July 13, 2015 Family

DIY “UpCycled” Crayons

“Here’s a fun one for the whole family.

What do you do with those boxes of old, heavily used (but loved) crayons?  You turn them into a DYI project with the kids!  They can be melted down and turned into great recycled, different shaped writers that your young and older children can both enjoy.

Here’s what you need:

  1. Kitchen knife
  2. Old crayons
  3. Mini –cake or muffin tins (cute heart or various shapes are fun!)

Directions:

  1. Parents use the knife to chop crayons in to pea-size pieces. Have the kids help remove any remaining paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees
  3. Have children fill tins with crayon pieces, mixing colors to make cool designs.
  4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or just until the wax has melted
  5. Remove the shaped crayons after they have cooled.  If they stick to the tray, place in the freezer for an hour and they will pop out.

Tip:  If you don’t want to devote your tins to the melted wax, line them with tin foil

Now you and your kids can color away!”

Advertisment
UpCycle

Getting Creative After Your Coffee

As the weather gets warmer and the coffee shops roll out their newest frozen-mochajavachino (or something like that), it means... Read

As the weather gets warmer and the coffee shops roll out their newest frozen-mochajavachino (or something like that), it means there’s going to be a lot of iced-coffee cups coming your way.  Assuming you don’t take your own reusable cup every time you get coffee, you’re going to have to make a decision on what to do with those cups.  Recycle them? Sure, that’s an option.  But what else can we do with those clear plastic cups?

-Reuse them.  They’re usually sturdier than you think, and make great spare glasses for around the house.  Use them at your next party for cocktails or beer.

-Plant in them. They make great planters, and there’s something nice about being able to see all of the soil. Drill some holes in the bottom to allow for drainage – and keep it elevated enough to allow water to drain out. Alternatively, flip them over and use them as a terrarium to keep your plants warm and moist in the cool night air.

-Get crafty! There are plenty of things you could do with them, and don’t forget that they’re already circles!  Consider cutting them into bracelets and wrapping them in fabric or spray paint to make flashy bracelets for the kids.

Advertisment
Housewares

Recycled Glass Votive- 5 Pk Green

$20.00

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders... Read

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders are ideal for wherever you want to add the sparkle of candle light.

Advertisment
Solar

Rainbows Could Double Solar Energy Output!

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost... Read

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of solar power.

MIT’s Technology Review reports on a new $2.4 million project funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy aims to greatly increase the amount of sunlight that becomes electricity.

Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, is working on cells to sort sunlight into eight to 10 different colors (a rainbow!) and direct those to a second layer that contains an array of solar cells matched to each color. Light is absorbed more efficiently, and more energy is converted to electricity, rather than heat.

Most solar panels convert less than 20 percent of the energy of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.  Atwater’s goal is a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent, which would double the amount of power generated by solar panels of any size.

Rainbow solar power!  This technology will make solar more affordable for homeowners and industries, alike.

Advertisment
Solar

Maryland comes out on top!

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something... Read

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something that we are really interested over here at Doing a Bit Better are LEED Projects. For those who need some catching up, LEED Projects stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Projects. This could be anything from a building installing solar panels, to conserving water in the work place. And you all know how we feel about solar (it’s the future!). We would like to congratulate Maryland for coming out on top as the state who has the highest number of LEED projects per capita! Way to go, we hope the other 49 states follow your lead–no pun intended. To read about other states rankings, click here.

Advertisment
Housewares

Way Basics Modular Storage Cubes

$134.99

Lifestyle! If you need simple, basic furniture that’s practical, versatile, and good for the environment, Way Basics is for you.

Lifestyle! If you need simple, basic furniture that’s practical, versatile, and good for the environment, Way Basics is for you.

Advertisment
UpCycle

Green Crafts – 4th of July Popsicle Stars

Praise this glorious country’s independence by upcycling something new out of something old! With school coming to an end and... Read

Praise this glorious country’s independence by upcycling something new out of something old!

With school coming to an end and the next big holiday approaching, here at DAbB we have been thinking about what kind of green crafts we can create for the 4th of July.  As the sun shines brighter and the temperatures rises, we know your kids will be consuming many, many summertime treats with a big one being popsicles.  After enjoying these delicious cool treats, why not collect the sticks and make a fun decoration with the kids?  We like the idea of a colorful star.

