Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

Creating a cozy hearth for the family

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2/25/2015

How would you feel after reserving some time to make your household safer and healthier for yourself and your loved ones? Take a few moments: Try a few of these easy ways to clean and be on your way to making tremendous strides regarding cleanliness and family health, then you’ll know!

easy ways to clean

1. Clean and Replace Filters

Indoor heating and cooling is a luxury, yet dirty filters plague lazy homeowners who expose loved ones to foul air. In addition to regularly cleaning air ducts and vents, change the filters on your air and heating system for optimal health and safety. Regardless of the cleanliness of your home, a dirty filter pumps dirty, foul air into the living space.

2. Rid the Cabinet and Refrigerator

Make it a weekly habit to check the refrigerator for outdated and spoiled foods. Even if milk does not smell sour, discard the carton on or after the expiration date. Moreover, rid the medicine cabinet of dated and old prescriptions. Don’t assume a previously prescribed medicine will effectively treat a new ailment; leave such decisions to your doctors. Also, if you have young children or pets in your home, consider placing controlled substances in a secure cabinet.

3. Survey the Garage

A small home project could spell future disaster for a curious child or pet. Survey the garage for paint thinner, gasoline and other substances that exhaust fumes or present opportunity for accidental ingestion. Blue juice, popular with children and the color of windshield washer fluid, is an inviting and toxic item found in many garages. Furthermore, gadgets, tools and sharp-edged objects need be placed in locked boxes or out of reach for children or pets.

4. Inspect Outdoor Equipment

Wooden chairs, metal jungle gyms and fire pits add entertainment, comfort, and ambiance to a backyard. Yet with time, wood rots, metal rusts and a number of backyard staples suddenly pose a threat. Check the condition of furniture and take notice of rot, infestation or fungus. Moreover, through the seasons and cycles of vegetation, yards grow weeds and flowers that may cause newfound allergic reactions in family members. Inspect outdoor equipment and furniture in addition to the landscape of the yard each season.

5. Clean Green

A number of parents and homemakers have gone ‘green’ in the last decade, swapping traditional cleaners associated with harmful ingredients for others made of natural, organic components. Take things a step further: rather than buy mass-produced cleaners from manufacturers, clean and disinfect the home with common grocery staples. For example, vinegar can be used to clean the outside of the toilet bowl and counter surfaces. Adding a little baking soda and water will give the mixture the added power to address the shower, inside of the oven, and other surfaces in need of a deeper clean.

6. Dust with Alcohol

Alcohol works great on cuts and wounds, and it also pairs well with a dusting cloth to disinfect surfaces and rid your home of germs and bacteria. Easy-to-forget places, such as doorknobs and faucets, transfer germs to family members and pets. A meticulous and alcohol-supplemented rub down ensures surfaces remain clean and germs have nowhere to survive.

7. Put a Sock on the Mop

Mopping, which should be done regularly, is not needed as often as a good sweep. While Swiffer and other leading products are available for a fee, you could transform any common mop into something that achieves a similar effect. Place an old sock over your mop head.  Spray the sock with your leading disinfectant for an added cleaning punch. 

8. Invest in Quality

A quality vacuum will extract dirt from the floor and address multiple surfaces better than a lesser product—saving time despite the added initial investment. You should research leading manufacturers, good prices and learn about investing in quality home care products. When shopping consider the value of time saved and your family’s health in addition to price tags.

9. Line the Fridge

When it comes to the inner portion of the fridge, health takes precedence over aesthetics. Maintain a clean and polished fridge on the outside with leading products and line the inside drawers and cabinets with clear saran wrap. The wrap serves as the outer surface, so you can easily change it out rather than invest time and energy in scrubbing the refrigerator surfaces.

10. Make the Can Mobile

Make your trash mobile. Use a simple plastic bag hanging off of the stove while cooking or one that’s readily available to bring into the living room or other areas of the home for easy pickup and disposal. Whether using a series of small to large bags or cans of various sizes, keep trash on-the-go for optimal cleanliness, disposal and health.

