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Creating a cozy hearth for the family

Recommended Home Organization Tools and Products

Living & Bedroom

Get it Poppin

Get It Poppin'

Poppin file cabinets are made with extremely durable powder-coated steel, are available in an array of colors, and one lock secures all three drawers.
To Buy: $229,

What You See

What You See...

It's easier to get dressed and wear our accessories when they're easy to see. Check out Etsy shop The Knotted Wood for stylish, handcrafted organizers.
To Buy: $35,

A Shoe In

A Shoe-In

An affordable bamboo stackable shoe shelf makes footwear organization easy.
To Buy: $30,

Shelve The Topic

Shelve The Topic

If you don't have enough display space for cherished items, add a stylish floating shelf. This one is made of industrial pipe brackets and rustic wood.
To Buy: $42.50,

Bask in It

Bask in It

Few storage solutions are as beautiful and versatile as woven baskets. The ones from Connected Artisans generate income to provide food, shelter and education in rural Senegal.
To Buy: $55,

Kitchen & Bathroom

Put a Lid on It

Put a Lid on It

Keep lids organized and accessible with a simple lid organizer.
To Buy: $15,

Flip Out

Flip Out

Invest in a high-quality, beautiful wooden spatula you love, and never buy a spatula again.
To Buy: $10,

Jarringly Simple

Jarringly Simple

This bathroom organizer, made of reclaimed wood and Mason jars, can corral clutter and open up space in bathroom cabinets.
To Buy: $31,

Roll Out

Roll Out

Made of durable chrome steel, this cabinet organizer offers a lifetime of hassle-free use.
To Buy: $64,

Stack It Up

Stack it Up

Organize any drawer anywhere with mix-and-match stackable bamboo drawer organizers.
To Buy: $4 to $8,

Storage Spaces

Bin There

Bin There

Perfect for mud rooms, garages, kitchens or kids’ rooms, this Wire Mesh 6 Bin Cubical Storage tower is a versatile storage tool.
To Buy: $89,

Tool Time

Tool Time

Corral garden and yard tools in a handy tool rack with wheels.
To Buy: $64,

Garden Aid

Garden Aid

Give yourself a dedicated space to keep garden supplies organized with a Potting Bench made of durable eucalyptus wood.
To Buy: $200,

Store Outdoors

Store Outdoors

This handy Klasen outdoor storage cabinet on wheels offers extra space to stash tools.
To Buy: $129,

Be A Sport

Be a Sport

Give sports equipment a permanent home with this heavy-duty triple storage bin.
To Buy: $49,

The Great Holiday Debate: Real vs. Artifical Trees

Photo by Fotolia

Christmas trees are a treasured tradition brought to America from Germany in the 1700’s. Believe it or not, the American Christmas Tree Association says that the very first Christmas trees in the states were relatively “artificial.” While still made with natural materials, wooden pyramids were constructed, then decorated with greenery and candles. This Holiday tradition started out as a mix of our distinctly separate preferences today; real trees and artificial ones.

Truly artificial trees came into play when Germany feared they were over harvesting their forests. Goose feathers and poles were used to create reusable versions, which were converted into the plastic variations in the US. 

The ACTA also states if a household uses an artificial Christmas tree longer than 4 years, their carbon footprint would be smaller than an identical household that cuts down a fresh one every year. Whichever you choose, a Christmas tree accounts for only .1% of a family’s annual carbon footprint.

 This does not settle the debate of which is better, there are other factors to consider. Each fact that comes into play may be specifically more significant to each unique individual. Let’s weigh it out.

Artificial Trees

PVC is a type of plastic made from chlorine and oil, and is a typical material in artificial trees. Chlorine makes PVC fire resistant.

When the plastic is heated, dangerous chemicals leak into the environment. Although the  plastic is hardened when you purchase a fake tree, traces of chemicals can seep out.