Supplies Needed:

-5 popsicle sticks
-Red, white and blue paint
-Glue
-String (optional)

Directions:

-Paint the sticks individual colors according to your design
-Glue the sticks together the shape of a star
-Once dry, add stars and stripes with more paint if desired
-If desired, glue on the string for hanging

Done!

Advertisment
Housewares

Quick Home Tip – Let Your Dishwasher do the Work

“And by dishwasher, we don’t mean your husband. Today’s dishwashers aren’t like the avocado green one you grew up with. ... Read

And by dishwasher, we don’t mean your husband.

Today’s dishwashers aren’t like the avocado green one you grew up with.  They are highly powerful, so you can skip rinsing dishes before using your dishwasher.  In doing so, you can save up to 20 gallons of water each load. You save time, money, and avoid dishpan hands!”

Advertisment
Housewares

E&E (Easy & Eco-friendly) Ways to DAbB Your Child’s Birthday Party

“You bring your own bags to the grocery store, wash your clothes on cold and have switched to high efficiency... Read

“You bring your own bags to the grocery store, wash your clothes on cold and have switched to high efficiency light bulbs.  Why is it, when it comes to a kid’s birthday party (and yes we are guilty of it, too) we are far from being “green”.  Here is a “use this” “not that” check list for your next party.  These ideas will make your next party both green and easy to clean up afterwards.

Plates
-Use 100% post-consumer paper plates, bagasse plates, or bamboo plates.  You can throw the recycled plates in your compost and the bamboo plates can be wiped clean with soap and water.
-Don’t use non-recycled plates.  Why would you?  The kids don’t know the difference.  If the kids insist upon plates with Spiderman on them, why not let them decorate their own with non-toxic crayons?

Napkins
-Again, use 100% post-consumer napkins or cloth napkins made from old shirts (kids love these)
-Don’t use your good napkins (for obvious reasons) or non-post-consumer napkins.

Cups
-You can ask the parents to bring their own cup for their child.  Or if that is not possible, many paper cups are made from post-consumer paper.  They are stronger than in years past, and again, can go right into your compost bin when the party is over.

-Clearly do not go out and buy cups.  Four year olds have no idea nor care if the cups they are drinking out of match a color theme.  (Of course, we have had kids color on white cups using eco-friendly crayons.  The kids love it and again the cups can go into the compost).

Companies like Acme Party Box offer great party favors and reusable cups that the kids can take with them.

Wrapping Paper
-Use the Sunday Comics.  We have yet to meet a child that did not love their present being wrapped in the Sunday Comics.  I know this is a bit of a throwback to the 70’s, but honestly, it’s true.  They will just love it.
-Don’t use actual wrapping paper.  Have you ever seen a six year old give great attention to the quality of the wrapping job you’ve done?  In our experience, wrapping paper is ripped from around the present in under a second.”

Advertisment
Housewares

Quick Fix to Stop the Drip

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased... Read

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased by 200% since 1950, despite our population having only grown by 90%.  As a result, more than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years.  Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet.  A dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons per day.

In repairing a leaky toilet you can save $30 a year, which may not sound like much, however, it’s also saving 73,00 gallons of water.”

Advertisment
Celebrity

Actress Jessica Alba Starts Green Parenting Company

“Working mom Jessica Alba is adding entrepreneur to her many titles, shifting from movie star to businesswoman with a venture... Read

“Working mom Jessica Alba is adding entrepreneur to her many titles, shifting from movie star to businesswoman with a venture that provides parents easy access to eco-friendly natural products for babies and homes.

Alba, who wed husband Cash Warren in 2008, has taken motherhood to heart, and mind, focusing on being a hands-on parent to her two daughters, 4-year-old Honor and newborn Haven.

“”Motherhood has affected me greatly and in so many ways,”” the Fantastic Four actress told Reuters.

“”I didn’t know that I would feel so comfortable and so at ease and so natural. When I became a mother, I felt the most comfortable in my own skin than I had ever felt in my life.””

While preparing for motherhood four years ago, the 30-year-old actress found that her biggest challenge was trying to find eco-friendly natural products for her baby and her home.

“”There are a lot of toxic chemicals in baby products, and these toxic chemicals are linked to not just allergies and asthma, but also autism and ADHD and lots of childhood cancers, and I was horrified that products that were made for babies and children would have these toxic chemicals,”” said the actress.

