Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Another favorite "green" thing I love to do now is making laundry detergent. Not only does it work, it's cheap and is a calm soap that's not load with dangerous chemicals. It's great investment and super easy to make!

All the ingredients you need: Borax, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda & A Soap Bar
I was able to get all three ingredients from my local grocery store (in the laundry isle): Borax, A&H Washing Soda, and a soap bar. I've heard a lot of good things about Fels-Naptha bars; and I'm happy with my choice. I've also read warnings about getting soap with fragrances (the oil in particular). You will also need a 3.5 gallon bucket.

First, boil about 4 cups of water in a pot. While it is heating up, grate the bar of soap. Grating it makes it easier to melt later.

Grated Soap. Yum.
Add the grated soap slowly into the pot of boiling water. You eventually want a good, smooth, soapy broth. While it's melting, fill the bucket half way with hot tap water. Add the melted soap, one cup washing soda, and half a cup of Borax into the bucket. Stir well until everything is dissolved. Fill up the rest of the bucket with more hot water. Stir, cover, then leave overnight to let it thicken.

Very... Gelatinous.
I won't lie to you, when you open it up the next morning, it will practically be like Jello. Stir it up again (and from time to time), but then it's ready to use! Further instructions say you can water it down more by filling a clean, laundry soap dispenser half way with the detergent, then fill the rest with water. But, I couldn't find an empty soap dispenser, so I just use the bucket. It doesn't hurt to have the detergent extra soapy. Maybe I'll buy one for the next batch.

It is said you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil (like lavender, tree oil, or rosemary) per 2 gallons, but I did not for my first batch. Plus, I like the fresh, lemony smell the Fels-Naptha bar brings to the table. Maybe I'll use my homemade lavender essential oil for the next batch.

If you do water down the detergent further, the yield amount is about 10 gallons. With that being said, if you use a top load washing machine, use 5/8 cup per load (and you'll approximately get 180 loads). If you use a front load washer, only use ¼ cup per load to get approximately 640 loads. That's all too much math for me and my Communications Major, so I use 3/4th - 4/5th's of an old laundry detergent cup and it's been great ever since!

Did I mention the savings? Here is the receipt for the ingredients (minus the bucket).

Initial Investment: Less than $10! After the initial, it's $1.29 per batch!

With this recipe, I did not use much of the washing soda or Borax. So, for the next few future batches, I only need a Fels-Naptha bar which is only $1.29! That equals cheap. 

It also gets the job done. It's gotten out about every stain that I've thrown at it. And it has no harsh chemicals; which is good for your skin and the water drain.

So you now have the power to make your own laundry detergent. No longer are you held in chains by Tide, Gain, and Clorox. And if you don't believe me, know that several friends of mine are also on the homemade laundry detergent wagon and love it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Making Homemade Essential Oils

One of my favorite ways to bring the garden into the home is making essential oil. It's easy, beneficial to your health & smells great.

Lavender & Mint Essential Oils
Here's all you need: Carrier Oil, Dark Glass Bottle & the desired Plant
My favorite is essential lavender oil, but you can try it out about any flower, herb, even spice you like. As for a carrier oil, olive or sweet almond oil are best. I cannot stress enough that you should use dark bottle, it helps protect the oil from being broken down from sunlight.

First Step: Pack the Bottle
You basically pack as much of the plant into the bottle, then fill it up with oil. Afterwards, seal the bottle and tuck it away in a dark, cool spot. You need to keep it out of the sun because light can break down the oil and ruin your product. The hardest part then is to wait. I normally wait a month or two as the oil takes in the plant.

Keep In A Dark, Cool Place
Later on, you will need to get your hands on a filter so you can extract the plant's remains from the oil. That can be either a cheese cloth, fine strainer, or even a coffee strainer. Just place the filter over a new bottle or jar and pour your fused oil through the cloth into it. This process is called enfleurage.
I normally also store it in a dark bottle, but figured I'd try it in a glass bottle
Now that I've covered the basics, here are some details depending on what you want to make.