PVC is everywhere: water bottles, imitation leather, toys, furniture, you name it. Most of it ends up in landfills, and the plastic does not degrade well. Most artificial Christmas trees use PVC in some form, or a mixture of PVC and polyethylene, or PE. There are a few options that offer strongly reduced levels of PVC, such as Balsam Hill’s Balsam Fir model. Ikea also offers a PE Christmas tree in some areas of the country. Nearly Natural offers silk trees.  

Real Trees

Most trees come from a farm, meaning millions of people aren’t chopping them out of a forest without replanting. But running a farm does take resources, and so does transportation. 

Real trees can also contain mold and fungi that can be harmful to those with asthma or other lung issues. However, this can usually be resolved by a hose down and a few minutes in the sun before bringing it inside.

And last but not least, unless you buy organic, your farm fresh tree will likely be coated in pesticides, which can cause neurological issues, cancer and endocrine disruption. These chemicals can be breathed, ingested or absorbed through the skin, just like those from PVC. Some farms also spray trees down with a green coloring.

Another option does exist; living trees. Black Hill or Colorado Blue spruces are available in mini pots on Nature Hill's site. Each tree has a complete root system with hopes that every owner will pant the tree after the holidays. It’s quite a notion, a new tree is grown every year rather than one being lost. Living Christmas offers a live tree rental service in California—simply set a delivery area, choose the type of tree you prefer, and the company will deliver the tree, in a pot, to your door. When you’re done, the tree can be picked up, and returned to the Living Christmas nursery.

Other options

If live trees aren’t a possibility for you, and you’re put off by PVC, it’s also possible to go unorthodox and get creative with your holiday decorations. Check out our project for a recycled newspaper Christmas tree, or this wooden version made from old shipping pallets:

The Verdict

It truly comes down to personal decision; you need to balance out what you think is most important. If you are lucky enough to have an organic tree farm around, I’d say that would be the best option if the farm also follows sustainable practices. Let us know which you choose and why.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

5 Reusable Products for Coffee and Tea

On The Move
Photo courtesy Bobble

On The Move

The stainless steel Presse by bobble is a waste-free hybrid coffee press/travel thermos that brews in three minutes and keeps drinks piping-hot for hours.
To Buy: $30,

Fit to a Tea
Photo courtesy Jarware

Fit to a Tea

Jareware's BPA-free tea infuser attaches to any regular-mouth Mason jar for refreshing cold tea without the need for a fancy infusing thermos.
To Buy: $10,

Waste Free Filter
Photo courtesy Coffee Sock

Waste Free Filter

CoffeeSock makes reusable organic cotton coffee filters for makers of all shapes and sizes. To clean the filter, simply dump the grounds, then rinse and hang dry.
To Buy: $13 for two,

One Cup Wonder
Photo courtesy Ekobrew

One Cup Wonder

Single-cup coffee makers can be convenient, but the pods pile up in landfills. The reusable Ekobrew filter is BPA-free and compatible with most machines.
To Buy: $8,

Keep it Toasty
Photo courtesy Rachel Smalter-Hall

Keep it Toasty

Avoid the coffee shop's disposable cup sleeves by bringing a reusable one. Try making your own, or buy a stylish handmade sleeve to keep your drink warm.
To Buy: $18, 

5 Affordable Solar Energy Options for 2017

Photo by Fotolia

The cost of solar has been dropping in recent years, which is a trend that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Breakthroughs in solar technology have allowed for a drop in production costs. The price of hardware once controlled solar prices, but now most of the cost for consumers comes from “soft” costs, which include things like marketing, labor, permitting and inspection. Regulators are still working out the rules for solar, but once the industry is better established, prices will presumably drop even more. Solar now often beats out fossil fuels for cost-effectiveness. As a result, 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for the renewable energy source. In fact, this may be the year you’re actually able to afford some solar-powered gadgets.

1. Good Ol’ Solar Panels

Solar panels have gotten much more affordable in recent years. In 2015, the cost of residential rooftop systems fell by five percent, while prices fell a whopping 12 percent for large solar farms. A combination of market forces and government incentives has led to the fall in solar panel prices. The exact rebates offered and the cost of electricity vary by location, so using an online solar cost calculator can help determine what your exact costs would be. Solar panels have recently gotten more visually appealing as well, with Tesla’s unveiling of its camouflaged solar panels, which look just like regular roofing tiles.

