If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get away from the usual chemical-laden perfumes, soaps and other scented products sold by big box manufacturers, essential oils are the answer. Here are a few things you should know about them, along with simple ways to use them, in order to achieve a higher level of health and happiness.
Photo by Fotolia.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are concentrated extracts of natural plants, flowers, seeds or spices. These plant oils can be quite volatile, so you should exercise caution when using them. The concentrations are terrific, and the potency usually reflects the fact that a lot of raw material went into its creation. For example, it takes over 350 pounds of peppermint leaf to make one pound of peppermint oil. It takes 150 pounds of lavender flowers to make lavender oil. It takes thousands of pounds of roses to make one pound of rose oil.
Due to the large amount of raw materials needed and the processes used to make them, as a result, most essential oils are expensive.
Using Essential Oils Internally
This is a controversial use of essential oil, and many experts agree that it can be very dangerous to ingest them. While there is a lot of research about the efficacy and safety of essential oils being used on the skin, there isn’t much data on internal use. And, even when there is, the data is not conclusive.
Some research shows that some essential oils may be beneficial for some conditions, but only when diluted, and the amount of dilution is critical—too much dilution and it becomes useless; too little, and the oil may be toxic. Some studies also indicate that plant oils (essential oils) have the ability to cause seizures in some people.
Using Essential Oils Externally
External use of essential oils is widely regarded as safe. The FDA also labels essential oils as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). That’s good news, because there are a variety of ways you can use them, externally, to promote a healthy home and life.
On your ears: DabTools makes it easy to use essential oils on your ears for everything from controlling inflammation to treating bee stings. If you’ve ever worn cheap earrings, you know that they can be irritating to your earlobes. Some essential oils, like peppermint, will shut down that irritation quickly.
In your laundry: You could buy dryer sheets like everyone else, but if you’re looking for more natural options, then add a few drops of essential oil to a rag and throw it into the dryer with your clothes. It’ll add a light scent to them, it’s cheaper to use in the long-run, and you’re not wasting sheets and filling up your garbage nearly as quickly with dryer sheets.
For an even healthier laundry routine, add your favorite essential oils to simple, homemade wool dryer balls to keep your clothes smelling and looking like new. These felted wool balls help clothing dry faster (reducing dry times), reduce static and last for years.
In your air vents: If you have central heating and cooling, you probably have air filters that filter dust before the air recirculates throughout your home. Put a few drops of your favorite oil on those air filters and then put them back into the cold air return. Your home will smell amazing in just a few hours.
You can also use a cotton ball if you don’t want to use the oils directly on the filter element. Just put a few drops on the cotton and stick the cotton ball in one of the creases in the corner or somewhere where it won’t impede airflow.
As air fresheners: Put a few drops onto a cotton ball and then place them in a small jar in the corner of a room. Or, just toss the cotton ball behind the couch where no one sees it. It will act as a room freshener. This is a great idea when you don’t have a central air system that circulates air in the home, or when you only want to freshen-up one room in the house.
Reed diffusers are easy to find in stores, but often they’re full of synthetic fragrances. If you want to refresh a larger space, try making your own reed diffuser with essential oils.
As perfume: Mix your favorite essential oils in a bottle and add either a small amount of isopropanol alcohol or distilled water. The alcohol will make more of a perfume where the water will make a spritzer. Both are useful depending on what you want from it.
When using oils as a perfume, be mindful about mixing. Some essential oils don’t mix well and others will overpower more subtle oils. The Fragrance Shop sells “look-a-like” mixes that mimic commercial brands, and they can even deconstruct and make most scents if you have a favorite you want to try replicating. This is a great way to ensure you get perfumes that smell nice, have that classic “high-middle-finish” note scheme, and that keep things simple and natural.
Mike Gould is a yoga instructor and a classically trained chiropractor. He enjoys passing on his expertise and know-how online. His articles mainly appear on health and wellness blogs.
1. Block Party
This set of 12 heirloom-quality blocks combines to make four adorable boats. Made from FSC linden wood, the blocks are hand-sanded to ensure the edges are smooth and rounded, plus they are colored with a non-toxic, water-based stain.
To Buy: $50, Land of Nod
2. Set It and Forget It
Inspired by an ancient (but still used) irrigation tool, a self-watering planter makes houseplants easy for even the most forgetful among us. Just fill the center chamber with water periodically, and you are set.
To Buy: $50, Uncommon Goods
3. Stocking Stuffer
This luxurious facial cleanser is a powder, which eliminates the need for preservatives. The all-star ingredients include oats, yogurt powder, honey powder, green tea extract, calendula, rosehip powder and bentonite clay.
