” I think I spoke up first. “Um, sometimes I just blow the dust off my dresser.” We turned to our other roommate, Linda. “I turn on my fan,” she said. It’s a good thing we weren’t required to prove we were fully functional, self-sufficient adults before we got our diplomas, because clearly we had a ways to go. Read more…
Posted on July 24, 2012
The Greenists are on vacation. Please enjoy this recycled post.
I’ve been in the middle of moving into a new old house, of which you’ll probably hear a lot about here since I’ll be blogging about being green at home. It’s been a slow move with the intent of giving myself time to purge all the unneeded clutter in my home. But the urge to purge often means you end up just tossing a lot of that unwanted stuff in the trash.
I’ve been trying my darndest not to send anything extra to the landfill during this move. It’s required some thinking outside the moving box, so I wanted to share with you some of the tips I’ve discovered.
Posted on July 17, 2012
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.
Posted on May 10, 2012
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…
Posted on May 1, 2012
photo courtesy of Nest
Any good Greenist probably already knows that one way to save energy around the house is to install a programmable thermostat for your home’s heating and cooling systems. You program the thermostat to cut back its efforts at night or when you’re out of the house during the day, and boom, you’re saving energy.
But what about the times when there’s an unseasonable change in the middle of the day? Do you reprogram the thermostat with every slight change in the weather? And do you remember to change the programming when you go out of town for the week? How about for the weekend?
Posted on April 26, 2012
Please welcome today’s guest poster, Thomas Maurer.
Organic and natural mattresses are now readily available on the Internet and are becoming more and more available in regular stores. The mattress industry can be confusing to many people at the best of times and now, with all these new organic products out, there’s the possibility that the confusion will step up a level when trying to determine the health and environmental benefits of different products.
Most reputable organic mattress producers are completely transparent about their products. They are confident in its quality and certifications and they have nothing to hide. Others are a little bit more cagey and offer up less information. These are some things to consider. Read more…
Posted on March 15, 2012
I kind of have a thing for soap. I mean, it’s nothing I think to put on my Christmas list or mention on my online dating profile, but I have a hard time walking past a display of handmade soaps without sniffing (if not buying) at least one of them, and probably a full third of my Etsy purchases have been bar soap-related. I’ve even written about the virtues of bar soap here more than once.
As much as I love bar soap, however, in my kitchen, the tidiness and ease of a liquid hand soap just makes more sense. And there are lots of green, eco-friendly hand soaps on the market, many of which I’ve purchased over the years. I haven’t bought liquid hand soap in over a year, though. Why? Because my new favorite hand soap is one I mix up myself from something I already always have under my sink.
You may or may not remember the post I wrote about castile soap a while ago. It’s some amazing stuff, castile soap. It’s about as environmentally friendly as it is versatile. I listed several uses for castile soap in that previous post, but one simple use in particular has become so routine for me that I feel it bears mentioning again.
Posted on February 21, 2012
Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jessica Arinella, creator/writer/producer of the What You Can Do series.
My friends know that I suffer from something I refer to as ISD — or Impending Sense of Doom. You may recognize this feeling of hopelessness when you see an image of a polar bear hanging off the edge of a rapidly melting iceberg. With so many concerns from hunger to ocean pollution, it’s hard to know how to make a positive impact on our world. And one critical challenge that really gets my ISD going is water conservation.
While our planet is covered in water, only one percent of it is suitable for human use. Some experts even believe that water could become as scarce as oil in the not-so-distant future. And the EPA estimates by 2013, 36 of the 50 states could be facing water shortages.
The good news is there are many easy ways to save water. As I believe action is the only cure for ISD, I created a project called What You Can Do, a series of 60-second videos to show how to help our world’s most important issues. Below are some of our favorite ideas and episodes on water conservation: Read more…
Posted on February 16, 2012
Are you guys addicted to Pinterest yet? There’s a lot of that going around lately. So many great ideas! So little chance I will implement ANY of them! A few weeks ago I saw an idea I did decide I should try, however. It was a post proclaiming the wonders of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to make old cookie sheets look like newish. My own cookie sheets have definitely seen shinier days, so I mixed up a paste of baking soda and peroxide and tried to go to town. And it… sort of worked. If I really cared more about the state of my cookie sheets, I probably could have scrubbed and scrubbed with that concoction and maybe eradicated at least the most recent few years of ugly, baked-on crud. But you know what? I don’t. I’ve used my cookie sheets, so they look used. And I’m OK with that.
My glass baking pan, however? That one I haven’t given up on. And yet, I foolishly used that pan to broil a piece of salmon the other night rather than using the black metal roasting pan that’s actually designed for such a thing. And hence, I ended up with some burned-on stains on the bottom of the pan that weren’t coming off with plain dish soap and a scrubber sponge. So I tried the baking soda and peroxide mixture in there, and you know what? That actually worked! Hurrah. Ditto on my black nylon spatula and spaghetti server, both of which have had a weird white residue on them (Hard water stains? Dishwasher detergent? No idea…) for years now. A little scrubbing with the soda/peroxide paste, and that residue’s all but vanished. Magic!
I was trying to remember why I bought the bottle of peroxide I have stashed under my sink in the first place, so I did a quick search of The Greenists archives and remembered. It was this post, written by Courtney a year and a half ago already. Have I tried a single one of those five unusual uses for hydrogen peroxide since I first read them? Apparently not. But I will now! Maybe I’ll even pin them to a Pinterest board to be extra sure I don’t forget. Maybe you should, too!
Posted on February 9, 2012
A few days ago, I noticed a discussion on another website about a real estate survey published by Yahoo! back in December. That survey asked 1,500 current and aspiring homeowners to choose the features that their dream home would include. Lo and behold, “green or energy efficient” was the top vote-getting quality after being chosen by 58 percent of the poll’s respondents. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Great! Our fellow Americans are finally getting it! Taking a green-minded approach with our homes IS important.”
But then I read a bit farther into the poll’s results and noticed the disconnect.
Tied for second was “building a custom home,” chosen by 38 percent of poll respondents. Clocking in at last place with a measly 5 percent was “tiny house,” a feature chosen by fewer people than “stately, traditional mansion” or even “castle or castle-style.”