2. Phone Chargers

Solar-powered phone chargers allow for charging on the go that’s also environmentally friendly. Solar cell phone charging technology is now very reasonably priced, as well. You can find chargers for anywhere between $10 and $80. The top pick from The Wirecutter, which tested over 70 portable solar chargers, can charge most cell phones at almost regular speed, and with less than a full day’s worth of sunshine. It’s also lightweight and costs only $50. Larger models are also available, which can charge things like laptops and televisions. For those looking for a sustainable portable charging solution, solar may be your best bet.

3. Outdoor Lighting

It’s now possible to use solar-powered outdoor lighting to enjoy the outdoors for a reasonable price. Outdoor landscape lighting, porch lights and other solar options are cost-effective, require no electricity and look nice, too. Many models can also be put on a timer or turn on automatically when it gets dark. They may not be as bright as electric lighting and may not last as long, especially if it’s a cloudy day, but solar is still a great lighting option for the outdoors. You can get a kit with multiple lighting fixtures for $60 and up, or individual fixtures from anywhere between $5 and $150.

4. Wireless Keyboards

With a solar-powered keyboard, you’ll never have to worry about changing the batteries in your wireless keyboard again. Logitech offers two models of solar keyboards: the K750 and the K760, for around $50 each. The keyboards charge with natural or artificial light and, according to Logitech, will hold a charge for three entire months even in complete darkness. The K750 even offers an app, which allows you to check the charge level of your keyboard. The fact that these keyboards hold a charge for so long means you really won’t ever to have worry about the battery life of your wireless keyboard again.

5. Solar-Powered Wi-Fi

Solar-powered Wi-Fi is providing free internet access to people around the world. A company called Soofa makes benches that feature a solar panel, which powers free Wi-Fi and phone charging capabilities. The benches have been installed in multiple cities in five countries. Gadgets such as solar-powered wireless repeaters can be bought online for a few hundred dollars. And with the introduction of solar-powered Wi-Fi, individuals and governments can lower their internet costs substantially.

The way we produce energy is changing thanks to market forces, consumer choices and government policies. Solar power is one of the sustainable energy sources that’s now becoming affordable for the average person. 2017 may be the year solar really gets to shine.


4 Winter Home Improvement Projects

Photo by Fotolia

Did you know that the buildings you spend the most time in, such as your home, can have a major impact on your health and well being? Sick buildings - those relatively few buildings that can cause serious health consequences - may get all the headlines, but there are countless ways that your home could be impacting your health in both positive and negative ways as well.

During the winter months, people spend more time indoors, so it makes sense that any issues your home may have will become more apparent, negatively impacting your health. Tackling these issues during the fall gives you time to get your home healthy and clean up any issues that summer’s heat and humidity may have brought on.

Your health can be directly impacted by the state of your home. Cleaning up certain areas using these tips will help you avoid health complications that a winter spent indoors can bring.

Tip 1: Keep Air Humid

The winter months are tough on everyone. You’re indoors more than you’d like, and all that togetherness tends to spread germs easily. One way you can make your home more comfortable during the winter months is by installing a central humidifier.

According to the Mayo Clinic, humidifiers can ease skin and breathing problems commonly exacerbated by dry air. They may also make it more difficult for germs to take hold in your respiratory tract, meaning that you’ll be healthier all winter long.


The cost of installing a 10 gallon drum central humidifier in your home is around $390.

Money Saving Tips

To get the most out of your new humidifier, install a humidity gauge at the same time. This will ensure your humidifier runs at optimum times rather than constantly, which can optimize comfort and keep energy bills down. To save even more, consider installing the unit yourself; drum humidifiers are among the easiest to install.

Tip 2: Get Rid of Pests

During the winter months, pests may try to make their way inside your home. Rodents and other unwelcome guests can carry diseases such as salmonella and hantavirus. They can also chew through wiring and displace insulation, driving up energy bills and potentially starting a fire. Find ways to tackle these pests in the fall to prevent them from entering your home, as well as eradicate nests they’ve made in preparation to move indoors. Stay vigilant as the weather turns cooler to help make sure your home stays pest free.


