Green Living en-US 10 Useful Items You Should Never Throw Out <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-useful-items-you-should-never-throw-out" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="tea tins" title="tea tins" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whenever the seasons change, I get this itch to do a total cleaning to our drawers, kitchen shelves, and closets. Over the years, though, I've learned that sometimes my brain gets ahead of me with all this cathartic purging. I'm not advocating that you hold onto these things to the bitter end, but definitely give yourself some time before you decide to toss or donate them for good. (See also: <a href="">21 Disposable Products You Can Reuse</a>)</p> <p>You can repurpose a variety of items to meet your current needs &mdash; all while saving yourself money and more clutter in the process. Here are 10 items you might want to toss away with some smart ideas for how to use them in new ways.</p> <h2>1. Old T-Shirts</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Before you take an armful of old t-shirts to the donation center, consider other ways you can use them in your home. You can cut them up into wash rags to save you cash on paper towels, for example. And if you're crafty, there are a number of <a href="">upcycled clothing projects</a> you can make, from fabric scarves to skirts.</p> <h2>2. Crib</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Even if you don't plan to have any more babies, resist the urge to place that crib on the curb. You can make an awesome <a href="">desk for your big kids</a> using a little chalkboard paint and creativity. Simply cut a piece of particle board to the size of the mattress and adjust to the correct height. Add a chair plus some hanging accessories, and you're done!</p> <h2>3. Baby Gate</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" alt="" src="" /></p> <p>And that baby gate that's collecting dust? Keep it around if you suspect you might ever want to add a puppy to your family. If that's not the case, you can also use it <a href="">in the garden</a> as a frugal trellis.</p> <h2>4. Wine Corks</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>If you haven't heard, there's quite an assortment of wine cork crafts that are as functional as they are pretty. I love this <a href="">wine cork kitchen mat</a> that took over 240 corks and a lot of patience to make. If that project is a bit too advanced, start small with this wine cork <a href="">bulletin board</a>. (See also: <a href="">15 Common Kitchen Castoffs You Can Repurpose Into Cool New Things</a>)</p> <h2>5. Wooden Crates</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Fruit crates &mdash; old and new &mdash; can be reused for a variety of purposes. My favorite is this stylish <a href="">rolling cart</a> made from three crates on their sides. Just fasten together and add the casters, which you can find inexpensively at most hardware stores.</p> <h2>6. Plastic Spray Bottles</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>If you've finished your window cleaner or all-purpose suds, save those spray bottles and try making your own green cleaners to fill them with using ingredients like vinegar, water, and castile soap. You'll save money and improve your home's health &mdash; all while being green. (See also: <a href="">How to Clean Everything With Just 3 All-Natural Cleaners</a>)</p> <h2>7. Tea Tins</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I'm a tea fanatic, so I have quite my share of colorful tins of all shapes and sizes. I use them to house supplies like paper clips and pushpins. I've also seen some cute indoor herb gardens or even candles made by melting wax into the container and adding a wick.</p> <h2>8. Picture Frame</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>We all have an old picture frame somewhere lurking in our closets. Put it to good use painting over the glass and making a functional <a href="">DIY chalkboard</a>. You can use it in your office or even incorporate it into your home holiday decor.</p> <h2>9. Window Shade</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Changed your window dressings? No problem. Before tossing that old window shade, consider giving it to your kids as a <a href="">roll-up blackboard</a>. You can also use it for some sophisticated decor in much the same way. All you do is paint with chalkboard paint and draw on your desired image.</p> <h2>10. Toothbrush</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>According to the American Dental Association, you should be changing out your toothbrush every <a href="">three to four months</a>. Use the discarded brushes for cleaning your home. They work especially well in the bathroom on tough grout stains and other hard-to-reach areas that need a little scrubbing.</p> <p><em>What do you regularly keep and re-purpose? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Useful Items You Should Never Throw Out" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living crafts DIY recycle reuse Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:00:04 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1209318 at 13 Dumb Little Purchases You Need to Stop Making Today <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/13-dumb-little-purchases-you-need-to-stop-making-today" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="man buying DVDs" title="man buying DVDs" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all make dumb little purchases here and there &mdash; it's what puts the <em>'merica</em> in America &mdash; but this habit can result in a whole bevy of negatives like unnecessary overspending and hazards to your health. Yep, some of them could actually be making you sick. (See also: <a href="">Knowing Your Triggers Can Prevent Emotional Spending</a>)</p> <p>What seemingly harmless, little purchases are absolutely not helping you in any way and might actually be holding you back? Here are 13 that you need to learn to just say no to today.</p> <h2>1. Coffee on the Go</h2> <p><a href="">You're wasting an incredible amount of money</a> every time you step into a java shop. You're also wasting time (you know you've stood in that long, zig-zaggy line just to get your fix) &mdash; and in my world (and probably yours, too) time is money.</p> <p>For the price that you pay for two Venti caramel soy mocha latte ya yas &mdash; or whatever they're called &mdash; you can buy a pound of coffee from your grocery store or local discount retailer (like Marshalls or T.J.Maxx) that you can make at home. Fact: <a href=",default,pg.html">One pound of coffee makes about 40 eight-ounce cups of coffee</a>, depending on how you like it. That's a lot of joe for very little dough. Need more perspective? You'll save roughly $30 with a pound of coffee at home opposed to buying cups on the go. That's not a drop in the carafe, folks. If you're a coffee addict, that kind of savings will add up quickly.</p> <h2>2. Bottled Drinks</h2> <p>Let's get the obvious out of the way: Tap water is free nearly everywhere you go. Thus, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a reusable bottle that you're filling up whenever you're thirsty instead of heading to the convenience store or vending machine for a bottle of water.</p> <p>With that out of the way, let's tackle the flavored drinks.</p> <p>First, you can cut back on how much you're consuming and spending on soft drinks if you recognize that most of them have no health benefits, and they're only making you fat, but if you want to ignore that warning at least recognize that nowadays you can easily and inexpensively make your own soft drinks at home. Whether you're investing in a machine that instantly turns flat drinks into fizzy beverages or purchasing your favorite soft drink in liquid or powder form to mix at home, you can save a substantial amount of coin with the press of a button or a few stirs of a pitcher.</p> <h2>3. Magazines and Newspapers</h2> <p>I get a lot of flack every time I suggest that we should abandon magazines and newspapers in order to save money. I can almost bet that someone will comment about how this is irresponsible of me because people's jobs are on the line. Guess what, folks? I'm a writer for print publications as well, so my own advice directly affects me. Still, there's no stopping the gradual progression toward a paperless world. News moves at the speed of the Internet these days, and it's completely free. Save the trees.</p> <h2>4. Lottery Tickets</h2> <p>I wish you all the luck in the world, of course, but the odds just aren't in your favor. That's not to say that you can't take a gamble and have fun every once in while &mdash; I do, and you can, too &mdash; but if you're playing the lottery and buying scratch-offs several times a week (or just on a regular basis), you might as well skip a trip to the store and flush your hard-earned cash right down the toilet &mdash; which, depending on your financial situation, can be a decent chunk of change according to reports: Business Insider revealed recently that low-income households earning less than $13,000 a year spend 9% of their income on lottery tickets. That's bad.</p> <h2>5. Cheap Shoes</h2> <p>The problem with cheaply made shoes (and cheaply made anything for that matter) is that they have a shorter lifespan than quality-made shoes. The result of this discrepancy is that you'll replace the former more often than the latter, which can result in an overall higher cost in the end. How do you think Walmart became so big and profitable?</p> <h2>6. DVDs and On Demand Movies</h2> <p>My husband is the most notorious on-demand orderer I know. He often can't wait for the early release movies to become available for rent, so he buys them outright for $15 to $20 a pop, which practically makes me faint every time I see a newly purchased flick in the queue. Does he realize that if we change cable providers all that content is lost?! I seriously might have to pop a Xanax just thinking about this.</p> <p>It's okay to rent a DVD from a kiosk or order on demand every so often &mdash; especially if it's an alternative to spending more money going out &mdash; but don't make it a habit. DVD kiosk rentals &mdash; although initially inexpensive &mdash; can add up if you're renting frequently, renting without promo codes, or returning late. And at anywhere from $3.99 to $6.99 per on-demand rental, it's wise to be conservative here, too. A good compromise, however &mdash; if you're a heavy content consumer &mdash; is to subscribe to a relatively low-cost streaming service or checking out content (for free!) from your local library.</p> <h2>7. In-App Purchases</h2> <p>As someone who's in in-app-purchase rehab, learn from my weaknesses and repeat after me: I DO NOT NEED THIS. I CAN LIVE WITHOUT THIS. The temptation is hard to resist, but it'll get easier as time goes on and you won't have to live with that gnawing guilt anymore.</p> <h2>8. Paper Towels and Napkins</h2> <p>You're literally throwing away money with paper towels. Swap them out for reusable, washable towels/napkins by repurposing items you already have &mdash; like old t-shirts as replacements with personality &mdash; which will require no additional investment whatsoever.</p> <h2>9. Antibacterial Soap</h2> <p>Why, in this age of Ebola and the Kardashians, would you skip the antibacterial soap? Simple: Because it doesn't work. The FDA recently noted that antibacterial products are no more effective than soap and water, and, in fact, they may even be dangerous. Here are <a href="">four more reasons to skip antibacterial everything</a> and get back to basics.</p> <h2>10. Multivitamins</h2> <p>I mean, I don't want to burst another bubble for you, but <a href="">your multivitamins are worthless too</a>. Recently, three separate studies concluded that a daily multivitamin doesn't help boost the average American's health. The takeaway? Put down the gummies and pick up some veggies. (See also: <a href="">Multivitamins Aren't as Good as You Think: Eat These Real Foods Instead</a>)</p> <h2>11. Travel-Size Toiletries</h2> <p>Frankly, I'm offended that personal-product makers take us for complete idiots by waaaay overpricing smaller, travel-size versions of their larger products. Most travel-size items are a dollar or more, and there are rarely (if ever) coupons available for these tiny items. Conversely, the full-size version of the same product &mdash; shampoo and toothpaste, for instance &mdash; doesn't cost much more than the travel size and there are often coupons available for full-size items. In the end, you could spend less on the full-size item than the travel-size item (the ounce-to-ounce cost difference is absurd, too), which is a huge win in my book. Here are a few more tricks you can use to save on travel-size items:</p> <ol> <li>Buy TSA-approved containers in which you can put shampoo, conditioners, gel, etc. and toss them in your travel bag. These <a href=";N=&amp;Ntt=silicone+travel">GoToobs</a> are my favorite. I just fill them up from my big bottles and I'm ready to go.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Don't bother buying or bringing toothpaste, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, and other grooming products that you know your hotel will have. Just ask for them at the front desk at check-in.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Take the partially used (or even unused) hotel-provided toiletries with you so you're not wasting product or money. (Somebody will inevitably cast shame on me for yanking unopened products, but listen man, if I pay over $150 a night to sleep in a bed, I'm takin' some shampoo with me. Me and You-Know-Who will reconcile this in the afterlife.)</li> </ol> <h2>12. Food Delivery</h2> <p>Trust me, I get it. Sometimes you just can't (cannot!) be bothered to make a simple sandwich at home let alone cook a real meal because you and the couch have become one. I've been there. But if you're ordering out frequently, you're not only wasting your money, you're wasting away. Get this problem in check before it becomes a habit; if it's already become a habit, consider making a lifestyle change. Delivery is okay as a treat, but it should not be a regular routine.</p> <p>In addition, there's another thing to consider about food delivery these days: Many companies that previously offered free delivery are now charging for delivery. I was recently charged a $2.25 delivery fee for a pizza delivery that took more than two hours. Investigate if there's a delivery fee before you order so you can make an informed decision to patronize that establishment or take your business elsewhere. That delivery fee is on top of tax and tip.