To Buy: $20, Lollique
4. Hand It Over
Beautiful, well-made hand towels make a great gift. They pack up small, in case you are traveling, and will bring a smile as they dry hands and wipe up spills all year long. Additionally, these cotton, fair trade towels are handwoven by Ethiopian artisans.
To Buy: $30, Viva Terra
5. Pamper Purely
Skip the harsh chemicals in conventional lotions and moisturize with this almond oil-based body oil. It includes botanical oils, but leaves out parabens, phthalates, SLSs and dyes. It’s a great base for homemade skin-care recipes, too.
To Buy: $10, Home Health US
Spring might be the traditional time for cleaning, but fall is a great occasion to get your house prepped for winter. Since it’s starting to become a bit cooler out, getting your house ready for winter, when you’re going to be stuck inside more often, should be on your to-do list. Making the right preparations now can ensure that your home is more efficient and environmentally-friendly when the seasons change. Here are some simple ways to get your house ready for the cold seasons ahead.
Photo by Kaboompics.
Batten Down the Hatches
Drafts in winter are usually less than pleasant. They also give the warm air your furnace is working to produce an easy escape route.
Check your windows and doors to see if there are any gaps around the edges. Some caulk should be able to fix any draft problems in those areas. Even if you’ve re-caulked the seals in the past year, moisture, temperature changes and the swelling of wood can cause more gaps to appear or old caulk to come loose. Check it regularly.
In addition to the windows and doors, there are other sneaky places where air can get in. Old houses with wood floors can fall victim to cold air seeping up through the floor boards, especially above a basement. If your home has an attic, this is also a great place for cold air to sneak in. Knowing where to add insulation can save a pretty significant amount of cash in the winter.
Up in the Air
Winter usually means you won’t have the doors and windows open to let in fresh air (unless you live in Florida or California, of course). Use this time to get in one last airing-out and take a look at your air filters to help keep your house comfortable during the colder months. Air filters are easy to replace, and they’re cheap. Think less than $5 cheap, and you replace them when they get gross or about every three months. It can be more often, however, if you have animals, smoke inside or if your appliance’s manufacturer recommends replacement more frequently.
Clean Out the Closet
Sadly, it’s getting to be the time when we put away the shorts, sundresses, tank tops and flip-flops. It’s time to make room for chunky sweaters, jeans, heavy jackets, hats, scarves, mittens and boots! All those bulky clothes can be hard to fit into the closet, so take this opportunity to clear out what you can.
Old clothes that no longer fit or that you don’t want to keep can be donated. However, not everything will make the cut. You might have pieces that simply aren’t wearable anymore. You don’t have to trash those items if you can find a way to reuse them—break them down into rags for dusting or other household chores.
Clear the Garage
Since we’re talking about getting rid of your old stuff, don’t neglect the garage! After all, you’re not going to need to get to the weed-whacker and lawn mower over the winter, but you will want easy access to snow shovels, salt, ice scrapers and sleds. If you start making the switch now, you won’t be stuck hunting for the ice scraper when you’re already late for work. Of course, you’ll also need to move a rake into grabbing distance, too, for all those leaf piles in the fall.
Since you’re working on finding space for the things you need, now is as good a time as any to get some old junk out of the way! Broken gardening tools, hoses with holes, empty spray bottles and leftover paint cans can be tossed. You’ll just want to make sure you dispose of any paint correctly to avoid contaminating the environment with dangerous chemicals. You’ll want to consider similar options for things like bug sprays and other pressurized cans.
These simple steps can help keep your home in good shape for the cold season. You’ll be able to see the difference reflected in your energy bill, too. Bring it on, winter!
Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.
Lawns, gardens, flowers and facades are what make a neighborhood look pretty and feel more like home. Unfortunately, the extra pollen can be a bit of a problem, especially for those who are allergic or suffering from asthma. In most cases prevention is better than a cure, but in this case that would be nearly impossible. Nevertheless, there are a few things that you could do to minimize the effects pollen has on your health and comfort.
If you’ve been out doing gardening chores, the first thing you need to do once getting back inside is decontaminate yourself. If you don’t, you’ll only be spreading pollen all throughout the house and making it a nuisance for anyone with allergies. Walk in, dump your clothes in the washer and hit the shower to remove any and all traces of the golden powder off your body.
Park in the Garage
Cars tend to become a bed for pollen that gets constantly blown off with the wind. Whenever you use your car, you’ll be spreading the pollen from on the roof and windows everywhere inside. Giving your car an early morning wash is obviously a good thing to do, but if you live in a neighborhood that has a lot of pollen in the air, it helps to just keep the pollen off the outside of your car so that you can prevent it from settling inside. Oh, and never leave the windows down!
