Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just a Quick Flyby to Share the Ten Dollar Dress

Good morning faithful GLR readers! This morning I have taken myself down the street to use the available wireless connection so I can bring you a little something fun.

But first a quick update on your fearless writer here…

Our move went fantastic and we were extremely methodical to ensure as few trips as possible between the two places. With the help of some amazing friends and family we were able to pack, move, and already have almost the entire house set up on this end. I can not begin to express my gratitude for all of your help, thanks SO MUCH!

Some of our favorite humorous stitchers, Threadbanger, are back with great videos. This one simply blew me away -- a $10 wedding dress!

The beautiful thing about this dress (from the perspective of a sewing maniac like myself) is that it could not be more adaptable!

Rather than a plain white tee, how about going for red, green, black, or any other color that men’s shirts are sold in? The top section panels are such a cool idea and could be done in a contrasting color as a fashion statement.

Instead of a vintage brooch why not make your own out of the scraps of that contrasting color? Choose an interesting shape and stack a whole bunch of them on top of each other, then stitch a pin to the back and a button to the front.

Shorten the item, add a halter strap (if you are a bit more experienced sewer) -- the opportunities for modification of this awesome concept are endless!

Over here at Green Leaf Reviewer, as well as Threadbanger, we love to get emails and videos of viewers/readers creating funky and functional eco-friendly fashion pieces. If you modify this or make it as it is let us both know, I would love to check it out and maybe even feature your creation for Eco-fashion Friday!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moving Day Has Arrived

Good morning trusty Green Leaf readers!

Today is an exciting day over here at the GLR HQ, it is moving day. Hooray!

When I get back it will be from the sunny new apartment where all the magic will happen.

We do not yet have a date as to when the internet access will be set up so please bear with the absence. I tested the schedule blog feature for the past three days but sadly it was not operating correctly so I can not make use of that to post while I'm moving and shaking.

There are a couple others who sometimes post to this blog and if you had anything brewing, now would be a great time to get it out (hint, hint Melissa & Judi!).

Otherwise everyone please have a healthy and safe transition into July. I will certainly be back before the 4th of July even if I have to connect at Panera to do it!

See you all soon!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Friendly Musical Accessories

In the continuing series on all things music it seems like the right time to feature some way cool accessories for this week’s Eco Fashion Friday! Musicians pay attention, you will be the talk of the stage and studio sporting these babies!

A common item, and one which must operate properly, is the guitar strap. It should be comfortable, adjustable and secure so the guitar player is all those things as well!

Recycled bicycle inner tubes become a funky 2” wide Splaff Flopps Strap.

Cool Straps offers many, well, cool straps, but this burlap option is a fine natural approach with hand stitched details.

Guitar picks are used by many players and in true rock star fashion they are frequently tossed into the crowd at the end of the show. I wondered where all those picks ended up but I think I found them now.

Total awesomeness from Inspired Artwear!

And this necklace from Musical Kitten makes a fine set.

Graphic Tees are really hot items right now and to have funky music themes gives them that extra fun edge.

The handmade Mix Tape tee by Moxie Madness is a unisex option that brings it back old skool.

Plastic bottles blend with organic cotton to form yarn which becomes these cool tees from Revenge Is. Seriously, plastic bottle yarn! (I will be featuring this company next week, come on back for info next Eco Fashion Friday).

Be a cool musician, musical supporter or eco-activist (or all three!) and check out some of these fine environmentally conscious fashion selections! ♥love♥

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eco Friendly Musical Instruments Green Drums

For many thousands of years, percussion instruments, known as drums, have been used for various forms of communication, ritual and music and are a prominent piece to the rhythm of many songs. Modern, standard drum kits generally include approximately seven pieces including drums and cymbals of various names. In thousands of colors with varied accessories from many manufacturers, this instrument can be personalized into just about anything a drummer desires.

Most drums on the market today that are sold in kits containing snare, tom-tom (2 pieces), floor tom and a bass drum but additional accessories (ie. sticks, cowbell, cymbal, pedal, high-hat, etc.) are also sold to compliment the sound that the drum produces. Since sound is the number one most important factor in any instrument, a drum is no different and because this instrument makes up a good portion of the rhythm / beat of a song, it is imperative the quality of that sound is in line with the style of music. The shell holds everything together; the most crucial aspect is that at the point where the shell meets the head forms a perfect circle.

Although many kits are created from formed metal or plastics, a large percentage of shells are beautifully crafted wood. Just like the guitar, the most popular woods are standard tonewoods such as maple, birch or mahogany. But there are growing concerns regarding the availability of wood species and one of the top manufacturers of drums, DW Drums, has begun an innovative journey into the sustainable market by utilizing a hybrid of bamboo and birch for their shells.

They are called the ECO-X series for the company’s use of cross lamination with their hybrid material. They are further environmentally friendly because of the water based top coat used on the shells, soy based inks on the hang tags and their donation made to American Forests Association to further sustain our wood resources. There are two options of color, one is shown in the photo above.