</p> <h2>13. Paper and Plastic Products</h2> <p>I know people who strictly eat and drink from paper and plastic products and who have cabinets full of perfectly fine dishes. Their reliance on these expensive (they may seem cheap in the short-term, but it'll add up quickly) and wasteful products is a direct result of pure laziness &mdash; they don't want to wash dishes by hand, or, and this really makes me shake my head, they view loading and unloading the dishwasher as way too much work for one person to reasonably handle. This is where my doctor-prescribed breathing techniques come in handy.</p> <p>Let's not get started on the people who actually wash the plastic products. Uh huh, people do it. And I'm like, why did you buy disposable products if you're going to wash them? That completely defeats the purpose, but I suppose it's at least a small step in the right direction. In any case, buy a set of dishes, please. It's much more economical to use something over and over opposed to using it once, throwing it away, and repurchasing the same thing time and again.</p> <p><em>Can you suggest more dumb little purchases that we should stop making today? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="13 Dumb Little Purchases You Need to Stop Making Today" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Green Living budgeting small buys spending wasteful spending Mon, 01 Sep 2014 11:00:04 +0000 Mikey Rox 1197959 at Want to Cut Costs on Your Next Vacation? Go Green <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/want-to-cut-costs-on-your-next-vacation-go-green" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="travel tablet" title="travel tablet" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you purchase an airfare, do you usually choose to pay a carbon offset fee? Have you even heard of a carbon offset fee? (It's a small amount to help compensate for the emissions from the flight.)</p> <p>The answer is very likely &quot;no,&quot; and that's ok. But if paying for trip already leaves you feeling too broke to pay any extra fees, there are other things you can do to minimize your impact on the environment while traveling. (See also: <a href="">10 Things You're Paying Too Much for When You Travel</a>)</p> <p>And unlike the carbon offset fee, these things will actually help you save some money.</p> <h2>Shop Local</h2> <p>What's the point of shopping during a trip if you buy mass-produced things you can easily get at home? The T-shirts, fridge magnets, and keychains you see at gift shops were probably shipped in from factories <em>elsewhere</em>.</p> <p>If you have to buy souvenirs, consider getting something local. For example, visit a market to see artisans at work and buy your souvenirs directly from them. The items you buy will be more meaningful and you'll help support the local economy. Not to mention give you a great opportunity to &quot;place drop&quot; when someone asks you where you got that new hat. (See also: <a href="">Why You Should Never Buy Souvenirs</a>)</p> <h2>Green Hotels</h2> <p>Some hotels differentiate themselves from the competition by their environmentally friendly practices that minimize water and energy consumption. There is currently no one prevailing set of global standards for green hotels, but you can often find them through certification organizations like the <a href="">Green Key Eco-Rating Program</a>.</p> <p>If you can book a green hotel, that's great. But even if you don't, it's possible to practice green habits at a non-green hotel.</p> <p>One of the best things about staying at a hotel is having someone clean the room for you. However, this could also be a wasteful practice as sheets and towels don't always have to be changed daily. If you want to reuse your sheets and towels, let the front desk or the housekeeping staff know.</p> <p>Other things you can do at the hotel include recycling, taking short showers, and turning off all electric devices when you leave the room.</p> <h2>Collapsible Food Containers</h2> <p>Think you can't fit food containers in your small carry-on? Think again. There are collapsible versions that can remain compact until you need to use them. They are not specifically marketed as travel items, but they would be perfect for complying with airline carry-on limits, which get stricter by the day. Just pack a <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B001CT4WMU&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=46VB5SOOACO5Q7N3">flattened container or two</a> in your bag, then expand them when necessary for take-outs, leftovers, and picnics.</p> <h2>Reusable Grocery Bags</h2> <p>When I travel, I like to book a suite with a kitchen. Shopping at unfamiliar markets and cooking with local ingredients can be an interesting experience in itself. This is why I pack a reusable grocery bag in my carry-on. It's small, light, and green. Plus, some grocery stores have started charging shoppers for plastic bags.</p> <p>Not everybody goes grocery shopping during a vacation, but do consider packing a reusable grocery bag regardless. These bags are more sturdy than regular plastic bags and would be great for trips to the beach and containing luggage overflow.</p> <h2>Public Transport</h2> <p>If there's a good public transport network at your destination, take advantage of it. You'll see how locals get around and maybe meet some interesting people along the way. It's also cheaper and better for the environment.</p> <p>If you plan to take public transit, check out the city's website for important information like maps, routes, and fares beforehand. These details will help you plan your itinerary and you may even learn some money-saving tips. For example, <a href="">Vancouver's public transit website</a> tells you that a book of 10 tickets is 24% cheaper than 10 single tickets.</p> <h2>Rental Cars</h2> <p>If you have to rent a car, go for the smallest one possible. A smaller car usually consumes less gas, and the car rental company often charges less for it. A hybrid car, if available, would be an even better, greener choice. If you're not familiar with the area, rent a GPS to help you find the shortest routes possible.</p> <h2>Reusable Water Bottles</h2> <p>Bottled water is often marketed as being a healthier alternative to the humble tap water, but the science behind this claim is debatable. At least in the United States, tap water is just as safe to drink as bottled water. Yet, the University of Maryland says <a href="">Americans spent $11.8 billion on 9.7 billion gallons of bottled water</a> in 2012 alone.</p> <p>Single-use water bottles are manufactured at great cost to the environment and most of them are not recycled after use. They're also highly attractive to tourists, who often find themselves walking around for long stretches, unprepared and parched. So if you travel to a destination where the tap water is drinkable, bring a reusable water bottle and save yourself some money.</p> <h2>Digital Reading Material</h2> <p>I used to bring one or two books with me when I traveled, but now everything is on my smartphone. This way, I have fewer things to pack and I can read in the dark before sleeping.</p> <p>Reading on a smartphone is not for everyone &mdash; it's small and it's often too bright. But tablets and e-readers are everywhere and most books are available in digital form. These e-books are often drastically cheaper compared to the printed versions, so you'll save money in the long run.</p> <h2>Access the Sharing Economy</h2> <p>The sharing economy minimizes overall consumption by encouraging people, who are often strangers, to share (actually rent) resources. Thanks to the Internet, there are many ways to take part in the sharing economy when you travel.</p> <p>For accommodation, look into vacation rentals (renting someone's home) through websites like <a href="">Airbnb</a> and <a href="">couchsurfing</a> (sleeping on someone's couch). For longer trips, you could try house-sitting (taking care of someone's home while they're away) through <a href="">HouseCarers</a> or <a href=""></a>. Alternatively, use <a href="">Intervac</a> or <a href="">HomeLink</a> for home exchange (staying at someone's home while the other family stays at yours).</p> <p>Instead of renting a car, you can try ridesharing, which is when a local drives you around for a small fee. <a href="">Lyft</a> and <a href="">Sidecar</a> connect ridesharers in some select cities. If you want something more private, go with peer-to-peer carsharing instead, which means you'll rent a local's car when she's not using it. You can find these cars on <a href="">RelayRides</a> or <a href="">Getaround</a>.</p> <p><em>How do you green your travel? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Want to Cut Costs on Your Next Vacation? Go Green" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Deia B</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Lifestyle Travel eco-tourism green tourism green travel sustainable tourism Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:05 +0000 Deia B 1166920 at The Only Fruits and Veggies Worth Growing Yourself <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-only-fruits-and-veggies-worth-growing-yourself" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="growing vegetables" title="growing vegetables" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Not everyone has a green thumb, and growing a garden can often be a tiring &mdash; and expensive &mdash; endeavor for anyone to tackle. While it can be easy to spend hundreds of dollars on seeds, plants, additives, and water, you can make gardening worth your investment by growing the fruits and veggies that cost the most in stores today.</p> <p>Starting a plant as a seed (for veggies) or a sapling (for a fruit tree) is the best way to realize savings, although it takes longer for your harvest to come, and there is more risk. Seed packets usually run no more than $2 a packet, even for heirloom varieties. (Heirloom is original, non-hybrid, non-GMO seed stock.) With between 20 and 100 seeds per packet, if even a handful of the seeds grow into fruit-producing adult plants, you've earned much of your investment back. (See also: <a href="">25 Simple Recipes for 25 Delicious Veggies</a>)</p> <p>Most gardeners hope to go far beyond &quot;breaking even,&quot; however. Considering that the recent California drought, rising gas prices, and overall food inflation will make fresh fruits and veggies even more expensive this year, it may be easier than ever to earn back what you spend on even the most modest garden.</p> <p>Here are my favorites for reaping what you sow.</p> <h2>Artichokes</h2> <p>These delicious veggies are actually cousins to the thistle, and preparing them for eating is a process way more complicated than growing them. Since they are also one of the most expensive items to buy in the store, however, any success you have in growing them will be much appreciated! They can be started from seed, shoots, or the cuttings of other adult artichokes; they do well in most any climate, and can be replanted new each year in those areas that are too cold to survive the winters.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Many people aren't sure <a href="">how to harvest them</a> once their artichokes are ready; by cutting them before they get too big, you can ensure energy is devoted to creating more &quot;fruits&quot; than flowers.</p> <h2>Brussels Sprouts</h2> <p>The hated Brussels sprout has become a popular choice of chefs across the country, and more people are creating delicious dishes with the veggie in their own kitchens. By growing your own, however, you can choose &mdash; among other things &mdash; how big, how tender, and how flavorful your sprout becomes. You can also grow hundreds for the price of a pound of store-bought. Starting from seed can be difficult, which is why many sprout lovers get plants from their nursery. Hot summers can kill these plants, so it is recommended to grow them for a &quot;fall garden&quot; when the chance of high temps has passed for the year.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Looking for the best flavor in your Brussels sprouts? Experts suggest is it a good idea to harvest <a href="">after the first mild frost</a> each fall. The cold weather give them a delicious note that you just can't buy in the store!</p> <h2>Tomatoes</h2> <p>You really have to have some bad luck to get nothing from a tomato plant. While veteran gardeners can take a packet of seeds and get a dozen or more healthy plants, you can expect to get amazing results from even one adult plant ready to transplant to your own garden. (See also: <a href="">What to Do With 100 Tomatoes</a>)</p> <p>Tomatoes all offer varying degrees of yield, but the cherry or grape tomato plants seem to give and give and give. Varieties such as Romas are great for cooking and making sauce, and with more meaty pulp than water and seeds, you can expect to get gallons of sauce from just one plant. Hard-core canners with a dozen or more plants can put up hundreds of jars of sauce at the end of the season, giving you a great return on your initial investment.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you have too many green tomatoes at the end of a season, with no chance to ripen before frost, consider any one of these <a href="">delicious green tomato recipes</a>!</p> <h2>Zucchini</h2> <p>This very productive plant is the butt of many garden jokes, and people go quickly from appreciating their bounty to wondering &quot;what the heck can I do with all this zucchini?&quot; Luckily, this makes it a sure-fire way to get a little back on the light maintenance zucchini plants require. Whether you eat them small, sliced thin for stir-fry, or let them grow large and bake with them, there is a zucchini recipe guaranteed to help you use up your surplus. Since zucchini actually start best as seeds planted directly in the garden, their cost to get started is minimal, too!</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you grow tired of eating them yourself, here are some <a href="">unique ways to get rid of all that zucchini</a>.</p> <h2>Mint</h2> <p>While not exactly something to make much of a meal out of, the humble mint plant is a fantastic addition to any garden and one that will literally take over if you aren't careful.</p> <p>Mint comes in many varieties, including chocolate, pineapple, apple, and spearmint. Use it to make jellies, jams, teas, and salves. One small plant from your nursery usually runs no more than $4, and can quickly cover several square feet of raised bed within weeks of planting. (Plus, it comes back every year stronger than the previous year. You may find yourself digging much of it up to give away.)</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Annoyed with how well your mint is doing? Consider pulling up all but a few plants each year and donating the surplus to the kitchen or garden of your favorite non-profit.