Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

Creating a cozy hearth for the family

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cat in front of christmas tree
Photo by Fotolia.

What’s worse than getting coal in your stocking? Pet odors and messes when your holiday guests are on their way. Below are six foolproof, pet-friendly tips and products that will keep your house clean, dust-free, odor-free and always ready for any and all gatherings. Glad tidings and glee this holiday season!

okocat natural litter 

1) Just because your home has a litter box, does not mean your home has to smell like one. Just like with anything, you can’t believe everything you see and hear. When selecting a natural cat litter, those containing odor controlling ingredients is a good thing, but  leaders in this category, ökocat Natural Cat Litters from Healthy Pet, contains a patented odor control formula that can keep odors at bay for up to seven days!  ökocat Natural Cat Litters contain no artificial scents or perfumes, and contain the all-natural scent of pine which erases odor instead of masking. Heavy perfumes and additives don’t mix well and have the tendency to leave behind strange and offensive ammonia scents.

pet food mats 

2) Leave the slobber and flying food up to the Grinch! Have you ever come home to find your house looking more like Times Square on New Year's Day, due to kibble scattered all over the floor and a combination drip path of water and slobber halfway across your living room floor?  Mess-containing mats are a great and affordable solution to keeping your pet's food and water from spilling across your floors. Bella® Spill-Proof Mats by Loving Pets for Dogs (bone-shaped) and Cats (fish shaped) comfortably fit two to four bowls for food and water.  Made of durable BPA-free plastic, with a raised edge and slip-resistant feet on the bottom to keep the mat in place, Bella Spill-Proof Mats make clean-up a breeze.

pet food dishes

3) A Christmas tree should be the only green addition to your home this holiday season. Reduce bacteria in your pet's water and food with both style and function. Choose a bacteria-resistant and vet-recommended stainless steel bowl, such as classic Bella Bowls® or Ruff ‘N Tuff Diamond Plate Bowls from Loving Pets, to keep your pet's food and water fresher longer. These bowls are dishwasher safe, making regular washing easy and convenient.

evanger's pet food 

4) Festive meals aren't just for people and no guest appreciates a begging pet! Start mealtime traditions with Evanger's Dog and Cat Food Company. Evanger's holiday meals and certified kosher foods use American-produced meats, fruits and vegetables. Award-winning hand-packed meats and signature stews for canned food options, or grain-free dry food options like Whitefish & Sweet Potato, are sure to get your dog and cat licking the bowl clean and feeling great.

Whimzees dental chews 

5) Even your pooch wants to get gussied up for the holiday festivities, so say yes to festive and fresh minty breath with healthy teeth and gums! WHIMZEES® Dental Chews not only provide long lasting entertainment and offer a natural choice, but they are also available in whimz-ical shapes and characters like alligators, hedgehogs, toothbrushes and more. Plus, they make the perfect stocking stuffer! With limited natural ingredients and ranging in sizes from XXS to XL, for all breeds and sizes of dogs, WHIMZEES® promote canine fun while freshening breath and helping to make canine mouths healthy and happy.

travel pet carriers

6) If you are not hosting, then you are more than likely traveling and no one wants to leave their beloved furry friends at home. Travel in style and comfort with Sherpa® Pet Carriers from Quaker Pet Group. From the Original Deluxe to the Delta and American Airlines carriers, there is a carrier for every breed of small dog or cat. Sherpa carriers were the first soft-sided pet carrier to be endorsed by major airlines and continue to be the industry standard for pet carriers.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only. Mother Earth Living does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.


Isn't it interesting how the world is designed so creatively? The earth exudes brilliant ambiance with its endless beauty and vivid colors. Foliage shows off distinct aromas,  textures and colors. When we use our senses, we begin to understand what enhances the allure of our surroundings. This is also a hugely significant detail when decorating any living space.

Woman on couch 

Psychological factors that affect our senses have a great deal to do with the way we decorate our personal living spaces, too. Believe it or not, how a texture makes you feel emotionally has as much emphasis on whether or not you purchase that fluffy rug, as much as making a choice between up or down, or right or wrong. Our mental and physical experiences influence every decision we make.

Getting great decorating ideas starts with you and your decorating psyche. What colors do you prefer? Do you like bright and airy spaces or a darker, quieter corner of a room? Do you prefer cleaning or would you rather create a space with less work? Are you more attracted to hard flooring surfaces or to carpet? Questions like these that address emotional and physical preferences helps set the stage for successful and personalized decorated living spaces that are right for you.

How Does Color Affect Me?


All colors affect moods. Take a look at how two of your favorite colors work on you:

RED is considered a warm color that invites interaction. It is also considered a color of passion and authority or power. Incorporating this color would be a great choice for work spaces and social environments. Red walls or splashes of red in a space sparks mental creativity and endurance.

GREEN is considered a cool color or a less intimidating color. It's calming effect allows this color to work beautifully in foyers and bedrooms where peaceful transitions occur. Using the color green can actually subdue anxiety and worry.

Colors and textures aren't the only living space building blocks that affect us psychologically. Issues of space recognition are right up there, too. There are all kinds of reasons for various space sizes.

Illusion Decorating Tricks

1. If you like an open feeling to a room, stay clear of painting the area with dark colors. Darkness implies smaller and less space. Some even feel it to be claustrophobic. Lighter colors give the illusion of more space.

2. Even smaller spaces can still use color. Incorporating horizontal, complementing stripe colors like a bolder blue or yellow with white can give the room a larger space interpretation. Yellow actually encourages happiness.

3. Sometimes small rooms feature larger architectural elements like fireplaces and bookshelves. Use a lighter paint color like white or cream to accentuate the largeness of the element for an eye-catching focal point which helps to distract from the actual room size.

If decorating your favorite spaces feels overwhelming, ask your local paint store for recommended tools to help simplify decision making. Exploring home stores, paint stores, furniture stores and magazines can creatively assist in satisfying your curiosity for more personalized decorating strategies. Ideas to tackle everything from simple do-it-yourself projects to major overhauls await!

Our senses are intuitive. Help make your decorating experiences memorable to all of your senses by following any of these handy ideas. After all, there's a little decorator in us all!

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques and self reliance.


When you think of solar power, visions of rooftop panels and LEED-certified buildings downtown spring to mind. But even if you don't live or work in a green structure, there's still an opportunity for you to take advantage of solar power. There are literally dozens of devices that store up and run on solar power that can help lower your utility bills.

solar-powered flashlight device
Photo by shutterstock.

Charge Household Items

You don't have to have solar panels on your home to invest in portable solar solutions to power household items like TVs and laptops. Some can even charge small refrigerators.

There's a healthy, growing industry that designs, manufactures, and sells portable solar panels and packs that soak up energy from the sun to power devices used in the home. They also serve as great backup devices for items that need a steady supply of energy, such as CPAP machines and emergency lighting.

Power packs can be charged by connecting to solar panels, of course, but also through a wall outlet (with or without solar panels), as well as a 12-volt car charger. However, you'll get the quickest charge through panels.

Heat Your Pool for Year-Round Use

Homeowners with pools often lament the cost to keep the water warm for year-round use. It's a shame, because swimming is such an excellent way to stay in shape. There are also large parts of the country where pools are rarely, if ever, subjected to freezing weather; it's just that the water is too cold in January.

One solution is to heat pools with portable solar-powered heaters. The pool's pump circulates water through the panels, which heats the water and returns it to the pool. Add a solar blanket to cover the pool when it isn't in use to prevent heat from escaping.

Make solar a backyard theme. Install solar-powered landscape lights or hanging garden lamps to light your yard at night. Provide additional pizzazz with solar-powered decorative string lights.

Entertain yourself and guests with solar-powered radios, or watch the game on a solar-powered TV. You can even get solar-powered portable fridges and coolers for your upcoming Super Bowl pool party.

Best of all? Once you purchase the batteries, there are no added costs to run these things.

Solar Energy Doesn't Harm Anyone

Solar power does not harm people or the environment.

• It does not cause disease like black lung.
• It does not need to be pulled from the earth in collapsible mines or exploding oil rigs.
• It also does not produce waste to store for millennia.
• It does not put off polluting emissions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists points out ways solar power actually preserves the environment:

• Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells need just a small amount of water to produce. They do not need any to generate power.

• Larger-scale concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) are often criticized as desert eyesores, but they can be located anywhere they can capture the sun's rays. This includes less desirable sites like brownfields, abandoned mining sites and alongside transportation lines.

• PV manufacturers recycle and reuse many of the chemicals needed to produce the product.

In addition, charges that the chemicals used to produce panels are largely baseless. Given the two-decade lifespan of current panels, the cost of emissions falls to zero after two years of use, according to

Ruth Ann Monti provides copywriting and content development for all things webby. Her interests include content development and SEO topics and small business issues, including technologies that support them.


Some will say the opposite of spring cleaning is preparing for the fall and winters months, but finding ways to save energy during the winter can also help protect our planet. Statistics show that if all homes in the United States had Energy Star-rated heating systems installed, not only would that save consumers over $170 million in annual utility costs it would also considerably reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Non-compliant computers are even more costly, since Energy Star models could save users, in the US alone, almost $2 billion annually and cut back on the emission of greenhouse gases equivalent to around two million automobiles. Even using just one energy-saving light bulb would save $40 during its lifetime.

CFL light bulb

Lowdown on Lighting

We mentioned replacing traditional, incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving options like LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) or CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights), but many consumers may be hesitant to do so because of their higher initial cost. The truth is, the long-term benefits and savings are astronomical—check out some of these estimated examples:

Traditional = 1,200 hours
LED = 50,000 hours
CFL = 8,000 hours

Energy Usage:
Traditional = 60 watts
LED = 6-8 watts
CFL = 13-15 watts

Annual Operating Cost of Thirty Light Fixtures:
Traditional = $328.59 per year
LED = $32.85 per year
CFL = $76.65 per year

When it comes to protecting our planet, the switch from incandescent bulbs to LED or CFL bulbs will greatly reduce annual CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide levels, and high-level nuclear waste are all greatly at an average of 451 pounds, 1,051 pounds and 4,500 pounds respectfully.

Winterizing is Worth the Cost

To help our houses stay warmer in winter months, many homeowners will opt to weatherize their homes, but some consumers question whether it’s worth the cost. According to one study by the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the answer is most likely yes. After the DOE weatherized 750,000 low-income households, they tracked the results and found an average savings of around $400 in energy costs for each home annually.

Energy-saving supplies like weather-striping, caulking and Styrofoam insulation for exposed pipes are relatively inexpensive and installing them is a breeze. Many local utility companies will offer their customers an energy audit, at no cost, to see if these cheap and easy solutions can benefit your home. If not, even paying for a professional energy auditing service should still pay for itself within the first year. Thereafter, families should expect to save about 30 percent on their energy bills every year.

protect Mother Earth

Water, Water Everywhere

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that we reduce the temperature on our hot water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to an average setting of 140 which can cost, on average, $400 or more annually to bring up the heat on our fresh water. Think of Californians who are suffering through one of the worst droughts in decades, every gallon of water wasted is one that could be saved through this practice.

While residents of the Golden State are looking forward to the possibility of an El Niño event this winter in hopes of solving some of their current water woes, we can all do our part to reduce water and energy consumption. In the long run, it will cut costs in our pocketbooks and help protect our most valuable resource, Mother Earth.


The bathroom is perhaps the most germ-ridden room in your home, but that doesn't mean you have to use harsh chemicals to kill bacteria and viruses. If you've made it a priority to ensure your home remains chemical free, you can still have a spotless bathroom and a green environment.

yellow bathroom interior
Photo by Fotolia.

Soap Scum

Commercial products have made you believe the only way to get rid of soap scum is with abrasive cleaning products. However, some items you find in your kitchen are just as effective as store-bought concoctions. For minor soap scum, you can make a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to cut through thin layers of grime. Scum that's harder to remove in the shower and tub can be cleaned with a thick paste of baking soda and water, or baking soda and vinegar. Make sure you scrub it vigorously.

The Porcelain Throne

Toilets don't require bleach to be sparkling clean. To remove stains, you can simply mix 1/2 a cup of vinegar with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Just pour the mixture into the toilet and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing with a clean brush. This only needs to be done once a week for a clean bowl.

Killing Mold

Major mold problems are best handled with bleach, but minor mold and mildew is easily tackled with vinegar. Spray the areas with vinegar and let it dry before spraying it again and wiping clean. The acidity of the vinegar loosens the mildew particles and eliminates bacteria, so if you're constantly battling mildew in your shower, simply spray it down with a vinegar/water mixture after each use.

Unclogging Drains

One of the ugliest places in the bathroom is the drain, especially if the shower is being used by people with long hair. If you can't bear the thought of pulling hair from the drain one more time or using toxic drain cleaners, you can clear your drain with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. If there's any visible debris in the drain, you'll have to pull it out, but once it's relatively clear to the naked eye, pour 3/4 cup of dry baking soda down the drain and follow it up with a 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let it sit for a half hour, then pour boiling water down the drain to completely clear any clogs.

A clean bathroom doesn't require a host of dangerous chemicals. With products you can easily pick up at your local drugstore, your bathroom will be spotless with no dangerous fumes. Use a Discountrue coupon for added savings and you won’t be spending on harsh chemicals ever again!

Brooke ChaplanBrooke 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.


People around the world live in concrete or brick and mortar structures, jam-packed in labyrinths of streets and neighborhoods. With the current unforgiving economic climate and shabby situation on the housing market, many people can only dream of purchasing their own home. It has been this way for some time, but recent years have brought a breakthrough housing trend that is sparking attention worldwide: shipping containers.

small container home neighborhood
Photo by Angel Schatz/Courtesy Flickr.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

At first, people moving into shipping containers were regarded either as ahead of their time, or simply nuts. But now, the opinion is shifting, and one can’t ignore the plethora of benefits these steel boxes provide. Shipping containers offer a chance for an innovative lifestyle, free from the daily routines and problems the traditional home owner is faced with.

Many businessmen are also turning them into permanent offices, and whole districts of container businesses are emerging around the world. Entire neighborhoods in cities are transformed with shipping containers supplied by companies like Royal Wolf, giving urban societies a new chance at rapid growth and development. So, what’s the catch?

To begin with, the simple and recyclable nature of container architecture is eco-friendliness at its best. A cargo unit turned home involves minimal processing and you are doing the planet a great favor by recycling it.  Also, the traditional home is associated with long and costly building processes, something a shipping container doesn’t require.

Furthermore, you can assemble your new haven in much less time than a house, and the best thing is you aren’t sacrificing your convenience at all. Many people aren’t aware that these unconventional homes can provide a level of comfort and coziness that can compete with any traditional home. Anything that you can install in the latter will fit into the former, with one big difference—flexibility.

Building Green Neighborhoods

Electric installations, insulation, heating and cooling systems—all the basic living requirements are there, but much more than that the possibility to customize. The modular nature of containers allows for extensive modifications and stunning design possibilities. And don’t let the looks fool you, containers are very durable and weatherproof. Their internal isolation and rugged external structure make them a great long-term housing option.

shipping container housing complex
Photo by Martin Deutsch/Courtesy Flickr.

You aren’t even tied to one place, but bear in mind that you can’t just pick your home up and put it where you please. You still need permission from local authorities and solid foundations to place your container home on. With that in mind, it’s true that it’s possible to transport them with unprecedented ease. So, if you don’t like new neighbors or are ready for a new location, moving is easy!

Moreover, it’s easy to install solar power options and create the sustainable energy consumption. For added sustainability, introduce things such water tanks to collect and filter rainwater. Create an off-grid home that is independent of regular sources of energy and take the blessings Mother Nature generously offers.

Switching to alternative energy sources not only shows respect for its kindness, but you will also be kind to yourself and your finances, to be more precise. And as I chatted with a local company to inquire about container homes, I realized that there’s no need to hesitate—a new, exciting and eco-friendly lifestyle is here for the taking.

Freedom in a Box

Homes of tomorrow are self-sustaining, practical and cost-effective. When it comes to these characteristics and the functional versatility, shipping containers are second to none. The beauty of it all is that these homes are fully customizable and allow for a strong personal touch. There isn’t much more that we can ask for than our own mobile shelter that enables us to experience the freedom of modern living like never before. Who would have thought that thinking outside the box will mean being prepared to live in a steel one?

Zoe Clark is an environmentalist, home decorator and DIY enthusiast from the land down under. When not obsessing about designing perfect homes, Zoe is spending time with her family. You can find her on Twitter.


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.

rosemary oil with fresh rosemary
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.

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