That’s it. In the time it took to learn new methods of easy and healthy living, you could have been done with your first endeavor. Continue learning about healthy cleaning and invest time and money in quality methods and products.


Helen Turner is a retired home economics teacher who is always looking for fast and easy ways to keep her home clean. An avid writer, she then posts what she finds online. Look for her articles on many websites and blogs. For more information on cleaning your home and choosing the best vacuum visit Best Vacuum Info for product reviews.



2/19/2015

Everyone has different reasons for the way they decorate their home. Many people follow the latest trends or shop for the most affordable solutions to fill the space, but what if more people took their health into account when designing the look of their home? Here are four key aspects to consider when decorating your home to promote the health and well-being of you and your family.

bedroom
Via Modernize

Color

Choosing colors that are considered mood boosters can have a significant impact on your mood and by extension your overall health. Cool colors, such as blues and purples, have a calming effect and are an excellent choice for bedrooms where your main focus is on sleep and relaxation. For areas of the home where you don’t want to feel sleepy, consider reds or greens: Green promotes concentration making it an excellent choice for a home office and red gets your heart rate up which might be just what you need in a workout room. Whites are great for kitchens and bathrooms as it provides a sense of purity and cleanliness.

Although following these general guidelines are a great place to start, it’s also a good idea to keep in mind the colors that flatter you most. If you look terrible in purple, then painting your bedroom or bathroom purple is a terrible idea. Choosing colors that don’t complement you, will likely affect how you view yourself as you’re surrounded by a color that just isn’t working for you.

Feng Shui

The Chinese have been abiding by the principles of feng shui for centuries. More recently, westerners have started paying attention to this idea of promoting healthy energy within your space by making simple adjustments to your home. Feng shui can be daunting at first, as no one wants to hear that their house is doomed due to things they can’t change. For example, having a front door that aligns with a back door is considered bad because all of the energy that comes in the front goes straight out the back. Luckily there are simple decorating solutions to remedy problems like this.

For instance, in the case of the aligned doors, feng shui experts recommend putting a round table with a fresh plant on it in order to capture and circulate the good energy that comes through the front door. Do your research and make small changes where you can and you will create a feng shui-friendly space in no time.

Light

Sunshine promotes happiness and health by providing vitamin D and contributing to your circadian rhythm, but not all areas of your home benefit from a lot of light, especially artificial light. Before electricity everyone simply went to bed when the sun went down or stayed awake by the dim light of a fire. Today we are overwhelmed with sources of artificial light which can actually be harmful to your health. It is a good idea to remove all electronic devices and harsh lighting from your bedroom and install light dimmers in all rooms of your house. Light dimmers are useful not only for winding down in the evening, but are also great for when you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. By avoiding full light you will find it much easier to get back to sleep.

happy home
Via Modernize

Creating a Happy Place

Many of us associate certain places we’ve lived or visited with happy memories of childhood, travel or adventure. If you have a lot of happy memories growing up in a home with a red door then consider painting your door red. Each day when you walk through that door you will get a boost of serotonin as you remember a time in your life that brings you joy. Decorating with photos or artwork that brings up happy memories is another way to accomplish this mood-boosting effect. If one of the happiest times in your life was your honeymoon trip to Europe then don’t be shy about decorating an entire room with photos of you and your spouse from that trip, along with any special souvenirs you brought home.

The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to create your “happy place” is not to stress about it! To get started, pick one or two of the suggestions above, start slow, and hopefully you will notice a difference in your health and happiness in no time!



2/17/2015

natural dish pads

Scrub-a-Dub

Made from natural fiber sourced from sustainably grown trees, these biodegradable, durable, machine-washable dish scrubs make an ideal replacement for plastic scrub brushes.
To Buy: $5 for three, Mother Earth Living store

suds up

Brush Up

This renewable bamboo Suds Up dish brush with 100 percent recycled, plant-based bristles helps you use less soap with its suds-loving design, and stores neatly in its ceramic dish.
To Buy: $13, The Honest Co.

safix scrub

Team Coco

This unique, coconut-fiber Safix Scrub Pad is tough enough to remove stubborn deposits and resist rusting or shredding, yet it won’t scratch your dishes.
To Buy:
$4, Biome

gloves

If the Glove Fits

If You Care biodegradable rubber gloves are made from Forest Stewardship Council latex and are 100 percent recyclable (including the packaging).
To Buy: $18 for four pairs; Sustainable Supply

mighty mop

Mighty Mop

The 2-in-1 Full Circle Mighty Mop is a combination wet mop and dry duster made of sustainable bamboo, recycled plastic and washable, reusable microfiber cloth covers.
To Buy: $25, Amazon

Make your own natural cleaners with The Very Best Homemade Cleaning Recipes.