</p> <h2>Kale</h2> <p>This salad must-have is nutritious and versatile. While it does best in cooler weather, once established, it can be kept in the shady part of a garden for almost the entire spring through fall time period. Cutting just the top leaves off when they are young can help keep the flavors mild and leaves tender, plus it will encourage growth. Started as seed, it's similar to lettuce or spinach, but is much more resistant to bugs, cold, and heat. Kale in the store can run $4 or more for a bag; having a single row in your garden can keep you in free salad for many months!</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you see your kale plants starting to get tough or &quot;prickly,&quot; it's time to start anew. Sow new seeds in between older plants and pull up the old plants when the new ones are producing. Rotating fresher stock every few weeks ensures you will always have the most tender leaves possible!</p> <h2>Other Smart Choices</h2> <p>Depending on your soil and growing season, there are a few other plants that tend to do well in most climate zones; squash, peppers, and radishes all grow well most years and either cost very little to start (like the radishes) or produce many fruits per plant (like the peppers and squash).</p> <p>As with any endeavor, it's best to plant no more than what you can reasonably maintain, care for, and harvest. Wasted produce does not count on the plus side of your ROI formula! It's also fun to factor in just how much you are earning back with your garden. Homegrown isn't just valued higher because it's fresh and free from strange growing and handling procedures. Food you grow yourself is tax-free, too! It takes far less effort to grow a tomato than to work to earn the money to buy that same tomato &mdash; after you pay income taxes, that is!</p> <p><em>What fruits and vegetables in your garden have given you the best ROI? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Only Fruits and Veggies Worth Growing Yourself" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Food and Drink Green Living fresh food gardens homegrown vegetables Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:00:05 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1149042 at Homemade Sunblock and 6 Other Non-Toxic Recipes to Get Your Skin Sun-Ready <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/homemade-sunblock-and-6-other-non-toxic-recipes-to-get-your-skin-sun-ready" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="sunblock" title="sunblock" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the days get brighter and the nights warm up, we're spending more and more time outdoors. Summer is the prime season for enjoyment and activity, but it's also the height of painful sunburns. I'm trying to become more conscious and careful about the lotions and salves I slather onto my body. Sometimes, even the most natural sunblocks contain more harmful ingredients than I'd like to see. (See also: <a href="">Cheap and Simple Sunburn Remedies That Really Work</a>)</p> <p>The following &quot;recipes&quot; are all natural and non-toxic. After the initial investment in a few key ingredients, they are sure to give your store bought 'block a run for its money.</p> <h2>1. Sunblock With Zinc Oxide</h2> <p>This <a href="">thick and creamy sunblock</a> melts like butter onto your skin. The SPF rating is at least 20, if not higher. You may even have some of the required ingredients &mdash; coconut oil, almond oil, shea butter, etc. &mdash; already in your kitchen and bath cabinets. (Ingredients are measured in grams, so here's a <a href="">converting calculator</a> to switch to cups.)</p> <h2>2. Bronzing Bars</h2> <p>If you'd like a natural tan look with your protection, these <a href="">DIY Bronzing Bars</a> are for you! A reader suggested including coffee infused oil for that bronzing effect. Bonus? They double as bug repellent!</p> <h2>3. Soothing Sunblock</h2> <p>This next mix <a href="">contains aloe</a>, which soothes burns. It's rated around 30-40 SPF, so great for a day at the beach or out at a backyard barbecue. You can choose to use either carrot seed or raspberry seed oil, with raspberry having more SPF power.</p> <h2>4. Fragrance Block</h2> <p>This <a href="">sweet smelling sunblock</a> has a hefty dose of essential oils in it &mdash; 40-50 drops to be exact. For me, I'd take the opportunity to do a mix of lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus to get some natural allergy relief from all that pollen flying through the air.</p> <h2>5. Foundation SPF</h2> <p>I'm super excited to try this <a href="">homemade foundation and sunblock</a> in one! The color comes from a custom mix of cinnamon and cocoa powder.</p> <h2>6. Tinted Mix</h2> <p>If you'd rather add a more subtle color to your sunblock, this <a href="">tinted mix</a> will do the trick. It uses iron oxide powder for those who have a darker natural completions. It blends better on skin with fewer noticeable streaks.</p> <h2>7. Cooling Burn Treatment</h2> <p>If you haven't had a chance to make any of these protective recipes, you might have a nasty burn to contend with. Try <a href="">freezing aloe juice</a> in ice cube trays. When you get a burn, pop a few cubes out of the freezer and enjoy the soothing sensation.</p> <p><em>What's your favorite homemade sunblock recipe? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Homemade Sunblock and 6 Other Non-Toxic Recipes to Get Your Skin Sun-Ready" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Health and Beauty Homemade sunblock sunscreen Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1142904 at How I Saved $30,000 and Helped the Earth at the Same Time <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-i-saved-30000-and-helped-the-earth-at-the-same-time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="environmental superhero" title="environmental superhero" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="194" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Over seven years ago, I joined <a href="">The Compact</a>&nbsp;out of <a href="">green guilt</a> (and because everything I do in my life has to be a <a href="">dare</a>).</p> <p>In brief, The Compact is an environmental movement that challenges members to step away from the consumer grid and take as few <em>new</em> resources out of the planet as possible for one calendar year. Compactors pledge to buy only used goods for twelve months, with obvious exceptions for things like food and health care products.</p> <p>I've stayed with The Compact for longer than one year because, in addition to allowing me to live closer to my environmental values, it's also a super fun challenge.</p> <p>As it turns out, The Compact is also a massive money saver.</p> <p>This week's horrible personal project is purging the filing cabinet. I have gone through all sorts of boring paperwork, fiddling with old receipts. Along the way, I've also been doing a little math (always a dangerous thing for me) and discovered that my effort to save the planet has saved me at least $30,000. $30,000! That savings is spread over 7.5 years, but still. $30,000! And that's a conservative estimate.</p> <p>Here are 22 ways I saved at least $30,000 while also saving the planet.</p> <h2>1. I Make Every Effort to Buy Only Used Goods</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Since I happen to like vintage clothes, old houses, and classic cars, only buying used goods is hardly deprivation &mdash; it's my aesthetic. That said, about once a year, I'll get dinged financially for buying used. For example, I could have bought a new, cheap pair of boots for less than the price I paid to resole my old ones. However, for most purchases, buying used is far cheaper than buying new.</p> <h2>2. I Spend Consciously</h2> <p>I can no longer shop without intention. When I buy something, I don't just think about how I will use that item, but how I will eventually dispose of it. This extra environmental awareness saves me a lot of money, because I can't unlearn my good shopping habits and go back to the days of mindless spending. The extra bit of inconvenience sourcing used versions of everything I want also gives me time to consider how badly I need something. Is it something I really need or can I get by with something I already own?</p> <h2>3. I Shrank My Living Space</h2> <p>One of the fastest ways I shrank my carbon footprint was to share my house with other people. When I lived alone in my 1000 square foot house, I took up all 1000 square feet. I also paid for the entire mortgage. While living alone was something I considered an adult achievement, having roommates, renting my house out as a B&amp;B, and ultimately moving in with my husband have all saved me money and helped lighten the load on the planet.</p> <h2>4. I Cut My Car Use to Under 5000 Miles a Year</h2> <p>To a lot of city folk I know, this doesn't sound impressive. But in Los Angeles, a gigantic metropolis, with iffy public transit, this is a huge challenge. My rule? If the destination is less than three miles from my house on surface streets, I have to walk or bike instead of getting in the car. In addition to cutting my gas costs by more than half, I also saved money on tire replacement, car servicing, and insurance. Also, because I now walk anywhere from three to 10 miles daily, I was able to cut my $40 a month gym membership.</p> <h2>5. I Bought a Used Car</h2> <p>As much as I'd love a gas-sipping Prius, the resource cost of creating a new car is much greater than the resources I will use to drive and keep up the 1989 Volvo station wagon my husband and I just bought from a friend for $3500. It's hard to see on the surface, but an old gas-guzzler, driven less often, can be lighter on the planet than the creation of a brand new car. Also, to quote my mechanic, &quot;You cannot buy a new car of this quality for $3500.&quot;</p> <p>I should note, too, that my parent's first generation Prius just died after 200,000 miles, and there is no way repair the hybrid engine. 200,000 miles on a Volvo 240 is nothing. Our other car is a Volvo 240 sedan that is still rolling strong after almost 400,000 miles of driving.</p> <h2>6. I Realized That Car Preservation Was Smarter Than Car Repair</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>My husband's Polish relatives drive &quot;The Machine,&quot; the name they gave to their Iron Curtain-era compact automobile because it is so lacking in amenities. The Machine is in its 4th decade but still running smoothly because the family treats the car like it's the only car they will ever own. (And it is.) They do everything from driving the speed limit to regularly washing The Machine (to maintain its original 1970's paint job) to ensure that they put as little wear and tear on the car as possible. It's preventative medicine for automobiles.</p> <p>I used to drive, everywhere, like the cops where chasing me. Now I drive like an old lady. It's annoying to my speed-demon friends, but it saves wear and tear on my car and gives me superior gas mileage.</p> <h2>7. I Pay Attention to My Tire Pressure</h2> <p>The average driver who drives 12,000 miles a year on under-inflated tires uses an extra 144 gallons of gas and adds an additional 2880 pounds of green house gases to the environment annually!</p> <p>Properly inflating my tires saves me about $240 a year in gasoline costs, but it also extends the life of my tires. Under-inflation causes more rolling resistance, which adds substantially more wear and tear to the tires. This is also a safety hazard. A badly timed blow-out can kill.</p> <h2>8. I Became a Black Belt Composter</h2> <p>Dirty cardboard food containers cannot be recycled. However, the greasy pizza box, the butter wrappers, the take-out containers, and the wax paper from the cheese can all be put into the compost as the &quot;brown&quot; ingredient. In addition to dramatically cutting down on food related trash, the resulting light and fluffy compost is the perfect amendment for my clay garden soil, adding both nutrients and friability. Better soil equals a more productive garden. Beyond the food savings of a victory garden, using my homemade compost has saved me several hundred dollars in fertilizer and soil amendment costs.</p> <h2>9. I Mulched The Yard</h2> <p>California is in the middle of a severe drought. As a result, our water bill is sky high. To suppress weeds and keep our garden soil moist, I first laid down a layer of &quot;liquor store mulch,&quot; aka flattened cardboard boxes procured for free from my corner liquor store. For the delivery cost of $30, the stables at my local racetrack were more than happy to supply me with an entire truckload of wood chips and horse poop as a garden topcoat. Not only did this organic buffer cut the amount of water used in the garden by 50%, three years later we are still enjoying the results. The cardboard and topcoat have composted down to rich topsoil, and we have 90% fewer weeds.</p> <h2>10. I Got Hardcore About Wastewater</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Because fresh water is becoming scarcer and more expensive with each passing year, I am constantly on the hunt for <a href="">more ways to save water</a>. One major component of this is recycling my waste water. Sadly, my home and yard is poorly configured to use the gray water from my washing machine. That said, I've gotten into the habit of cleaning my floors and my car with buckets of leftover bathwater, and watering my ornamental plants with leftover dishwater.</p> <h2>11. I Started Using Homemade Cleansers</h2> <p>Reusing my gray water got me thinking about how I clean my house. If a cleanser was too poisonous to pour into my garden, isn't it also too poisonous to pour down the drain leading to the ocean? Cleaning with <a href="">baking soda</a> and <a href="">white vinegar</a>, or removing the soap scum out of my bathtub with table salt and a grapefruit rind, is not only less toxic than any of the commercial cleansers, it is also far cheaper. (See also: <a href="">How to Clean Everything With Just 3 All-Natural Cleaners</a>)</p> <h2>12. I Bought a Small (Used) Refrigerator</h2> <p>Every new home now seems to feature double wide, French door refrigerators. Unless you have a gigantic family, it is impossible to eat through 20+ cubic feet of food before it goes bad. This leads to poor shopping and eating habits.</p> <p>When <a href="">shopping for a refrigerator</a>, read the fine print on the energy usage. There are many smaller refrigerators that don't get an Energy Star rating but use less energy than the bigger refrigerators that do.