Category Archives: Eco Friendly Home

5 Ways To Keep Leftovers From Going to Waste

5 Ways To Keep Leftovers From Going to Waste

Leftovers are a big problem for many families. They just sit there, unwanted, until they rot and get thrown in the trash. It’s a big source of food waste, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways you can keep more of your leftovers from going to waste.

1. Freeze them for work lunches.

This only works for foods that can cope with being frozen and reheated, but it’s a great way to save on lunches for people who work outside the home. Freezing allows the food to stay good for longer, so no one is stuck with having the same thing for dinner one day and lunch the next.

2. Add them to other foods.

You don’t have to serve leftovers as is. Some can be combined into other foods to make them more appealing. Think soups, salads, sandwiches and stir fry. Not every leftover can be worked into something else, but it relieves the monotony of eating the same thing over again when it does.

3. Organize them.

Don’t let your leftovers get shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten until the next cleanout. Keep them where you can see them. Mark them with the date the food was made so you don’t have to guess whether or not it’s still good.

4. Have leftover night.

If leftovers are getting out of control, declare a leftover night rather than cook something new for dinner. Anyone who is capable of reheating their own food can select their own meal this way, and the cook gets a little more time off.

5. Just eat them yourself.

Sometimes it’s not worth the trouble reminding people that there are leftovers available. As you remind others to consider eating the leftovers, remind yourself too.

7 Ways to Live in a Greener and Cleaner Home

One of the best ways to live a more eco friendly lifestyle is to get rid of toxins in your home. The fewer toxins you use, the fewer get into the environment. It’s great for you and your children too. Best of all, a greener and cleaner home doesn’t have to cost a lot.

7 Ways to Live in a Greener and Cleaner Home1. Avoid pesticide use

Pesticides don’t just kill bugs and rodents. They’re not good for your kids or the environment in general. I know very well how nice it is to have a great looking yard and home, but there are alternatives to pesticides.

Indoors, keeping things clean will take care of most pests. They don’t stay where there’s no food for them. Ants may be discouraged by spraying white vinegar to remove their scent trail or by placing bay leaves or cloves near where they come in. Yeast mixed with sugar and molasses can be used to kill ants. A fly trap with a couple inches of apple cider vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of sugar can catch and kill flies.

Mice can be more difficult to handle. A cat can do the job pretty well if you’re up for a pet. Traps also work, and there are humane traps for those who don’t want to deal with dead or injured mice. I don’t like glue traps, however, as the mouse can suffer quite a bit on those, as they may injure themselves trying to get free. There are also plug in repellers you can try.

2. Open the windows

This may not work all year, but when you can, open your windows for a while. In summer, we wait until evening or even after sunset, when the air flow is really nice to have. Not only does this help to clear the air in your home, it may even help cool it if you choose the times right. You might be able to run your air conditioner less if you learn to appreciate your evening breezes during warm weather. No need for air fresheners with questionable ingredients.

3. Grow indoor plants

Indoor plants make your home look nice and help clean the air inside your home. I like my orchids, but there are plenty of other wonderful houseplants you can choose.

4. Use less plastic

In general, plastic isn’t good for you. Many types can release toxins over time. Use it as little as possible. There are plenty of alternatives, such as stainless steel water bottles rather than plastic ones, and glass or ceramic dishes rather than plastic.

That said, there’s only so much you can do sometimes to avoid plastic. Just keep it down as much as possible.

5. Avoid convenience foods

Most convenience foods really aren’t that good for you and your family, containing many additives and preservatives. Try to cook for your family when you can. It doesn’t have to be complex or fancy.

You can make this easier by preparing some ingredients in advance. Some vegetables will stay good even after being chopped for a few days, which is helpful if you have limited time for food preparation. It also makes them more available for snacks if you prepare ones your family enjoys. That would be bell peppers for my youngest, for example.

Try to eat more organic foods when you can. At the very least, be aware of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that tend to be the most contaminated by pesticides. These are the most important ones to try to buy organic rather than conventionally grown.

