There is a great deal of information out there on becoming a beginning gardener or even a small scale farmer. Many green living enthusiasts want nothing more than to get back to the land…reconnecting with nature, becoming more self sufficient, and of course taking their food and health back into their own hands. One easy green aspect we might overlook though is indoor gardening. It’s a great place to start if gardening and farming intimidate you and it’s a great alternative if you don’t have room to grow crops outside. Another BIG bonus aspect of growing indoors is that you can choose healthy houseplants.
What are healthy houseplants exactly? They are plants easily grown indoors for the purpose of enhancing the health of your home and the health of your family. You can grow edible plants and herbs that will keep your family healthy during cold and flu season. You can grow plants that clean and purify the indoor air all year long. You can grow plants that have medicinal uses. You can even grow plants that remove toxins, like mold, from circulation. Here are some common healthy houseplants that are actually very easy to grow and very beneficial…
Peace Lily – These lovely plants with their gorgeous flowers are actually very easy to grow indoors if you have the space. They can thrive in low light. Not only do they provide something lovely to look at they have some amazing benefits such as absorption of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. They are also said to remove mold spores in the air so if you live in an old damp house or a place where humidity is a problem…get some peace lilies pronto.
Dracaena - I call these lemon lime plants because of their lovely colored stripes on the leaves. They are super easy to grow if you keep their soil slightly damp and they remove many toxins from the air.
Golden Pothos – These plants represent happy childhood memories for me because my mom grew them. They stretched across our kitchen and living room walls and made our house look like a jungle. I loved it and they are super easy to grow. They don’t require too much watering either, most of the time I can get away with sticking them outside once every week or two, when it rains so they can get a thorough soaking. These too remove many toxins like formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide, and more
English Ivy – These lovely vines do very well in low light and you just need to make sure their soil stays moist. Removes benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
Spider Plants – Another plant my mom used to grow in abundance. These do really well in indirect light and thrive if you hang them by windows where their delicate tendrils hang down over their pots. They are great for removing formaldehyde which can be found in the home in building materials, household products, and from fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters.
Aloe Vera – Aloe is super duper easy to grow and requires very little water so if you commonly “forget” to water, this plant is forgiving. You can also use it for a variety of medicinal purposes.
Sage – This is an easy-to-grow indoors herb that can be great for meals as well as for coughs, colds, and congestion.
Thyme – Another powerful herb. This one is popular for treating coughs, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. It does beautiful in a window sill and can be used frequently in flavoring soups, stocks and stews.
Even if you think you have a green thumb these plants are pretty easy to grow if you just know a little about each one. They all have wonderful benefits and will enhance the health of your home and of your family so taking the time to learn about them and grow them is well worth your time. Some can be grown from seed and others can be grown from cuttings. You can also buy from local nurseries or online at places such as gaddys. Other still propagate often so you can get “babies” very easily. Craigslist is actually a great place to find plants such as this…like aloe and spider plants. Pretty soon you will swimming in healthy houseplants…which can only be a good thing.
To your health!
“Green laundry” does not refer to what happens to your whites when you wash them with colors. Or maybe that is only my laundry. We have three people in the house (including myself) whose fave color is some shade of green or aqua. Green laundry actually means eco-friendly washing practices that emphasize biodegradability and less waste. Why is this important? Well it matters what we pour down the pipes and put against our skin and many conventional laundry products are heavy on the toxics. Laundry products are also heavy on the plastic (think huge laundry detergent tubs and bottles) and all of that goes into the waste stream. Plastics are forever you know.
For more natural and green laundry I want to highlight three alternatives…soap nuts, dryer balls, and wash balls. If you’ve never heard of these things, read on - they get the job done and they don’t harm the planet. And for those who suffer from chemical allergies or sensitivities, these natural alternatives are much safer for you.
Soap nuts are the nuts/fruit from the Chinese Soapberry Tree (Sapindus mukorossi), which grows in the mountains of India and Nepal. They may be a new idea for westerners, but these soapy nuts have been used to clean fabrics for generations of local people.
After the seeds are removed from their shells and dried in the sun (they look kinda like huge raisins), the soap nuts are ready to use in your laundry. For modern washing machines, soap nuts come packaged in a cloth bag. You put the nuts into this bag, close it, and toss the bag into your washing machine. They can be used for several more loads before you need to replace them with fresh nuts. And the used nuts can be tossed into your compost pile.
Bonus Tip: You can use the nuts to make liquid laundry soap as well, if you prefer that.
These specially-designed, rubber or wool balls, help dry your laundry and keep static down. They are said to take the place of fabric softener and/or dryer sheets, and to reduce drying time. They help to separate fabrics, keeping them from balling up into a wad in the dryer which lengthens drying time. (If you have ever had to unwind a ball of sheets/blankets in the dryer only to find it still wet in the center, you know how valuable keeping fabric separate in the dryer can be.)
Lots of people prefer dryer balls to regular fabric softeners and dryer sheets because they don’t contain fragrances and chemicals. Reduced drying time saves energy, and fewer chemicals in your laundry make dryer balls part of a green laundry.
Called laundry balls or wash balls, these make use of the cleaning power of water to wash your clothes. Say what? Yep, it works. I am a long time user. The secret is in the design and materials – the clay-based balls are housed in a permeable plastic cover. The balls react with the motion of the washing machine agitator and the water itself to produce an ionization cleaning process.
Wash balls are used instead of liquid or powder laundry detergent, and are said to last anywhere from 60 to 120 loads. Some can be used for much longer though by re-energizing them in sunlight. However, the plastic part Is also supposed to be recyclable.
Ready to try some of these products or have you already done so??
I have been using castile soap around my home for about 10 years now. I loved it then and I love it now. I use it straight up for all kinds of cleaning and I also use it as a base for several of my favorite green cleaner recipes. I like that the same product I use to scrub my toilet and wipe down my walls is the same product I use to clean my carpets and wash the dishes. I also use it in the bath, on my hair, in the garden, and on my food even. How is that for simple and easy?! The best part though is that a single bottle lasts and lasts making it a great value for the money. Here are some of my favorite ways that I have used castile soap in my home.
Uses for Castile Soap
Laundry - Use 1/4 cup for top-loading machines or an 1/8 cup for front loaders.
Dishes - Great for hand washing dishes and for dishwashers.
Homemade Fruit and Veggie Wash – Add a teaspoon to a spray bottle full of water and spray as needed. No need to buy veggie wash products in the store.
All Purpose Cleaner – Add water and perhaps some essential oils and you have a great all purpose cleaner to clean just about any surface in the house.
Soft Scrub – Add to baking soda and you have a great abrasive paste with which to scrub sinks, toilets, and tubs.
Carpet Cleaner – Add a tablespoon or two to the water container of your carpet cleaner and skip the conventional carpet cleaning detergents. Castile soap works just as well and it makes your whole home smell divine if you use a scented variety like peppermint. I also have a natural carpet cleaner recipe if you want to give that a try.
Washing wool – Use castile soap to wash and lanolize wool diaper covers and longies for cloth diapers.
Garden Pest Control - Mix 1 tablespoon of peppermint castile soap with a 1/2 gallon of water. Spray the solution on plants being eaten by insects.
Shampoo – Use a small amount of the liquid and let it lather in your hands. Apply to your hair as you would regular shampoo.
Body Wash – Add a small amount to a loofah or bath sponge and scrub a dub. Also great for a baby’s bath water!
Shaving Lubricant – Mix with a bit of water and rub onto your legs/arms/face and shave as usual. Makes your skin all slippery so that shaving is a cinch.
Dental Care – Okay, so I have not personally used castile soap for this as I have an aversion to any kind of soap in my mouth but I have heard others swear by it. A drop of Peppermint, tea-tree, or citrus on the toothbrush or a drop or two inside a rinse cup for a rinse is usually how I hear it recommended.
How do you use castile soap??
Is less really more? Actually the surprising answer is yes. At least it can be if you have the right attitude and outlook. So many people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to acquire “stuff”. They think that having more stuff somehow makes them more. They think that acquiring wealth or the things that it buys will bring them happiness and they spend most of their lives chasing that carrot when in actuality happiness is more of a choice than a destination.
My decision to stop accumulating so much stuff was based in environmental ideals. As a society we Americans use and waste way too much, more than our fair share. I decided to try and better myself by reducing the amount of waste and excess in my life. One small change lead to another, and another, and another. Soon my life was nothing at all like it had been and yet I was happier than ever. Having less brought us more happiness than tons of stuff ever did. When you have fewer items, you appreciate them more and, ultimately, those items are used more fully and add more to your life. This is the essence of the “less is more” principle.
When you have less stuff in your life, you have the potential to have more of the following:
1. Meaningful relationships - When you are not distracted by clutter and things and the latest demands being made on you, you have more time for people. Relationships are more fulfilling than inanimate objects and by choosing to live simply you find that you work harder to develop and maintain relationships.
2. Simplicity - Gadgets and toys require responsibility. First you have to trade in time (aka years of your life spent working) to be able to afford them. You also have to clean, maintain, and store all of these things – cars have to be washed and taken in for oil changes and other maintenance, electronic gadgets need to be upgraded, and toys take up space in your home. Things complicate your life.
3. Gratitude - When you can’t just throw something away and replace it with the latest, greatest thing, you develop a sense of appreciation for what you do have. You are more likely to take care of your possessions and be more selective about what you buy.
4. A clutter-free home - Your home should be your refuge, the place where you invite people or spend time alone, where you reconnect with family and relax. It can also be your workplace. If it’s messy, you may find yourself distracted and frustrated and unable to relax. Your life may resemble the chaos that it is your home. Sound familiar? Less stuff equals more inner peace, basically, since you have fewer stressors surrounding you.
5. Contentment - It gives you a sense of relief and great liberation to know you are not trying to keep up with anyone or spend too much money on things you don’t really need. It is great feeling to be able to step back from the materialistic world around you and think “I am not buying into that”.
6. Closeness to nature - Having a bigger television, video games, an awesome laptop, and the latest version of the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy (even though there was nothing wrong with your old one) means you are spending large amounts of time indoors. Without those distractions you’ll get bored indoors, so go outside! Live life instead of watching it on a screen.
7. Better health - Stress affects our health, and stress can be greatly exacerbated by excessive stuff. Letting go of those sources of stress is good for your physical and mental health. Peace, contentment, gratitude, simplicity, and health all go hand in hand. And then there is the practical health issue – many items can be toxic to our health directly. Plastics for instance, can be cause for concern, possibly causing illness and disorders. New products and furnishings also off-gas for a time. The less plastic and new stuff in your life, the healthier you’ll be.
8. Financial security - One of the most compelling arguments against consumerism is that it promotes debt. Debt equals big time unhappiness. Think carefully about your wants and needs BEFORE you buy. You can also save money by making gifts yourself or employing other creative gift-giving ideas. The drive to have more and more – either for yourself or for giving to others – can set you up for financial difficulties and even financial ruin.
Our peace, contentment, and satisfaction with our lives can all be undermined by the pursuit and accumulation of “things”. Hopefully you will consider these eight reasons to change all that.
This infographic highlights stats from a different region of the world but it is still very interesting to see just how much money can be wasted foolishly if we aren’t vigilant about our energy usage. Leaving a wireless router or a microwave plugged in all night for instance. I don’t know anyone who microwaves in their sleep and its just plain wasteful. This graphic a great reminder to stop throwing away money while we catch some ZZZZZs. I know I have one or two of these things I need to remember to turn off nightly, how about you?
Brought to you by Ovo Energy the cheaper, greener and simpler energy supplier