</p> <p>Also, refrigerators and freezers run more efficiently when they are full rather than empty. Why pay extra to cool unused space? Consider ignoring the signage inside the fridge and arrange your food in the most space-saving way (like using the crisper drawer for canned drinks instead of vegetables), using every nook and cranny. My small refrigerator enforces smart shopping habits and saves me money on my energy bill all year long. (See also: <a href="">8 Ways to Make Your Fridge Last Forever</a>)</p> <h2>13. I Exorcised the Phantom Load and the Vampire Draw From My Home</h2> <p>Here's a terrible secret: Many modern appliances <a href="">leak energy</a> even when they are turned off. The Dust Buster, the phone charger, the video game console&hellip;I love them, but they were sucking up $20 a month in electricity while I slept. Those little monsters. To combat phantom load, I plugged my entertainment system into a power strip and then I put the power strip on a timer. From 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., the TV, the DVD player, and the game consoles get switched off automatically at the plug. All other small electronics are unplugged manually and religiously when they are not in use.</p> <h2>14. I Became a Beekeeper</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Beekeeping, unlike gardening, takes up very little space. I know over a hundred yard-less, urban beekeepers who keep bees on their tiny balconies, on the rooftops of their office buildings, or at community gardens. Honeybees increase the yield of gardens by 30% to 60%. This dramatic increase in productivity is an obvious money saver for the home gardener. More produce for less work!</p> <p>Since bees are in decline all over the world, giving a safe home to pollinators is good for the planet. My new skill set also gave me two more revenue streams: selling honey and doing live bee removal from public buildings and peoples' private homes. Keeping bees is a fascinating hobby job, and I learn something new about beekeeping every day. That said, the youngest member of my local bee club is five years old and the oldest is 96. It's an activity that people of all ages can learn and enjoy.</p> <h2>15. I Learned How to Preserve Food</h2> <p>Canning is the new knitting. And, as with knitting, canning is a fake frugal activity if you are paying retail for your supplies. Canning really only saves money if you are preserving <em>surplus</em> produce. Even though I have my own garden, I have yet to grow enough food that I can't eat it all myself.</p> <p>When I learned to can, instead of buying fruit for jam at the store, I put a want ad on my local <a href="">Freecycle</a> group for surplus fruit. I got an insane response from my neighbors. The first year, I collected over 2000 pounds of free fruit. In exchange for gleaning privileges, I give my fruit-donating neighbors a jar of every new batch of preserves. My neighbors love being members of my Jam of the Month Club, and I've met so many new friends this way.</p> <p>Because I have access to so much free produce, I've started canning the surplus to sell and barter. I trade my jam with my neighbor for eggs and fresh poultry. I also make several hundred dollars a year selling my preserves at local craft fairs.</p> <p>Beyond my own grocery savings, making homemade preserves has saved me hundreds of dollars on gift purchases. People make birthday jam requests now!</p> <p>After the ingredients, the next most expensive aspect of canning is the jars. New jelly jars cost $1 each. I accidentally fell into a free source of canning jars last year when my friends got married. Apparently, the new trend in frugal summer weddings is to use eight-ounce jelly jars instead of buying or renting glassware for the wedding. After the wedding party, my friends offered to give me the dirty jars for free. For the cost of elbow grease I got 340 jars with new, unused lids, my friends had one less thing to deal with after the wedding, and the reusable jars stayed out of the waste stream for that much longer.</p> <p>It's old-fashioned etiquette to return jars to the cook when you finish eating the jam. My customers actually love this green aspect of my business, and I get about a 30% return rate of jars every year.</p> <h2>16. I Decided to Take Bottle and Can Recycling Seriously</h2> <p>Los Angeles has the largest recycling program in the country. I used to just throw my bottles and cans into the recycling bin without another thought. It's so easy. But then I realized that my laziness was costing me about $300 a year in easy money!</p> <p>While recycling for money versus letting the city recycle for money had a net impact of zero on the environment, the time spent dropping off bottles and cans at the recycling center myself pays for one entire month of water and power. For me, this is a huge deal.</p> <h2>17. I Became a Hard Core Trash Picker</h2> <p>Last week I made $120 at a garage sale. Most of the merchandise I'd found on the curb while walking through the neighborhood on trash day. I kept fifty items out of the waste stream for a little longer by <a href="">literally selling garbage</a> back to my neighbors.</p> <h2>18. I Moved The Cats Indoors</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Our two cats used to be indoor/outdoor cats. Although the cats loved the freedom, the injuries that they sustained from running around outside were costing upwards of $800 a pop at the vet.</p> <p>The most obvious way to save on medical costs and medical waste is to stay in good health. Veterinary waste might be smaller than human medical waste, but just like at the people version of ER, very few medical supplies at an animal hospital can be recycled or reused legally. All the tubes, syringes, and medications are single use items, and even washable equipment uses a lot of resources to keep clean.</p> <p>Although the cats still lurk by the door, hoping they can sneak outside without me noticing, I am resolute in my decision to keep them indoors. The <a href="">average lifespan</a> of an indoor cat is 12 years, while outside cats often live less than five.</p> <h2>19. I Split the Cost of Tools With My Friends</h2> <p>I share a china pattern with my brother-in-law. I share a weed whacker with my friend Laura. I share luggage with my sister. I share a Cuisinart with my neighbor Alexandra. Why do I need to buy and store an entire set of tools that aren't in constant, daily use when I can split the cost and the storage space with other people?</p> <h2>20. I Stopped Eating Meat During the Week</h2> <p>Eating a vegetarian diet is an easy way to live light on the planet and light on my body. My husband and I eat meat twice a week, usually when we are dining out with friends. Eating meat is now an event for us, which is how it was for humankind for most of history. Monday through Friday we eat vegetarian meals. Cutting out meat during the week has allowed us to spend more money on organic produce and dry goods. As part-time vegetarians, we actually eat better quality food, and still have money left over to eat dinner at a restaurant twice a week.</p> <h2>21. I Reuse Paper Before I Recycle</h2> <p>American businesses throw away 175 pounds of paper per worker per year. Even though I run my business from my home, it would take me over a decade to use that amount of paper as I make an effort to use both sides of every sheet of paper that crosses my desk.</p> <p>In addition to making double-sided printing the default setting on my printer, I save myself a lot of hassle and misprinted documents by carefully labeling my printer, so I know exactly how to insert paper, envelopes, and labels for perfect print outs every time.</p> <p>I never use virgin paper as scratch paper.</p> <p>I can get two extra uses out of used envelopes! First, I like to write grocery lists on the back of used envelopes. That way I can store my coupons inside for easy access while I'm shopping. Once both sides of an envelope are used, I carefully pull apart the envelope and refold it inside out for reuse a third, or even fourth time! A little glue stick is all that's needed to glue everything back together.</p> <h2>22. I Use Second Hand Packing Material</h2> <p>I sell a lot of vintage goods on Etsy and a lot of books on <a href=""></a>. I get all of my padded envelopes for shipping books and records from my local college radio station. College radio stations, with their eclectic music programming, receive hundreds of CDs and records from musicians and record labels for play on air every month. If you don't have this type of radio station in your area, think of what local businesses might receive a lot of packing material they aren't reusing. It never hurts to ask.</p> <p>My go-to source for small, heavy-duty boxes is my local hardware store. Hardware stores have a huge variety of boxes of all shapes and sizes because their merchandise selection is so broad. Every day, the owner of my local mom-and-pop hardware store puts all the unwanted cardboard boxes next to the dumpster in their back parking lot. The hardware store pays less for trash pickup, and my neighbors and I get the pick of free storage and shipping containers.</p> <p>Has anyone else had this sticker shock, but in a good way?</p> <p><em>What do-gooder things for the environment did you do that ended up saving you a lot of money? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How I Saved $30,000 and Helped the Earth at the Same Time" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Lifestyle buying used recycling reuse saving upcycling Tue, 03 Jun 2014 15:43:34 +0000 Max Wong 1141613 at 12 Ways to Cut Down on Garbage and Save Money Too! <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-ways-to-cut-down-on-garbage-and-save-money-too" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="recycling" title="recycling" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was a child, my family saved hundreds of dollars a year by cancelling our residential trash service and hauling our own junk to the dump instead. Once a month my sister and I would load the household garbage into the pickup truck and escort our father to the town dump. We liked going to the dump. The spectacle of sanitation workers racing around the garbage pit on their bulldozers had an entertaining &quot;<a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0790731932&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=LP65J22N7YSGYOXA">Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome</a>&quot; quality. Also, as a reward for our services, our dad would take us for breakfast at Denny's on the way home. We saved the Sanitation Department work, my parents got a break on a monthly bill, and my sister and I got Pigs in a Blanket. (See also: <a href="">Turning Trash Into Cash</a>)</p> <h2>Opt Out of High Trash Bills?</h2> <p>Flash forward to adulthood in Los Angeles and an outrageously high trash bill. Since it took me more than a month as a single lady to fill the gigantic black trash can provided by the city, I decided to call the Department of Sanitation and cancel my trash collection. Why pay so much money for something I was barely using? I could easily dump my minimal trash output at work. The office dumpster was never full and got picked up weekly. And, even if my bosses forbade my trashy freeloading, was it really so inconvenient to bring my trash to the dump on my own every few weeks?</p> <p>As it turns out, one cannot cancel residential trash collection in LA. I get charged a sanitation fee regardless of whether my can is full or empty.</p> <p>This is infuriating and unsportsmanlike, but unfortunately not uncommon.</p> <h2>The Financial and Environmental Costs of Trash Hauling</h2> <p>While there are some civilized communities where good garbage behavior is rewarded financially, most people pay dearly for the privilege of throwing things away. Even the most thrifty do-gooders can get gouged by their garbage bills, as there are still many municipalities that don't offer recycling services or provide a way to dispose of yard waste that doesn't involve a landfill.</p> <p>However, this doesn't mean that everyone should just start throwing things away with abandon. Americans generate, on average, 4.4 pounds of garbage per person per day. This level of waste is obviously a terrible burden on the environment, and a not-so-obvious burden on everyone's bank account.</p> <p>Most people, myself included, don't immediately connect their garbage as the product of their lives. And, that product has a cost &mdash; everything that I throw in the trash is something I've paid for, with cash, with time, or with labor. Although I can't cut what I pay the city for garbage pick-up, I can cut down on the time, money, and labor I spend on my garbage product.</p> <p>Here are 11 ways I cut down on both trash and expenses.</p> <h2>1. Do a Trash Audit</h2> <p>Periodically, I will audit the contents of my garbage can. For one week I will throw all of my household waste into one garbage can. At the end of the week I dump the can out onto a tarp and take a count of what's there.</p> <p>Although this sounds crazy, doing a trash audit is really instructive in terms of figuring out where I am over-consuming (also known as &quot;wasting money&quot;).</p> <ul> <li> <p>Is there a lot of food waste? I need to alter my shopping schedule or make more time for food preservation tasks.</p> </li> <li> <p>Are there a lot of plastic toy parts? I need to buy better/fewer toys and teach the kids in my life to take better care of them.</p> </li> <li> <p>Is there a lot of food packaging? I need to source products with less packaging and be more diligent about recycling.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Just like people bust their budgets by frittering away a lot of money with tiny impulse purchases, many people generate literally a ton of trash with tiny actions.</p> <p>For example, until I really looked at my trash, I didn't realize that I was putting 5200 foil tea bag wrappers into the landfill every year. (I have since switched to loose tea in a metal tea ball). While switching tea-steeping methods doesn't save me money at the store, if more people were nit picky about their waste stream, we'd all save more money on garbage collection fees in the long run. Every year the price of trash &quot;storage&quot; goes up because dumps are filling up and the costs of opening a new landfill is high. The longer we can make due with our current dumping grounds, the better.</p> <h2>2. Use Less</h2> <p>This is where the Trash Audit really helps. What are you throwing away the most? Is it your hard earned cash? Because that's what you're dumping when you waste your purchases through lack of attention.</p> <ul> <li> <p>Buying food in bulk doesn't save any money if it goes bad before you can eat it.</p> </li> <li> <p>If you are using more than <a href="">two tablespoons</a> of laundry or dish-washing detergent, you are probably using too much.</p> </li> <li> <p>How many times can you wash and reuse zip-lock bags before they go kaput?