Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going Green: How and Where Do You Start?

The most difficult thing about going green is knowing where to start. Read around the blogosphere and it’s overwhelming when you realize that green living touches everything you wear, live, eat, and do. 

ACK!

Then once you’ve identified where you want to go green it can be frustrating because there seems like you’re playing catch up or the suggestions are too expensive/not applicable to where you live/too I’m not going there (Hi cloth toilet paper. I’m talking to you.)

You know what? I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve looked at lists and suggestions and had many a Slam Head Here moments because my preferred green way of doing things isn’t on the list or it’s a seasonal practice.

That’s OK.

Do It Anyway

I say, why not start with the easy stuff first? There may be some things that you already do that are already considered green!

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Taking reusable bottles full of water or other drinks to events means we save money on drinks as well as reducing our disposable cup/bottle use. Even Blitzkrieg has his own water bottle with a dog dish attached!

Maybe you have some habits you want to change, like eating less sweets or saving more money. It’s perfectly OK to admit to doing something green because you want to save a little green too. Quite honestly, back when I was a starving college student, that is what I did and something I still do. 

5 Places to Start Going Green

If you still aren’t sure where to start try looking at these five areas of your life and make a list of some habits you’d like to change for the greener.

  1. Look at your trash – What type of things are you always throwing away? Paper towels? Take out coffee cups? Can you replace any of these items with reusable options? Can you buy a larger size to reduce the amount of packaging in your bin? Can you recycle any of the items in your trash bin through your city or local businesses?
  2. Check your utility bills – Gather your bills for the last year. Are your bills too high or just right for your family and where you live? You can take it one step further and do your own home energy audit (renters can do this too.)You might be able to lower your water, gas, electricity etc. with a few new habits and cheap home improvements.
  3. Check your fridge – Do you lack fresh fruits and vegetables? Do you see a lot of processed or single serving food? Do you have a lot of science experiments in the back of the fridge? If so, can you adjust the way you shop or cook to include more fresh or from scratch foods? Can you freeze those leftovers or starting to get squishy fruits and vegetables before they go bad? Or maybe the answer is to buy less food at the grocery store so it won’t turn in between trips.
  4. Look around you for incentives – Do you have a city recycling program? Does your coffee shop offer discounts or extra punches on a frequent buyer card for bringing your own coffee mug? Can you save money by packing a lunch for work in reusable containers? Can you rent or barrow something instead of buying it? Can you get a tax deduction for donating used items to a charity thrift store instead of tossing them in the trash?
  5. One Million Acts of Green – Check out Green U for ideas or add some of your own to the list. Register or connect via Facebook  and for every three acts of green you complete you get one entry in the Three to Green Sweepstakes for the chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree at BuyGreen.com. The number of green little acts you can complete by October 31, 2010 only limits you. If you’re looking for an incentive or ideas on where to go green, this is a very good place to start!
 
Don’t Freak Out Over Green

The term “green” isn’t regulated and means different things to different people. Sometimes there isn’t a 100% green solution for everything you do. That’s OK. Just pick an area and pledge to complete one little act of green. When you’re done, move on to the next item on your list. Easy!

What is or was your first area or act of green? What suggestions do you have for someone who’s just getting started? How do you keep from being overwhelmed?

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Disclosure:  Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco are compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Would You Choose: A Conservatory or a Sunroom?

I hate that summer is leaving because I will miss drinking coffee on my patio in the morning and enjoying the warmer summer sun. I am really going to miss the fresh herbs growing on my patio during the summer too. A UK friend suggested that I build a conservatory.

“A sunroom?” I asked.

“No”, he said, “a conservatory. You have conservatories in America, don’t you?”

In my mind, a home conservatory is very English and sunroom is more American because most of the people I know have sunrooms instead of conservatories. Although to be fair, a conservatory can be sunroom but not all sunrooms can be conservatories.

Confused yet?

I was until I did a little research.

It turns out that the difference between a sunroom and a conservatory is that a conservatory is a room with glass walls and a glass roof. When I lived in Miami, we called them Florida Rooms.

This is a conservatory. It has a glass roof.

A sunroom is a room with glass walls and a solid roof. There are DIY conservatories just as there are DIY sunrooms. You can make both of them into a four-season room with the right insulating windows, which is very important for me because I have winter. I’m told that the conservatory’s glass roof also lets more light into the room than a solid sunroom’s roof during overcast or winter days, a plus in my book as long as the material can withstand an Ohio winter, which I’m sure it can. UK folks, do any of you have any experience with this?

