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3 Efficient Ways To Add Some ‘Green’ To Your Cleaning Routine

These days, more and more of us are slowly but surely changing our day-to-day routines to adapt to the needs of our beautiful Mother Earth. But despite all the progress we’ve made, many people are still wary about ditching their chemical-filled cleaning products for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. However, the truth is, there are countless ways to clean using natural substitutes that are just as effective as traditional, store-bought solutions. Even better, these tips can also save you money.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to add some ‘green’ into your cleaning routine.

Floors:
Hardwood floors are one of the most popular types of flooring. So popular, in fact, that data from the National Association of REALTORS found that 54% of home buyers are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring. And while most people choose artificially lemon-scented polishes, you may be surprised to learn that you can make your hardwood floors shine like never before using nothing more than tea bags. Just boil some water and add two tea bags, letting them steep for a few minutes. Get a soft cloth damp with the tea and wash away. Soon enough, your floors will look like new!

Windows:
It’s true that flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. But instead of using harsh, ammonia-based cleaning agents, consider using a mixture of vinegar and warm water to get your windows and other glass surfaces sparkling clean.

In fact, vinegar has a number of viable uses in the green cleaning realm. Baking soda and vinegar isn’t just for home science projects; this mixture can also be sprayed on almost any bathroom tile, making it easier than ever to wipe away dirt and grime. Bathroom surfaces should also be disinfected with rubbing alcohol at least once a month to prevent excessive bacteria buildup. The average child catches between six and 10 colds a year, so it’s easy to see why parents are reluctant to give up their chemical cleaners. Even so, you can keep household surfaces disinfected without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Laundry:
Laundry is one aspect of keeping clean that traditionally uses harsh chemicals. If you’re seeing the word “fragrance” listed as an ingredient in detergent, fabric softener, or even air freshener, be aware that it’s basically code for harsh chemicals (magical smelling harsh chemicals, to be fair). Luckily, baking soda makes an effective and safer option for laundering and air-freshening. To make DIY laundry detergent, Natural Living Ideas recommends dissolving one cup of baking soda and one third cups of salt into two cups of warm water, pouring it into a gallon container, adding one cup of liquid Castile soap, and filling the rest of the container with water. One quarter of a cup is enough for one full load.

It’s also important to note that some products labeled with ‘fragrance’ can affect fertility rates in women. One in eight couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy as it is. Ovia Health says, “Chemicals called phthalates, used in various products to make smells last longer, are often found in the synthetic fragrances of common laundry detergents. These products can disrupt important hormones that cause ovulation, so try more natural brands instead. Other chemicals found in laundry detergents can lead to reduced sperm count — stick to vegetable-based products to minimize chemical presence.”

Ultimately, cleaning green is more than just substituting products for other products. It’s all about staying vigilant, being aware of which ingredients can be dangerous, and thinking critically to come to a more eco-friendly solution.

Families That Garden Together Stay Together (And Learn Healthy Habits While Doing It)

In the U.S., physicians and families alike are making efforts to fight the obesity epidemic, but an increasing reliance on technology, our national love of junk food, and lack of physical activity makes it a bit of an uphill battle. The typical American dieter makes four weight loss attempts every year, but placing severe limits on caloric intake is only a short term solution. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 75% of Americans aren’t eating their daily recommended doses of fruits and vegetables.

Whether family members need to lose the winter weight or simply want to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy more time together, many experts are proposing a tactic that might surprise you: starting a family garden.

Statistics show that pre-teens and teens spend an average of six to nine hours per day looking at TV, computer, phone, and gadget screens. Those activities lend themselves to a sedentary lifestyle for kids and adults alike. But other promising data shows that families with kids are gardening far more now than they were just a decade ago. From 2008 to 2013, the National Gardening Association found that gardening activities among families with children increased by 25%. And in the spring of 2014, the number of people who gardened within the past 12 months amounted to 113.5 million.