The average cost of pest control is around $200 to $300.

Money Saving Tips

Have your home inspected as soon as you think that there may be a problem. The longer you wait, the bigger (and more costly) the infestation.

Prevention is your best bet at staying pest-free. Seal up any cracks or holes in your mortar or siding to keep critters from getting in, and keep food in airtight containers to ensure they aren’t getting enough to eat.

Tip 3: Improve Air Quality

If you have a central HVAC system, you probably don’t give much thought to the ducts that carry air through your home. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, there are specific instances when cleaning air ducts has a direct impact on your home’s air quality. If you have noticeable dust or debris rising from vents when they are turned on, slime, microbial growth or mold built up on the ducts themselves, or an unpleasant odor when the air is turned on, cleaning your ducts can help.


The cost to clean your air ducts is around $300 to $500 for the whole house.

Money Saving Tips

The EPA recommends having your HVAC system cleaned rather than your ducts, if you don’t notice any of the above issues. Doing so may save you money while eliminating problems.

If your ducts are so filled with debris that they restrict air flow, cleaning them could result in a reduction of as much as 20% of your energy costs.

Tip 4: Test for Asbestos

Asbestos is a scary word that conjures up images of lung cancer and injury TV. Unfortunately, according to the Asbestos Network, in many homes built prior to the 1980s, asbestos is all too common in floors, ceilings, insulation, and siding. If the area in question is left alone and in good condition, this shouldn’t pose a problem. However, if you’re planning on having work done on your home, this could be cause for concern. Having asbestos testing done can either give you peace of mind, or provide the information you need to make more informed choices regarding your home going forward.


The cost of asbestos testing is around $1500.

Money Saving Tips

Only test areas that are either in poor condition, or that you plan on remodeling. Otherwise, asbestos can be left alone in its current state without having a negative impact on your home. This will save you a significant amount over having random areas of your whole house tested.

The fall months are the perfect time of year to take care of all of these projects, because the colder winter months are the time when most people tend to stay indoors. Cleaning up your air quality and improving the health and comfort of your home can make the winter more enjoyable and healthier for your whole family.


5 Eco-Friendly Halloween Decoration Ideas

We’ve all probably experienced nature in a multitude of ways, but its transformative power never fades. Today, researchers are beginning to prove the positive effects that time spent in nature has on our minds and bodies. Although fall and winter may not always seem as uplifting as spring and summer, it’s still important to enjoy the natural world throughout the year. Spend time outdoors and bring the outdoors inside with these simple, eco-friendly decorating ideas for Halloween.

Living area decorated for Halloween
Photo by Fotolia/monochromst.

Gourds Galore

Gourds, of all shapes, sizes and colors, are available during fall. Use them to create centerpieces for Halloween parties, or simply sit them around the house to add a touch of the season to every room. Much like pumpkins you can paint them, carve them or eat them…it’s up to you!

Terrifying Terrariums

Terrariums are simple, easy-to-maintain ways to bring greenery into your home. If you’re not much of a gardener—or it’s already too cold to garden outdoors—create an indoor, haunted landscape. Add a few frightful elements, like a gravestone or ghost, to existing terrariums to suit the season.

Biodegradable Pumpkin Patch

Turn your front yard into a pumpkin patch, full of gigantic pumpkins. Rake fallen leaves and collect them in biodegradable leaf bags. If your yard doesn’t produce enough leaves, ask friends, family and neighbors if you can rake their leaves—I bet they won’t mind!

Spooky Luminaria

Put your recycling to good use! Pull a few tin cans out the recycling bin to create your own luminaria decorated with spooky images. You can choose to keep it simple with bats and ghosts, or get more elaborate using ideas from your favorite Halloween movies.  Use these spooky lights to guide treat-or-treaters to your door by hanging them from trees or sitting them along walkways.