Since a conservatory has a see through roof, you can use a conservatory as a greenhouse. I remember one house in Florida that had a swimming pool in a conservatory. Very cool.

With our fascination with multitasking and demanding things do double duty (when was the last time you just made a telephone call on a cell phone?) it seems like there would be more people adding conservatories to their houses as sunrooms and greenhouses instead of a standard one use sunroom. Price wise the DIY options look fairly equal.

The thought of growing fresh herbs year round and enjoying my coffee on the patio year around makes me a lean toward conservatory over sunroom. And while I’m dreaming I’ll take the style with a little dormer too. What about you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Million Acts of Green

Sometimes the hardest thing about green living is knowing where to start. Does turning off the lights when I leave the room really make a difference? What if I do it more for saving money on my electricity bill than to be green? Is that OK?  How much of a difference does such a small act make?

The truth some days I just do not know. Everyone has a different green priority and definition as to what  green living means to them. That goes double for those “how green are you?” quizzes. I do not always like them because most are very subjective based upon the organization that creates them.

Sometimes you get good points for only doing something huge like installing solar panels and very little kudos for doing something more manageable like participating like clockwork in a city recycling program. Once, I was knocked from the Dark Green category to the Light Green category on a green living quiz because I did not have a bird feeder in my yard even though I did every other option on that quiz.

It was very discouraging.

Little Acts of Green Do Make a Difference

That’s why I’m excited to share with you a new kind of green living guide, Cisco’s One Million Acts of Green campaign. Cisco launched One Million Acts of Green in Canada in 2008 to show how little acts of green based upon what works for you, your life, and where you live really do add up and can make a difference. It was so successful in Canada that Cisco is relaunching the program in the United States.


It’s easy to participate. Register or connect via Facebook to One Million Acts of Green (OMAOG). Then pledge to complete as many or as few green acts as you like. Cisco's overall goal is to have participants collectively complete 1 million acts of green. 

I like that OMAOG allows you to track your progress so you can hold yourself accountable. For example, I regularly turn off my computer when I’m not using it. I marked that Complete but I haven’t taken that box of donations in my garage to Goodwill yet, so I only have a Pledge on my list, not a Complete. I learned that I reduced my household carbon emissions by 80KG by just shutting down my computer when I'm not using it. Now I want to clean out the garage because I'm curious how my donation will further reduce my household carbon emissions!

OMAOG allows you to can tailor your green acts to you and your lifestyle. You can add acts of green that you do not see listed to the list too. The thing I like best (and the reason I'm promoting it) is that OMAOG shows you how your personal green actions add up unlike those subjective green quizzes So far my completed green acts add up to reducing my household carbon emissions by 1, 725 KG which equals to removing 366 cars off of the road every year, planting 1725, or replacing 63, 832 light bulbs. I still have many pledges to add and complete too.

Green U

If you want to go green but aren’t sure where to start, check out the easy green acts listed on Green U. I will also be offering my suggestions for little green acts to consider and tips on how to get started here on Condo Blues.

Three to Green Sweepstakes *Closed*

If you need a little extra incentive to go green Cisco is holding the Three to Green Contest. To participate, Register and complete three acts of green. For very three acts of green you complete, you get one entry into the Three to Green Sweepstakes for the chance to win $5000 green shopping spree at BuyGreen.com. You can pledge and complete as many green activities, as you like and all without the green quiz guilt!

What are you waiting for? Go register and get started!

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Disclosure:  Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with  Cisco are compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Green Your D├ęcor and Green and Clean Mom.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Green Irene Cleaners: Green, but Do They Really Clean? (Giveaway)

Many of you have written me and asked for green cleaning options that don’t smell like vinegar, are available in your area, or didn’t cost a small fortune to buy on line. It was you folks I had in mind when I talked to Green Irene at the Green Blogger’s Soiree. They offered to send me their Enzymatic Clean Starter Kit for review.

Rosamaria Caballero designed a line a green cleaners with a short list of ingredients without phosphates, alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, artificial fragrances or colors, petroleum-based ingredients and were non-toxic, non-caustic, hypoallergenic and safe to use around her daughters and her Yorkie. Well, as a fellow dog lover I applaud her efforts but the big question is, do the cleaners actually work?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Repurposed Dog Bowl Wall Art

After I painted the kitchen, I started putting artwork back on the walls for my family’s enjoyment. One family member didn’t have anything to look at when he was eating his dinner.