In the market to pick up some drums and want to give the planet a break while pounding away? Amazon carries this kit from DW Drums but be warned, unlike a guitar which is less expensive when created from bamboo, creating these shells is a lengthier process and cost can be upwards of three times that of a similar sized kit created from a different wood source (such as birch & basswood) from a different manufacturer such as Pearl.

Do you know of other drum manufacturers who are Earth friendly and proving it through their use of materials? Let us know!

Up next -- Eco-Fashion Friday features awesome accessories for musicians or music lovers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eco Friendly Musical Instruments Green Guitars

No matter what you call it -- axe, six string or Lucille -- the guitar is one of the most widely recognized and oldest instruments still played today. With a history of over 4000 years to back it up, this instrument certainly has gone through many incarnations over the centuries to become the modern purveyor of musical melody. But in today’s world with its growing concerns of deforestation, what is the future of such an instrument whose primary construction material is wood; often times exotic woods nearing extinction.

Let’s explore a little history of how wood relates to a guitar.

The main concern for any acoustic guitar player will always be the sound the instrument makes. Different models, manufacturers, woods, etc all resonate with a slightly different tone and musicians become loyal to brands due primarily for their own love of the sound quality. The woods used in the construction of a guitar’s soundboard (the top piece where strings generally stretch over the sound hole) Some of the most popular woods used in acoustic guitar manufacture are spruce, red cedar, Brazilian rosewood, mahogany and Indian rosewood while maple, ash and poplar are some of the more common woods used in construction of electric guitar bodies.

So what would need to occur for a musician to change their figurative tune on the materials used in the manufacture of their favorite instrument? The literal tune would need to be one they can get behind.

Many new materials have flooded the instrument world of late from recycled plastics and hemp, to SmartWood, Flaxwood and bamboo and all of them have a little something different to offer in terms of their impact on the planet.

Recycled plastic can be used to create some seriously flashy products due to the array of color pallets that exist in the plastics industry. Simon Lee offers six different guitar finishes in their funky recycled plastic line. Hemp cellulose has been transformed into the slickest looking material for the Mada guitar line (electric). SmartWood is a label attached to woods deemed as sustainable and socially responsible by the Rainforest Alliance. Flaxwood is not only a new type of wood based product but also a brand; the guitars are created from taking wood grains, breaking them down and then using injection molding to bond them to a binding agent which is friendly to tone. All of these new innovations are just that, innovative but none are as similar to the unique properties of wood as bamboo.

Bamboo is a hearty grass and has taken a major leap forward in areas like the building trades due to its resilience and rapidly renewing properties. This material was given special attention by the music industry back in 2000 when Yamaha introduced an acoustic guitar constructed almost fully out of bamboo (Resource Harmony Central®). Since that date, bamboo has begun to make a name for itself in manufacture of guitars due to the fact that it is sturdy, there is almost no potential for warping and it is less expensive than more limited ‘wood resource’ counterparts.

The picture at the top of this article is of Yamaha’s FGXB1 model which sadly was discontinued for production in the United States but the customer reviews I read about this instrument made me want to play! The material was well received. Following in these footsteps is the company First Act who created the Bambusa electric guitar. It is created from bamboo and even has a water based topcoat.

It is nice to see that there are companies attempting innovation in the realm of sustainably resourced musical instruments.

Because I have discovered a world of information regarding many of the popular instruments on the market I will be running a series on music, instruments and their accessories (for Eco-Fashion Friday).

Tomorrow -- Eco Drums!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recharge a Cell Phone, With No Cords!

The cutting edge of technology these days is always the latest wireless offering such as laptops, gaming system components or even a traditional cell phone. But once the batteries run down or run out completely we are forced to grab the cord and plug into an outlet. Not only does this limit mobility with the device, but it draws on energy that is new to re-power it. Well Nokia is attempting to figure out a way to take the unused energy floating around everywhere to act as a recharging system for a new cell phone they are developing and hope to have operational within the next three to five years.

The phone would very slowly recharge on electromagnetic waves emitted into the air, something Nikola Tesla was attempting to deem possible in the late nineteenth century. I have always been fascinated with Tesla (inventor of the ‘Tesla’ coil, for more information on this breakthrough in electricity please check out this website). This man was a pioneer in adopting radio frequency, electromagnetism and a host of other seemingly impossible ways to manipulate waves that today are proving possible.

Here is an excerpt from the article on Nokia’s technological advance:

“Nokia picks up all the bits and pieces of these waves and uses the collected electromagnetic energy to create electrical current, then uses that to recharge the phone's battery. A huge range of frequencies can be utilized by the system (there's no other way, really, as the energy in any given wave is infinitesimal). It's the same idea that Tesla was exploring 100 years ago, just on a tiny scale.”

Please find the rest of the article here.

Recycling energy at its finest!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father’s Day

It feels appropriate to wish a very happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there in this great big world. Being a dad is a great thing, to enjoy time with your kids and share the everyday joy and beauty of their growth is something very special. Taking time to appreciate all the little things they do and recognizing that they are an awesome part of this big world will cause them to grow into wonderful people!

