Green Tips for Green Mamas... Cleaning Up Indoor Air Pollution

This is the beginning of our new Green Tips for Green Mamas blog posts. Every week we'll tackle the big problems with a simple solution. Could be one thing to do, one thing to toss, one thing to purchase. Never know. But one things for sure, it won't be a huge TO DO list. We mamas already have a full day planned, don't we?!

So, here we go...

Everyday presents us green mamas with a new opportunity to do something...green. And there is so much to be done, isn't there? This week we'll take a look at what we can do about our living space...indoor air pollution.

House plants are our best defense against indoor house pollution (which, in most cases, is much worse than the outdoor air pollution!)

So.....What's a green mama to do???

One big problem...One easy answer...Get an Areca Palm house plant!

According to Justin at www.metaefficient.com, using Areca Palms is "[a]n easier way to add humidity to a room... These palms release copious amounts of water into the air, and remove chemical toxins too. They are consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor toxins tested. "

Ok, so this week, find yourself an Areca Palm (I put a pic up top in case you want to print it to bring with you to the nursery). Put one in each bedroom to help decrease toxins and increase humidity. They are non-toxic, so don't worry about the kids chewing on the leaves. Hopefully your little greenies won't though ;)

So there you have it, women. Being green isn't a huge TO DO list. One simple change a week.

Send in pics of your new house plants on facebook, and let us know if you notice any difference ;)

Earth Hour... Turn Off Your Lights Tonight!

re-posted for Earth Day Network

Earth Day is a month away, but another opportunity to join the fight climate change is just around the corner.

On Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 PM, millions of people across the globe will take a stand against climate change by turning off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour.

Earth hour is a chance to drive the environmental movement forward with one simple action. More than that, your participation will have impact outside of the usual suspects - you will raise climate awareness amongst your friends, family, and neighbors.

Help build environmental awareness - take action this Saturday for Earth Hour.

Earth Day Network is proud to be an official supporter of Earth Hour. We know that when millions of dedicated people gather to demand change, it works. Be the difference between the status quo and the substantive change needed for a more sustainable future: join us by taking action during Earth Hour.

This Saturday, let's demonstrate our resolve and take Earth Hour to the next level. Visit MyEarthHour.org to find out how you can play your part.

We can't wait to see the difference you make!

Thank you for everything you do,

The Team,
Earth Day Network

P.S. Don't forget - Turn off your non-essential lights at 8:30 PM this Saturday for Earth Hour.

Are there any Green Pros to Homeschooling?

I plan on homeschooling my children next year - yeah! - and have been thinking about how this change is going to effect everything from daily routines to our lifestyle.

One change that came to mind this morning, as I drove my kindergartner to school, was how homeschooling is going to help us be even more green.

Transportation
I won't need to drive my kids to and from school five days a week, 9 months a year. We might have field trips here and there, but for the most part we'll be at home and either bike or walk to our destinations, like the park. No brainer there that that will cut down on the amount of fuel we consume in a year, not to mention how much less pollution will be emitted by us.

School Gear & Supplies

New school clothes, new backpacks, new lunch boxes, new school supplies. At home, we don't really need a whole slew of new clothes to 'keep up' with the trends. My kids can keep on liking what they like, coming into less contact with peer pressure to switch from one popular thing to the next.

Curriculum
Besides being able to green the focus my curriculum, there are so many used books and online resources for homeschooling that I won't need to purchase anything brand new unless I want to. Most homeschooling parents I know share and reuse materials from year to year, and that advantage will help not only with costs on my end, but also cut down on the amount of new material needed to produce such books and items.

Food
What better way to teach children how to eat healthier than to involve them in the process, from garden to table. Each of my children have their own 'plots' to grow whatever they choose in the garden. I've always sent my children to school with a packed lunch, and tell them to bring home their recycling. But next year will be different as we'll all be together for lunch! My mother used meals as a way to teach us about many different subjects - math, reading, cultures. She didn't know it, but when we weren't at school, she was always homeschooling us, and it was always fun.

Do you know of any other green pros to homeschooling?

How have you incorporated green teachings into your schooling?

I've managed to make my children's school year this year as green as I could, and I was happy to find that the school recycles paper and school lunch trays, which are made of Styrofoam. It's a start with a lot of room to grow. Wanting to insure my children live green is not my reasoning behind my choice to homeschool. Except switching to homeschooling is wonderful since, by doing so, we will be able to be more green!.

And isn't that always one of our most important goals as a family?

Love each other...Love our Earth...

:)



Garden Porn! Getting in the Mood to Garden...

Yes, mamas look at porn too...garden porn that is ;)

It's one of the sure fire ways to get people in the mood to plant and grow their own garden, teasing them with a bit of what's to come...

You've seen it. Tantalizing displays of plump, ripe tomatoes strewn about on a bed of luscious green romaine. Rosy beets peeking out between long, lanky bright multi-colored carrots and turnips.

