Monday, October 3, 2011

Jars: Minimizing Plastic Use

Uses for jars:

1.  Use glass jars (I use canning jars and clean glass peanut butter jars) to store leftovers, dried foods, herbs, etc.

2.  Glass jars make great receptacles for stashing craft supplies.  We use them to sort Lego pieces when working on a large project.  (I know.  Lego is plastic!)

3.  Small glass jars (like old vitamin bottles) can be refilled with small amounts of lotion, or a small amount of baking soda or mineral make-up for a pick-me-up while traveling.  I also use a small jar to bring along a day's supply of nutritional supplements.

4.  Large jars are great for holding spoons, spatulas, and other cooking tools.

5.  Jars can be used in decorating.  I decorate with them in the following ways:

*Fill them with marbles, shells, beads, or other pretty items.
*Use them instead of vases to hold flowers.
*Fill it with potpourri.
*Use it to display photographs.  I use a large canning jar filled with pretty potpourri.  I then slipped two pictures of my children between the glass and the potpourri. 

6.  Use a jar to make tea.  I find that one (washed) peanut butter jar holds two very nice cups of tea.  The jar cover is a bonus because it helps in the brewing process and prevents summer bugs from dropping into my tea before I have a chance to drink it.

7.  Jars are great for picnics.  They can hold food or can be used instead of paper or plastic cups.  When people leave the table, they can save their drinks by covering them with the lids.  No more bugs in the lemonade!

Other Jar Tips:

1.  Choose wide-mouthed jars for food storage.  I find these easier to use and to clean.
2.  Rather than saving every glass jar I use, I only reuse glass peanut butter jars.  That way, I have uniformly sized jars and tops.
3.  Canning jars are great, but it was a pain to deal with their lids and bands.  I solved my problem by having two small dishes in my cupboard.  One is for the large lids and one is for the small lids.  In the cupboard above these, my husband affixed two brackets onto which I can slide the bands. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Avoiding Plastic in the Bathroom

Shower Curtain:

Right now my bathroom has a Holly Hobby theme.  Last week it was floral and before that, it was a dark forest green.  I'm able to change the theme of my bathroom so often because rather than use a commercial shower curtain, I simply hang a bed sheet.  Years ago when I decided that I would not buy one more chemical-stinking plastic shower curtain, I had to figure out what I was going to do to keep the shower water from flowing directly onto my floor.  In a pinch, I put up a flannel curtain...and it worked!  Now I find that any old curtain will do.  I find that sheets from single beds are about the right width.  They are a little long, but this can be easily fixed by allowing the top part to fold over the top.  (A more clever homemaker could probably cut and sew the sheet, but my solution works well for me since my sheets do double duty in bed and bath.)  To secure the sheet after I've placed it over the shower curtain rod, I simply attach a metal clasp to either side.  Pins would probably work too, but I never have any handy.  The curtain stays in place, the floor stays dry, and I don't have to buy all the plastic.


Rather than using commercial deodorants, I simply pour some baking soda in a shallow glass jar and apply the baking soda with a large cosmetic brush.  I find that it does a far better job at odor protection than any stick or roll-on deodorant.  In fact, I've used this method even on hot summer days when dressed as a 19th century reformer (long sleeves, hoops, bonnet, etc.) I have to lead a parade of women across a village and then give a speech in a stuffy, hot building.  Baking soda does the trick.

Soap:  This one is easy.  It is not difficult to find soap that is vegan, contains no palm oil, and is not wrapped in plastic.  I prefer Kirk's soap and the lovely round bars of soap made of oatmeal or almond that I find in our grocery store.  They don't even come with paper wrapping and they smell so nice I want to chew on them.


I buy a bar of J.R. Liggett's shampoo made in New England or I use a small amount of baking soda (perhaps a teaspoon) dissolved in a cup of warm water.  Following this, I rinse my hair with a wee bit of vinegar in another cup of warm water.  I then rinse with plain water.  Clean hair.  No plastic.

Cosmetics and Sunscreen:

I'm still having trouble in this category.  I'm really rather a girl when it comes to my lotions and potions.  I want sun-protected skin.  I also want to fight "visible signs of aging" and I'm vain as hell.  I spend quite a bit of time trying to find the healthiest cosmetics available within my price range which has resulted in my husband's lament that there is no bench on which he can sit while I spend vast amounts of time comparing products in the cosmetics and lotions section of our local health food market.  While I can find glass bottles of some products, they often come with plastic lids.  My sunscreen from Alba Botanicals comes in plastic bottles.  I'm hoping that someone out there has better ideas.  I'm stumped on this one! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Laundry Soap

I used to make laundry soap for myself all the time but got out of the habit after I moved. Pity. Now that I'm especially concerned about limiting my plastic consumption, I've decided I'd get back into it. So here's what I did:

I gathered up the equipment

1. small pot
2. large plastic bucket for mixing
3. wooden spoon
4. paring knife (cheese grater would probably work better if I happened to own one)
5. measuring cup
6. Borax
7. Washing soda
8. Kirk's bar soap
9. Old empty soda bottle
10. Scissors
11. Fragrant oil

Pare or grate soap into a bowl or measuring cup. One bar of Kirk's soap is equal to about 1 cup of soap shavings.

Dissolve one cup of soap shavings in two cups of boiling water. Now you have liquid soap!

Pour two gallons of water into a bucket. I used one with a cover in case I felt like storing my finished product in it.

Add one cup of borax, one cup of washing soda and the liquid soap. Mix them with the wooden spoon.

What you have now is lovely, slimy, viscous gel that personally I had to play with. If you have it, you can add fragrant oil to the mixture. I added lavender and tea tree oil.

Using a funnel (or in my case an old soda bottle cut in half to form a funnel) pour the mixture into old detergent bottles.

That's it! Now you're all done except for feeling very smug about your super green domestic skills.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Green Bathroom

Shower Curtain:
Instead of using shower curtains, we use old sheets. They keep the water in the shower and then dry quickly. They are also easily washed and can quickly change the decor of the bathroom (as if that mattered to me!).

Bath soap:
I choose Kirk's bath soap because it is vegan and packaged in paper. I also really like oatmeal and almond soaps that come without any packaging at all.

Hand Soap:
Rather than buying new bottles of liquid hand soap, I simply squirt some Dr. Bronner's into the old bottle and then add water. A little goes a long way. Now I'll have to figure out if I want to continue using Dr. Bronner's soap given that it comes in a plastic bottle. It lasts me for several months so I might keep it on my list of acceptable items.

Bathroom Cleaner:
I wash my tub and toilet with baking soda and vinegar. The baking soda is abrasive and the vinegar helps sanitize. Also, the two mixed together fizz in a very satisfying way.

Cleaning the sink:
I keep a spray bottle of a little Dr. Bronner's mixed with water and spray down the sink daily. Alternately, I use a mixture of vinegar and water.

Warm Days Again/ Plastics

It seems that I neglect this blog during the school year. I suppose I feel much more domestic as the weather warms and more of my focus in directed at housework rather than schoolwork.

Recently I have decided to much more consciously limit my consumption of plastics. We had eliminated plastic food storage containers, cups and dishes. I note that a couple plastic bowls saved for some reason have made it back into circulation after our metal bowls chipped. We have only one Correlle bowl left. When dropped on our concrete floors they shatter into shards and dust. I'll have to go to a second hand shop and pick up some more bowls.

I am finding that it is a challenge right now making the adjustment away from so much plastic packaging. Who knew how many of my healthy and organic foods were encased in the stuff? Very frustrating. I'll have to buy bulk foods and produce and learn to cook again. Drats. I hate cooking.

Friday, June 19, 2009


There is a television commercial in which a woman roughly my age talks about her ritual of going to her favorite popular store once a week and buying just one item (often for less than $10!!!). My daughter said that she must be a millionaire and wouldn't her house be crowded?! As her mother's child, my daughter was shocked and outraged by such wastefulness and frivolity. :-)

We don't buy new things except under some tightly controlled special circumstances. Our furniture, household appliances, home decor, transportation, and toys are hand-me-downs or purchased second-hand. A few items were purchased new but we are careful to avoid items made in countries that abuse their workers. We try very hard to purchase fair trade or locally produced items on those very rare occasions when buying new is a better choice than buying used or accepting a cast-off.

Why not buy new? Well, it gets expensive and I really can't justify spending money I don't have on stuff I don't need (and it is amazing what people don't need but buy anyway). I'm also unwilling to support abusive labor practices. I would purchase more fair trade items but again, I hardly ever really *need* anything and I can hardly ever justify the expense. Finally, I'm concerned about the environmental impact of the ceaseless production of goods that no one really needs and which not only create pollution in their production but also in their disposal. I watched a woman walk out of a craft store with a basket the other day. I wonder how much she paid for her cheaply made basket (cheap because they exploited the labor force). I wondered about the environmental and economic cost of importation. I wondered if she realized that the thrift store down the way has tons of baskets they sell much less expensively because, let's face it; we're inundated by cheaply made baskets. Do we really need to keep making more? It isn't like they go bad. (Which reminds me of another pet peeve. Why do they shrink wrap non-perishable items and then encase them in big-ass boxes? I think the intent is to screw over the earth and piss me off simultaneously.)

I'm also very concerned about bringing toxins into my home. Carpets, plastic shower curtains, upholstered furniture, laminates, etc. all are full of crap I really don't want my babies inhaling. When our carpets needed to be replaced we didn't replace them. Our floors are bare and I find it much easier to keep the place clean. When and if I need rugs, I'll wait until I can afford fair-trade, natural-fabric, organic choices (I may have to wait a long time!) or I'll make them myself. (when hell freezes over?) We've had no carpets for some time now and we're just fine. Turns out that carpets are a luxury. You don't actually need them! Who knew? When my plastic shower curtain liner got scuzzy some years ago, I found that a flannel bed sheet worked just as well. Following a shower, the fabric dries quickly and we have not had the problems we had with mildew that were common when we used plastic. Periodically, I toss the sheet into the laundry and hand it on the line to dry. Easy.

Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without. Seems like awfully good advice. Follow this advice and when you really want something- you can get it. You won't have blown all your money by going once a week to your local imported crap store to buy things you don't need (some for less than $10!!). You'll still have money in your account and space in your house. Now that's a sweet deal.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I adore baking soda

I just love baking soda. Let us sing its praises!

I use it in the tub and sink and toilet. Add a little vinegar and watch it foam impressively. It is good for de-stinking stinky drains.

I make a paste of it to dab on itchy spots on kids.

I use it as a facial scrub, to brush my teeth, and to wash my hair.

I sprinkle it on floors to deodorize the house and on wet spots to soak up the spill.

It is great in my laundry and in my food and in my fridge.

I gargle with it when my throat is sore and bathe in it when I need to relax.

It must be one of my favorite things on earth.