This involvement has a huge impact in multiple areas. Scientific studies have proven that when children are involved in gardening, their fruit and vegetable intake — not surprisingly — increases. Taking part in the process allows them to enjoy the literal fruits (and veggies) of their labor and feel more connected to the produce they come across outside the home. Plus, preparing and eating nutrient-rich meals together as a family can develop a foundation of lifelong healthy eating habits and weight maintenance.

Gardening can even improve academic achievement. Multiple studies cited in the Review of Educational Research found that children who garden at school had a higher affinity for science. Another Chicago-based study found that just being near green spaces — in this case, seeing them from apartment windows — can help improve children’s self-discipline in educational settings. Even when gardening at home, the lessons learned there can translate into multiple educational areas. Parents can easily interweave nutrition lessons as you plant the backyard garden.

Plus, spending time in nature has been proven to produce calming effects in both children and adults. Parents of children with ADD and ADHD reported that “green activities” have a consistently positive effect on their kids’ symptoms. Children who don’t have these conditions can use gardening and other outdoor activities to work off excess energy, develop stronger immune systems, and just recharge.

For families that don’t have a large outdoor space to devote to gardening, other outdoor family activities can be a good substitute. Taking nature walks or biking trips can allow for both physical activity and appreciation of nature. Since 36 million Americans ages seven and up rode a bike at least six times in 2015, it’s a popular alternative or supplement to digging in the dirt.

But in many ways, gardening has those other activities beat. Not only is it physical and rewarding work that can promote better nutrition, but it’s a great way for children to feel connected to the world around them and engage all their senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch are all involved in gardening. And by allowing kids to have a direct effect on how their garden grows — by picking out seeds, planting and watering them, and helping to harvest and prepare them — that will set the stage for a balanced lifestyle that values both hard work and healthy food.

Although many children recognize produce at the supermarket, that’s often not enough to convince them to try (and stick with) these healthy foods. Gardening at home or school makes kids much more likely to consume fruits and vegetables. More than 30% of schools in the U.S. now have gardens (a 12% increase from 2006), but whether kids garden at school, in a community garden, or right in their own backyard, they’re bound to live healthier lives — and their parents will too!

6 Reasons Why You Should Start Harvesting Rainwater

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.
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With climate change wreaking all kinds of havoc on the environment and drought occurring more often nowadays, more people are starting to realize how crucial water really is to the sustainability of life on this planet. Many try to dig out the earth to harvest ground water, but there’s another free source that people are also starting to take advantage of: rainwater.

If you’ve just heard of rainwater harvesting and are wondering whether it really is a feasible and practical solution to your water consumption problems, here are some of its benefits that just might convince you:

#1: It reduces your utility bills
Collecting rainwater greatly decreases your dependence on your water company. It lowers your consumption and thus your utility bills. Imagine the amount of savings you could get every month when you start making this a habit. It also helps you cut down on your energy bill in an indirect way as it reduces the amount of energy needed to pump and treat water.

#2: It is cheap and easy
Many people have dug wells into the ground to get regular water supply. While you can certainly opt to do this, another thing you can do that is way easier on your budget and efforts is to harvest rainwater. While digging a well takes several weeks to complete and lots of money, with rainwater harvesting, all you need is a quality container from Rain Water Tanks Direct.

#3: It’s beneficial to your plants
Gray water (another term for rainwater) is more beneficial to your plants than your municipal supply. This is because the water in your pipes is full of chemicals and has gone through several stages of filtration to make it fit for human consumption. But this result is not always better for plants. Rainwater per se is one of the purest and softest kind of water there is, and thus, they’re more nourishing for your plants.

#4: It’s another source of drinking water
If you have a large family and you’re spending a lot of money on buying bottled water every week, this option helps you save. You’ll just need to invest one-time in a water filtration system and then you and your family will have free drinking water from now on.