Close Doors and Windows
The time when flowers are in full bloom is usually the best time of the year, and one when you’d want to keep the windows and doors open to embrace nature. But the more air comes into your home, the more pollen it brings along with it, causing a lot of nasal drama especially for those prone to more seasonal allergies. If you want to enjoy nature, just take a stroll outside. Don’t forget to wipe your feet and clean your outerwear upon entering the house.
Empty Your Vacuum Outside
Believe it or not, but emptying your vacuum into your kitchen garbage can pretty much render your cleaning efforts entirely useless. Whatever pollen you may have sucked up will be back in the air. After you’re done vacuuming, take the bag or canister outside to empty it to prevent the pollen from lingering in your house.
Wash Your Hair
As much as it is a dust magnet, your hair is also a pollen magnet. Here’s where things can get especially annoying if you’re the one with allergies. If the yellow stuff stays on your hair all day, you’ll be spreading it all over your bed and pillow. In other words, you’ll be sleeping and waking up with a lot of pollen and allergy symptoms. If your neighborhood is subject to a major pollen crisis and you know you may have some on your hair, wash your hair regularly to keep yourself safe.
Even after all this, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy one of nature’s best times as the flowers blossom.
Although investing in an energy-efficient washer and dryer goes a long way toward saving energy, there are many other simple things you can do to help save the earth from right inside your laundry room. Even on little-to-no budget, you can easily apply these six tips to make a change in your home’s energy consumption.
Photo by Fotolia.
Use Cold Water
Cold water is sufficient enough to clean most clothes, so using water that's any warmer is just a waste. Heating up water, even just a few degrees, requires a lot of energy. Switching the wash cycle to cold will easily cut your electric or gas bills. Only use hot water on heavily solid laundry, or pre-treat these loads before washing in cold water.
Run Full Loads
Although contrary to what you may think, it actually takes the same amount of energy to run a small load of laundry as it does a large one. Running a small load is a huge waste when you will simply have to do another right after. Let your dirty clothes accumulate until you have enough for a full load, and wash them every week or so.
Update Your Machine
Having an Energy Star-certified washer is a must when trying to conserve energy. A standard machine uses an average of 23 gallons of water per load, whereas an Energy Star one only uses around 15 gallons. That eight gallon difference quickly adds up over the course of days, weeks and months. Imagine all the money that can be saved on your water bill! Save money while shopping and research new machines online at trusted outlets like AppliancesConnection.com.
Front-loading machines use up to 60 percent less water than older machines, reducing both water and energy consumption. If you don’t have one already, consider upgrading.
Clean Lint Filters
Lint that becomes clogged in the dryer filter can unnecessarily lengthen the drying time, so make sure to clean it out after every cycle. Besides saving energy, this lint build-up also poses a fire hazard if it were to heat up enough.
Keep Dryers in a Warm Location
A dryer that is operating in a cold environment has to use more energy to heat the air. Run the dryer in a warm or hot location to help conserve energy. Garages and basements are notorious for getting very hot, so putting the dryer there is a good idea.
There are literally hundreds more ideas you can use to save energy while doing your laundry. However, the most effective way is to invest in an energy-efficient washer and dryer. Regardless, keep these tips in mind to help cut costs and make your home a little more eco-friendly.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter, @BrookeChaplan.
Jeffrey and Judith loved living in the quaint harbor town of Belfast, Maine, with waterfront views. They resided in a large seaside home where an estuary formed as Little River met Penobscot Bay. However, significant time and resources were needed to maintain and heat the home with oil and wood. Although Jeffrey and Judith enjoyed entertaining and spending time by the bay, they decided to list their home for sale and move into a net-zero energy home at Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage.
"Everyone knows that Americans consume resources at a rate that is not sustainable," Jeffrey says. "I always thought I was making my contribution by recycling and driving an economical vehicle. At the same time I was living in an enormous house that, in a third world country, could house 10 families. Before we insulated the attic we were using close to a thousand gallons of oil each year. This is not a sustainable number for two families, as we had a rental apartment in the home."
The Benefits of Their New Net-Zero Home
Their new 1,500-square-foot, high-performance home is primarily heated by passive solar gains, appliances and even occupants. A modest 4.5 kW solar system produces all the power the family uses over the course of the year. Because the home is all electric, solar energy heats the water and home, and powers appliances.
How to Plan a Net-Zero Home
When planning a net-zero home, it’s wise to start with energy efficiency. Jeffrey and Judith's home has generous amounts of insulation in the foundation, roof and walls; lots of large south-facing triple-pane windows; and is oriented for maximum solar gain. The slab-on-grade foundation warms up on sunny winter days, slowly releasing the heat when temperatures drop. The home is air-sealed, making it virtually airtight. Even on cold, windy, winter days, the couple can sit in front of the windows and feel no drafts.