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What about me? *Sigh*

I decided to make Blitzkrieg some doggie wall art.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ceiling Fans with Lights, Energy Efficient Yes. Stylish? Yeah or Nay?

Ceiling fans are an inexpensive way to cool and heat (by running the blades in reverse during the winter) your home. I had a ceiling fan and an attic fan in my old rental and between the two, they kept the place cool during the summer until the temperature climbed into the humid 90’s.

Too bad that ceiling fan with lights was from 1976 and for as well as it cooled our apartment, it didn’t do it with any sort of style. I can do ceiling fans. I can do lights. I cannot do ceiling fan and light combos. Can. Not. Do. Ick.

I recently got a very nice email from Del Mar Designs. She wrote:

“I’ve read how much you loathe ceiling fans with lights. My company Del Mar Designs offers a wide selection of decorative ceiling fans that are also energy efficient.

I have put together a few of our most popular energy efficient decorative ceiling fans with lights and was wondering if you found them appealing?”
Well. Gosh, now I feel like a heel because I have a constant reader and I’ve knocked what she does for a living. What’s the harm in taking a look?

10 Stylish Ceiling Fans with Lights

The Monte Carlo Vectra Titanium Flush Mount Fan with  Light  is a flush mount which would be great for someone who has low ceilings like me. This one’s not too bad with the light and fan combination but I lean more towards the model without the light.


The Minka Aire F518-ORB Concept II Bronze Flush Mount with Light is another flush mount in Bronze, which is very hot this year in fixtures. I like the old timey ice cream parlor look.




Quorum Colton Oiled Bronze Ceiling Fan with Light is a fan I think it would look best on a mid to high ceiling. Again, it reminds me of an old timey ice cream parlor look, which is a plus because my favorite local ice shop has ceiling fans similar to these but without lights.


The Hunter Fanaway Brushed Chrome Ceiling Fan changed my mind. If I were to choose any fan with a light for my house, it would be this one. I like the retro modern design. I especially like that the fan blade stay hidden until you turn on the fan. The only downside to this fan is that the blades aren’t reversible for winter. However, that wouldn’t be such an issue for me because I’d put this fan in my computer room to cool down the room with the big computers that act like space heaters.


 

I’ve seen the Hunter Sonic Brushed Nickel Energy Star Ceiling Fan with Light  in real life. A friend had it installed in her living room with the cathedral ceiling of  her condo. It worked with the retro 50’s vibe she had going on in her kitchen and living room.




I dig the Quorum Bronx Satin Nickel Ceiling Fan with Light. It is similar to the Hunter Sonic but I keep came coming back to it because it’s retro, it’s modern, and the blades remind me of an airplane propeller. Like.


I had to include this piece of eye candy. The Casablanca Chandelier Oil-Rubbed Bronze Uplight Ceiling Fan with Light is rustic elegance. The candles are actually electric powered flames so there’s no worry of fire hazard or changing the candles. Spendy, but it would look great in a lodge setting or in a room with a pitched ceiling like say, my bedroom.



I think I’m becoming a convert. Is it me, or is this crow tasting pretty good?

I wanted to feature the Quorum Jellyfish Chrome Ceiling Fan with Light  because it’s design is nothing like I’ve seen before. I like the blade shape and the cables. I’m not too sure of the light, it’s an odd shape that reminds me of a jellyfish which is cool but also reminds me a bust line because my mind goes to there sometimes. What do you think? (Besides the whole I make inappropriate analogies thing. I know that already.)


I kept coming back to the Emerson Highpointe Brushed Steel Ceiling Fan with Light too. I like the cable detail although I’m not sure if the blade design is sparse/simple = good or sparse/simple = bland. What are your thoughts?




The Minka Aire Gauguin Bahama Beige is an Outdoor Ceiling Fan with Light but I’m including it because I like the blade design and the Bahama feel.  If they had an indoor version, I’d consider adding it to a room for a tropical vibe. Come February, I’m usually dying for anything that reminds me of summer, my favorite season. It makes me want to pour a nice tall glass of something and stick a paper umbrella in my drink.



I begrudgingly admit that ceiling fan with light designs have thankfully come a long way from the traditional white 1976 style fan with lights that was in my last apartment. If you notice, most of the lights I like either fan is subtle or the light is subtle because that is probably what I would go with if I bought a fan with a light for my own home

What do you think? Are you a ceiling fan person? Do you give ceiling fan with lights the thumbs up or the thumbs down?