#5: It reduces the possibility for flooding
If you live in an area where there is constant flooding, harvesting rainwater can help prevent this from happening. It prevents the ground on your property from being overly saturated with rainwater and ensures that your gutters are flowing properly.

#6: You’ll have your own backup supply
There may be times when the water company has to do maintenance work on some of their pipes, and when this happens, a shut-down almost always happens. You will be one of the lucky few who won’t be affected with this shut-down as you’ll have your own backup water supply.

The rainwater harvesting movement is a practice that is starting to gain more traction over time. Other people have gained a lot of advantages from this practice. It’s about time you enjoy them too.

Why A Green Kitchen Remodel Is Worth the Investment

For many parents and homeowners, remodeling is a dreaded subject. It is something to be avoided and decried as too expensive, too time-consuming, and too difficult while the kids are still young. In fact, that aversion to change is likely why 47% of Americans haven’t updated their home decor in the last five years, with 9% having neglected it for more than a decade!

But remodeling is the best way to make your home feel more like an extension of who you and your family are. And it is the best way to increase the value of your home should you ever want to sell. That’s why many parents decide, reluctantly, to take remodeling one step at a time.

Among the more popular starting remodeling projects is the kitchen remodel. People remodel their kitchen for a number of different reasons: some want a more open floor plan, others want to improve the efficiency of their kitchen, and some just get tired of the ugly wallpaper that came with the house. For many people, the fact that even a minor kitchen remodel, done right, has an average return on investment of 82.7%.

But if you are in the market for kitchen remodeling, consider opting for greener options when selecting your design components. Not only will you have the satisfaction of leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, but it might even help to increase your home’s resale value.

According to Realtor.com, 61% of homebuyers in 2017 will be below the age of 35. As millennials continue to represent more and more of the housing market, they will bring with them their own tastes and desires, such as sustainable offerings. In fact, nearly 75% of millennials are willing to pay higher prices for sustainable products, more than any other generation.

Items such as sustainable kitchen cabinets, flooring, and countertops can make your kitchen look stunning and reduce the environmental effect of your remodeling project significantly. But even if you spend all your free time watching HGTV — all six minutes of it between tucking your child in bed and falling asleep on the couch — it can be hard to know what exactly is or is not sustainable.

We’ve put together a few quick tips to help you pick the right, sustainable materials for your kitchen remodel.

Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets are a great place to start your search, considering the majority of cabinets are made from wood. Make sure that your wood is either reclaimed or can be certified as sustainably harvested. Also be certain that they use formaldehyde-free glues.

Countertops
For countertops, look for materials that are recycled or at least made of sustainable materials. Some of the coolest options on the market are made of recycled glass and cement before being finished to look like limestone. You can also find a number of interesting counters made from wood reclaimed from old barns and other buildings.

Floors
While linoleum often gets a bad rep, it is a great option for environmentally friendly floors. Made from biodegradable materials, this durable flooring comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Cork is also a popular option, and it is made from wood that is carefully monitored to maintain available supplies.

There is more to consider, of course, such as energy-efficient appliances and the smaller touches like efficient LED lighting. But if you can find sustainable options for these three components, then you are already ahead of the curve.

4 Reasons to Eat Seasonally and Locally This Summer

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If you shop at the farmer’s market, are a local CSA member, or frequent the “local” section of your grocery store’s produce aisle, you are well aware that fruits and vegetables come into and out of season. Depending on the climate where you live, you may have a wide variety of fruits and veggies to choose from year round, or you may notice that summer is truly a more abundant season for produce. Wherever you live, eating seasonally has its benefits. If you’re not already doing so, here are four reasons to eat seasonally.

#1: Fresher, More Nutritious Produce
Produce that doesn’t have to travel long distances to get to you will be fresher when you purchase it because it’s been harvested more recently. Also, since seasonal fruits and veggies are harvested when they’re ripe and grown outside, in their natural environment, they’ll contain far more nutrients and flavor than produce that’s grown in greenhouses or prematurely harvested and required to ripen off the parent plant.