Take time to give your favorite dads a big hug and kiss today and thank them for all they do for you and others!

This is my dad…

This Polaroid was taken on Christmas about twenty three years ago. The bench, or stepstool, is what I gave my dad as his gift that year. I had made it in wood shop at school and from the moment I started it I knew it was going to be for him. My dad has been a carpenter / craftsman / contractor just about my entire life and I was very nervous that he would appreciate this gift. He loved it and could not stop hugging me for it.

I will be hugging you back a little later today dad. I know you don’t read this but it still seemed like the right thing to do to say happy Father’s Day and I love you.

Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there, you know who you are!

(I am double dipping today. I have posted this same post over on my personal blog so if any of you read both thanks for understanding. It is such a special day so I want to really get the message out there!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Feature This One Is For the Dudes!

There have already been ten featured artists in our continuing Eco-Fashion Friday series but only a couple of those designers were guy approved and some of my male readers may have begun to wonder if good planetary fashion sense was relegated solely to the ladies. Not at all! So in an effort to share some of the funky and cool designers I have discovered for the Earth conscious boys out there, I am going to pull an entire outfit together, literally from head to toe, and you can let me know what you think. My Leaf Rating at the end is going to be my own interpretation of the collective awesomeness of this outfit and I am also assigning a 'brief review' Leaf Rating to each piece and the designer who constructed it. OK let’s get our guy style on!

Of course the first thing every hip dude needs is a really great hat for those days where he wants to be noticed. This one by U.S. based company Miller Hats, in a classic black and white houndstooth pattern, can easily dress up or down. Since it is made from 100% wool it is good for the planet as well. An easy Three and a Half Leaf rating!

Heading out does not always mean a T-shirt, this button up hemp and cotton blend long sleeve shirt from Emmett Brown is a clear Four Leaf effort from brand Planet Earth! They focus on outerwear and accessories, not to mention the planet.

Off to a meeting and need to spiff up? How about wearing this Three Leaf rated necktie from Me and Matilda? It is cotton and washable and they ship everywhere! Don’t like the pattern? They have eight pages of awesomeness in their shop, sure to please everyone; even bowties!

(Don’t forget after the meeting is over to strip the tie and unbutton the shirt to reveal your killer Blend Apparel graphic Tee!)

No guy’s outfit would be complete without a nice pair of sturdy pants. How about a twist on the standard blue jean and go with these Duck Pants from Patagonia. Made from organic cotton by a company who states “we seek to build the best product and cause no unnecessary harm” I’d say these are worth at least a Three and a Half Leaf rating!

Um, can someone say Five Leaf Rating? Hemp and organic cotton upper, recycled tires for the sole, recycled plastic laces, certified Vegan, post consumer recycled paper forms, water based glue, even the box is made from post consumer recycled content and soy based inks. Oh and they are cheaper than that brand they will remind you of. And of course they’re hot. Visit Simple to check out all their shoes (women’s too!).

Though flip flops or sandals are comfortable those shoes need a nice comfy pair of socks. How about this offering from HT Naturals in 100% bamboo fiber? They come in natural (shown) or black. This company is killer in their eco-mission and even aiming for carbon neutrality on shipping. A Four and a Half Leaf Rating is in order!

While perusing the sock collection from HT Naturals why not check out some boxers made partially from soy and organic cotton?

Does it get cooler than recycled inner tubes? Only when it is turned into a funky belt and this belt is a fun addition to the already hip outfit above.

Want to see how it looks all together (minus the accessories)? Yes I had a little time on my hands so I compiled this in Photoshop. Not too bad huh?

Overall the average Leaf Rating on this outfit is hovering somewhere around a Four Leaf Rating with some higher and some lower of course but all of these companies are striving to make a difference in the world of men’s fashion by their materials, shipping methods, price, environmental practices, fabric selections and a whole slew of additional ways.

Now admit it ladies, wouldn’t you notice this guy walking down the street? And once you found out he was sporting such planet friendly gear wouldn’t you find him that much more awesome? Get Green guys! ♥love♥

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Little Moments of Inspiration

Whether it is a wonderful quote, a photo or a short movie I am inspired daily by the little things that people put out on our great web of internetworking. Here are a few of those very things for everyone to relish and enjoy. I hope your day is sunshiny even if it is raining outside your door!

This soft and delicate rhododendron was photographed beautifully by my favorite photographer Judi FitzPatrick as is called, appropriately, Rhodi. No I am not at all biased just because she is my Mom, she is a kickin’ artist! It can be purchased in her online shop and gazed upon with a smile forever as it hangs gracefully on your wall.

One of my favorite styles of poetry is the limerick. There is an interesting structure to a limerick and the rhyming is in the 1, 2, 5 / 3, 4 (a-a-b-b-a). The syllables dictate the timing, or beat, of the poem and there is always a set rhythm to each. It is a style I have never been able to master, as five lines is far too short for me to tell a story that includes a punch line, but they are so much fun to read because they are almost always humorous. Well at the least a little tongue in cheek. Here is an anonymous limerick to give you a chuckle!

There once was a fly on the wall
I wonder why didn't it fall
Because its feet stuck
Or was it just luck
Or does gravity miss things so small?

It is no secret I am a fan of Jason Mraz. Many know of his music but not as many read his blog. He is an inspiring writer and I greatly look forward to diving right in when I see a new post pop up over at the Freshness Factor Five Thousand space. Lately he has been on a super kick for happiness and gratitude, practicing it and preaching it alike. Here is a wonderful quote from a recent post:

If everybody’s mama hugged him or her when they were young, this world might be a big musical breaking out in song more often. But that ain’t always the case. So let’s start hugging some folks and give love and hope to those that need it.

Disco Jakes video will blow you away with his astounding ukulele skills. I was mesmerized the entire five and a half minutes; I have never seen someone’s hand move quite that fast across strings.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Greening Up a Summer Camping Trip Part II

When I first posted all of those awesome Green goodies for camping I had promised to also give some information on the other necessities for a successful camping experience such as tents, sleeping bags and convenience accessories. Surprisingly, the toughest item to find was the one I had thought would be easiest -- the tent -- but there is a world of amazing gear out there for the eco conscious camper, it is all a matter of tracking it down!

I found this super cool tent from Green Outdoor made from a double layer of protective canvas. The outside is made from a blend of hemp and cotton and they have made it waterproof so no additional treatment is required to protect the inhabitants from the elements. The company has taken advantage of recycled guy lines, buckles and webbing as well as use bamboo for their pegs and lightweight aluminum for the poles. The inner liner is also cotton and has a sturdy ground sheet to ensure a comfy experience. The tent is an Earth friendly tan color and is in a popular pyramid style.

When laying under the stars it is nice to feel the comforts of home, well at least I think so! In order to do that a sturdy, warm and comfortable sleeping bag is the first order of business. For me, warmth is also key so when I came across the Battle Mountain bag by Big Agnes rated for temperatures as low as -15 degrees I was in love! With some bamboo fiber fill created from synthesized bamboo charcoal and the remaining fill from goose down this bag was rated as Green Gear of the year in 2007.

If you are like me and truly desire additional comfort while sleeping on the ground then the Eco Thermo 6 Sleeping Pad is just the thing to provide sweet carbon neutral dreams. Yes that’s right, I said carbon neutral. Making use of bamboo fiber, bamboo charcoal insulation and recycled aluminum was not enough for this company. They also went out and started buying up a whole bunch of carbon offset credits to neutralize the CO2 used in manufacturing and shipping the product. Cool!

Making use of these items is a great way to go green but for the casual camper why not consider either renting already existing gear or borrowing from someone else. Forgo the “buy it to use it once” syndrome and check around town. I can not say enough about REI as they will even rent a camping stove and this service is available in 28 states. Availability is definitely limited on this though so be sure to book it well in advance.

Then come on over to our campsite and share a beer and a ‘smore.

See you on the trail!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boston Water to Receive a Green Upgrade

According to boston.com, water and sewer pipes in our New England state are about to get a big boost. Turns out, Massachusetts is slated to become the proud recipient of $185 million dollars in federal stimulus money and they are planning to use it to update and upgrade long suffering water and sewer infrastructures throughout the state. These are projects that are ready to go right now (about 127 of them in fact) and the designation of funds is going to help create jobs not only in the standard sense but also there is stipulation that 20% of the funds must go toward Green infrastructure projects!

For the complete article please check out Monday’s The Green Blog on boston.com.

Photo taken by Jenn Shon September 2007

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Appliance Series Maintenance of the Oven

One of the more heavily used appliances in the home the oven (stove) is far more likely to need cleaning, repair and maintenance. It is not difficult to keep the oven in solid working order when just a few simple steps are taken to ensure it lives a long and functional life.

☼ I know I will sound like a broken record here but cleaning the oven is the best way to keep it in top shape! The outside and door seal can be wiped down with warm soapy water to remove grime. For those who have a window in the door and want a streak free view in, use white vinegar and wipe it down with newspaper. Yes seriously, it will be streak free and sparkling! This can be done on all glass -- mirrors, windows, car windows, etc.

☼ Try to clean up spills right away to avoid baking on.

☼ Some models have a self cleaning feature which basically incinerates anything spilled in the oven and it allows the residue to be wiped out with a damp sponge. It will utilize energy but no harmful chemicals are sprayed into the air or the cavity in which we all prepare our foods so this would be a serious trade off decision.

☼ For those who do not have this feature however (like me) I found a better solution than spray on foams which contain propellant and other chemicals. Mix up 4-5 tablespoons of baking soda, a few drops of dish soap and 3-4 tablespoons of white vinegar. Make a paste, spread all over the inside and let sit for fifteen to thirty minutes. Wipe down using plenty of warm water and use a green scrub sponge if necessary to remove more stubborn stains.

☼ If the oven is beyond what seems repairable mix equal parts salt, water and baking soda into a paste. Apply and heat the oven to approximately 500 degrees and cook the mixture on for about an hour. Once cool a damp sponge should take care of the incinerated cleaner. (I have not actually tried this one myself but may do so at my dad’s rental property, I’ll keep you informed how it goes!)

☼ Unless there are spills, it is only necessary to clean the inside of the oven a couple times a year. Always be sure to wipe the inside of the oven to dry after cleaning.

☼ Make sure the temperature you set is the one you get. Pick up an oven thermometer to ensure the oven’s thermostat is in solid working order. Center a rack and enter the thermometer on that rack then turn on the oven to the standard temperature you use to cook with for about fifteen minutes (about 350 is good). Some fluctuation is normal but for differences of fifteen to twenty five degrees either way the thermostat should be replaced.

☼ Be sure there are no electronic malfunctions as this could potentially lead to bigger problems. Call a qualified repairman to service the oven if anything malfunctions.

Please note that these tips do not include information for continuous cleaning ovens as I personally have had no experience with this style oven. While doing research however it appeared that 99% of the stuff that was safe for conventional and self cleaning models was not safe for a continuous clean oven. It is always best to check the owners manual or manufacturer website prior to doing any cleaning or maintenance on an appliance but with a little ingenuity we can keep our entire kitchen sparkling naturally!

Eco Fashion Friday Featured Designer Angela Pennock of Marang97

Based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico Marang97 is a unique shop indeed as Angela utilizes ambiguous material such as T-shirts and buttons and fashions them into some of the most adorable and feminine accessories I have seen in ages. Her fine art isn’t so bad either. I admit, I am hooked!

The first thing I noticed in Angela’s shop is that every section utilizes recycled materials be it shirts, yarn or paper, Angela is fully committed to finding a way to breathe new life into formerly loved pieces. There are many items to choose from in this shop (upwards of fifty) and they range from pins like the one above to rings as well as fine home art to market totes.

She ships internationally and as a member of Team EcoEtsy you can bet your item will likely arrive in some extremely creative recycled packaging. Perhaps one of her very own envelopes! Even better news, Angela ships internationally and her cost to ship is low. Speaking of low cost, the price for one of her adorable, standard size brooch pins is only $7.50. I would spend more than that for something half as cute and made from brand new materials at a department store!

The only tiny drawback I could see was she does not show photos of the back of the items and I like to get a sense for how it will attach to my clothing. Due to this I am granting the first ever Four and One Half Leaf Rating!

Keep up the amazing work Angela, thanks for helping to protect the planet through your art.

Appliance Series Small Appliance Maintenance

I was planning to do an entire post on just microwaves but as I dug around I began to discover that many of the cleaning products and maintenance tips I would be suggesting for it also worked with other small appliances in the home. When it comes to small appliances such as the microwave, coffee maker, toaster or other counter top units there is one universal theme for proper maintenance and increased life -- keep them clean!

The microwave is such a popular small appliance that it can quickly become grungy and grimy. Suggestions for cleaning this piece are:
► Unplug it.
► Remove the glass tray and ring and either hand wash with soapy water or put in the dishwasher when running the vinegar cycle.
► To remove hard to get splatters and eliminate odors, put two - four tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl full of water and run on high for 5 - 7 minutes. As the water boils the steam will help to loosen stuck on food and vapors from the lemon will mitigate yucky smells. Be sure to use a soft cloth that will not scratch the inside. Old torn up T-shirts made into rags are perfect for this!
► Just like all other appliances, using a warm, soapy water wash around the door seal will ensure a proper fit and eliminate gaps. That soapy water will make the outside sparkle as well. Be sure to thoroughly clean off any soap residue from the inside prior to cooking.
► The soft bristle toothbrush we used on other appliances is an excellent item for cleaning out air vents to ensure energy efficiency.
► Check interior light and replace the bulb when it burns out

Coffee Maker
I personally feel that coffee is one of the best inventions on the planet but even though the grounds and filter (if unbleached) may be good for a compost pile, the stains or clogs they can leave behind are not good for the machine that brews it. I suggest:
► Unplug it.
► Fill the 12 cup carafe to eleven cups water. Add one cup white vinegar. Run this through the machine twice then follow with a cycle of plain water.
► Sometimes the vinegar taste can linger past one clear water cycle so lemon juice is an alternative to vinegar (it will not be as effective at cutting stains)
► Run the carafe and coffee basket through the dishwasher when running the vinegar cycle for a good cleaning or soak in a mixture of a half carafe’s worth of water, ¼ cup lemon juice and 2 scoops of baking soda. Let it sit about a half hour (longer if heavily stained) scrub with a sponge and rinse clean. It is good to clean the machine and accessories about every two months (more for heavy coffee drinkers).

Toaster Oven
An awesome addition to any kitchen is the toaster oven. On a hot summer night when the oven is too much or simply to put a nice brown crust on a piece of bread, this compact little wonder will get the job done. But with all that bread comes crumbs and the high heat will cause baking on. For cleaning this machine:
► Unplug it.
► Pull out the crumb tray on the bottom and dump it then clean in warm, soapy water to remove any caked on food. If the model does not have a removable tray shake the crumbs out into the sink or trash can.
► Get the toothbrush back out and use it to gently remove any baked on food from the metal protection plate that sits over the bottom heater lamps as well as anywhere else inside the machine. It is also ideal for cleaning dust and grime from the air vents and scrubbing the glass window door.
► Vinegar will cut through stains on the glass like crazy!
► Be sure the machine is completely dry prior to plugging back in and using.
► Only plug in when in use to avoid drawing phantom power

Tune in Saturday for the final installment of the Appliance Maintenance Series -- The Stove / Oven.

But for now, take a break from cleaning tomorrow and prepare to enjoy Eco-Fashion Friday with featured designer Marang97 who uses upcycled T-shirts in very creative ways.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Appliance Series -- How to Care for and Maintain a Dishwasher

Most everyone has a dishwasher located right next to the sink and we love our little water pumping, sanitizing boxes! A dishwasher is one of the most effective appliances for ensuring health as it uses far hotter water than we would use hand washing to ensure removal of food and possible bacteria that can accumulate on our eating implements and storage containers. It is vital to keep this machine in good working order so it continues to provide these functions and there are super simple steps to take as it is one of the lesser maintenance appliances to care for.

☼ Make sure the gasket is not cracked or dried out. Rubberized pieces are some of the first to go as they wear quicker. A broken gasket will mean water on the floor or under the machine and this can cause mold if left over time. Each model is a bit different but all owner’s manuals will provide info for how to remove and replace (as well as clean) the gasket.

☼ Keep food from collecting in the holes. It might seem counterproductive to rinse dishes before putting in the machine (as well as a waste of water!) but all those particles have to go somewhere and most often they get trapped in the drain or filter at the bottom of the washer. Again the manual will guide through removal and cleaning of filters. This will ensure particles are kept away from the motor as well. In addition, a soft toothbrush is a fabulous tool for gently cleaning the holes in the spray arm.

☼ Give the dish racks a once over. When removing the racks to clean the interior, inspect them for cracks or rust spots. It is not healthy for the residue to remain on dishes and the chipped bits can also become lodged in drain holes. Appliance shops or the manufacturer can replace the rack for a nominal fee if any; if there was a warranty be sure to check it when replacing any of the parts.

☼ Clean the outside of the machine. Many of the newer models steam clean the dishes so to ensure the proper closure and avoid gaps that can release too much steam, potentially causing accidents, make sure to wipe any food or grime off the inside lip and outside of the door.

☼ Do not overload the machine. Pay special attention to the ability of the spray arm to spin and evenly distribute water so all dishes are cleaned and sanitized.

☼ Double the work is not necessary. To avoid film or residue be sure to read the manual and use a detergent type** that best suits the machine to avoid having to hand wash just cleaned dishes.
**As a side note, I was over at our fearless contributor Melissa’s house one afternoon and she was explaining the non-awesomeness of a couple eco friendly detergents she has tried of late. I have asked when she has some time to get us a full report but the short version is -- just because it is marked as environmentally friendly does not mean it is if the residue left behind either will not come off (causing a need to toss & repurchase perfectly good items) or must be hand washed to be removed (using extra water unnecessarily).

☼ Get the cleaner even cleaner! Toss about a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for a while (half hour to an hour) then run the machine through a cycle on the hottest temperature possible. In an effort to not waste the water, this is a perfect time to run through smaller items that are undesirable to be in with food containers such as small trash barrels, toothbrush holders, flower vases, ashtrays, mop buckets, etc. Doing this every 3-4 months is good on average, but for larger families, or those who run more than one load per day (restaurants), more often is recommended. If there are strong odors to eliminate from the drain, a few teaspoons of baking soda or lemon juice should do the trick.

Keeping up with the dishwasher will keep it in proper working order for years to come and will help everyone in the family stay healthy too.

Up next in the continuing appliance series -- Care and Maintenance of the Microwave

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Continuing on the Appliance Theme -- Washers and Dryers

After writing yesterday’s post about the importance of maintaining the refrigerator I began thinking there must be a way to do similar, easy maintenance to the other appliances in our homes. As I was waking up over my morning coffee and blog postings I read the most recent post from ecogeneration and was completely blown away. It was as if she reached right into my brain and wrote the very thing I was hoping to find information on. Nothing is cooler than when things like that happen.

The story regarded the issues she faced with a yucky washing machine situation and just what was required to fix it. Here is a small snippet of the post:

My clothes started to smell like mold and mildew. Towels and my husband’s favorite soft worn out t-shirts started to smell worse after I washed them. I thought it was due to my son’s athletic socks. My husband thought I didn’t use soap. He even brought home flowery smelling fabric softeners, thinking that was the problem – not using strong enough fragrant detergents and fabric softeners. I admit, I rarely used fabric softeners because I was so sensitive to strong odor and my kids had very sensitive skin but I didn’t think not using fabric softener was the cause for bad odor. I knew I did everything that the manual said - I used High Efficiency detergent and I didn’t overload the washing machine so I was perplexed as to why newly washed clothes smelled so bad.