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Disclaimer: I was not paid to mention any of these fan in this post and opinions are my own. I thought you should know that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do You Over Pillow?

Pillows are an excellent way to tie in or add color to a room. Nevertheless, the question for the ages is how many pillows - if any - should you use?


Most men accuse women of over pillowing.

Maybe they have something. Take a look at this pillowing advice from Better Homes and Gardens:
"Pile On the Pillows

Problem: The room doesn't feel inviting

Solution: Nothing is cozier than a pile of pillows. Gather pillows from around the room or house and arrange them on one sofa to add comfort and color. Choose pillows that have different patterns in complementary colors for a perfectly mismatched look.”
Photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Where, exactly, are you supposed to sit on this pillowerific sofa?

My all time favorite commentary on pillowing phenomenon when has to be Steve’s comical rant about sofa pillows on Coupling



What do you think? Pillows. Love em or hate ‘em? How many are too many or just right?

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Painted My Kitchen with No VOC Paint

For 6 years, Husband and I have been going around and around about what color to paint the kitchen. Since he is the Head Cook he wanted a say in how I decorated “His Domain.” I guess I can give him that. I’m also fine with him calling the kitchen His Domain. Heck, he can call it Shirley for all I care as long as he cooks my dinner!

Being a green blogger, I’m supposed to automatically choose a low or no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint to improve the indoor air quality for the health of my family. However, I had a lot of questions and concerns if a low or no VOC paint job would last. Turns out, my concerns were not such a big deal. I found out that we painted our bedroom six years ago with a paint that qualifies as a low VOC paint, even thought the company doesn’t advertise it that way. The bedroom paint job has held up over time but as for a low VOC paint, it SMELLED just as much as the mistint of conventional paint I bought from the Habitat Restore to paint the laundry room.


Since that stinky low VOC paint job held up over time, I was ready to take a chance on a no VOC paint. Hopefully, with less stink.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mineral Crystal Deodorant: It’s Green, and it Works!

I’ve had weird problems with most deodorants. There’s only three brands that keep me from stinking, one is marked clinical strength, the third was discontinued. I tried a natural commercial deodorant but it gave me a rash under my arms. As part of my New Year’s resolution to green my health and beauty aids, I tried using baking soda as deodorant. Big epic fail. I sadly went back to my stick deodorant full of aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium, two things I’d like to avoid if I can.

I’m giving it another whirl and trying a mineral crystal deodorant, Crystal Essence Body Deodorant Roll-On  This one is a little different from the Crystal rock I’ve seen in stores because it’s a liquid roll on deodorant. The mineral salts in the liquid create an invisible barrier that is supposed to make it impossible for odor causing bacteria to grow.

We’ll see about that one, won’t we?

I tried the Pomegranate Crystal Essence roll on. The ingredients are purified water, mineral salts (potassium alum), fragrance (made with pomegranate essential oils and extracts), and cellulose. I put the deodorant through its paces and wore it during several DIY jobs that worked up a sweat trying to see when it would fail. That sounds very pessimestic, but remember, I've been burned in one way or another by almost every deodorant I've tried.

Pros:

  • Crystal Essence Body Deodorant actually kept me from smelling by the end of the day. No lie! I’m shocked given my experience with deodorants, especially roll ons. Roll ons almost never keep me from sweating without fail, no matter what the ingredients.

  • I did not have to reapply the Crystal deodorant during the day to keep me from smelling (unlike my homemade deodorants.)

  • Crystal Essence Body Deodorant didn’t leave white marks on my clothes like my stick deodorant, which I never notice until after I leave the house. Halleluiah!

  • You don’t have to wet your underarms to use the roll on Crystal Essence Body Deodorant unlike the Crystal rock.

  • Crystal Essence Body Deodorant scored a 0 (Low Hazard) in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. You don’t even want to know what my solid stick deodorant scores, just saying.

Cons:

  • Crystal Essence Body Deodorant does not keep you from sweating. I’m fine with this, as long as it keeps me from smelling and it’s one of the few deodorants that do.

  • The Crystal Essence Body Deodorant roll on is supposed to last up to four months, where the Crystal rock is supposed to last up to a year.

  • For those of you who don’t like plastic, Crystal Essence Body Deodorant comes packaged in plastic. I’m OK with that because I drop off the cap for recycling at an Aveda store, and the container at an Origins make up counter.