Alba founded The Honest Company along with Christopher Gavigan, former CEO of non-profit group Healthy Child Healthy World, after discovering that toxic chemicals were often disguised as “”fragrances”” on product labels and finding that not all eco-friendly and natural products worked efficiently.

Together, they came up with an online business model to launch an eco-friendly range of baby and household products, tried and tested by themselves and their own babies. They are toxin-free, aesthetically pleasing and can be delivered straight to your door.

“”I really wanted to make a company that was for parents, by parents,”” said Alba, adding that Honest Co. was “”one company parents could go to that had household products and products to clean your kid with, and also fulfill diapering needs.””

The actress took her fight against toxic products to Washington D.C. in May 2011 while pregnant with her second child to lobby on behalf of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition that supported the Safe Chemicals Act.

“”Even government officials aren’t aware that chemical companies don’t have to test their chemicals before they sell them to product companies. They can just put them in there, and we are the guinea pigs,”” said the actress.

While Alba’s energies are focused on her children and new business, her fans will be glad to know she has no plans to retire from acting. She voices a role in animated film Escape from Planet Earth due out next year.

“”I’m excited to get back into movies and I feel more adult and more grown up and ready to get back into it. And my mentality is different,”” she said.”

Advertisment
Housewares

Honest Air & Fabric Freshener 9 Fl Oz

$6.95

Refresh fabrics without the use of harsh, synthetic chemicals or masking agents. Leaves nothing behind but the refreshing scent of... Read

Refresh fabrics without the use of harsh, synthetic chemicals or masking agents. Leaves nothing behind but the refreshing scent of essential oils .

Advertisment
Housewares

Eco-Alternatives to a New Headboard

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up... Read

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up the room while adding depth and style to it.  The only problem is that headboards are expensive and can easily run upwards of $400.

Here’s the thing – we live in a time of great (and abundant) design.  There are plenty of alternatives to a traditional headboard out there with minimal waste.

For less than $40, you can achieve the great style of a traditional headboard with the modern style of a silhouette decal.  This particular decal from Dezign with a Z comes in a variety of colors, and they’ll even let you select your wall color to see how it will look.

Not interested in the traditional looking decals?  Try something a little non-traditional, like branches or grass:

 

Wall Flats have traditionally been used for adding some architectural depth and texture to walls in living spaces, dining rooms, and bedrooms – and they’re incredibly eco-friendly (often made from post-consumer material or renewable sources such as bagasse).  But they’re affordable (about $80-90 for a 10-pack from InhabitLiving.com) and will not only add color to your bedroom or guestroom, but depth and texture as well.

When in doubt, do something simple!  A large piece of solid-colored canvas or a canvas-framed photograph will give your bed the frame that you’re looking for, and can be done for cheap.  If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can stretch a patterned fabric over the canvas and staple it on the sides.

There are plenty of ways to do something unexpected and chic without spending a fortune, and all while being green.”

Advertisment

Mighty Leaf Tea

Tea Drinkers Rave

Advertisment
Family

Very easy ways to DAbB for your home. Seriously, these are very easy.

We asked our staff what quick, easy ways our readers can make a change in their home right away.  This... Read

We asked our staff what quick, easy ways our readers can make a change in their home right away.  This is what came back:

For your kids, buy crayons made of soybean oil, not paraffin

Switch to a manual can opener.  Yes, a manual…you can do it.

Invest in a roasting pan instead of using disposable ones.  You will save money in the long run, and honestly, it is so much easier to pull out food in something sturdy.  (We don’t need to tell you the amount of time we have dropped food on the floor from a flimsy aluminum one).

Buy a bigger jug of milk. If you only use half a gallon at a time, you can pour half the milk into a carafe and freeze the rest. Then about a day or two before you need it simply put in the fridge.  And yes, it tastes the same.

Stop throwing away your dryer lint! Put it in the backyard for the birds — they use it to feather their nests.  Crazy-but true.

Clean your refrigerator coils — vacuum out the dust and wipe with a damp cloth. You’ll be surprised at how much nasty stuff accumulates down there!

Put a cover on your pool when you’re not using it. Not only will it keep the water cleaner, but it will keep it from evaporating, resulting in saving water.

Advertisment
Men

Summer is here guys-and your lawn is waiting.