2/17/2015

Most of us try to keep our kitchens as tidy and organized as possible, but sometimes that can be challenge. Living in a small apartment, that doesn’t have the amenities you long for, can not only make it hard to stay organized, but may make you feel limited in your décor options or abilities. Fear not! You can infuse your personality, style and organization into even the smallest, least-functional of kitchen spaces with these five simple and smart storage ideas.

counter storage 

Repurposed Containers

Hit the thrift stores, flea markets or antique malls to find crocks, tins or other containers to hold your essential kitchen items. They’re perfect for storing flatware, basic cooking utensils or knives conveniently and attractively on countertops. Consider choosing heavier options like marble or sturdy stoneware, for frequently used or larger items—spatulas, wooden spoons and tongs. Less trusty containers, such as tins, can also be used to store spices, napkins and other dining essentials.

kitchen pegboard 

Go Vertical

Many small kitchens are seriously lacking on adequate cabinet space. Luckily, plenty of kitchen supplies can be hung up—everything from pots and pans to utensils. Channel your inner Julia Child to create your own unique pegboard is a quick weekend project, and you can find a great tutorial over at A Beautiful Mess. Add a fresh coat of paint to the pegboard to add color, interest and style to an otherwise lackluster material.

Hanging racks are another, even simpler, option to utilize vertical space in your kitchen. These are easy to find at most home goods store. If you’re a cyclist, or just want to add a bit of whimsy to the space, suspend an old bicycle wheel to hang your cookware from.

cabinet door 

Think Inside the Box

Cabinets aren’t just for shelving. The inside of your cabinet doors can quickly be turned into storage for any number of things. Mount hooks or magnetic strips to the inside of your doors to hold measuring spoons and cups, knives and other small gadgets. Keep coupons, recipe cards or your grocery list handy by mounting a small memo board. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to use chalkboard paint in your kitchen, the backside of cabinet doors might be the perfect place to try it out—add notes, weekly menus or measuring equivalents.

magnetic board

Stick With It

Magnet boards can be handy in any room. Add magnetic strips to the back of store-bought spice jars to keep them organized and easy to find. Or you can purchase small magnetic tins to store homemade dried herbs. These could also be placed on an empty side of the refrigerator near the stove, along with other odds and ends that might otherwise get forgotten at the bottom of a junk drawer. In the kitchen you can leave magnet boards bare for a clean, minimal look or cover them with a fabric that matches your other décor.

above cabinet space 

Use Out of Reach Spaces

Almost every apartment I’ve ever lived in, and some homes, had a lot of unused space above the cabinets. It’s not the most convenient place to store items, I’ll admit, but it is great for lesser-used items such as stock pots, blenders and large equipment that won’t fit inside cabinets. You can also use this area to display decorative items, such as collector’s plates or tea pots.

As with any attempt at organization, your number one rule and first step should always be to eliminate the items that aren’t necessary. Once you’ve cleared the clutter and junk from your kitchen cabinets and drawers, you may find that you actually have a lot more space than you thought. If not, try out one of these ideas to start reorganizing.


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



2/2/2015

Just over a year ago, my family moved to a high-performance house in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine. It has triple-pane windows and door, lots of insulation, large south-facing windows and a metal roof. It’s heated largely by appliances and occupants, but has a heating system when needed. Our heating bills are 90 percent lower than a code-built home in the same climate.

It’s rare to have a home that uses so many energy-efficient design elements under the same roof. Many of our friends and family members were curious about our home and bombarded us with questions. Here are some of the top questions we’ve received.

Super Energy Efficient Home 

Question 1: Since Maine has a cold climate, how long is your heating season?

When viewing our electric bills, I was struck by how low our energy usage was from April through October. Although we certainly experience below-freezing temperatures during April and October, our home was staying in the upper 60s and low 70s with no supplemental heat. Our heating season began in November and ended in March, trimming a good two months off.

Question 2: I’ve heard of mold and air-quality problems in high-performance homes. Has this been a problem?

I’ve heard some concerning stories about high-efficiency homes without ventilation systems and the mold and air quality issues that ensue. Thankfully, our home has a Zehnder heat recovery ventilation system, which constantly supplies fresh air while removing stale air from the kitchen and bathroom. By incorporating a heat recovery ventilator, intake air is first filtered, removing dust and pollen, then preheated with heat from the exhaust air before it leaves our home. Although we can boost the system with a switch in the bathroom or kitchen, the default mode is sufficient the vast majority of the time and we’ve had no mold issues in our bathroom.

Question 3: What is the lighting like in your home?

Because our south-facing living room windows are 5 feet in height, daylight streams into the home. Naturally, our north-facing bedrooms get less light. Even on cloudy days, we rarely turn on the lights during the day, especially in south-facing rooms. When the angle of the sun is lower during the winter months, sunlight fills the living room and helps keep away the winter doldrums. During the hot summer months, the angle of the sun is higher in the sky and less sunlight enters the home. The only downside to all this south-facing glazing is cleaning all the little fingerprints that appear from my two young children. We also put LED lightbulbs in most of our fixtures to reduce energy use.

Moonlight
Photos by Steve Chiasson

Question 4: If your home is designed to heat itself largely by the sun, doesn’t it overheat in the summer?

It would seem that a house that stays so warm in the winter would overheat in the summer, but this is not the case with our home. Last summer, our house was cooler than the outside temperature on hot days. For additional cooling, we opened our windows at night when the outside temperatures dipped. The heat recovery ventilation system helps maintain these cooler temperatures; when it’s warmer outside in the summer, the ventilation system pre-cools the intake air from the exhaust air.

Question 5: What are the utility bills in your new home?

Our home is all electric, so we don’t use any wood, propane or natural gas, and receive only one energy bill. Before we installed our solar system, our largest electric bill was $120 last January for almost 900 kWh of electricity. Our summer bills were around $50 for nearly 400 kWh because we don’t need air conditioning. Now that we have a solar system that generates all of our energy over the course of the year, we pay only a $9.75 delivery fee each month.


Sarah Lozanova is an environmental and health journalist with an MBA in sustainable management. She lives in a net-zero house in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.



1/26/2015

Solar energy technology is here to stay. As more and more people become concerned about the environment and the risks of global warming, they seek a solution that will help protect the earth while satisfying their energy needs at the same time. In fact, solar energy use continues to climb by about 20 percent every year as an increasing number of eco-conscious people decide to transition from fossil fuels to solar power. To understand a bit more about this endless source of clean energy, take a look at the following 10 fun facts about solar energy.

Fun Facts About Solar Energy 

1. It takes sunlight about eight minutes to reach the earth.

The sun is one million times larger than planet earth and must travel 93 million miles to reach the earth’s surface. Moving at the speed of light, sunlight takes just over eight minutes to travel this distance.

2. Solar energy is the future of alternative energy sources.

Solar energy is far better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels because it doesn’t release dangerous greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere or pollute the environment. Green energy produced by the sun is considered to be the future of alternative energy because it helps combat the greenhouse effect created by widespread use of fossil fuels.

3. Solar panels typically pay for themselves within five to 10 years.  

A residential solar installation is the only type of home improvement that pays for itself over time. Through tax incentives, subsidies and rebates, it usually takes anywhere from five to 10 years, depending on local factors, for solar panels to pay for themselves. In some states, full payback can happen much sooner than this average time frame.

4. The number of residential solar installations is expected to skyrocket.

The cost of solar energy panels has significantly decreased over the years and continues to do so. As the price of solar installations keeps going down, the number of users will continue to rise. Throughout the next decade, the number of residential solar installations in the U.S. is expected to rise by up to 40 percent.