6. Clean with nontoxic products

Cleaning supplies can release a lot of toxins in your home. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean with much safer products. Baking soda and vinegar will clean many surfaces, either on their own or mixed together. I also like citric acid for cleaning.

Steam cleaning works well also. We use a steam mop on our tile floors rather than your standard cleaning chemicals. Our current one is a Eureka Enviro steam mop, and it does a great job using only water. One of these days I’d love to get a more general purpose steamer for other surfaces.

7. Reconsider your personal care products

So many personal care products are filled with chemicals you really don’t want your skin to absorb. If you want to avoid toxins, it’s better to use simpler products. I like the no-poo method of washing my hair, for example.

A good resource is the Skin Deep database. They review a wide range of personal care products and rate them for safety. Care2 offers some good tips on ingredients to avoid.

What’s In Your Honey?

What's in your honey?

I love honey. It’s my favorite natural sweetener. Come to find out, however, there’s a little problem with honey. It isn’t always honey. Awkward!

Actually, more infuriating than awkward. I was not happy to find out that when I buy honey, it might actually have very little honey in it. Worse, it can have unsafe chemicals in it, such as lead and other toxins. Not what I want to hear about being in what ought to be a really wonderful sweetener. I also don’t like finding out that some honey is just corn or rice syrup with malt sweeteners and a bit of honey. Just goes to show how hard it is to avoid these things.

Two companies, Honey Solutions of Baytown, Texas, and Groeb Farms of Onsted, Mich., have been caught selling honey and lying about the source. They’ve been fined millions of dollars.

The one good thing about this scandal is that it has the honey industry looking at ways to verify that honey comes from where packers say it does. A laser isotope ratio-meter can be used to determine the origin of a sample of honey.

While it won’t protect you from dishonest companies, this could be a good reason to buy local honey when possible. Hopefully, these smaller, local companies are more concerned about providing a good product, rather than selling a low quality imitation.

Is Your Garbage Disposal Eco Friendly?

A garbage disposal is a common feature in many homes. We didn’t have one when I was growing up (caused too many clogs and was removed, as I understand it), but my husband had one, and still loves to use it. They seem like a nice way to cut down on the food waste you throw in the garbage. But are garbage disposals environmentally friendly?

Depends. What Are You Comparing Them To?

Are garbage disposals eco friendly?When it comes to being eco friendly, a garbage disposal can’t really compare to composting. Composting is a much better option if it’s available to you. There are a variety of ways to make composting easier, such as keeping a container available for food scraps in the kitchen, and dumping it into an outdoor compost bin when it gets full enough or it’s just convenient. You can buy a container for the purpose, or just use an old coffee can or something similar for it.

Bokashi composting systems can work indoors. They can be easier to deal with than with systems that rely on worms. Bokashi composting is anaerobic, and should not stink, making it a good choice if you can’t compost outside.

Of course, composting correctly takes some effort, and you can have problems if you don’t manage your compost correctly. But done right, it’s a wonderful, effective choice.

Using a garbage disposal can’t really compare to these options. It takes power and water to make a garbage disposal work. Sometimes they clog, and that can be a huge mess.

Better Than Throwing Food In The Trash?

Food waste makes up a fair part of municipal waste, about 13.9% before recycling, according to (2010 data).  That’s pretty significant.

According to Insinkerator, an average household garbage disposal costs about $0.50 a year in electricity to operate, and makes up less than 1% of that household’s water consumption.  By sending food waste down the drain, it goes to the wastewater plant rather than to the landfill, and may (depending on the wastewater plant) be a part of the plant’s energy generation as methane gas. Biosolids from wastewater may be used as fertilizer. The Insinkerator website has links to studies showing how environmentally effective garbage disposals can be.  Hauling food waste to the landfill is, unsurprisingly, not a very environmentally friendly way to handle it.

Of course, in some places that less than 1% of household water consumption may not be something you’re willing to spare. There are plenty of places where you really want to think about how much water you’re using. If that’s too much, composting really is going to be your best bet. As usual.

What About Clogs?

The one problem I sometimes have with the garbage disposal is that it clogs up sometimes. Usually in some way my own fault. There was the time I sent too many cucumber peels down at once – my disposal didn’t chew them up much at all! They just slid on through and collected in the pipe just below. Fortunately, it was easily cleaned up by hand. I just had to unscrew the couplings on the pipes and pull them out. A gross, stinky job, but no harsh chemicals needed, just a bucket under the pipes to catch the water and mess.

You need to be careful about how much you put through your garbage disposal. Mine is bottom of the line – we had a plumber comment that he didn’t know that brand made them that low a horsepower. That’s rental homes for you. But even more powerful garbage disposals can only handle so much at once. Make sure you’re giving everything enough time to get through.

Also don’t put anything greasy down the drain if you can help it. Grease doesn’t just clog your pipes; it encourages clogs further down the line.

All in all, while your garbage disposal isn’t your most eco friendly option, it’s possible that it isn’t too bad, especially depending on the alternatives available to you. Take a look and dispose of your food waste the as best you can.

Top 7 Green Cooking Tools

The kitchen is an important part of the home to take the environment into consideration. What you do there impacts your family as well as the environment. Your cooking tools are one part of that.

Now, I’ll tell you right up front that I’m no fan of nonstick cookware as a general rule. There are varieties out there now that say they’re more environmentally friendly, but I have yet to see nonstick cookware that really keeps the nonstick surface long enough to satisfy me, especially when it comes to skillets. The stuff wears off, whether over a few months or a few years, and then you have to buy new. Not terribly efficient in the long run, if you ask me.

These are all personal preferences I’m listing here. You may not agree, and you don’t have to. I will tell you that some of my preferences won’t work well if you have a glass cooktop rather than gas burners on your stove. Take that into consideration as you shop.

Top 7 Green Cooking Tools1. Cast Iron Skillets

I love my cast iron skillets. They’re heavy, they take a little extra care if I want to keep them properly seasoned, but they last and last. Seriously, my big one belonged to my grandmother and it’s still wonderful. When it comes to being green in the kitchen, pieces that last just about forever rank really high with me.

2. Pressure Cooker

I like my pressure cooker, don’t use it enough, but it’s a good item to have around. Nice, solid, and it speeds up your cooking. That’s the whole point of a pressure cooker. My favorite things to make in them are artichokes. So much faster than cooking them in a regular pot.

The Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers are excellent, although my handmedown Presto is generally good too. Make sure you check reviews for durability, as when I looked at some brands, parts tended to wear out shortly after the warranty expired. Once again, I favor products that don’t tend to need regular replacement as much as possible. Also, if you want to do canning, make sure you select a model designed for it. It’s just easier that way.

3. Bamboo Cutting Boards

The best part about bamboo, environmentally speaking, is that it grows quickly, and so cutting it down to make things has less impact than other woods do. Bamboo cutting boards can work really well, although they can be a little thin. It’s also attractive and durable.

4. Pyrex Storage Sets

Pyrex storage containers are great for getting away from your typical plastic containers for leftover foods. They’re a very durable glass, and the lids can be made from BPA-free plastics. From reviews, I can say that the lids don’t last as well as the containers (hardly a surprise), but I understand you can get them replaced.

5. Pyrex Bakeware

I like their bakeware too. Some of it comes with lids, so it can be used as storage too, but others don’t.

6. Stainless Steel Food Containers

If you want something more durable than glass, stainless steel is a great way to go. Can’t use them in the microwave, obviously, but wonderful for carrying a lunch. Make sure you get leakproof containers if you’re dealing with liquids.

7. Vitamix

While not a specifically eco friendly item, a Vitamix (or Blendtec blender if you prefer), is far superior to a basic blender. If you buy one, you must make smoothies with it. That’s an order. It really make it easy to enjoy a nice, healthy smoothie, and of course you can use it as you would any other blender. Best of all, they last very, very well.