Heirloom...Organic...Local...

Gotta have it!!

My first of many garden porn magazines - aka: seed catalogs - came in just a few weeks ago, when there was still feet upon feet of snow freezing the ground outside. So I've had time to ingest and absorb the wonderfully vibrant photos of yummy veggies, fruits, and herbs. I can't wait start planning and plant my garden, now that the snow has melted and the sun it amping up it's warmth.

Some of my favorite seed catalogs that I've been pouring over are:

Seed Savers
Seeds of Change

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
- talk about drop dead photos! Who knew food could get you so in the mood!!! ;)
Amish Land Seeds

Whatever garden porn seed catalog you go with, just make sure that the selection is Mansanto free, organic, and full of variety and heirloom seeds. And when you're done with them, keep the catalogs around for craft activities with the kids. Also, don't keep the pics to yourself. Invite your kids to dream and design their very own gardens!

Don't forget about heirlooms...Heirlooms rook! For the past three years that I've been gardening with a vengeance, I've found that whatever I plant, so long as it's heirloom, not only does it thrive, but it's easier to keep alive (I don't have a bright green thumb yet, I tend to kill things), and the fruit tastes so much better. Maybe because it's closer to the original. Maybe because it's new to my tongue. Whatever reason, don't be afraid to plant purple tomatoes and striped beets. You'll be happily surprised.

If the ground in your area isn't ready for tilling and moving around, this is the perfect time to start planning your garden. With your seed catalogs in hand, makes lists of what you want to grow and where. Read up on companion gardening - growing plants together that help each other out (like tomatoes and basil together; corn, squash, and beans together).

After you have your list, decide where you're going to plant your garden in your yard (note where there is usually shade and DO NOT plant there...speaking from experience here...). Draw up a diagram of how your rows or beds will lay, what you'll plant where, and make sure to add room for paths to walk on and a spot for your compost pile. Container gardening? Start collecting containers on Craigslist and Freecycle now and start prepping your site.

However your garden grows...here's to the grown thawing out, great garden plans, and seed catalogs that get us excited to garden!

:)


Spring Cleaning is Cleaning Green!

The snow is melting, the weather is warming...and we green mamas know what that means. It's that time of year again. Spring cleaning time!

No, no. Don't dread. I actually love this time of the year. After being closed in all winter - kids (and husbands) dragging in dirt and whatnot on snow boots, wood bits and ash from the fireplace, the house closed up tight to keep in the warmth - I can't wait to open all the windows, let the house air out, and clean it like Martha Stewart is coming to town!

I know she's not stopping by, but you never know...

So, that brings us to cleaning, which really isn't all that fun, but necessary to create and maintain a healthy home environment for our families. Plus, if you have a husband like mine, you have to keep the house in tip top shape in the event that he brings home guests, unannounced! I can't even count how many times he just happens to bring hoards of people over, without more than a 5 minute warning (sometimes none!!!). This is why I always keep my house walk in ready.

Husbands...gotta love them ;)

Keeping a house walk-in ready helps keep your house in order so that weekly cleaning isn't a huge undertaking, just as weekly cleaning helps keep your house clean enough so that spring cleaning isn't a month long process! And don't we all just love spring cleaning, as it gives us a chance to dedicate time towards all those things that we 'miss' or 'ignore' the rest of the year.

"Oh, I didn't even notice that closet was stuffed full of crap...now how did that get past me..." Hmmm...

So, what are these things we ignore? Well, that depends on who you are. Me? I ignore the stove and windows. My niece and nephew, when they were young, LOVED to clean windows. Don't ask me why, but whenever they came over to visit Aunt Lia's house, that's what they wanted to do...who was I to deny them?! But they've grown up and, well, I think they're onto me ;)

I'm not a big fan of a huge spring cleaning, so that is why I do a little bit here, a little bit there, year round. The closets I reorganize and rearrange on an almost monthly basis. I think I might have an illness, because I enjoy it...a lot. But it helps keep the overflow of stuff to a minimum since I'm constantly weeding out and donating items that my family no longer uses or needs.

Come March, when the sun shine gets stronger, illuminating the dust and dirt in the house that well, I just didn't notice in the dim winter sun light, I start cleaning walls, ceiling fans, and whatnot as I notice them. And when it comes to cleaning, I use two main ingredients: vinegar and baking soda. That basically takes care of every cleaning need I have. To mask the smell of vinegar, use a few drops of your favorite EO (essential oil). I usually use lavender or lemon. That, dripped into a spray bottle with 1:1 water and vinegar, will clean just about anything, and leave it smelling great too.

Vinegar is great for cleaning everything. Windows, counter tops, bathrooms, carpet stains, all purpose cleaner...and that's just a few things. It's non-toxic, the kids can help you clean, works great in the laundry, and you can cook with it too!

Rub some baking soda mixed with water inside the stove, let it dry, and then wipe it off. It's abrasive, non-toxic, can be used in the laundry, and you can cook with it too!