As I said, I love making lavender oil, but you can really use any kind. You can use anything from roses, jasmine, violets, honeysuckle, orange blossom, sweet pea, even marigolds. You can even mix scents! Most suggest that if you use flowers, cut just before they are fully open and only use the pedals. And each essential oil brings is own health benefits.

Herbs are the same way, you can use any of them for fragrance: peppermint, thyme, lemon verbena, lemon balm and rosemary. You can even make basil oil for cooking! But use only the leaves, no stems.

If you really like the smell of certain spices, you can even make those into an essential oil. Cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin and nutmeg are said to be the best. But it is suggested that you ground the spice up before packing the bottle.

There you have it, the easy way to make essential oil. And if you're wondering what you can do with essential oil; there are a lot of purposes: cosmetic, medicinal, even cooking!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Uncharted Territory

While I plan to spend most of the time on this blog writing about how to go green at a decent price, there are a few other interest that I'd like to mention. Besides, a one dimensional blog would be boring.

There are a few things I've learned from my husband since I met him; one is the joy of gardening. This is the first year we are able to have a rather large garden: peppers, chives, various mint, rosemary, oregano, thyme and lavender plants, and last but not least, a whole lot of tomatoes. We now have a tomato jungle.

With this in mind, we began thinking of all the ways we could use the tomatoes. We soon realized in a few weeks we'll either need to give a lot of tomatoes away or attempt some form of preservation.

That's where my lovely mother comes in. Whenever she visits us, she spoils us rotten. Among the various purchases that make us more adult-ish (I finally have a real ironing board!), she bought me a canning starting kit.

Great Canning Starting Set from K-Mart!
And while I'm so very thankful we can now can... I don't quite know what to do next. I've never canned before in my life. I don't even know if this is a "good" kit. It's made by Ball; that makes it good, right? So in the hopes of getting a few good cans this year, I better start researching.

I know this is not the best "challenge" but it's still a challenge. And I plan to share my trials and tribulations right here. Maybe someone else will learn from my failures. And as always, who ever has ideas or tips, please share, I'd love to hear from you!

Speaking of which, I'm happy to report my homemade laundry detergent is catching on among the masses! A friend at work made her own the other day and I took some of my detergent for my in-laws to use. In the next few weeks, I will post the recipe I used that started my journey into DIY green projects.

On one final note tonight, we had an amazing experience during our mini vacation. We went with some of the husband's family to check out some land that (a portion) will eventually be passed to us. It was amazing: beautiful land, healthy ponds & forests, I was called a "plant person" while the hubs was called a "city slicker", and we even saved a calf that fell into a cistern!

Chester H. Fell Into a Cistern from an Old Homestead.
Visiting that farm also helped encourage my support for local ranchers. The family has about 50 cattle and the calves go to market when they are old enough. But that does keep the family from loving these guys every possible moment. They are grass fed; and the owners give each and everyone a name. As for the lil guy who fell (Chester H.), he will actually live a long and happy life as a farm pet. And even though it was a hot, muggy, stressful day, I wouldn't of wanted to be anywhere else.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Green Cookout Challenge: 12 Burgers & 1 Trash Bag

At last it's here: our first big cook out in Kentucky! First off, thanks to all that showed up; I hope you had a lovely time at our abode.
Secondly, before I post whether we were successful in trashing only one bag, let’s first go over how you can make a cookout greener.

Take tinfoil for example. The husband does not use it much on the grill. For example, instead of using foil to keep food warm, he used some baking pans & covers. And when it comes to grilling veggies, he has a great grill skillet! If we do end up using tinfoil, we use recycled. And thanks to Reynold's, it's everywhere at a good price.

Then there is all the equipment for guests: napkins, cutlery, plates, etc. Here's a quick look at what we did.
Cups, platter, plates, napkins & a neat little can cooler- all from the Dollar Tree!

Let's first look into cutlery. Plastic can be wasteful. Recycled or biodegradable (normally bamboo or sugar cane fibers) are expensive. But for the record, big name stores now offer biodegradable products. But first, try using cheap sets of reusable metal cutlery. Some folks even wash plastic! We just used our regular silverware.