Wicked Wreath

Collect fallen twigs and sticks to create an easy, do-it-yourself wreath that costs next to nothing and incorporates nature into your seasonal decor. Add leaves or pine cones for a fall-focused wreath, or make it a little wicked with cobwebs, spiders and broomsticks.

Use the time needed to collect supplies for these do-it-yourself décor ideas as an excuse to spend a little more time in nature with your friends and family. Plus, kids, adults and crafting beginners will find these five decorations fun and easy-to-make. So, whether Halloween is your favorite holiday or just one of many, try one (or more!) of these ideas to mix up your décor.

Making Environmentally Sustainable Home Improvements

Photo by Fotolia

Green living is the latest buzzword in the design industry, and eco-friendly homes are a much sought-after feature on the real estate market. To bridge the gap between green design theory and practice, every homeowner should carry out eco-friendly updates that will both reduce long-term utility costs and boost the property’s market value. But how exactly do you go green in your home on a reasonable budget? Easy: you just need to know which upgrades and tweaks entail the biggest bang for your home improvement buck.

Go Green with Materials

The choice of sustainable materials for various home updates is the simplest way to do a favor to Mother Nature. Look for materials certified as eco-friendly by relevant bodies, such as Cradle to Cradle or the Forest Stewardship Council. Eco-friendly materials for a partial or full-scale home update include cork, bamboo, and reclaimed wood flooring, homasote fiberboards, hemp-based products, cotton and blown insulation, recycled gypsum boards, and low-or no-VOC paints.

Save Water

Water scarcity is one of the biggest environmental challenges the planet is faced with today, and though large-scale solution to the issue will require comprehensive and intense collaboration between national authorities, there are a few steps you can carry out in your home to help improve your home’s water efficiency. Water-saving add-ons such as low-flow faucet aerators, water-efficient shower heads, and dual-flush toilets cost little compared to the long-term utility savings and green benefits their use entails. Also, turn off the tap when you’re not immediately using running water, i.e. when tooth-brushing or scraping food leftovers from the dishes when washing cutlery by hand.

Photo by Fotolia

The Eco Side of Appliances

When shopping for home appliances, check energy labels and ratings and opt for the greenest products available. When comparing refrigeration products, pay attention to the type of lighting: LED-lit fridges and freezers are a better option than standard counterparts with conventional internal lights. As for ovens and range hoods, your purchase should be based on trustworthy guidelines rather than supplier say-so, so make sure you make an educated choice and avoid greenwashing scams: not everything that has a green label is truly green.

Let There Be Green Light

consider replacing conventional incandescent bulbs with LED of CFL counterparts. Compared to standard lights, energy-efficient alternatives can last up to 3-25 times longer use as many as 25-85% less energy. Another simple option is to maximize use of natural light through the right choice of wall paint, strategic placement of mirrors or translucent wall panels that will help get sunlight flowing through your home without steep price tags to go with the brightness boost. To reduce the negative impact of intense sunlight indoors, you should consider outfitting existing windows and skylights with UV protection window films or even swapping conventional for tinted panes.

Out with Phantom Leaks

Every home has at least a couple of energy leaks that contribute to increased electricity bills and a household’s environmental footprint. Spare Mother Nature a thought: inspect your home for phantom leaks that are draining your home budget and generating added energy waste. The most common energy vampires are appliances and devices that continue drawing power, even when they’re turned off. Unplug all devices you’re not using at the moment, such as phone chargers, toasters, coffee machines and other small home tech you actively run only once or twice a day. That way, you’ll be curbing both energy waste and cash drain by a single no-cost move.

Homes designed with sustainability in mind are the future of real estate, and their value doesn’t just boil down to increased aesthetic appeal, market value, and utility savings. Environmentally safe home features are an investment in a safer and greener future for the generations to come, and we should all carry out at least a few cost-efficient updates in our living areas to help bring about a sustainable change in interior design and lifestyle. By greenifying your home from the floors to the ceiling, you can curb your household’s carbon dioxide emission by as many as 7.38 tons of CO2 a year – and if at least a half of us did that, the future of our world would be as safe and as bright as green houses.