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!”

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Housewares

Hard Rock Cloth Diaper Detergent Remix

$19.95

Free of phosphates, dyes, enzymes, whiteners and brighteners, Rockin’ Green Detergent is natural and safe for your family’s clothing and... Read

Free of phosphates, dyes, enzymes, whiteners and brighteners, Rockin’ Green Detergent is natural and safe for your family’s clothing and perfect for baby’s cloth diapers!

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Promote

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Family

Earth Day Ideas for Everyone

“Before you start planning your Mother’s day festivities, it’s time to say “Thanks!” to your OTHER mom.  You know, Mother... Read

“Before you start planning your Mother’s day festivities, it’s time to say “Thanks!” to your OTHER mom.  You know, Mother Earth!  She’s been great and she’s done a lot for you.  Sure, she has temper tantrums once in a while, but if we don’t take care of her now, she won’t be around for too long (relatively speaking).

Okay, innuendo aside, it’s time to consider how you’ll celebrate Earth Day this Sunday!  Here are a few ideas (and just to prove we walk the walk, we’ll be doing these as well).

Walk, don’t drive
Plan ahead so that you don’t have to drive anywhere on Sunday. Spare the air your carbon emissions, just for one day!  If you have stores or coffee shops within walking distance, consider those instead.

Lose the Appliances
We rarely think about the chain of events that goes into something as simple as turning on the television – but chances are that at least some of your electricity comes from fossil fuels.  You’ll be surprised at everything you can get done without running appliances.

-Eat raw so that you don’t have to cook
-Use candles for lights (it’s romantic, and kind of like camping!)
-Skip the TV and read a book.  Storytelling is a great way to entertain even the little ones

Plant something
We understand that planting a tree doesn’t work for everyone (especially us urbanites).  That said, planting SOMETHING is still feasible.  Plants add much needed Oxygen to the atmosphere, and attract your friendly neighborhood bee for local pollination.

Now get out there and show “mom” (the older one) how much you love her!”

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Family

All About Recycling

One of the easiest ways to Do a Bit Better is to separate your recycling from your trash, but a... Read

One of the easiest ways to Do a Bit Better is to separate your recycling from your trash, but a lot of people (us included!) aren’t always sure what can be recycling and what is trash. Here are some simple tips to remember when you aren’t sure if you should put it in the blue bin.

1. All cardboard boxes can be recycled unless they are waxed. If you can, removing the adhesive labels and tape will ensure that the glue won’t interfere with the pulping process

2. Corks from wine bottles should be thrown away (or reused!)

3. You cannot recycle a container that has motor oil in it, but all other chemical containers can as long as they are completely empty

4. Remeber, there are many things you can’t put in the trash or recycling–most recycling centers and stores like Best Buy will take your old electronics and batteries

5. It is important to keep your recycling indoors until recycling day. Wet newspapers and cardboard may not absorb the chemicals needed to process the paper fibers into new products

Here at Doing a Bit Better, we have the graphic below right next to the garbage to remind us what goes where.

Start recycling so you can Do a Bit Better!

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Solar

Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells – So Fun!

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to... Read

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to almost any surface.

The fabrication process included a wafer of silicon, silicon dioxide, sandwiched metal and a film of nickel on which the thin-film solar cells are placed, and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape.  After being dipped in water, the target surface was coated with adhesives and the thin-film solar cells were attached to the sticky surface and the thermal release tape was removed.

These thin solar cells can be placed on a wide range of surfaces, and could someday be used commercially to generate solar power.

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Housewares

Remodeling Your Home?

“If you are looking to do any home remodeling this year, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and opt... Read

“If you are looking to do any home remodeling this year, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and opt for a few green upgrades.  Now, we’re not saying you need to tear down your house and rebuild it to be Leed Certified.  But there are a few choices you can make to add value to your home and to Do A bit Better for Mother Nature.

Seal It Up
One of the biggest wastes of energy comes from window & door drafts.  Sealing off these leaks can reduce your energy usage & costs by anywhere from 5 to 30 percent!  Solutions vary – some small leaks may be solved simply by adding weather stripping or caulk, but more extensive jobs may require repairing or replacing windows & doors

Look for the Energy Star logo
Appliances are going to be one of the bigger expenses on a remodel list, so if you are going to invest in them, make sure to purchase Energy Star certified models.  The certification, managed by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, helps consumers take the guesswork out of finding an appliance that is highly efficient (read: saves you cash) and also good for the environment. Plus, with over 18,000 certified products across 35 different categories, you won’t have to go searching high & low to find one that fits your budget & style.

Low Flow
We’re not going to bore you with facts about how much water is wasted each year from showers & toilets in the US.  So just know that low flow toilets and showers are a great way to save money and cut down on water waste.  For your porcelain throne, look for 1.6 Gallons/flush and 2 button flush option.  And for the shower heads, look for options with volume dials or buttons – in doing so, you can save up to 70% each time you bathe.

Lay Down the Bamboo
Bamboo’s not just for red ceramic pots with gold Chinese characters anymore! If you are going to do some more extensive remodeling and start replacing your floors, bamboo is a great choice.  First and foremost, bamboo is a highly sustainable product, so you don’t have to feel like you are chopping down the rainforest to freshen up your living room.  Secondly, they look great and are available in a wide range of sizes & colors.  Lastly, carbonized bamboo is hard and durable, so you’ll worry less about scratches when you put your furniture back in place.”

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Food

Monday Tip of the Week – Just Another Meatless Monday

“Looking to save a few bucks and shed a few pounds? Consider meatless Mondays. Americans consume way more meat (on... Read

“Looking to save a few bucks and shed a few pounds? Consider meatless Mondays. Americans consume way more meat (on average, 260 pounds a year) than our bodies are meant to handle, which adds up to extra poundage. With swimsuit season just around the corner, who can afford that?

Here’s how to do it: consider replacing meat with another high-protein item, such as nuts or mushrooms. Mushrooms are an especially good substitution as they contain a lot of healthy protein, and the consistency resembles meat. May we suggest a pot of mushroom chili?

Oh, and there’s another bonus. Since 2006, the average cost per pound of beef has risen to over $4.40 a pound (it was $3.97 in 2006) and is steadily continuing to rise. Assuming the average family eats 2 lbs of meat per meal, that’s a savings of $457.60 a year.  That’s enough for a new summer wardrobe!”

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Family

A Better Playtime for Princesses

“Whether it’s tea-parties or dress-up, there are plenty of ways to make your daughter’s playtime a bit better without sacrificing... Read

“Whether it’s tea-parties or dress-up, there are plenty of ways to make your daughter’s playtime a bit better without sacrificing all of the things she loves!  Even if she’s a material girl, she’ll still love these tricks for making playtime greener, and you’ll feel better about it too.

Play Jewelry
The problem: Because toys aren’t regulated the way that food containers are, the plastics often contain BPAs, vinyls and other dangerous compounds.

The solution: Thrift stores often have a wide arrange of actual jewelry that, while it has seen better days, is made from higher quality materials (and rarely plastic). They usually have a good selection of clip-on earrings, and necklaces and bracelets can be easily adjusted with a pair of pliers to make them fit her tiny body. Best of all, she’ll feel even more glamorous with all of that new gorgeous jewelry.

Play Makeup
The problem: A lot of play makeups out there are basically the same thing as the lower-end brands you can find at the drugstore – both of which are made of the same toxic chemicals (see our previous article about cosmetics).  What’s worse is that her younger, more sensitive skin absorbs those chemicals faster than ours does.

The solution: There are a few companies out there that make natural play makeup which is much safer for your little lady, and they’re not overly expensive, either. Take, for example, this complete set from OrganicBeautyNow.com which is made of beeswax, coconut oil, and tapioca starch.   Or you could always tell her she’s beautiful just the way she is!

Build Her Fairy Kingdom
If you’ve got a fairy princess running around more than once a week, and an acre or so of back yard, then maybe it’s time the princess gets her castle!  With a few creative alterations to a few large cardboard boxes and a black marker, a makeshift castle will be just the place for her to set up camp. Surround the castle by flowers and, if you’re feeling bold, plant a few trees in the circle to simulate a real “enchanted forest”. She’ll have her own place to rule, and you’ll have the beginnings of a beautiful garden.”

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Food

Don’t Throw That Out!

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to... Read

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to throw out everything it feels like we just bought.  Here are some ways to keep food more fresh.

Fresh Herbs
If you’re like us, you’ve probably bought a big bunch of parsley, used a little, and threw the rest back in the bag in the fridge. After a day or two, the parsley starts wilting and not before too long, it’s not worth using anymore. To keep fresh herbs useable for about a week, store the stems in a short glass in about 2” of water and cover with cheesecloth or a plastic storage bag. This will help the plants stay hydrated and humid, and will double the shelf-life of your herbs.

Eggs
True egg lovers despise that funky taste old eggs start to get after a while. Much like your box of baking soda, eggs absorb flavors in your fridge. Who wants that smelly-fridge flavor in their Denver omelet? Instead of keeping your eggs at the bottom of the fridge, keep them out! Eggs stay fresh for up to 2 weeks without being refrigerated – in fact, they’re sold on the shelf in the U.K., not the refrigerated section. You can test the freshness of your egg by gently placing it in a glass of lukewarm water. If it sinks, it’s still fresh.

Potatoes
Many people have taken to throwing out their potatoes after losing firmness or once they begin sprouting.  While this is unnecessary and wasteful, there are ways to cut down on these phenomena. Store apples in a dark place, like in a cupboard. In fact, if you store your potatoes and apples together, the apples will help slow the sprouting of the potatoes

Carrots
While it takes a while for fresh carrots to go bad (i.e. soften, mold, etc), they can quickly become hard and knobby. Unless you plan to use them right away, try to buy carrots with the leaves still attached. Much like fruits, the carrot will stay fresher longer. If not using the carrots right away, put them in a tall glass full of wet sand. Add a few tablespoons of water about halfway through the week to keep the carrots fresh and tender.

Spices
Some spices, after a while, pick up moisture from the air and begin to clump together and harden. This is common in especially warm kitchens – but doesn’t have to be! Cut a 6×6 inch square of a fine-mesh cheesecloth or other porous fabric. Place a tablespoon of dry rice in the center of the square, and bunch up the four corners, forming a small satchel. Tie off with string or a twist-tie, and put in the top of your spice jar. The rice will absorb moisture, keeping your spices fresh and dry.

Follow these tips, and food will stay fresher and flavorful for longer! It will save you money, cut down on food waste, and help you Do A bit Better every day!”

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Pets

DAbB’s Review of Wood Chuck Dog Toy

While we don’t bring our “other children” (our pets) to the office, we still couldn’t help but be excited when... Read

While we don’t bring our “other children” (our pets) to the office, we still couldn’t help but be excited when our Wood Chuck Dog Toy showed up at the office this week! Made by the fine folks at Planet Dog, this thing packs a SERIOUS wallop! Honestly, it’s a good thing they don’t allow these things in the MLB… I’ve never thrown anything so far in my life.

The entire shaft is made from sustainable bamboo, and with a cork handle which is INCREDIBLY comfortable. Better yet, included in the price was one Recycled Rubber ball which fit perfectly. That recycled rubber is stronger than it looks – I’ll be surprised if any of our pets can get their sharp little teeth through that… (knock on wood).

Best of all, we bought it from Only Natural Pet Store, who shipped the toy in biodegradable packing peanuts (swoon!). Not only do they talk the talk, but walk the walk as well. In fact, we had to make sure so we dropped a few into a glass of water.  They were gone within 20 minutes.

   

We couldn’t be happier with our purchase – If you’ve got a little friend with too much energy, we think you’ll like it too!

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Recycle

Shopping Online Auction Sites? Keep it Green!

Buying used items and giving them a new chance at life is a great way to save them from a... Read

Buying used items and giving them a new chance at life is a great way to save them from a landfill. If you want to take your thrift store, garage sale, or ebay shopping to an even more eco-friendly level, try starting your search at eBay’s Green Store. The online auction website has created a home for their most green items. Quick searches for refurbished, resource-saving, or upcycled goods are just one click away.

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Doing A Bit Better

Doing a bit Better for babies

California Governor Jerry Brown, with the support of the California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, just signed a... Read

California Governor Jerry Brown, with the support of the California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, just signed a new safety guidelines bill. The bill mandates that children, age 2 years and younger, while passengers in cars, must sit tight in rear-facing car seats.*

While some parents oppose the bill because they like keeping kiddos in their line of sight, a study in the journal Injury Prevention presented findings that children under 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in an accident as rear-facing passengers.

Doctors and traffic safety experts also support the bill. It’s slated to go into effect in 2017.

*40/40: Kids who are taller than 40 inches or who weigh more than 40 pounds will be exempt.

 

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Housewares

Green Rim Recycled Tumbler Glass

$7.00

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose.... Read

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose. Sparkling with bright, leafy green, evoking summer days and cool drinks with friends. These incomparable pieces are handcrafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation.

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Health & Beauty

Gentlemen: Green thy Faces

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the... Read

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the least we at DAbB can do is help you feel like you are reducing your footprint while you shave.  Here are three quick tips to help make your shaving routine a bit more green:

Turn off the water – this may seem obvious, but shut off the water while you shave.  The average Joe can save up 3,000 gallons a year!

Go Au Naturale – Next time you go to the drugstore, look for all-natural shaving creams and aftershaves.  Just look for plant based products that are certified organic and/or not tested on animals.  Or, you can enlist a bar of organic soap to make a thick lather suitable for shaving.

Ditch the disposable – Between plastic handles, metal blades, rubber grips and god-knows-what’s-in-those-lubricating-strips, disposable razors create a huge amount of waste.  So look for a more earth friendly solution.  The absolute best choice is a good, old fashioned straight razor – it can be sharpened for great results & used over and over.  But we realize that the thought of putting straight razor to your neck can be a bit intimidating – let’s face it, we’re not all John Wayne.  So why not pop for an electric razor to cut down on your waste?  Many new electric razors on the market are gentle on your skin and offer a close shave.  If you must use disposable, try one of the new eco-friendly razors from Schick!

Go forth and shave!”

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Recycle

The Princess Project

“ Pink, Yellow, Peach, Sea Foam oh my!  Not quite colors of the rainbow, but of the pretty bridesmaids dresses... Read

Pink, Yellow, Peach, Sea Foam oh my!  Not quite colors of the rainbow, but of the pretty bridesmaids dresses you still have hanging in your closet from the last 5 years.  So what to do next? RECYCLE of course!

We recently heard about a fantastic organization called The Princess Project that accepts donations of new or gently used gowns in excellent condition in all fabrics, sizes and colors.  The Princess Project provides free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. All of this is made possible through volunteer, donor and community support (people like you and me).

This organization is for California residents, but if you live elsewhere, please Do A bit Better and contact another organization that does the same in your state (See the Events Near You page)

Have fun cleaning out your closet!”

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Solar

Help your CA neighbors Do a Bit Better

Are you up on your California state law? Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the... Read

Are you up on your California state law?

Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the tree owners up to $1,000 fines (daily!). State Law requires homeowners to keep their trees, or other plant-life, from shading neighbor’s solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at it’s strongest.

Help your neighbors Do a Bit Better, it’s the law!

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Environment

Green Ideas – Gardening in the Back of a Truck

“One of our favorite things to do is watch Kickstarter for Green ideas that also help our communities in some... Read

“One of our favorite things to do is watch Kickstarter for Green ideas that also help our communities in some way.  Even though DAbB is located in San Francisco, this particular Kickstarter just so happened to catch our attention.

Truck Farm Chicago is a Biodeisel pickup with a farm in the bed that drives around to schools to educate children on how to grow, cook and support your own food. The principles they teach include creativity, healthy choices and supporting local food.

For a modest donation of $25, you can receive an autographed children’s book highlighting “environmental mindfulness” written by one of Truck Farm Chicago’s farmers.

We’re always on the lookout for interesting projects going on.  If you’d like to see your project highlighted on Doing A bit Better, email us at LetsChat@DoingAbitBetter.com”

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Housewares

Corks, Pas Deux – Bourbon-cork Coaster / Trivet

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted... Read

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted for bourbon corks, this time, as they’re usually made of real cork (instead of that synthetic stuff), and have the neat wooden tops that give them a real rustic look. It also helped that we had a few laying around.

We also opted for ease, in this case. There are plenty of materials to use if you want to avoid using any sort of bonding agent – but thanks to the magic of a hot glue gun, we were able to whip this coaster up in about 10 minutes. And it shows.

What You’ll Need
9 Corks of the same height
A hot-glue gun
hot-glue sticks
Right-angle
Jute twine (optional)

Steps
1. Using the right angle, glue the first two corks together.  If there’s a label on top of the wood, hopefully you’ll do a better job of lining them up than we did.  Continuing to use the straight edge to make clean lines, add additional corks one by one until you’ve created the desired shape.  Allow the glue to fully cool/dry before picking it back up.

2. Once all 9 corks are glued together, flip the coaster over and bind with jute twine. To do this, simply glue the end of the jute twine to center of one side of the coaster, and begin wrapping around the cork portion, alternating gluing on every other side.

Easy enough! Now you can enjoy a frosty beverage in style.

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Solar

Retailers – The Quest to go Solar

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that... Read

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that make sense for the business.  Going Solar has been one of those things that make sense for both goals.  With growing frequency, companies from Apple to Walmart have been making this a reality.  Below are a few examples of companies who are utilizing renewable energy and paving the road to an energy-efficient world.

IKEA
IKEA, the largest home furnishing store in the world, is up to 30 solar installations in its stores across the US including Tampa, Florida (July 2012) with the one of the latest in Frisco, Texas (August 2012). The company has made a serious commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic technology.

IKEA owns and operates each of its solar power systems atop its buildings.  Drawing from its Swedish heritage, the company believes that Solar can be a good business while aiming for its operations to minimize impacts on the environment.

WALMART
Walmart has installed more than 150 solar projects across the US.  The company currently has 62 megawatts of solar panels installed, while operating fuel cells and wind turbines at other locations.  Walmart has plans to have 1,000 solar-powered locations by 2020.

APPLE INC.
By the end of 2012, Apple will meet the energy needs of their Maiden, North Carolina datacenter by generating onsite renewable energy.  They are building two solar array installations which use high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system.

Apple plans to buy solar panels from SunPower for the huge solar farm, and the projects should be completed by the end of the 2012.

MACY’S
In 2010, the Macy’s solar installation in Goodyear, AZ claimed the title for the largest single-rooftop system in the US.  Most of Macy’s efforts have been focused in California, installing solar panels on 26 stores.”

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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.

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