</p> </li> <li> <p>Do you really need a trashcan liner or can you just hose out the bin periodically?</p> </li> </ul> <h2>3. Pay Yourself Every Time You Use a Reusable Shopping Bag</h2> <p>Last year Los Angeles became the largest city in America to ban single-use plastic grocery bags. People love to whine about the unfair 10 cent bag fee, as if getting charged for shopping bags is new at all. Grocery stores have been charging customers all along for their bags. How do I know this? In exchange for shopping with reusable bags, I've been getting a five-cent rebate per bag, at the grocery store, since moving to LA in 1988. Big grocery stores have always penalized customers for using plastic bags, they've just been less transparent about it.</p> <p>But the cost of plastic bags doesn't end when you leave the store. Californians spend 25 million dollars a year to <a href="">collect and landfill plastic bags</a>. Some cities pay up to 17 cents per bag for disposal. And by cities, that means you, the taxpayer.</p> <h2>4. Choose Reusable Over Disposable</h2> <p>Just like plastic bags, consumers can save their tax dollars and mind their pennies by purchasing durable goods to replace disposable ones. For example, the average American uses six paper napkins a day. If everyone used just one less paper napkin per day, we'd keep a <a href="">billion pounds</a> of napkins out of the landfill every year.</p> <p>Convenience comes with a heavy price. Disposables actually cost more per use.</p> <p>I bought 20 Italian linen napkins from Pottery Barn in 2002. Each cloth napkin was a pricey $4.00. Compared to what I would have paid for 20 napkins at a thrift store, $80.00 seems like a crazy amount to spend on table linens. However, 12 years later, I still have 10 of those napkins in daily rotation. In addition to keeping 26,400 paper napkins out of the landfill, I've also saved, according to analysis by the Ocean Conservancy, somewhere between $645.00 and $5271.00 that I <a href="">would have spent on paper napkins</a> in that same period. And that's a conservative estimate!</p> <h2>5. Compost Compost Compost!</h2> <p>I am a ninja composter.</p> <p>In addition to yard and kitchen waste, I also compost newsprint, dirty cardboard food containers, and fabrics made from natural fibers. When clothes moths decided to use my angora sweater as their headquarters for wardrobe destruction, I dumped the sweater into the compost bin, not the garbage. It was so satisfying to smother those evil bugs under coffee grounds and melon rinds.</p> <p>Compost is a cheap and easy soil amendment that anyone can make. It simultaneously fertilizes your garden <a href="">for free</a> and keeps waste out of the landfill.</p> <p>If Americans composted their food waste instead of putting it into the landfills, the yearly <a href="">reduction of greenhouse gases</a> produced would be equal to taking two million cars off the road. What's a bigger time waster: composting or global warming?</p> <h2>6. Bring Your Own Container Instead of Taking a Doggie Bag</h2> <p>Styrofoam is toxic to produce and doesn't break down in the landfill. Instead of bringing home all that dirty packaging, I bring my own Tupperware containers to restaurants to use, not just for leftovers, but for take out as well.</p> <p>While this habit is mortifying to my friends, in the 10 years I've been doing this, I've never had a restaurant refuse me. In fact, I've only gotten positive feedback from restaurant owners, some of whom have rewarded me with extra food. Every Friday my husband and I get take out from our local Indian restaurant. We got a terrible shock the one time that we forgot to bring our own plasticware and used the restaurant's take out containers instead: We came home with 30% less food! Although our Tupperware containers clearly state the volume on the bottom of each piece, the restaurant just fills everything to the brim.</p> <p>If you pack a lunch, invest in a lunch box instead of using a paper sack. Teach your kids to bring home their reusable lunch supplies. In addition to honing their organizational skills, something that will help them their entire lives, this <a href="">good habit will save $246.60</a> per school year per kid. Imagine how much money you'd save as an adult by switching to sustainable lunch packing!</p> <h2>7. Avoid Over-Packaged Goods</h2> <p>Even if packaging can be recycled, recycling costs both money and resources. It's far better for the planet and your wallet to avoid excess packaging to begin with. For example, buy one big container, instead a bunch of smaller containers. Most stores charge less for bulk purchases, and the reduction of packaging weight will save you on online shipping costs.</p> <p>Buy dry goods like grains and pasta in bulk. The closest bulk bin section to me is at the notoriously expensive Whole Foods. That said, organic bulk oatmeal at Whole Foods is still cheaper than the non-organic, generic brand at my regular grocery store. It pays to comparison shop!</p> <p>Only purchase products that can be recycled locally. Check with your municipal recycling center about what they accept.</p> <h2>8. Recycle Recycle Recycle!</h2> <p>Even though every recycling program I know of accepts glass, Americans still throw away 9 million tons of glass every year.</p> <p>Over one ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled. Recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than raw materials, so manufacturing recycled glass bottles emits less greenhouse gases.</p> <p>Recycling glass is clearly the right choice for the planet, but why do so many people refuse to do it for personal finance reasons? <a href="">In 2012 I made $120.00</a> just by recycling the glass bottles of my wino neighbors.</p> <p>Even if you don't have recycling in your area, consider reusing glass jars. Use jars instead of plastic drinking cups at your next party. If you eat a lot of tomato sauce, team up with someone in your community who is a canner and who will reuse your pint jars over and over.</p> <h2>9. Cancel the Junk Mail</h2> <p>Sale circulars and solicitation letters are mailed out to entice customers to spend money. For me, junk mail is annoying. It's an extra chore that some stranger has added to my day. Even if separating out the junk mail from actual mail takes five minutes a week, that still adds up to over four hours of wasted time per year that I could have spent doing something that I enjoy.</p> <p>Junk mail is also taxing on the environment because it takes resources to print and mail all those unwanted letters and catalogs.</p> <p>To stop junk mail, register your name and address with the <a href="">Direct Marketing Association</a>. If you register online, they will wave the $1.00 processing fee they charge check writers. DMA Choice divides junk mail into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazines (this includes newsletters and subscription offers), and Other Mail Offers (including donation requests, bank offers, and retail promotions). You can request to stop mail from individual companies or from an entire category.</p> <h2>10. Share the Surplus With Your Neighbors</h2> <p>Why throw away leftovers when you can use them as bait to lure your neighbors into your frugal network? If you have extra anything, offer it to those who live close by. Sharing is one of the easiest ways to build community and save money. (See also: <a href="">Why You Should Build a Frugal Community &mdash; And How</a>)</p> <p>In exchange for homemade jam and honey, my neighbors give me free eggs, orchids, backyard fruit, house sitting, manual labor, rides to the airport, and friendship.</p> <h2>11. Sell, Donate, or Curb Away Unwanted Items</h2> <p>I am always surprised by what people buy first at my garage sales. It's always the stuff I think is junk. Search on Craigslist and eBay to see if your trash is actually treasure.</p> <p>Generally, I only donate items that are in extremely good condition, because I only buy items from charity shops that are in extremely good condition, and most stores can only sell items that are in extremely good condition. Even with my picky donation standards, I still get a nice tax write-off every year.</p> <p>Anything I think is useful but not sellable, I put out on the curb the day before trash day. This includes worn clothes, partially used office supplies, random storage containers, and furniture I'm too lazy to repair. Most items I curb are gone within an hour.</p> <h2>12. Buy Used</h2> <p>Buying used is a direct form of recycling. It keeps things out of the landfill, and it uses far fewer virgin resources.</p> <p>Making every effort to only buy used goods has saved me thousands of dollars over the last seven years. Unless something is highly collectible, most used goods cost considerably less than their new counterparts. And even when they don't, a lot of used goods are considerably better made than newer models. Thrift stores of full of old things that were built to last. The new J. Crew T-shirt I bought last August developed holes after just 10 wearings, but the J. Crew T-shirt I bought in 1988 has lasted through at least 1000 washings.</p> <p><em>What do you do to generate less garbage? If you have incentives in your area that help you save money on your trash bill, please help your fellow Wise Bread readers conserve cash and resources by sharing in the comments section.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="12 Ways to Cut Down on Garbage and Save Money Too!" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Lifestyle Shopping recycling trash trash fees Thu, 29 May 2014 08:24:18 +0000 Max Wong 1140924 at Would You Drive One of the 10 Smallest Cars Ever Made? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/would-you-drive-one-of-the-10-smallest-cars-ever-made" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="toy car" title="toy car" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I love my tiny Toyota Yaris (and the <a href="">terrific gas mileage</a> it gets), but it's a behemoth compared to some of the smallest vehicles ever made. Which one of these diminutive automobiles would you be willing to drive? (See also: <a href="">Guide to Buying a Used Car Without Going Crazy</a>)</p> <h2>1. Motoplan</h2> <p><img width="605" height="301" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Why make cars that seat four or six when most trips are made solo? Way back in 1957, Carl Jurisch became convinced that the future of transportation lay in a personal single-seat vehicle, and he set about building a prototype. His love for two-wheeled vehicles is evident in <a href="">the Motoplan</a> &mdash; a small, personal three-wheeled vehicle that bridged the gap between cycle and car.</p> <h2>2. Peel P50</h2> <p><img width="469" height="369" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>At a mere 54 inches long and just 41 inches wide, it's little surprise that the UK engineered <a href="">Peel P50</a> held the Guinness Book of World Records' title of smallest car for over 50 years! Its 'big' sister, the Peel Trident, is the world's smallest two seater. Both are collector's items now, but still fully street legal in the UK.</p> <h2>3. Mia Electric</h2> <p><img width="589" height="384" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Experts say the higher price tag is why people have been slow to adopt electric vehicles. France's <a href="">Mia Electric Company</a> hoped to overcome that barrier with this tiny offering: a three-seat all electric vehicle measuring just (9 feet, 5 inches), with two sliding doors and a centrally positioned driver's seat.</p> <h2>4. Tango by Commuter Cars</h2> <p><img width="464" height="325" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>When most of us get in the car, our destination is two miles away (or less), and we're typically alone. So why drive vehicles with massive gas tanks and eight seats? The <a href="">Tango</a> was designed to offer the speed and agility of a motorcycle along with the security of a sports car. At 8 feet 6 inches long (and 5 inches narrower than the average motorcycle) can park perpendicularly to the curb like a bike, making it a dream in crowded cities.</p> <h2>5. Smart Fortwo</h2> <p><img width="548" height="366" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's time to reject the notion that small can't be sexy. The Smart Fortwo <a href="">Pure Coupe</a> is a mere 106 inches long and just 61 inches wide, but once inside you'll forget all about its compact body. The two-seater Coupe offers both automatic mode (for ease) and manual mode (for fun), and hill start assist; and it's packed with standard safety features such as eight full-size airbags.</p> <h2>6. Fiat 500</h2> <p><img width="425" height="232" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Fiat is another classic tiny car maker now experiencing a renaissance. Manufactured between between 1957 and 1975, the <a href="">Fiat 500</a> measured just 9 feet 9 inches long, and was originally powered by an itty-bitty 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine. It is believed to be the smallest car to complete a world circumnavigation.</p> <h2>7. Velam Isetta</h2> <p><img width="548" height="339" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This two-seater car used the motorcycle engine of the Iso Moto 200, so was dubbed &quot;<a href="">Isetta</a>&quot; &mdash; an Italian diminutive meaning <em>little ISO</em>. The entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry and the roof was made of canvas to allow for emergency exit in the event of a crash. Thanks to its small size (only 7.5 feet long by 4.5 feet wide) and egg-shape with bubble-type windows, the Isetta became known as the &quot;bubble car.&quot;</p> <h2>8. Mahindra e2o</h2> <p><img width="605" height="331" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Most electric vehicles necessitate special charging stations that represent an added cost (or inconvenience) but not the <a href="">Mahindra e2o</a>. Measuring just 129 inches long by 59 inches wide, this tiny EV can simply be plugged into a normal electrical outlet, just like your laptop. (See also: <a href="">Should Your Next Car Be Electric?</a>)</p> <h2>9. DIY Car by Austin Coulson</h2> <p><img width="605" height="404" alt="" src="" /></p> <p>If you look too quickly, you might mistake it for a child's toy, but this car built by <a href="">Arizona's Austin Coulson</a> is no joke. At just 2 feet 1 inch high, 2 feet 1.75 inches wide and 4 feet 1.75 inches long the car is fully drivable, licensed, and registered, and it earned the 2014 Guinness Record for the world's smallest roadworthy car.