To ensure high quality air and comfort, the home has a Zehnder heat recovery ventilator. It supplies a constant stream of fresh, filtered air to the bedrooms and office, while extracting stale air from the kitchen and bathrooms. Heat in the winter or coolness in the summer is recycled from the exhaust air to the intake air, ensuring a high level of energy efficiency and comfort. Unlike many traditional homes where air enters through leaks in the walls, comes up from the basement or crawl space, or in through an attached garage—the outside air intake on Jeffrey and Judith's home is strategically placed to avoid bringing toxins, radon or mold into the home.
In a less-efficient home, the 4.5 kW solar system would not be sufficient to generate all the energy the home consumes. Jeffrey and Judith found a winning combination of efficiency and renewable power generation to make a net-zero home possible.
The 36-unit community of high-performance homes is clustered to preserve open space for agriculture, wildlife and recreation. Although Jeffery and Judith's new home doesn’t have views of the bay, it does overlook Little River Community Farm. The worker-share farm members gather each week to harvest vegetables and maintain the land.
"My wife and I are making our 'seventh generation' contribution now," Jeffrey explains. "We want our grandchildren and future generations to live in a world that is as green and beautiful as this one is now."
Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and communications professional with an MBA in sustainable management. She recently relocated to BelfastCohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.
Window treatments always seem so simple, but they can be the hardest feature to get right in your bedroom. That’s because you’re usually dealing with a whole lot of fabric, which can easily overwhelm (or underwhelm) whatever room they’re in. To help kickstart your bedroom makeover, here are six refreshing window treatment ideas that can help create the perfect look.
1. Dramatic Sheers
“Dramatic” and “sheers” are two words that are rarely in the same sentence when talking about window treatments. After all, sheers are usually the option people go for when they want to add lightness, right? Well, you can have the best of both worlds when you go for sheers in an eye-popping color, like deep red. This is a particularly striking effect if your bedroom walls are a very pale color. You get all the drama that an accent color provides, but you still don’t have that heavy visual weight of more traditional drapes.
2. Go Big
If you have a large bedroom, graphic drapes can be a great way to frame your windows. The visual weight can really help fill your space, especially if you have a long expanse of wall that is looking a little bare. Thick stripes are always a sophisticated look, especially in black and white, or white and navy. If you want something a bit more unexpected, chevron stripes (in an ombre gradient, perhaps) are a great twist on a classic stripe. Or, try neural-colored panels with a bold accent stripe on the top or bottom quarter of the drapes.
Forget window treatments that run across or on either side of a window. Instead, it’s okay to do things halfway. Shades or fabric panels that start 3/4 of the way up a window, leaving the upper quarter bare, are a truly unique way to get plenty of light and privacy. This can be a great option for a small bedroom, as these fabric panels tend to be smaller than traditional drapes and won’t add too much visual weight. Plus, the light that filters in from the upper portion of the window will help make the room appear larger which is always a good thing.
4. Valance Balance
Okay, the word “valance” might make you think of your grandma’s house, but this is one window treatment that has come far over the years. For starters, skip the floral fabrics. In fact, you might want to consider not using a fabric with a graphic pattern at all. Instead, your valance should be sleek and straight, and covered in textured fabric in a neutral shade. The bold weave of the fabric will create all of the visual interest you need, while still keeping things modern and fresh instead of old and dowdy.
5. Hey Shady
Not a fan of curtains? Shades are a great alternative, and there are lots of options available that are so beautiful on their own that adding curtains on top of them would be a distraction. While many people particularly love the gentle, golden glow of honeycomb blinds, roman shades have really been capturing our attention lately. While this style can look bulky in heavier fabrics, roman shades in lightweight, textured materials can filter light beautifully while giving a room the unique look you’ve been looking for.
6. Go Bare
Want a really unique window treatment? How about…none at all! Okay, this one might only be an option if your bedroom is on the upper floor, but the simple beauty of a well-crafted window with a beautifully-grained wooden frame is truly one of our favorite looks. I, particularly, love it when the window is coated in a simple stain instead of thick paint, so the natural look and feel of the wood can shine through. Rustic elegance at its finest.
I hope this window treatment primer has given you a few good ideas for how to update the look of your bedroom. Remember, this should be an accent to your room, so try to keep things relatively simple. Simplicity will also help your window treatments stand the test of time, keeping your bedroom looking fresh and up-to-date for years to come.
Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for the Global Home Improvement blog and strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov.