Monthly Archives: September 2013

10 Eco Friendly Home Tips for Autumn

10 Eco Friendly Home Tips for Autumn

Autumn has just begun. Things here have cooled down just a little bit, perhaps most noticeable at night, not so much during the day. It’s time to think about what you need for cooler, perhaps even seriously cold weather, depending on where you live. Here are a few eco friendly home tips to get you going this autumn.

1. Heat your body, not your house.

When possible, focus on keeping your body warm, not the entire house. Wear warm clothes and use blankets to keep warm, rather than heat your house overmuch. This allows you to set your thermostat to a cooler temperature, and therefore use less power to heat your home. It also makes getting outside more comfortable, as you aren’t going from a significantly heated home to whatever temperature is outside.

Of course, in many places some heating of your home is necessary. Don’t freeze yourself or your family. Just think about what temperature range you can stand if you dress more warmly. A setting of 68 degrees on your thermostat is quite reasonable in many homes.

2. Maintain your furnace.

Just because you want to minimize its use doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain your furnace. Make sure it’s in good condition, with dust cleaned out so that it runs efficiently and safely. Check your filters too – they should be replaced regularly.

3. Take advantage of natural heating.

During much of fall, the sun’s rays are still strong enough that you can open your curtains or blinds on the sunny side of the house and bring in some warmth. On really cold days you may be better off blocking your windows, but if you can feel the sun’s warmth coming in, let it in.

4. Check your chimney.

If you have and use your chimney, get it checked now before the temptation to have a nice hot fire in the evening gets too strong. Debris in your chimney can catch fire if it’s not cleaned out.

5. Block drafts.

Those little places where a draft can sneak in can be very problematic on cold days. Repair or replace old weather stripping and find ways to block drafts coming in under doors. You can roll up a towel or small blanket to block drafts if necessary.

6. Check rain gutters on your house.

Rain gutters can get clogged up with all kinds of things through the year. Autumn is a great time to clean them out, especially if any of your trees tend to dump leaves in your rain gutters in the fall. Nicely functioning rain gutters are a big help in making the rain that falls onto your house go where you want it to.

7. Consider installing rain barrels.

While they aren’t allowed in all areas, rain barrels are a great way to catch and use some of the rain that falls on your home. Just make sure you have plans for if the rain barrel overflows, as it’s hard to have enough space to store all the water that falls during some storms.

8. Air out your home on warmer days.

When the weather is nice, remember to open the windows and air out your home. It’s a really eco friendly way to freshen indoor air and brighten your home for the day.

9. Enjoy indoor plants.

If you don’t already have indoor plants, get some. They add some nice color to your home during the cooler months and help clean the air inside your home. You can even grow some herbs indoors so you always have some fresh ones when you cook.

10. Clean out the clutter.

Cleaning out the clutter is good to do any time of year, so why not do it now? Take a look around and find all the stuff you don’t really need, and donate it to a good cause.

These are just a few ideas, and I’d love to hear what you and your family do to have a more eco friendly autumn. Please share your ideas in the comments.

7 Great Natural Beauty Products

7 Great Natural Beauty Products

I’ve never been much into beauty products. I don’t wear makeup most of the time, don’t dye my hair, etc. Still, there are some natural products that I enjoy using on my skin and hair that do a wonderful job.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great for the skin and hair. I get the cold pressed stuff, which is supposed to be better. It’s a nice moisturizer for the skin, just rub it on. Be careful about using it on your face, as it can be comedogenic, but I like using it on my arms and legs.

For hair, rub the coconut oil between your hands to melt it, then apply to the length of your hair. Leave in for an hour or so, then wash out. Wonderful, soft hair!

Castor Oil

Yes, this notorious oil has its uses. I mix it with some olive oil to use as a facial cleanser – about a third castor oil to two third olive oil for my skin, but experiment to figure out your own best mix. Too much castor oil can be drying on your skin. Try oils other than olive oil too – it can be comedogenic, but not everyone has that problem with it. Apply the mix with your fingers, then hold a hot, damp washcloth to your face, then wipe the oils off.

Jojoba Oil

When I want a lighter oil on my skin or hair, jojoba is wonderful. It feels much lighter than coconut oil, but is still a great moisturizer. It works well in the oil cleansing method with castor oil too.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

I hardly ever use traditional shampoo or conditioner these days. I mix some baking soda in a lot of water in a squeeze bottle to wash my hair, and condition with watered down vinegar. Then I condition using watered down vinegar, about two parts water to one of vinegar, although I never measure it out.

If the smell of the vinegar bothers you, just add some hair-friendly essential oils. You will get used to it if you don’t, and the smell doesn’t stick around after rinsing, but if you find it too unpleasant without essential oils, or you just like the smell, go for it.

Homemade Sugar Scrubs

When you want to indulge while exfoliating your skin, a homemade sugar scrub is the way to go. Pick your sugar – some use brown, some use white, and mix with a skin friendly oil. Massage into your skin, leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse off.

Have some fun with your ingredients too. Vitamin E can be a good addition, as can certain herbs or essential oils.

Aloe Vera

We grow aloe vera in our garden and really need to use it more! You scrape out the gel from inside the leaves and apply it to the skin. It feels amazing on sunburn (or burns in general) and is a good moisturizer. Some people drink aloe vera juice, but I haven’t tried that.

Homemade Bath Bombs

Homemade bath bombs are easy to make and feel great. The basic ingredients are baking soda, epsom salts and citric acid. Essential oils and food coloring are optional. Some people add oils as well. There are instructions all over for how to make these, and it’s much cheaper than buying them at the store. Add the wet ingredients slowly to the dry ones, or you’ll start the fizzing reaction that belongs in your bath.

9 Ways You Can Volunteer With Your Kids

9 Ways You Can Volunteer With Your Kids

My children’s school has a requirement for them to do volunteer work throughout the school year. Much of it is done at school itself, as they take on projects each Friday. But as the kids hit the higher grades, they’re required to do some volunteering on their own in the community. It’s a nice requirement, if sometimes a headache for us to find time. But the hardest part of all was finding places to volunteer with the kids.

This is one of those things that gets easier as the kids get older. An awful lot of volunteer opportunities are for adults or late teens at the youngest only. Next come the ones that only take volunteers ages 12 and up, or thereabouts. Fortunately, there are also places where you can volunteer even with younger children.

1. Animal Shelters or Rescues

My kids’ favorite place to volunteer is called YAPS. It’s an animal placement society, and they accept volunteers as young as five years old. It’s really popular with kids from their school in general – after all, most kids love working with animals. Kids can help with laundry and certain kinds of cleaning (but not all of it until a certain age), pet the cats or dogs to keep them used to people, or even earn the right to take the dogs for walks and help train them.

Not all shelters or rescues take kids so young. Many require children to be at least 12 or so. Still, if you can find one that allows young volunteers, it’s an easy way to get your children into the idea of volunteering.

Keep in mind that children can get quite attached to the animals, and this can be difficult when the animals are adopted. I’ve talked to my kids about it being okay to miss a particular animal but still be happy that it got a new home. It helps.

2. Participate in Clean Up Days

Many communities have regular clean up days, and so long as parents are along, they aren’t always picky about age. Check on requirements for individual events, however, as some will say 12 and up, or similar.

If you can’t volunteer for an official clean up day, you can always make your own. Go to a park near you and clean it up with your kids.

3. Donate Food

Food banks are always in need of donations. Whether you add a little extra to your cart for charity when you go grocery shopping or set up your own collection event, this is an easy way to show your kids how to help the less fortunate.

4. Visit Nursing Homes or Senior Centers

Nursing homes and senior centers often welcome visits from children. Kids can play games with the seniors or just talk with them. Contact individual locations for their rules on this kind of volunteering.

5. Write Letters to Soldiers

For kids old enough to write, letters to soldiers are often very welcome. It doesn’t have to be a long letter; in fact, some websites give you tips on what to say in your letters to soldiers. My kids’ school had them do this last year and it went really well. There are also websites where you can simply type your letters in.

6. Collect Supplies Or Money For Charity

What’s your favorite cause? Is there a place that will allow you to collect donations for them?

You can donate pet supplies to animal rescues or shelters, for example. You can collect supplies for homeless or women’s shelters. Contact the charity you want to do this for, and find out what kind of rules you should follow when you do this for them.

7. Participate in Charitable Walks/Runs

Are your kids more active? There are walks and runs for all kinds of causes, and some even have events specific to children. It’s fun and healthy.

8. The Library

Libraries sometimes allow children to volunteer, although age restrictions are common. Still, once your kids are old enough it’s a great place for them to go, especially if they really love books.

9. Make Your Own Opportunities

Nothing else appeals to you or your kids? Make up your own volunteer opportunity. Take a look at ways you can help whatever cause interests you. Get creative.

Websites to Help You Find Opportunities to Volunteer With Kids

There are lots of websites available to help you find volunteer opportunities you can do with your children. Here are a few:

Volunteer Match
Keep America Beautiful
Network For Good
Points of Light
America’s Promise
Hands On Network
Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Whatever kinds of volunteer you do with your kids, make sure it’s something that interests them. It’s hard for kids to see the point if they’re bored with what you’re doing. Make volunteering something they enjoy so they’ll want to do it again and again.

If this is something your children’s school requires, as ours does, think about continuing to volunteer even beyond what the school requires. We continued our volunteer time at YAPS even over the summer. It gets more of the point of volunteering across, in my opinion, if it is done beyond simply what the school requires. You show your priorities by keeping volunteering with your kids a part of your life.