Great things are worth repeating ;)

For "spring cleaning", I go through the house, room by room, and make a master list of all the things I need to do. If you want to do it all in one shot, select a weekend, a week, or a whole month that you are going to dedicate to getting this list taken care of and stick to it. I post my list by my calendar so I can jump for joy as items get crossed out when they get done.

Here's my list...

Whole house
- windows
- ceiling fans
- wipe down walls (walls get dusty too!)

Kids Rooms
- rearrange room (this freshens up the space, makes it new, and I can clean under furniture)
- consign clothes (out with the old, room for the new)

Living Room/Dining Room
- wash curtains
- rearrange room
- hang pictures (maybe this year I'll actually get to it!)

Kitchen
- clean fridge/freezer
- stove (oh, woe is me...)
- paint yellow (can't wait!)

Outside (don't neglect the great outdoors!)
- clean up after snow plows (I can't believe how much trash they picked up and left!...)
- paint outdoor furniture
- straighten up, get ready to garden!!! :)

So far I've done the fridge and consigned a great deal of kids clothes they grew out of. I think I'll take a day here, a day there during March to finish everything off on the list. That way I'll have all of April to dedicate to getting my garden ready for May planting!!! Now THAT is my most favorite time of the year!

Bring on the sunshine...I'm ready!

;)


Making your home "Walk In Ready"

by Green Mama Lia

Being a stay-at-home mom of a 2 and 5 year old, my home never stays orderly and clean. At first I tried to maintain perfect order and cleanliness and just about drove myself insane! Then I decided to let it all go. I mean, honestly, why bother picking up the same pillows, blankets, toys, and dishes, just to have to pick them up 20, 30, 40 more times in the same day, only to go to bed with the house re-destroyed?

If you just let your house go, it's a hell of a job to get it into OK order if someone is coming over that you know about.

However! If your family and friends are like mine and most of your visitors are totally unannounced, aka: you haven't any idea that someone is coming, let alone have time to clean, until they are on your door step?!?! You need a plan...

Besides reciting your mantra to calm down and refocus, I've come up with a sure-fire way to have my house look better than it is at first sight.

I call it my Walk In Ready method.
  1. First, you have to get the chaos in order. This method calls for a walkable floor area, at least to some sort of seating.

  2. Once you have that done, it won't matter if all the toys and books in the house come crashing down while you have a visitor: All the adult areas are taken care of. The idea behind this: Toys are just toys and they don't lend themselves to an idea that the house is dirty. There is no helping it. The kids will be kids and their toys are their toys.

  3. Ok, so next, stand at your front door and look in, as though you were an outsider walking in. What's the first thing you see? For me, it's the family room (oh, crap...) So my task was to find some way to hide the chaos and instill a sense of cleanliness and order for my guests. I make sure that the blanket and pillows on the couch that you see when you first walk in are in order (this requires me to straighten them numerous times a day, but I like at least something to look nice!) I also have a coffee table that has nice orderly looking bins placed in a line underneath. Who cares that they are filled with junk, toys, and whatnot. They, at first glance, look nice. This is key: the illusion of order ;)

  4. Next, is the beds. Yes, I know, I know. I hate making beds too. Just make them: It doesn't have to be perfect, it just have to be done (that is another one of my mantras.) A messy room doesn't look 1/100th as messy as it really is if the bed is made. Go, try it yourself. Your room, your child's room..it's a mess, right? Well, make the bed and then look at it again. Now it looks like it was fixed up but, with during the day of play, it's gotten some toys on the floor. But it still looks nice. Thus, the illusion continues!

  5. Ok, finally, and this might be a hard one, is the kitchen sink. It doesn't even have to be spotless, just not filled to the rim with a week's worth of food encrusted nasty dishes. Ewe, gross! Your kitchen counters can be unorganized, the tables still with breakfast plates, but if your sink is empty or almost empty, it gives the illusion that it's all a work in progress.
It's pretty simple. At no given time is my house perfect, if there were such a thing as perfect. I've got laundry in progress, dishes cleaning and getting dirty constantly, the floors need to be done, and I don't recall the last time I dusted...However, at first glance, it's all good. It's totally Walk in Ready right now, even though my foyer has toys in it, there are a pair of socks on the front lawn, and the kids have orange peels all over the kitchen table.

It still looks OK because the beds are made (not perfect, just done), the dishwasher is running (a sign of progress), and the pillows on the couch are just that...STILL on the couch, not on the floor.

I like using this method to help keep my home in order in the event that I have unannounced guests (this happens only once a day!). Of course, this doesn't mean that I never clean clean the house. Ha! Wouldn't that be nice ;)

And when they do pop in, I have a pretty good idea that, if given the chance to SIT DOWN and TALK to this person, my home's order will suffer. But not for long. Another one of my mantras will go into action: if you make the mess, you clean it up.

That's another post for another day...how to get kids to pick up after themselves...oh, boy...

;)