The thing I like most about Crystal Essence Body Deodorant? That you can buy it at a regular drug store! Rite Aid and Walgreens have Crystal Deodorant on sale from 9/26 – 10/23/10.

They are giving you a $1 off the Crystal Body Deodorant Stick, $0.50 off the Crystal Body Deodorant Roll-On and Sprays.

After I finish my bottle of Crystal essence Roll-On Body Deodorant on I’m going to try the Crystal rock. The idea of buying one deodorant a year that works makes my frugal side giddy.

What about you? Have you tried a mineral based deodorant? How did it work for you?


I was given a free Crystal essence Roll-On Body Deodorant by the One 2 One Network to facilitate this review or I would not have tried it otherwise and I am glad I did. All opinions are 100% my own and honest.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Baking Soda Deodorant FAIL

Have you heard that some people use baking soda as deodorant? It’s a great way to avoid parabens and aluminum chlorohydrate if you’re concerned about that. Think of all the money you'd save too!


I was hesistant at first. The one time I tried an environmentally friendly stick deodorant it gave me a rash under my arms. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

I’ve always had a problem with finding a deodorant that works for me, most leave me wiffy at the end of the day, especially roll on deodorant. I have better luck with solid stick deodorant but even then only two brands work for me.

I found a roll on deodorant in the back of the linen closet during a clean out. I was out of my full of parben and aluminum chlorohydrate stick deodorant. Since I am trying to green my health and beauty aids, I figured I would use the roll on and a homemade version together (in the case of stinky failure) applied with a powder-puff. After I went through the roll on I would transition to just baking soda.

I tried three different baking soda and homemade deodorant combinations. I tried each experiment for a month. I didn’t do much in the way of heavy sweaty work or working out. It was spring so it was not hot outside either.
  • I applied the roll on and used that for a few days alone. By the end of the day, I detected a faint body odor at the end of the day. FAIL.
  • I mixed equal parts cornstarch and baking soda. I used it with and without the roll on. My pits felt gritty and detected a faint body odor at the end of the day. FAIL.
  • I tried using baking soda only. I used it with and without the roll on. I my pits were not gritty but I detected a faint body odor at the end of the day. FAIL.

Home made deodorant?

EPIC FAIL

I consulted my friends from the Green Moms Carnival. These women are brilliant. I figure someone in this group has either had an experience close to mine or found a way to make it work without the stink. From our unscientific and funny discussion, it seems that successfully using baking soda and various homemade deodorants  depends on the individual’s body chemistry.

My body chemistry said, "Stinky. Please pass the parbens" at the end of the day.

I’m back to the one parben laden, aluminum chlorohydrate filled stick deodorant that keeps me from stinking. I'm not very happy about that but I am happy that I'm not stinky at the end of the day. I think my family and friends prefer me that way too.

For a different take on baking soda as deodorant, check out Beth’s experience at Fake Plastic Fish.

Have you tried baking soda as deodorant? What was your experience?


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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Do You Read Real Books or Ebooks?

We love books. We buy books as vacation souvenirs. We buy books as gifts to each other. We buy books just because.

We have a lot of books.

To keep the book population under control, save money, and be a bit greener in my purchasing, I check the library first if I want to read a new book. If after I read it and think I’d like to have it then I’ll buy the book.

Husband does the exact opposite. It drives me a little crazy because we’re running out of room on our bookshelves – again.  Husband said he wanted a Kindle because the thing holds a bazillion books (including purchasing blog feeds like Condo Blues.)  He has no intention of stopping the book purchases any time soon so I bought him one. Happy Birthday Husband!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Coolest Castle Tree House from Repurposed Wood

Who says eco has to be ugly? Check out the three story tree house Kalleen from A Second Street’s Dad built her children. It’s the Coolest. Tree House. Ever!


A castle, with two slides, a sandbox, and a rock-climbing wall!
Photo courtesy of A Second Street.


Kalleen’s father spent all summer building this tree house for this grandchildren. Almost all of the materials are used. Reclaimed wood for the “sides”, he purchased 2 slides from the classifieds, and used an old satellite dish as the roof.

There’s sandbox on the bottom level and insulation in the walls to keep the building cool during the summer – smart move. He finished it out by reusing paneling for the interior walls.

Check out the detailing. The “masonry” is actually wood cut to simulate individual stone. Love!

I wonder if it’s big enough for grownups to play in it too?


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