</p> <h2>10. Daewoo Matiz</h2> <p><iframe width="605" height="454" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>Speaking of toy cars, many of us tooled around in one of those plastic pedal cars as a child, but few of us dreamed of making a road-worthy version. English mechanic John Bitmead recently made headlines by doing just that. Bitmead converted a tiny <a href="">Daewoo Matiz</a> (now sold as the Chevy Spark) into an adult-sized replica of the classic toddler Cozy Coupe that's capable of traveling 60 mph.</p> <p><em>Can you see yourself in one of these diminutive daily drivers?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Would You Drive One of the 10 Smallest Cars Ever Made?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Beth Buczynski</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Cars and Transportation Green Living Cars classic cars small cars Wed, 28 May 2014 08:12:21 +0000 Beth Buczynski 1140738 at Bottled or Tap: The Right Choice for Water May Surprise You <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/bottled-or-tap-the-right-choice-for-water-may-surprise-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="drinking water" title="drinking water" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Did you know that bottled water sales have more than tripled over the last 10 years? It's true! Annually, this business as a whole pulls in a staggering <a href="">$11 billion a year</a>. On... water. The most perplexing part: &quot;Tap water [from regulated public versus private sources, for the purpose of this article] and bottled water are <a href="">generally comparable</a> in terms of safety.&quot; (See also: <a href="">Bottled Water Hype</a>)</p> <p>So, then, why are so many of us choosing to literally pour our dollars down the drain? Here are some things to consider before you take your next sip.</p> <h2>1. Taste Differences</h2> <p>Well, just because water is safe to drink doesn't necessarily mean it tastes the best. Plus, as discerning consumers, we're all about options.</p> <p>If you drink water from taps across the country, you'll definitely notice a difference. Some spouts are generally taste-neutral while others are laced with a hint of chlorine (sometimes even an overpowering flavor, as chlorination is one popular method <a href="">used to purify</a> water for drinking). From there, the taste may differ depending on mineral content or a number of other factors. (See also: <a href="">The Best Eco-Friendly Water Bottles</a>)</p> <p>Thing is, bottled water, too, has its own different production processes. And as a result, bottled water will also produce a range of pleasing or pungent flavors and notes, making it just as difficult to identify in blindfolded taste tests. Looking beyond the pretty packaging, you might not be able to tell your favorite brand from your tap. So, if safety and taste aren't really pulling you in either direction &mdash; the dollars and cents should.</p> <h2>2. Money Matters</h2> <p>How much money are we talking about? One estimate I encountered: Bottled water costs <a href="">240 to over 10,000 times</a> more per gallon than tap water. Once you pick your jaw off the floor (I had to!) and let that set in, the choice between the two seems much easier. Plus, if you consider that some bottled waters might actually just be tap water in disguise &mdash; you're being up-charged considerably. (See also: <a href="">25 Things To Do With Reusable Water Bottles</a>)</p> <p>That's right: &quot;<a href="">25%</a> (to as much as <a href="">40%</a>) of the bottled waters consumed in the U.S. come from municipal water supplies.&quot; That sounds just plain criminal to me (or, alternatively, like an incredibly lucrative business idea). So far, tap water is winning with regard to safety, taste, and dollars. If you choose to save your pennies by drinking from your own tap, then next question becomes: To filter or not to filter?</p> <h2>3. Trickle Down</h2> <p>Well, that's where this whole issue gets particularly slippery. In an informal study conducted at the offices of Mother Jones, staff members actually voted <a href="">San Francisco tap water</a> &mdash; which is sourced from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park &mdash; straight out of the tap better than its filtered counterpart. However, we can't all enjoy such pristine sources.</p> <p>In fact, a 2009 analysis conducted by the Environmental Working Group found <a href="">315 pollutants</a>, including freaky stuff like arsenic, hiding in EPA-approved taps across the country. What's even more difficult is that water within the same area can vary in safety from home to home due to pipe age, material, and other pesky factors.</p> <h2>What to Do?</h2> <p>If you're confused, you're in good company. It seems there's no clear-cut answer to what is truly the best choice for our bodies. Though, what we can all agree upon is that bottled water surely comes at a premium and may very well not be worth the added cost.</p> <p>The best advice I've found is to familiarize yourself with <a href="">common contaminants</a> and to have your tap water tested. If you choose to filter, there are various techniques, though not one will clear out all possible impurities. Also important: &quot;A home water filter <a href="">won't protect you</a> from water that has been declared unsafe&quot; by municipalities during natural disasters like floods. And generally, you can avoid consuming lead from tap water by using &quot;cold tap for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula and to let the water run for a minute before using it.&quot;</p> <p><em>Do you drink bottled water? If not, do you filter your tap water?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Bottled or Tap: The Right Choice for Water May Surprise You" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Green Living bottle water tap water wasting money water Fri, 16 May 2014 08:12:43 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1139415 at 17 Cheap and Awesome Reusable Replacements for Disposable Products <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/17-cheap-and-awesome-reusable-replacements-for-disposable-products" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="groceries" title="groceries" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The average person generates <a href="">4.3 pounds of waste</a> every day, and well over half of this waste (about 220 million tons) ends up in a landfill. Not only is this rate of trash production terrible for the planet, it wastes lots of your hard-earned money. While that single-use item or throw-away packaging feels convenient, disposable items are the same as throwing money in the trash. Save money, and be kind to the planet, by switching to one of these cost-effective reusable replacements instead. (See also: <a href="">21 Disposable Products You Can Reuse</a>)</p> <h2>1. Rechargeable Batteries</h2> <p>While rechargeable <a href="">batteries</a> cost more initially, they can be reused hundreds of times and last for years, if used properly. At the end of their life cycle, rechargeable batteries can be recycled to keep toxic chemicals out of the landfill.</p> <h2>2. Water Bottles</h2> <p>Bottled water has to be the biggest scam ever. Despite what the industry says, <a href="">bottled water</a> isn't any cleaner or healthier than tap water. The production of one plastic bottle uses more water to produce than actually put into the bottle for drinking! Skip the scam and carry tap water in <a href="">a non-BPA water bottle</a> instead. (See also: <a href="">The Best Eco-Friendly Water Bottles</a>)</p> <h2>3. Diva Cup</h2> <p>Disposable pads and tampons aren't the only option. Ladies, if you'd like to save money and be kind to the planet during your time of the month, consider a reusable option like <a href="">menstrual cups or washable pads</a>.</p> <h2>4. Glass Food Storage Containers</h2> <p>Plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and cheap plastic containers are all money in the trash. If you've got leftovers, or want to bring your lunch to work, store food in reusable glass containers instead (glass is better than plastic because it won't leach toxins into your food or retain food residue).</p> <h2>5. Cloth Shopping Bags</h2> <p>Those plastic bags they give you at the store aren't free. You pay for them in the form of increased food prices. They also take hundreds of years to break down in the landfill, often becoming microscopic plastic waste in the ocean. Buy or make your own cloth shopping bags, and you could receive a nice credit at the register. (See also: <a href="">20 New Things You Can Make With Old Denim Jeans</a>)</p> <h2>6. DIY Swiffer Pads</h2> <p>If (like me) you've only got a small uncarpeted area, a full size mop and bucket are unnecessary. With a Swiffer you can give your kitchen and bathroom a quick once over without all the fuss. Instead of constantly buying disposable pads, make your own <a href="!/">Swiffer pad</a> or buy a <a href=";search_query=swiffer">washable one</a> on Etsy.</p> <h2>7. Safety Razor</h2> <p>Most of us shave at least one body part, and disposable razor heads are astronomically expensive. There are lots of <a href="">greener alternatives to disposable razors</a>, however, including some that can be sharpened repeatedly. (See also: <a href="">Save Money On Shaving With These Razor Tricks</a>)</p> <h2>8. Cloth Napkins and Cleaning Wipes</h2> <p>Paper napkins, paper towels, tissues, and disposable cleaning wipes are convenient, but incredibly wasteful. Using washable cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, and turning <a href="">old t-shirts</a> into reusable cleaning cloths, will save heaps of money and drastically reduce your garbage production.</p> <h2>9. Permanent Coffee Filter</h2> <p>Still using bleached paper coffee filters to brew your morning java? Save lots of money with a permanent, reusable coffee filter instead. When dirty, simply run it through the dishwasher.</p> <h2>10. Diapers and Baby Wipes</h2> <p>Unlike disposable diapers, which cost a fortune, cloth diapers are softer, less-toxic, and result in zero landfill waste. Same thing goes for baby wipes. Consider using <a href="">cloth diapers</a> and making your own reusable <a href="">cloth baby wipes kit</a>.</p> <h2>11. Dryer Balls</h2> <p>Fabric softener and dryer sheets are an expensive way to get the soft, clean-smelling clothes that you want. Save time, money, and energy with these <a href="">DIY wool dryer balls</a> instead (tennis balls also work in a pinch, but they're loud).</p> <h2>12. Reusable Straws</h2> <p>Unless you're a baby (or have a physical condition that makes drinking difficult) I'm not really sure why you need a straw. Nevertheless, using a washable <a href="">glass</a> or <a href="">metal straw</a> instead of the plastic ones drastically reduces waste.</p> <h2>13. Permanent Air Filter</h2> <p>To keep your home and car running efficiently, you need a clean air filter. Many people simply replace these disposable filters every few months, not realizing there are permanent alternatives.</p> <h2>14. Wrapping Paper</h2> <p>Paper wrappings and gift bags look good, but are often only used for minutes before being tossed in the trash. Save money and reduce paper waste with <a href="">eco-friendly alternatives</a> like cloth gift bags and upcycled wrappings.</p> <h2>15. Paper Plates and Plastic Utensils</h2> <p>Whether you're planning a picnic (or simply packing a lunch) strive to use traditional metal cutlery that can be washed repeatedly. Really need a disposable option? Try compostable alternatives made from corn or bamboo.</p> <h2>16. Toothbrush</h2> <p>Toothbrush bristles wear out quickly, so to maintain a healthy smile, they've got to be replaced. This doesn't mean the entire toothbrush needs to end up in the trash, however. You can reduce 93% of toothbrush waste by using toothbrush handles with <a href="">replaceable heads</a>.</p> <h2>17. Vacuum Bags</h2> <p>Vacuums that require disposable bags are, well, vintage to say the least. Upgrade to a vacuum that features an easy-to-empty canister and washable air filter, and never waste money on vacuum bags again. (See also: <a href="">The 5 Best Robotic Vacuums</a>)</p> <p><em>Anything I've missed? Use the reusable comments box below to share your favorite reusables!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="17 Cheap and Awesome Reusable Replacements for Disposable Products" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Beth Buczynski</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home green living recycle reuse Tue, 13 May 2014 08:24:22 +0000 Beth Buczynski 1138731 at How to Turn Your Black Thumb Green <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-turn-your-black-thumb-green" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="garden" title="garden" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's that time of year again. Spring is&hellip; springing. If you live in a place with four seasons, like me, then the trees are starting to bud, the tulips and daffodils are blooming, and you're starting to think about adding to the natural beauty in your little corner of the world by planting something.</p> <p>And some of you are terrified.</p> <p>I know that feeling. I am a reformed plant killer. For years, I would start plants every spring only to forget them, neglect them, or watch them die in spite of my best efforts. I had almost given up on being able to have a beautiful garden.</p> <p>And then I started learning. Slowly but surely, by asking the right questions, I learned how to help my plants thrive and not die. Now, I am living proof that growing plants is a learned skill and that you can turn your black thumb green. (See also: <a href="">10 Easy Veggies to Plant This Spring</a>)</p> <h2>General Principles</h2> <p>Before I get into specific things you can do to give your plants a better chance at survival, there are a few principles that you should apply whenever you want to grow something.</p> <h3>Observe</h3> <p>Before you plant anything, before you even go to the store and decide what plants you want, decide where you want to plant and observe that area. How much light does it get? How much water? Is it within reach of your sprinklers, or would you have to water it by hand? Are you willing or able to commit to that?</p> <p>Giving yourself a couple of days to observe and think about where you want to plant will help you choose plants that are appropriate to the place and the amount of water the plant will get, which can make all the difference in the world.</p> <h3>Ask a Gardener</h3> <p>Do you know someone with a lovely garden? By all means, ask him or her for advice. But even if you don't know any experienced gardeners, ask someone at your local nursery.</p> <p>Be as specific as possible when you ask for advice on what to plant. Say something like, &quot;I want to plant in a container that will sit on my porch. It will have sun in the morning but not in the afternoon, and I will probably be able to water it 2-3 times per week.