5. The earth will never run out of solar energy.

The sun is a renewable source of energy because it will never become depleted as time passes. Fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, are not considered to be renewable energy sources because there is a finite amount of them on earth. This means they may someday become scarce or run out.

Solar Panels
Photo by
Flickr/thetimchannel

6. Sunlight can be converted to energy through the use of PV cells.

Solar panels consist of a series of photovoltaic (PV) cells used together to convert sunlight into electricity at an atomic level. When sunlight reaches these solar panels, electrons are released so they may flow through the cells and generate an electric current.

7. The technology used to create solar energy is extremely versatile.

Solar energy technology is extremely versatile. Solar panels can be used to generate power for a broad range of devices, including calculators, buildings and even satellites in orbit.

8. Solar energy can be stored and used after dark.

Solar energy can only work at night if there is a storage device available, such as a battery, to collect and store the sun’s energy. On cloudy days, solar energy can be unreliable, so a battery backup that contains stored solar energy is often necessary.

9. Just one day of sunlight can satisfy the world’s energy needs for almost three decades.

The amount of energy consumed throughout the world over the course of 27 years equals only one full day’s worth of energy coming from the sun. This also means that the amount of solar energy that reaches the earth's surface in just 40 minutes is equal to the world's total yearly energy consumption.

10. The world's fossil fuel reserves are equal to three weeks’ worth of solar energy.

Twenty days’ worth of energy produced from the sun equals all the energy contained in the earth’s reserves of oil, coal and natural gas. However, less than one percent of that solar energy is actually used to produce power.

This list of 10 impressive facts about solar energy is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the many benefits of going solar. To stay abreast of the improvements and advancements of solar technology, there is no shortage of resources to get more facts about solar energy. After all, solar energy is the future of this planet.


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.

 



1/14/2015

When beginning to make your home a healthy, green oasis that rejuvenates and nourishes your mind, body and spirit, it’s important to begin by incorporating small attainable steps rather than trying to tackle too much. A major green living overhaul will potentially leave you feeling overwhelmed, but incremental advances will create lasting habits of change.

Here is a simple two-step solution to begin your journey of green living.

Green Living Ideas 

1. Read Labels and Completely Eliminate Fragrances

Fragrance inundates us everywhere we go; it’s in so many of the products that literally touch our lives. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 95 percent of the compounds used to make fragrances are synthetic materials derived from petroleum or petrochemicals in a laboratory. These chemicals are known to create disease in the body. The Institute of Medicine puts fragrances in the same category as secondhand smoke. Fragrance is used in products from personal hygiene items to toilet bowl cleaners. A deceptive marketing tactic is labeling household products “fragrance free.” Unfortunately, these products can still contain fragrance. The label just indicates that the products were created without a noticeable scent. In fact, neutralizing chemicals are used to mask scent—and manufacturers are not required to list chemicals used to conceal other fragrances. It’s important to know how to read labels so you can determine whether fragrances are lurking in the products in your home. It’s also important to start listening to your body. Your sense of smell, especially, can be like radar—instantly knowing whether your environment is truly healthful.

2. Turn to Baking Soda

Sometimes it’s easier to add new habits into your daily routine before you eliminate ones that have been in your life or home for a long time. Begin by including baking soda. Baking soda is one of those versatile products that can be used in so many different ways. In our home we always have baking soda on hand. We use it:

• To clean counters
• As an alternative to toothpaste when we are all out
• To unclog pesky drains in combination with vinegar
• In the bath to balance out the pH levels of the body
• In the washing machine to get rid of the poignant odor of athletic gear

Ensuring the air you breathe in your home is healthful will allow you to take a deep and restorative breath, which will benefit your mind, body and spirit.


Christa OLearyChrista O'Leary is the founder and CEO of Home in Harmony Lifestyle. She is an interior designer, marriage and family therapist, and green-living expert. Her book, Home in Harmony: Designing an Inspired Life (Hay House) is an international bestseller that helps readers have a peaceful and healthy home.





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