It turns out, the problem wasn’t any of the things I did. It was what I didn’t do. I found out, through an exhaustive search on the internet - because the manufacturer or the place where we bought the machine were not helpful at all - that the machine that was cleaning my clothes also needed to be cleaned!! What? I need to “clean” the washing machine? I scoffed. But a further research revealed the following reasons why I needed to do that.

Awesome, no? She goes on to explain not only how to clean out the problem but exactly what eco cleaning product used to really get the job done with super powers. Not to mention there are before and after photos that will blow you away as well.

To continue reading this fantastic story and maintenance tutorial for laundry appliances (some dryer tips too!), please head over to ecogeneration’s post Laundry Maintenance.

Leave her a comment or two if you like what you read!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Extending the Life of Your Refrigerator

A fridge is one appliance just about everyone has, it works to keep our food from spoiling by keeping it cold and protected. It is often forgotten about but can be a huge energy sucker if not properly maintained as it has to work doubly hard in order to do its job. This risks early burn out or malfunctions. There are super simple steps we can all take to ensure these things do not happen!

☼ Clean inside -- No need to keep muck cold, make sure the shelves are free of old and expired foods. It is also good to clean up spills or leaks as they happen to avoid bacterial growth. Once the shelves and drawers are grime free make sure the temperature is set somewhere between 36 to 38 degrees (Fahrenheit).

☼ Keep it stocked -- To maintain the temperature and avoid overworking the motor keep the fridge full. A good trick I used to do is when I was running low on groceries, but also too lazy to go buy them, was to fill up a few pitchers or gallon jugs of water. Filtered tap water, ice cold, is also really yummy and better than buying lots of plastic bottles so it is a double benefit!

☼ Clean under and around -- Maintaining a functioning condenser coil is vital to the survival and smooth operation of a fridge. Unplug the fridge and pull it out. Dust and / or vacuum under and behind the machine to remove dust and particles. Every six months is a good schedule for this maintenance.

☼ Check the gasket -- That rubber piece attached to the door should be free of grime to ensure a proper seal and interior temperature. If it looks yucky grab a damp towel and wipe it down. Dish soap is mild enough to not wear the rubber and works great to degrease.

☼ Level the feet -- To make sure the fridge is operating properly and not throwing heat to strange areas make sure the unit is level with the floor. Most fridges have feet on the front that adjust by screwing up or down.

☼ Keep it cool -- by making less trips to open and close the door the fridge will not need to work as hard to maintain its coolness. When making dinner or otherwise grabbing items from the fridge try to gather as many as possible in one trip.

Making sure all of these steps are taken will keep energy costs down and extend the life of this snazzy, uber cool appliance for years to come!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Eco-Fashion Friday Featured Designer - Stephanie Teague of Pretty Birdie

When I came across Stephanie Teague’s shop Pretty Birdie on Etsy I was intrigued. Her photos were really well done and they drew me right into her shop. But after reading her policies and shop information I was even more eager to get back and write up her review!

Pretty Birdie is based out of Greensboro, North Carolina and has been open for five years. Stephanie is clearly committed to not only the planet but the satisfaction of her clients as she has a very reasonable policy on returns, even on custom orders. Although she may use the pattern of a piece again, each item is one of a kind as all her fabrics are 100% recycled, upcycled and reused. One might even say then that every piece is custom!

The primary item available in the shop is dresses. With a current stock of eleven to choose from she has something for just about everybody from sun dresses to more modern shapes. Many of the items utilize fabrics such as vintage draperies (like the photo above), flour sacks, quilts, leather and even upcycled cotton pillow covers!

On average the prices for couture, which will never be seen on another person, are extremely reasonable as they hover in the range of $165 with some more and some less.

Due to the fact that the prices might be slightly out of the realm for many I must grant Pretty Birdie a Four Leaf Rating but it is the only reason. I am uber impressed with the talents Stephanie possesses and her strong attention on the planet through her strict use of recycled materials. I strongly encourage everyone to check out her online shop.

Keep up the great work Stephanie, the planet will be forever grateful. ♥love♥

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Greening Up a Summer Camping Trip

A couple days ago over on my personal blog I discussed the likelihood that I would be taking at least one camping trip in my lifetime and it was very possible that trip would take place this summer. When considering all of the things that could be enjoyable while camping, I wondered how I could do so and still be kind to the Earth.

Our trip will involve some friends with babies and a dog as well as Matt and myself, and activities will include hiking, cooking, showering, sleeping, hanging out and reading, making ‘smores, drinking and of course eating campfire cooked food. What I found is there are ways to be kind to the Earth, still be somewhat light on our feet and have an enjoyable time while doing it.

One of the things that nerves me about camping is the pitch black of outdoors when walking to the bathroom at night. Well with the crank flashlight we have that should not be a problem! There is a handle on one side that pulls out and can be cranked repeatedly to juice the light. No batteries and no electricity required. The one we have is residing in my car trunk emergency kit right now. The light lasts for a few minutes and when it goes out simply crank it up again. It is a powerful light for illuminating a trail.