&quot;</p> <p>When you do this, an experienced gardener can usually give you a pretty good idea of what will thrive in your space... and what will not. Many new gardeners fail because they plant the wrong plants in a space. If your plant needs shade and lots of water, it will die if you plant it where it will get sun all day.</p> <p>In addition to some of this basic knowledge, many gardeners have location-specific knowledge about some plants. For instance, they may know that, while a particular plant usually needs a lot of sun, in your particular locale it should have shade in the afternoon because of excessive heat. This sort of knowledge can make or break your garden.</p> <h3>Accept Some Defeat</h3> <p>Everyone is going to kill some of their plants. Even experienced gardeners know that, sometimes, things just don't work. Maybe you got a damaged plant and didn't know it, or maybe another plant nearby simply takes over in early summer. Recognizing that there is a give and take in gardening can help you accept it when something doesn't work out the way you'd planned.</p> <h2>Tips and Tricks</h2> <p>While most plants just need to be planted in the right spot and then get the right amount of water and sun to thrive, there are some things you can do that might help your plants grow, or things you might want to do as a gardener that might seem trickier than they actually are. Here are some ideas for dealing with those things.</p> <h3>1. Water With Diet or Club Soda</h3> <p>Because of the nutrients in <a href="">diet and/or club soda</a>, both can help you have greener and healthier plants. While you don't want to substitute for water entirely, adding these to your watering regimen can be good for your plants. Just don't water with sugared soda, as this is <em>not</em> helpful for plant health and growth.</p> <h3>2. Learn How to Grow From Cuttings</h3> <p>Save money by <a href="">propagating plants like rosemary and lavender</a> from cuttings. This is cheaper than buying the plants from the store and can be easy if you follow all of the directions. Be sure to use rooting hormone, as it makes the process faster and more likely to produce the plant you want.</p> <h3>3. Add Tea and Coffee Grounds to Your Soil</h3> <p>Some plants, like blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons, love acidic soil (this is information you can get from your experienced gardener!). If you're planting some of these, add a sprinkling of &frac14; inch of tea or coffee grounds to the soil each month, and its pH should stay on the acidic side.</p> <h3>4. Start Seedlings in Lemon Halves</h3> <p>If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to start some of your plants inside before it's warm enough to plant them outside. Halve a lemon, carve out the fruit, and poke a small hole in the bottom for drainage. Then, <a href="">plant your seed in the half lemon</a>. This adds to the nutrients your plant will get, and you can put the whole thing in the ground when you finally plant.</p> <h3>5. Use Some Plants to Shade Others</h3> <p>Growing vegetables can get tricky, because most vegetable gardens get more sun than some plants need. If you <a href="">grow climbing plants on a trellis</a> at an angle over some of these other plants, then you can achieve the part-shade necessary for optimal plant growth. You can put vegetables, like cucumbers, on the trellis, or you can grow something like morning glory to provide your shade.</p> <h3>6. Pluck the First Flowers</h3> <p>Plants need to devote themselves to growing solid roots before they focus on fruit. Thus, if you <a href=",1">pluck the first flowers on your vegetable plants</a>, they will have a better chance at getting the root system they need to support better fruit later on. This is particularly true for tomatoes, though it can be applied to any fruit-bearing plant.</p> <h3>7. Water in the Morning</h3> <p>Or at dusk. Just <a href="">avoid watering in the heat of the day</a>. This saves water, but it also protects your plants from burning and helps them avoid excessive water loss from evaporation.</p> <h3>8. Use Packing Peanuts to Improve Drainage</h3> <p>When you're planting in a pot, it's important to have good drainage in place. Alternate <a href=",,20349692_20751980,00.html">layers of packing peanuts with layers of soil</a> to help achieve this goal. You can also use small rocks to achieve this, but packing peanuts have the added bonus of being light, making the pot easier to move.</p> <h3>9. Use Coffee Filters to Save Soil</h3> <p>You may have noticed that most pots for plants have small holes in the bottom. That's so any excess water can drain out. However, you can also lose soil this way. <a href="">Line the bottom of your pots with coffee filters</a> to avoid this problem.</p> <h3>10. Fertilize With Milk</h3> <p>Because of the amount of calcium it contains, as well as some other nutrients, <a href="">milk is a great fertilizer for most plants</a>. This is especially true if you're wanting to avoid commercial fertilizers. If you're concerned about antibiotics on your plants, be sure to buy organic milk!</p> <h3>11. Add Egg Shells</h3> <p><a href="">Adding egg shell halves around your plants</a> can deter certain types of pests, and putting them in the bottom of a hole where you plant can help your plants get more calcium, which many plants need to grow and some need to help avoid certain types of rot. Experimenting with this can help you figure out which plants need extra help growing.</p> <h3>12. Make a Mini Greenhouse</h3> <p><a href="">Use half a soda bottle</a> over a seedling to create the warmer environment your seed might need to sprout. This can help ensure that your summer garden is successful by giving your seeds a jump start at growth.</p> <h3>13. Regrow Green Onions</h3> <p>Even if you don't have time or space for a regular garden, or if you're still terrified of killing things, <a href="">try putting the bottom parts of used green onions in water on your window sill</a>. These tend to grow fast and can be planted outside, later, if you'd rather have them in dirt than water.</p> <p><em>Happy gardening! If you have any tips or tricks to add to the list, let me know.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Turn Your Black Thumb Green" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Sarah Winfrey</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home gardening gardens green thumb Mon, 12 May 2014 09:00:20 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 1138730 at You're Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/youre-washing-your-clothes-too-often-what-to-do-instead" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was in middle school, I remember girls being horrified at the thought of wearing the same pair of jeans twice in a single week. Even worse, if your jeans hadn't been washed after just one wear, you obviously didn't have good hygiene habits. There are certainly times when I wish I was still a kid, but with regard to those ways of thinking &mdash; I'm so happy to have evolved. (See also: <a href="">Defensive Laundry to Help Your Clothes Last</a>)</p> <p>Not only is chronically over-washing clothing wasteful of precious resources, but it's also costly in a number of other ways. There's tons of detergent involved, utilities costs (water and electricity), time and energy, as well as the negative impact frequent washing has on the clothing itself. So, save yourself some money and lighten your load a bit, quite literally.</p> <p>Here are 10 ways to break out of the wash cycle.</p> <h2>1. Inspect Before Tossing</h2> <p>Before you mindlessly toss your clothes into the laundry basket at the end of the day, consider if they are truly soiled or not. Items like underwear and undershirts or exercise clothing will certainly need more washing than, say, a sweatshirt or jeans that have been layered or otherwise kept out of dirt's way. A lot of the clothes that are currently in our laundry baskets are &mdash; for all intents and purposes &mdash; clean. So, break the habit and learn the basics of <a href="">how long certain items last</a> without a full wash.</p> <h2>2. Hang to Dry Breathe</h2> <p>It's OK to do a little sniff test to ensure your clothing is still somewhat fresh after a day of wear. What will keep items that way longer is picking them up off the floor and hanging on an open rack to let air circulate around and through the fibers. Plus, letting them linger on the floor only invites more dirt (or, if you have pets, worse!) and opportunity for wrinkles to develop.</p> <h2>3. Skip Washing Entirely</h2> <p>For those items that don't need immediate washing, push the envelope a bit. Tullia Jack, PhD student at RMIT University, challenged a group of 30 people to wear the same pair of jeans at least five days each week for a three-month period without washing them. They discovered that after all those wears, they &quot;<a href="">weren&rsquo;t visibly dirty</a> and they didn't get smelly.&quot; Now, you don't need to go the whole three month challenge, but start with a week and work your way up to a month. You might surprise yourself!</p> <h2>4. Spot-Treat</h2> <p>And just because you're skipping the total washing experience doesn't mean you can't treat little stains that might plague your otherwise clean clothing. Martha Stewart has a rather elaborate guide for <a href="">removing stains from clothing</a>. Also check out our <a href="">14 Effective Grease and Oil Stain Removal Tips</a> and <a href="">6 Secret Homemade Stain Removers</a>.</p> <h2>5. Freshen and Press</h2> <p>For clothes that might get wrinkly with wear, simply hang as you would the others to air out. When it comes time to wear again, spritz with some <a href="">DIY linen and ironing spray</a> and iron out those kinks. Alternatively, you could spritz clothing until damp with a little spray (or just <a href="">plain tap water</a>) and hang to dry, which should loosen and smooth wrinkles.</p> <h2>6. Keep Up With Routine</h2> <p>For duds that require more frequent washing, be sure to keep up with your laundry habits. This method is a simple way to avoid re-washing items forgotten overnight in a machine (musty smell). Worse? I've had clean and dirty clothing get intermixed and not been able to discern between the two categories. Set designated laundry nights or days and try to get the job done in a couple hours versus spreading it over the course of a week. (See also: <a href="">Where to Find Missing Socks</a>)</p> <h2>7. Change Into Play Clothes</h2> <p>If you have kids (or act like one yourself), you may wish to save your more expensive items by changing into &quot;play&quot; or lounge clothing when you return home from the day's responsibilities. You don't need to wash these at-home clothes as often as you would the nicer items &mdash; just wash once or twice each week, depending on the level of soil.</p> <h2>8. Rinse Well</h2> <p>A trick my husband and I use for exercise clothing: If it's just a simple pair of shorts, a sports bra, or a tech t-shirt &mdash; take it in the shower with you after your workout. From there, rinse well with cool water. Then wring out and hang to dry. You can wear again for tomorrow's run!</p> <h2>9. Wear Protection</h2> <p>It's clear that keeping clothes cleaner from the start means washing less. You need not live in a bubble to do so, however. As an avid home cook, for example, I have several aprons in my collection to protect my clothing from the various spills, splatters, and stains I encounter on a daily basis. If you garden or do other messy activities on the regular, wear similar protective layers to keep your garments covered. (See also: <a href="">Keep Your Kitchen Clean While You Cook</a>)</p> <h2>10. Choose Fabrics Wisely</h2> <p>Certain materials lend themselves to fewer washes better than others. If you'd like to do far less laundry, <a href="">wool clothing</a> might be a good option for you. The natural fibers resist stains, odors, wrinkles, and moisture. Wool even regulates body temperature so you're likely to sweat less and, in turn, not soil clothing as often. (See also: <a href="">You Don't Need to Clean Wool</a>)</p> <p><em>How often do you wash your clothing? Any tips to share for those of us looking to cut back?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="You&#039;re Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home clothes washing clothing conservation laundry Mon, 28 Apr 2014 09:36:10 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1136962 at How to Take the World's Most Efficient Shower <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-take-the-worlds-most-efficient-shower" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="shower" title="shower" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Having once been a commercial fisherman on a small boat with little fresh water, and more recently having been a frequent occupant in a rustic Sierra Nevada cabin with unreliable fresh water (much less fresh hot water), I have had the opportunity to develop &mdash; and refine &mdash; what I believe is the world's most efficient shower technique. You may be familiar with the so-called <a href="">Navy Shower</a>, which is similar, as the principles are the same. But whether you're interested in saving water or energy at home (as well as money), or if you find yourself on a small vessel or in a rustic abode, this routine will have you in and out of the shower and back in front of the stove in a couple of minutes &mdash; and under running water for way less than that. (See also: <a href="">How to Shower Less</a>)</p> <p>Ready? Let's go!</p> <h2>1. Arrange Your Tools</h2> <p>Soap, wash cloth, a big plastic cup for extra rinsing power, towel, floor mat. You won't be shaving in the shower, gentlemen, so you won't need that stuff (ladies, see below). If you're at the cabin get your buckets situated; you'll be reusing the gray rinse water in the toilet later. (See also: <a href="">50+ Ways to Save Water</a>)</p> <h2>2. Start the Tap</h2> <p>Depending on the rusticity of your place, you may have enough fresh water to wait for the hot water to arrive. In early summer the mountain spring that provides water to our cabin runs deep and clear, which affords us the luxury of waiting for hot water. By mid August? There's no waiting for hot water &mdash; turn on the tap and in you go.</p> <h2>3. Get Good and Wet</h2> <p>Hot or cold, get yourself nice and soaking, fill up your cup, and then turn off the tap. You're gonna be cold, but that's just more encouragement to move fast. Hopefully some of the water that rinsed off you wound up in your bucket.</p> <h2>4. Soap Up and Wash Off</h2> <p>Work the shampoo into your greasy locks and soap up everywhere else; scrub with the wash cloth. So clean. So cold! (See also: <a href="">DIY Shampoo</a>)</p> <h2>5. Tap On and Rinse Off</h2> <p>You'll spend a little more time here than the first go with the water flowing, but not much. No standing around &mdash; rinsing is work, same as cleaning. Move fast, rinse off, and then shut off the tap. Your plastic cup may be helpful here if your water pressure is lacking; fill it up and douse yourself once or twice.</p> <p>Some of us are done at this point (and glad of it, 'cause it's cold), but if you'd like to continue on to apply hair conditioner or whatever, just repeat steps 3 and 4. See you in a second in front of the woodstove.</p> <p>If you'd like to shave your legs, continue on.</p> <h2>6. Optional: Shave Your Legs</h2> <p>I'm offering this step based on my wife's explanation, and so I apologize if I've missed something. The idea is to get your legs good and wet, lather them up with shaving gel or whatever you use, and then, instead of rinsing your razor in running water, you'll rinse your razor in the cup, just like men do with their razors in the sink. You can even leave that gross stubble behind afterward, just like men do with their razor stubble in the sink. (See also: <a href="">Razor Tricks to Help You Save</a>)</p> <p>Legs smooth and hairless? One last rinse of your gams and also your hair if you were conditioning while you shaved. And you're done. Collect your tools and stow them away. Collect your buckets and store them next to the toilet.</p> <p>The process on the fishing boat was far simpler and used much less fresh water. None, in fact. When the sun was high above at maximum warmth, you stripped down to nothing and plunged over the rail and into the cold Pacific Ocean. You scrambled back aboard and scrubbed down with a piece of old towel and a few squirts from the bottle of <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0001TSICW&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Dr Bronner's</a> and then back in the drink to rinse it all away. Never felt cleaner.</p> <p><em>How do you manage to keep clean and fresh when there's little &mdash; or no &mdash; hot water? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Take the World&#039;s Most Efficient Shower" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Lars Peterson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Travel cleanliness hygiene quick shower Fri, 28 Feb 2014 02:47:42 +0000 Lars Peterson 876 at The 7 Easiest Plants to Grow Indoors and Outdoors <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-7-easiest-plants-to-grow-indoors-and-outdoors" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="spider plant" title="spider plant" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The benefits of growing plants, whether inside or out, are numerous. Plants freshen and <a href="">detoxify the air inside your home</a> while offering the added benefit of improving the decor of a room. Gardening outside, meanwhile, can provide therapeutic benefits to the grower. The time spent working in the outdoors with the dirt and in the sunshine can rejuvenate the body and clear the mind. (See also: <a href="">10 Gardening Lessons</a>)</p> <p>For those of us who would like to experience the wonderful benefits of growing plants but feel intimidated to start, here&#39;s a list of seven easy-to-care for plants for your inside your home and out.</p> <h2>Outdoor Plants</h2> <p>Spruce up your backyard or add a little color to your entryway with these no-fuss outdoor plants.</p> <h3>Petunia</h3> <p>Petunias come in a variety of colors including white, pink, purple, and many colors in between. They spread quickly on the ground and fill a container beautifully, as well. They can go more than a day without water unless it is excessively dry, and they flower throughout the growing season without needing extra fertilizer. Deadheading (plucking off dead blooms from their stems) does not need to be done for them to re-flower, making this a very easy plant to grow through the spring and summer. (See also: <a href="">Easy Veggies to Plant in Spring</a>)</p> <h3>Coneflower</h3> <p>Like the petunia, coneflowers come in a wide variety of colors. This tough plant is native to the prairie, so they are hardy in the heat and the wind. They require regular watering and deadheading to encourage reblooming. They have the added benefit of attracting butterflies to the garden, as well. Coneflowers are a perennial plant and will return the following year if you cut them back to the base just before spring arrives.</p> <h3>Hosta</h3> <p>Hostas are the perfect plant for shaded areas of your garden. These hardy plants come in many varieties with many different shades of green, white, and even purple on their leaves. These plants can be split and replanted, cut back to deter overgrowth, and even neglected. They can tolerate heat if they are at least partially shaded and watered regularly.</p> <h3>Peony</h3> <p>Peonies thrive if left alone. These perennials are a great addition to a flower bed that receives full sun. Peonies may need to be staked if they get top heavy (and that should be done early in the spring), but otherwise, they can be left alone to grow. Regular watering when the weather dries will ensure that you have blooms well into the heat of the summer. (See also: <a href="">Saving on Summer Garden Flowers</a>)</p> <h2>Indoor Plants</h2> <p>If outdoor gardening space is at a premium where you live or you want to freshen up the inside of your home, adding these low-maintenance indoor plants are sure to brighten your day. (See also: <a href="">The Container Garden Guide</a>)</p> <h3>Chinese Evergreen</h3> <p>Don&#39;t let the name fool you; this isn&#39;t a small Christmas tree. The Chinese Evergreen is a plant with varying shades of green, white, and silver leaves. This plant likes low to medium light, which makes it perfect for apartments and rooms without direct sunlight. It can grow to three feet high and wide. This beautiful indoor plant should be kept moist. Like many other indoor plants, it does have poisonous leaves, so care should be taken to keep it away from children and pets.</p> <h3>Spider Plant</h3> <p>Spider plants are probably the plant you think of most when you picture an indoor plant. This easy-to-grow plant thrives inside in medium to bright light. It trails and shoots off new growth, called &quot;plantlets&quot; at the ends that root well in water to make new plants. The Spider Plant works well as a hanging plant and is not toxic to cats. It also has the added benefit of cleaning the air in your home by removing formaldehyde. (This harmful chemical is found in particle board, wood furniture, and insulation.)</p> <h3>Dracaena</h3> <p>There are many varieties of Dracaena that work well indoors. The &quot;Janet Craig&quot; has bright green leaves while the &quot;Warneckii&quot; has green and white leaves. In addition, the &quot;Massangean&quot; has yellow and green leaves that resemble a corn stalk. Regardless of the variety, dracaena grows well in medium to bright light making it a great addition to a bright room in your home. (If you are fortunate, these blossom once in a while. We had one blossom just once, and they were among the most amazingly fragrant and beautiful flowers we had ever seen!)</p> <p>Whether you are looking to beautify the landscape of your home, the decor of your rooms, or filter the air inside, growing plants need not be intimidating. Many plants are easy to grow, require very little maintenance and will return year after year!</p> <p><em>What are your favorite low maintenance plants? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The 7 Easiest Plants to Grow Indoors and Outdoors" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home easy to grow plants gardening indoor plants plants Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:24:26 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1122571 at Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/get-a-great-container-garden-started-with-this-guide" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="plant container" title="plant container" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the price of fresh, organic produce keeps some consumers away from healthy eating habits, there is a remedy practically anyone can try to keep the crisper drawer full. Even if you don&#39;t have the yard space to <a href="">create a garden at home</a>, you can still use a variety of containers to grow your own vegetables, herbs, and even flowers. (See also: <a href="">Foods You Can Grow in Your Home</a>)</p> <p>Here are some quick steps for getting started on the road to container planting success.</p> <h2>Gathering Your Containers</h2> <p>The general rule of thumb for container planting is the bigger the better. You want to have a container large enough to hold the plant as it grows. A container too small will require replanting but could also hinder the growth of your vegetables.</p> <p>The good news is you can use a <a href="">variety of containers</a> including items you repurpose from around the house like plastic drink jugs, milk cartons, old tubs, and five-gallon buckets. Your local home improvement store will also have starter containers for plants but at a higher cost. (See also: <a href="">Disposable Products You Can Reuse</a>)</p> <p>Each planter will need drainage holes, so before adding soil or seeds, make several small holes at the bottom of your container. Make the holes large enough to release excess water but not so large that you lose all of your soil. You will then need to supply each container with something to catch the excess water like a plastic planter dish or an old baking pan. You may also want to line the bottom of each container with small rocks to aid with water drainage.</p> <h2>Choosing Your Soil</h2> <p>Ideally, you&#39;ll want to choose a soil that is sufficient for containers, which can be found at plant nurseries. Container soil may not even contain soil at all, but often includes a mixture of bark and peat moss. This is to help keep it moist and well aerated for proper drainage since a container is more confined than a backyard garden. (See also: <a href="">4 Things a Vegetable Garden Needs</a>)</p> <p>You can opt for a good quality potting soil that has a mixture of peat moss and sand, but don&#39;t import dirt directly from your yard, as it will not promote plant growth. You can also add extra materials like crumbled Styrofoam to hold moisture.</p> <p>When adding soil to the container, make sure to have a sufficient amount to accommodate the plant. Buy more soil than you think you will need to add when the soil has settled after watering. You&#39;ll need to read the seed packages to determine how much soil to add to a container based on the necessary planting depth.</p> <p>Thoroughly water the soil in each container and let sit for an hour or more to ensure the soil is moist throughout. Fertilizer that is safe for vegetables and other plants can be added to the soil starting about a month after planting them, per the seed manufacturer&#39;s recommendations. (See also: <a href="">How to Plan Your Garden</a>)</p> <h2>Seed Suggestions</h2> <p>You can plant many kinds of vegetables and herbs in containers. Herbs can often be planted in the smaller containers and easily kept on a sunny window sill in pots with a 4&ndash;6 inch diameter. Lettuce, radishes, beets, and onions need larger containers with at least a 6&ndash;10 inch diameter.</p> <p>If you plan to grow peppers or lettuce, you&#39;ll need a container that holds at least one or two gallons of soil. Taller vine plants like tomatoes and cucumbers will require the largest containers and about five gallons of soil. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, green beans, and peas can also do well in a five gallon or larger container.</p> <p>Plants will need room to grow in a place that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. It will be helpful to place the plants in a location that is also easily accessible to you for watering purposes but won&#39;t be bothered by pets or children. During the warmer parts of the day or the summer months, containers can be set outside on the patio for fresh air and sunshine. (See also: <a href="">High Tech Tools to Help Your Garden Grow</a>)</p> <p>When sowing the seeds, follow the package directions and plant the seeds at the same time as you would if you were planting them in an outside garden. Spread seeds out but add additional seeds than you want to compensate for those that do not germinate.</p> <h2>Water, Tend, Thin</h2> <p>Watering is the most important factor in successful container plants. You can&#39;t overwater, and you can&#39;t forget to water. Most container soil mixes have extra materials to prevent soil from losing moisture but you should maintain a watering schedule. (See also: <a href="">10 Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way</a>)</p> <p>As plants begin to grow, you&#39;ll need to tend to them to keep them healthy. Remove dead leaves and watch for signs of insect damage or plant diseases. Weed any excess things that grow from the soil. If too many seedlings grow, you can thin out the plants, so you have a reasonable amount left to harvest.</p> <p>As plants become sturdy, you do have the option of transplanting them outdoors into a garden with high quality soil. You can continue growing plants in containers but keep an eye on their growth process to ensure the container size is sufficient.</p> <h2>Herbs</h2> <p><a href="">Harvesting herbs</a> requires a little more detail. Depending on what kind of herbs you grow, you&#39;ll need to know when to harvest them. Herbs used for their leaves will need to be picked before they flower, or they may end up with an off taste. Herbs harvested for seeds will be ready when they change color from fresh green to a brown or gray color and should be harvested before the seeds open up. Flowering herbs like ginseng should be harvested before their leaves die off. You can freeze or dry herbs to preserve them for later use in your favorite recipes alongside your freshly picked container vegetables. (See also: <a href="">Cheap Ways to Flavor Your Food</a>)</p> <h2>Enjoying the Harvest</h2> <p>Producing your own produce is the best part of the process. Watching your plants go from seed to food is gratifying. You&#39;ll want to harvest your vegetables when they are a good size to consumer. It is best to keep picking fresh vegetables and herbs from the plants so they will continue to produce more.</p> <p><em>Have you tried container gardening? Were you happy with the results?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tisha Tolar</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living container garden edible garden small gardens Fri, 24 Jan 2014 11:24:12 +0000 Tisha Tolar 1115685 at