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are... Read

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are looking to get out of this chore, here are our recommendations for eco-friendly grasses.  These attractive grasses  require less watering, less mowing, and less fertilizer, all of which helps cut down on your carbon foot print-and give you more time on the weekends.

  • Ecolawn: This blend of fine fescue grasses is highly drought-tolerant and requires less fertilization than traditional grass. It can be grown anywhere in the United States.
  • Buffalograss: As the native grass of the Western Plains, this variety thrives in drier areas of the country such as California and Nevada. It only needs to be mowed once a month.
  • Seashore paspalum: This is an eco-friendly grass for Southern states with warm climates. It doesn’t even like fertilizer, and it tolerates recycled water, or even salty water.
Advertisment
Food

Put a Cork In It

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What... Read

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What happens, though, when corks (inevitably) overflow? What do you start to do with all of those extra corks?  Well we found these inspirations for DIY projects that will make you regret any of those corks you’ve ever thrown out.  Sorry, we don’t have any DIY projects lined up for boxed wine (no judgement!)

The first place our minds went was to the material – cork – traditionally used for wine, insulation, and… corkboards! So how does the cork make it from your Pinot Grigio to the wall? Check out these instructions from Wineintro.com. The hardest part will be finding corks that are exactly the same size. After not much work, you’ll have a great looking corkboard for the office or the kid’s room, or for recipes in the kitchen.

A similar but less expected way to reuse those same-size corks is to make a DIY bath-mat, which will add a touch of elegance and spa glamour to your bathroom. Freshhomeideas.com published this great step-by-step guide for creating such a luxury for your home.

Now that we’ve covered the office, the kid’s room and the bathroom, what about the kitchen?  One of the great properties of cork is its ability to diffuse heat – which makes it perfect for a Trivet and will be sure to impress your friends during the next dinner party. While you can use the same square-frame concept as the corkboard or the bath-mat, but if you want to step outside the box (get it?), try a circular pattern instead, and for about $3 you can have one like this one from greenluv.org.

Interested, but not a drinker? Corks are often available from wineries if you ask – they may charge a small premium or shipping on the used ones from the tasting room, but it’s still a lot cheaper than buying them from the craft store!

There you have it – now you can empty out that trophy-jar of corks and start over again, but with a few neat accessories around the house – accessories that you made yourself – and accessories that helped you Do A bit Better!”

Advertisment
UpCycle

GreenYour Pet (Part 2)

Green Your Pet We all know that humans need to reduce our carbon footprint, but what about your pets’ pawprint?... Read

Green Your Pet

We all know that humans need to reduce our carbon footprint, but what about your pets’ pawprint?  A green pet isn’t just for hippies anymore, but a way to help the earth and keep your pet healthy too!  Here are a few things you can do:

Buy Eco-Friendly toys.  There are plenty out there made from recycled and sustainable fibers.  Check out DAbB’s Things We Love: Pets section for our favorite picks!

Protect the Birds!  Keep your cat indoors.  They are natural hunters and a big threat to outdoor life.  Most vets recommend keeping them indoors due to fatal risks such as cars and disease.

Feed Them Natural and Organic Pet Foods.  Animals can also be affected by the chemicals in food.  Feeding them food that is sustainable and organic  leaves you with a happier, healthier animal.

Put Poop in its Place.  Use biodegradable bags for dogs that decompose and steer clear of clumping clay litters for cats.  The clay is strip-mined and is harmful to the environment.

Recycle a Pet and Adopt!  Save an animal and hundreds of dollars by shopping at a local animal shelter.  There are over 70,000 puppies and kittens a year that are abandoned and need a home.

Now go out and reduce that pawprint!

Advertisment
Doing A Bit Better

5 Tips to make your Fall a little bit better

The heat is still upon us, but not for long! As fall is right around the corner, the days will... Read

The heat is still upon us, but not for long! As fall is right around the corner, the days will start to get shorter and the sidewalks will become littered with leaves. Here are some tips for your home and your family that will help you do a little bit better during the changing of the seasons:

  1. Check the furnace
    • One of the easiest ways to make sure your home is efficient is to test and make sure your furnace/fireplace is clean. Not only does this make winter stress free because you know that your furnace or chimney will work throughout winter, it’s also a money saver.
    • Cleaning around the furnace will allow it to run smoothly thus giving you more heat with less energy during the winter.
  2. Insulate the house
    • Check the windows around your house for proper caulking, make sure your windows are sealed tight and no breeze is coming through. Plastic film can sometimes work as an alternative.
    • Make sure doors are weather stripped and replace strips if necessary. If there’s a draft coming through replace the threshold of the door or use towels, blankets, or old sweaters (we will discuss these items further below) to place under the doors.
    • Hang a thick curtain or blanket in front of your doors to block cold air from entering the house.
  3. Create/purify air flow
    • If you have a ceiling fan, adjust the settings so that the fan is going in reverse. If you’re standing underneath the fan and can feel the breeze from it then make sure to turn it the opposite way. This maneuver allows for air to be pushed up against the ceiling and down the walls, allowing the air flow to re-circulate the warm air without causing a chilling effect.
    • Clean vents to ensure debris and dust aren’t getting into the air flow of your house. You’re going to essentially button up your house during the winter and you don’t want to have to open windows because your house is too stuffy.
    • Move objects away from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor, or radiators so that air moves freely around your house. Also, as said above, make sure to clean around these areas.
  4. For the kids (Going back to school)
    • Buy clothes and materials from second hand stores/thrift shops. There’s chic thrift stores for all ages now!
    • Bring your own reusable bags to go shopping.
    • Avoid single use packaging food when preparing lunches. Also, try and reuse Ziploc bags for however long you can.
    • Make sure to not buy school materials in bulk.
    • Have a “Swap” party: invite families to exchange clothing and usable school supplies.
    • If you drive your kids to the bus stop, bundle them up and walk them to the bus stop as an alternative.
  5. Everyday Stuff
    • Clean the gutters and make sure that your downspouts are pointed away from your house will provide piece of mind when the weather is unfavorable. And while you’re up there, why not check out the roof’s condition to make sure it’ll last through the upcoming seasons?
    • Open blinds in the morning/during the day to attract heat and then close them at night to retain the heat. Honeycomb blinds are especially efficient.
    • Go through the family’s wardrobe and re-purpose items. For example, use old t-shirts as new kitchen rags for cleaning, or old sweaters and towels as a way to ventilate your house.
    • Organize the kitchen, the refrigerator should be checked to ensure it is sealed tight as to not let cold air into the house. And food that is old or not needed should be composted or thrown out. Room in the refrigerator is needed for ample air flow.
    • Get rid of cleaning products that contain harmful chemicals, especially triclosan. DIY cleaning products using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice are highly accepted. If not able to make cleaning products yourself, Method and Seven Generations cleaning products are great alternatives to conventional cleaning products.
Advertisment
Garden

Mulching the Funny Pages

“You know those times when you realize your parents were right about something? Sigh… this is one of those times.... Read

“You know those times when you realize your parents were right about something? Sigh… this is one of those times. Many staff members here remember using newspapers in their family’s garden as kids, but never really knew why. We all hate weeds. Using the good ole Sunday newspaper is incredibly useful for keeping weeds at bay, if not completely keeping them out of your garden. This method doesn’t involve chemicals that might harm your produce, damage your plants, or cause health problems for your family. It’s also cheap and super easy.

What You’ll Need
A large amount of newspapers (The size of the Sunday paper finally comes in handy!)
Organic mulching materials such as:

Grass clippings
Pine Bark
Leaves
Straw

Steps
Open up a section of the newspaper and place it right on top of the soil and tightly around your plants. We recommend you have at least 12 pages thick. Make sure you overlap the edges so light and weeds can’t pierce through the paper. (Make sure you don’t use glossy paper from coupons, inserts, etc! These typically contain mild toxins from the ink.)

As you lay the paper down, place 3-4 inches of mulch over the top. This amount of mulch will help to keep the newspaper down and it looks great. And now you’re done!

The newspaper mulch will not only keep the weeds down, it will also fertilize the soil, cool the roots of the plants in the summer heat, add organic material to the soil, and save water. Earthworms will be active underneath the mulch, tilling the ground for you and adding worm castings, which is pure gold for plants.

Advertisment
Housewares

Monday Tip of the Week – Coffee to Go, Please!

If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling... Read

If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling up. Invest in a reusable cup, which not only cuts down on waste, but keeps your beverage hot for a much longer time. Most coffee shops will happily fill your own cup, and many even offer you a discount in exchange!  Not to mention, they look nicer.

Advertisment