The same goes for napkins. You can try recycled. But if you use biodegradable, remember that you should not toss any items with grease or cheese into your compost pile. Cheese, grease and meat products attract vermin and smell horrid during decomposition. So, we used cloth napkins. Basically, I bought some dishtowels from the Dollar Tree (LOVE!) and they were so big, I was able to cut them in half…. So 10 cloth napkins for $5? I can do that.

I was also lucky enough to have clean guests! Forgive the blurriness, but here’s a photo of some of the guys enjoying the cook out. Hi Guys!

Always enjoy a good cookout!

Then there are plates… and cups. Several stores offer biodegradable plates (recycled paper, fallen leaves, sugar cane & bamboo) that you can just add to your compost pile. You can also take the route of reusable, BPA free plastic plates, which are also available at most mega-stores. But us? I found a huge deal on plastic plates (which are probably loaded with BPA; I didn’t think of that when I bought them) & cups at the Dollar Tree! But I soon found out why the cups were so cheap. Not only did they smell like burning (literally), but it was impossible to get the sticker glue off. Despite our desperate attempts of soaking and scrubbing them… again… and again… and again.

Scrub & Soak, Scrub & Soak, Scrub & Soak, Scrub & Soak...

But it was still worth it. By changing the guest supplies, we cut down on a lot of trash. And while it may take more time to clean up afterwards, it’s still better than adding to the ever-growing trash in our landfills.

Now comes the debate: Charcoal vs. Propane. Propane is technically greener because the gas burns clean. But it's a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining (aka fossile fuels). We use charcoal at our house. There are some kinds of charcoal out there that are free of additives, but the husband is sold on his Kingsford original. He pretty much looks like this:

My Photoshop Skills At Work
Another way to make your charcoal usage greener is to not use lighter fluid. And one of the easiest, cheapest ways to go is getting a charcoal chimney. Since we have one, we will never need to use lighter fluid again!

As for food, I hope some of you were able to read my "You Are What You Eat" post. Same holds true here. Turkey/ Chicken hotdogs are healthier (we like the cheesey kind) and you always want to go with local, grass fed beef. We are at least going to a local butcher, where the cow may not always be from our area, but it's at least sliced & processed in the building.

5.5lb of ground beef for $15.40!
And as an extra note: if you're looking for beef in your normal, mega-grocery store, Laura's Lean is the way to go. The company is based in Lexington, KY, and the cows are raised without antibiotics or hormones and eat a proper, vegetarian diet.

I also have to take the time to show our local farmers market. For our cook out we picked up a dozen ears of corn and a watermelon for $10! Throw in some banana nut bread and it was a delicious time!

I should also share that Barger Burgers (ha!) are much more than just ground beef patties on the grill. Maybe I'll share the husband's recipe sometime.
Oh, and as for the challenge, we accomplished using one bag! Ta daaa! Though as a side note, if we did have a compost pile, half of the trash would be in the pile; like the corn husks, watermelon rind, etc.

So all in all, I think it was pretty successful. We had a great cookout, easily had only one bag of trash, and found some great ways to save the world and our bank account. I think one of the hardest accomplishments is to make the “green” sacrifices without loosing the fun and taste of a good ole fashion cook out. And I hope this entry helps you keep your next outing in a perfect balance.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Green Cookout Challenge!

It's a bit late in the season, but the husband and I are about to host a cookout for our bestest of friends in Kentucky! So, as my first "green" challenge, I thought we'd try to do a green (for the environment and our wallet) cookout.

As most of us know, cookouts are not really the greenest of occasions. With that in mind, we are aiming to need only one trash bag for the entire event.

I am currently looking up (and will share) ways to ensure a green-er cookout. But keep in mind some of it is too much of a sacrifice for what we all love: good food at a good price.

How will we make it work? You'll have to tune back in Wednesday to see!

And just to help you survive until then, check out these solar power cookers from treehugger! Tell me what you think of them.