Perhaps however I want to do something a little lengthier that involves light at night. No problem! Countless companies sell lanterns with led lights but the K-Light from PiSAT Solar enjoys up to twenty hours of run time and takes nothing more than the sun to power it. The K-Light is water resistant (Both the unit and the solar panel) and the website boasts that it weighs about the same as a can of soda.

As the sun begins to set the bugs are drawn into the wondrous lantern light and because I am not one for bugs I will definitely be picking up some Badger Anti-Bug balm from my local REI. It is made from all Earth friendly ingredients and contains no DEET. With lemongrass and rosemary it will even smell nice, but don’t worry guys, it is not girly.

Sitting around the campfire is probably the activity I look most forward to while camping because of two things -- drinking beers and ‘smores.

By going for organic beer and wine it will be a nice way to thank the dirt beneath me as well as enjoy some yummy libations. Doing a quick Google search provided me with links to all kinds of local, organic beers.

Then it was on to the components of a great ‘smore -- chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow. Sweet and Sara carries a vegan marshmallow (found in a bunch of Whole Food’s locations across the United States) and New Morning makes an organic honey graham but the most important topper of all, a bar of chocolate can be beneficial in a few ways. We received for the holidays last year Endangered Species Chocolate bars. The ones we got are dark (certified Vegan and Kosher!) but this innovative company (who donates 10% of all net profits to endangered species and their habitats) also carries a milk chocolate version of their 1.4 oz and 3 oz. bars as well.

This summer we campers will be well fed, safe and relaxed knowing we can keep the bugs away and the laughs over beers coming all while having little to no negative impact.

Next up, to find environmentally responsible tents, sleeping bags and athletic equipment to further enhance our eco-camping experience!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beauty through the Rain, Mother Nature Shares the Sweetest Gifts

A few weeks ago on the way to our Bennetts Brook Green Group meeting the sun was just setting but the sky was also doing the spring rain in New England quick burst downpour. As soon as we got off the highway my eyes opened wide and my jaw even more so when we rounded a corner to see this sky. It was so beautiful we pulled into a parking lot simply to snap a few photos.

Just three weeks later it was yet again pouring, providing sustenance to all the thriving greenery and incredibly tall lawns. As I sat in my office typing up a post with the slider door open, listening to the shower, it suddenly occurred to me that the sun was streaming in through the window. With fingers crossed I grabbed the camera and stepped out on the balcony to see this beautiful gem emblazoned across the sky.

Whenever I am sad about something such as the extreme impact we are imparting on our planet with all of our many luxuries, this is just the thing to remind me that sometimes all it takes is an outlook in an upward direction to change my attitude. Beauty-full!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ronnie Trash Wants Us to Put Our Trash in a Can

Sesame Street has long been a leader in teaching good lessons to everyone, kids and adults alike. Doing a quick search just on YouTube for 'Sesame Street environment' brought up hundreds of videos. This one, with a song sung to the tune of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, is a fantastic lesson for everyone as it explains that we all need to take care of our planet because we all live here. Hope you enjoy feeling like a kid again watching this!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cape Wind Is Clear for Construction

Here in Massachusetts we have the area of the coast known as Cape Cod, a decent sized peninsula that hooks around north forming what looks like a bent arm at an elbow. The Cape, as it is called in these parts, is a fantastic place to vacation with lots of wonderful beaches, cutsie New England-esque shops and amazing scenery. Frequently bunched in with The Cape is most always The Islands. This refers to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, two small islands, just south off the coast. In the Nantucket Sound strong winds tend to gust and Cape Wind has been waiting patiently to make use of this natural resource.

On May 28, 2009 Governor Deval Patrick expressed his enthusiasm for the approval of permits across the state to begin construction on the 130 turbine project. The project is expected to generate enough power to provide electricity to upwards of 420,000 homes from the 420 megawatts of electricity generated by the wind power available in the Sound.

As the first fully operational, offshore, wind turbine farm in the United States, Cape Wind will be making history. There are many who are not too keen on the idea of creating that kind of historic mark however. Fishermen and wildlife experts are concerned of the possible displacement of marine life and the need to go further offshore to acquire these species. In addition many residents within eyeshot of the proposed farm site location are convinced it will cause a reduction in home values as they feel it will create an offshore eye sore.

Regardless of the opposition the approval of the permits is an exciting thing as this will create a whole slew of jobs in the Green Collar sector for a large mass of people who are greatly in need of one at this time. In addition it will make use of a fully sustainable, rapidly renewable resource to provide electricity -- wind power.

The Cape Wind website contains a plethora of information on this project. Everything from Press Releases to the benefits of using wind as a resource to an area specifically dedicated to how to teach our children about the benefits of using wind as an alternative to oil or even natural gas to power our lives.

Now that the permits are in place for Cape Wind I do truly hope it is done in a responsible way so as many natural resources as possible are protected as well as a creation of jobs is provided for so many struggling workers. I personally will enjoy every minute of watching those majestic blades spin this summer!