#2: Supporting the Local Economy
Farmers harvest and sell what’s abundantly in season. By purchasing seasonal, local food, you’re supporting local farmers and therefore your local economy (you’re supporting yourself in many ways, when you think about it!).  By supporting local farmers you’re not only helping people but also encouraging sustainable, green farming practices because local farmers will plant and grow only what is suited to the soil and climate where they live.

#3: It’s Cheaper
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are more abundant and therefore end up being cheaper than foods that aren’t in season. Buying foods out of season means paying a higher price to cover the transportation of the food and growing fruits and veggies in artificial conditions.

#4: It’s Eco-Friendly
Buying produce that doesn’t require transportation means that less gas is being consumed and less exhaust is being emitted. Additionally, fruits and vegetables that have to travel long distances (like strawberries traveling from Mexico to Wisconsin in January) require far more chemical-ridden sprays and treatments in order to stay fresh long enough to make it to the grocery store. By becoming a member of your local CSA or buying at the farmer’s market, you’re buying directly from a local farm where transportation and preservation time is minimal—many times you’ll purchase produce that was harvested the same day as you pick it up.

As you can see, eating seasonally and locally has some amazing benefits! I love sampling seasonal fruits and veggies when I travel because chances are I’m visiting a state or country with a different climate, ecosystem, and sometimes season—there’s so much variety to be experienced!

YOUR TURN: What’s your favorite local, seasonal recipe for summer or fall?

Eco-Friendly Ways to Successfully Cool Your Home

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.
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While you might enjoy staying cool and comfortable in your home during the warmer months of the year, you may also be concerned about cooling your home in a way that’s sustainable and friendly for the environment. Explore a few tips for making your cooling experience eco-friendly and just as effective as traditional methods.

Invest in Quality Insulation and Sealing

Some of the best and most effective cooling methods don’t even involve your air conditioner. Take out some time to have a professional technician who specializes in air conditioning repairs inspect your current insulation to see if it’s doing its job and whether you need to consider investing in an upgrade. Different types of insulation and sealing include thermal envelopes and heat shields.

Boost Your Home’s Ventilation

Making sure air can easily flow through your home is also essential to keeping cool and overall energy efficiency. Specifically, you’ll want to keep your home’s windows, shades and doors closed up until it’s cool out, otherwise, you’ll only have hot air blowing through your home’s interior. Additionally, bear in mind that ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, which means you should only have your fans on when someone is in the room. On a related note, when your fans are on, they should spin counter-clockwise to draw hot air up into the ceiling.

Close Your Shades and Blinds

No matter how great the inside of your home looks while drenched in sunlight, it comes at the cost of heating up your interior, which means your air conditioner is working harder than necessary. To help combat feeling as if you’re living in a sauna, close up your blinds and shades against direct sunlight and the heat waves that comes with it. If you’re someone who thrives on sunshine, you can leave your blinds and shades partially closed to direct sunlight.

Cook at Night or in the Early Morning

Operating your oven or stove during the day cranks up the heat in your home, which makes your air conditioner crank up its efforts to keep your home at the same temperature. Rather than feel as if you’re making a sacrifice by not using the oven, you can instead start eating more raw vegetables and fruits, which your body is sure to thank you for. Opt for fruits like watermelon that contain a lot of water to help you keep cool.

Lower Your Overall Cooling Load

Ways to make the most of passive cooling include:

  • Add or upgrade the sealing around your home’s windows and doors.

  • Use low-E glazing to your windows.

  • Make sure you have proper and sufficient insulation in your attic.

  • Invest in a whole-house fan, which can decrease your use of your air conditioner as well as your overall energy consumption.

  • Consider installing a radiant barrier in your attic ducts.

These methods are sure to pay off in the long run.

Sleep With a Buckwheat Pillow

If you’re like most people, you probably like sleeping in a cool room. Blankets and sheets are comfortable while sleeping, but they can raise your body temperature. Rather than crank up the air conditioner, invest in a buckwheat pillow, which is naturally cooler than standard pillows and won’t keep you tossing and turning during the night, which impacts the overall quality of your sleep.

Turn Up Your Unit Temperature

You can still remain comfortable even if your unit is set at a higher temperature. For every degree you set your unit above 72 degrees, you can save anywhere from one to three percent energy. Try it and see if you notice a difference in your comfort levels.

With the right information, you can do your part to save the environment through more efficient cooling methods. Put these tips to good use and see what a difference they make and how good it feels to practice sustainability.

4 Eco-Friendly Spring Activities for Teens

As inquisitive as kids can be, they will drill you with dozens of questions on a daily basis to understand your every decision, every move, and every choice you make. And if they are growing up in an eco-friendly family, they will slowly adopt and comprehend the benefits of such a balanced lifestyle, when explained properly.

However, teens are a whole different story – many of them are rebellious by nature and they are eager to be different from everyone and not follow the herd. As a mom of two little nestlings, I’m striving towards instilling an eco-friendly mindset into my kids throughout their adolescent years with the help of these simple activities, but even if you’re a newbie in the green world and wish to pass this wisdom onto your teen kids, these could be true life-savers!

#1: Contribute to cleanliness
I’ve noticed that our little rascals are eager to help around the house, especially when we make things interesting with some music and healthy snacks. Suddenly, cleaning up the room and washing the dishes no longer feel like chores, but like fun family time! Kids have also been asking me where I spend my Saturday mornings, and when I explained that I go to clean the local riverside with a few other people, they actually yelled: “Mommy, we want to come, too!”

Since modern societies still have much to learn in order to build this awareness as a norm, you have a chance to encourage your teenagers to take part in causes that matter to them and that will allow them to make a difference and thus, be different. You don’t have to chaperone them, but treat them as responsible adults and support them in their search for the right local activities to keep your community clean.

#2: Green exercise and transportation
Our little nestlings can spend hours playing in the garden, helping their dad make a birdhouse or playing with our pooch, but teens yearn for independent activities that will reflect their core beliefs and every choice they make is a statement. My husband and I have been using eco-friendly Gitane ebikes to work out and ride across town, and our kids have noticed that these bikes are different from the majority of those they see on the streets.

It’s natural that teens have increased self-awareness about their looks and their values, and supporting their efforts to be fit, healthy and confident with the help of an eco-friendly method will help them stand out in the crowd even more. Plus, they will reap the rewards of a healthy lifestyle and start early with maintaining their green habits.

#3: Green fashion
If our little girl already knows she adores green tees and absolutely despises yellow skirts, then I can only imagine the level of detailed commitment a teenager is willing to invest in their wardrobe. What they wear is yet another form of authentic self-expression, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in something they find ordinary or conformist.

And what better way to appeal to their inner rebel than by introducing them to an eco-friendly line created by none other than a teenage girl? Maya Penn is a young entrepreneur with tremendous ambitions to create sustainable, fashionable clothes. Although not many youngsters will be eager to make their own line of clothes, you can encourage them to design their new spring outfits by using sustainable materials and thus support the local economy.

#4: Everyday choices
If my kids are proud of me for hosting lectures on eco-friendly choices in our community, and the global teenage population prides themselves on individuals such as Ann Makosinski and her energy-efficient inventions, then your adolescent kids certainly do not lack sources of inspiration in this day and age.

Not only can you help them stay informed and learn about their peers who are literally changing the world, but you can also lead by example in your own home without imposing your beliefs. Small deeds such as shopping in your local market for locally grown goods, or more involved ones such as organizing green food drives for the homeless, hosting seminars and volunteering are more than enough to inspire your kids to make a difference and have fun during spring.

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