Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Switch from Google Reader to BlogLovin

As you may have heard, Google Reader is one of several under-utilized Google services to end in July 2013. If you use Google reader to follow Olivia Cleans Green, please follow my blog with Bloglovin instead. It's very easy! In fact, you can transfer all your blog subscriptions from Google Reader to Bloglovin by clicking here.

Don't miss a move!
You can also be notified of my blog posts by liking Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook and following me on Twitter.

Thanks for keeping in touch!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Plotting My First Vegetable Garden

Victory Garden (via)

I've wanted to grow food forever. Okay, slight exaggeration, but about 10 years ago I bought a copy of You Grow Girl. Despite my never really reading it or even buying a bag of soil, the book has survived three apartment moves and in-numerous downsizings. In fact, it even found a shelf mate in A Little Bit of Earth: How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces.

I'm tired of shelving my aspirations. Spring 2013 will be the season my garden finally becomes a reality. So many wonderful resources and inspiration for beginner gardeners have been presenting themselves lately. I'm certain the Universe is plotting for my garden.
  • I saw a TED Talk with Ron Finley, a guerilla gardener in South Central LA who says growing vegetables is like being able to grow your own money. I could certainly use more money! My grocery bill has grown three-fold since moving and leaving the Park Slope Food Coop.
  • I remembered The Urban Organic Gardener blog and the awesome resources the site provides from people growing food in small spaces including how to start growing vegetables in self-watering containers.
  • I recently noticed a poster for upcoming urban agriculture workshops in the window at my job. The Southside Community Land Trust is hosting classes and events across Providence this spring. I'm excited about the Beginning Organic Growers Series 1 Workshop that is happening as part of the Neighborhood Hub Day on Saturday, April 6.
  • Our new bokashi is about to bust with pickled food scrap goodness. I think we'll have lots of great compost to work with! We just bought a container and some soil to mix with the fermented scraps since we don't have a yard.
  • Last week in Whole Foods Market I ran into a new friend, a professional gardener, who I met in January but hadn't seen since. I remembered she had offered to help me get started.
  • The surest sign that this garden will happen is my boyfriend's enthusiasm. He won't let me push it off to next year. He's totally on my back about reading those books I mentioned earlier. He's a supermotivated, get-stuff-done kind of guy so I'm lucky to have him in my corner.
Do you grow any food? Are you thinking about it? If you have any beginner gardener resources to share please leave a comment. Thanks!

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Please like Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook, join my email list, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my blog posts (by email, via Bloglovin', or with your preferred RSS reader) to keep in touch and discover more creative green homemaking tips.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Success

Tip #1:Treat yo self! How about hanging with this cute dog?

  1. Treat yo self! What grand prize will you give yourself for completing spring cleaning? Be sure to also plan a smaller, but motivating, reward to look forward to after each daily session of cleaning or organizing. The daily treat could be going for a walk with a your neighbor's dog, a punch card for yoga classes, or a cupcake. It could also be something that ordinarily keeps you from household chores, like watching back-to-back episodes of Parks and Recreation on Netflix (not that I would know anything about that from personal experience; no not at all).
  2. Prioritize the tasks you'd benefit most from. Projects that support your safety and health, as well as nourish your emotional well-being should be at the top of the list. This means working on dust, mold, and germ ridden areas should be high on your list. If the box of old books you needed to get rid of is stressing you out daily that should be prioritized too.
  3. Break projects that are overwhelming and important into much smaller ones. Schedule short, timed daily sessions to tackle the project. Confronting your fear daily equals daily success, improvement, and confidence.
  4. Examine feelings of shame. The mother-in-law question from yesterday's brainstorm might be a good launching point. Don't do something just because you think you should. It's your life! Ask yourself how you really feel. What's important to you? Also, don't worry about doing things perfectly or to your mother's standards. Great is good, but done is better. (I have to remind myself of this everyday!)
  5. Decide to enjoy the process. Check out my list of 10 Ways to Make Cleaning Fun.
  6. Make your life easier by using the best cleaning products, techniques, and services available to you. Buy or borrow a decent canister vacuum. Mix up or shop for healthy, green cleaners. If you aren't sure how to best clean, organize, or repair something, Google it.
  7. Enlist the help of a professional organizer, green cleaner, window cleaner, painter, laundry service, etc. If your budget is tight, ask a good friend or family member for help.

Do you have any tips that will help motivate us and help us stay on track to meet spring cleaning goals? Have you made your spring-cleaning checklist yet? If not, check out my list of 15 brainstorm questions to help you create a personalized one.

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Make a Personalized Spring Cleaning Checklist

The Martha Stewart Living spring-cleaning checklist begins, "There are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean." While I tend to agree, the idea of diligently performing tasks from a prescribed list of chores for an entire three months makes me want to run away from home and change my identity.

I'd much rather actually spend time working on cleaning and organizing tasks that reflect my personal priorities and pet-peeves. Wouldn't you?

Below is a list of 15 questions to help you brainstorm and create your own checklist for cleaning, organizing, and downsizing this spring. (You can access a printable one via Google Docs.)

Spring 2012 blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  1. Just thinking about _____________ overwhelms/scares me, but I wish it were done.
  2. It'd be so easy to fix/clean/organize __________, I don't know why I haven't yet. 
  3. If I died and my mother or mother-in-law had to go through my house, I'd die all over again of embarrassment if she discovered _______________.
  1. Every time I see __________ it drives me crazy!
  2. I'd feel like my spring-cleaning was complete if  __________.
  3. _________ really got gross this winter.
  4. I never seem to get around to cleaning __________.
  5. I hardly ever think about cleaning _________ , but I probably should.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Video: How to Make Viva Vinegar All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

Ingredients & materials for Viva Vinegar

I've gotten tons of requests for YouTube videos. Finally, I've found a local friend who is eager and knowledgeable enough to help make this happen. Yay! I present to you the video for Viva Vinegar; directed and edited by my awesome friend Lynsey Ford, starring me and vinegar.

Here are some before and after shots of surfaces Viva Vinegar cleans easily.

You can clean so many things with vinegar!

I usually use Viva Vinegar to clean my bathroom surfaces like toilet (not the bowl), sink faucet and rim (not the basin), shower walls, and rim around tub. Let the cleaner sit on the surface wet for 10 minutes before wiping if you're concerned about killing germs. Today, I was surprised to see that it also cleaned glass shelves and the mirror without leaving reside or streaks. I just had to make sure use newspaper instead of a cloth, but this same as with club soda- my usual go-to glass cleaner.

Viva Vinegar is great at cleaning up grime from counter tops, dining tables, coffee table, plastic appliances, and more. While it can also clean up stove top spills, it can't do heavy duty cleaning that usually requires scouring with a scrub like baking soda or Bon Ami powder (as the photo illustrates). Also never use it on marble or other natural stone, as the acids will damage the surface.

As a bonus, Viva Vinegar is totally safe. In fact, it's made from things that are actually beneficial to your health (there are wonderful aromatherapy benefits from the eucalyptus essential oil). Can't say the same thing for Fantastik all-purpose cleaner and many other popular conventional cleaners available in stores.

Also, I don't want to give the impression that I invented this recipe. It's a total grandma thing that has been used for ages.

Have you cleaned with vinegar? What's your favorite essential oil to add to it? 

If you've haven't, try Viva Vinegar out on a few things and see how fantastic it is for yourself! It's totally safe, inexpensive, and takes less than 5 minutes to make, so you haven't got much to lose. 

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Please like Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook, join my email list, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my blog posts (by RSS or email) to keep in touch and discover more creative green homemaking tips.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Handkerchiefs: A Stylish, Green Alternative to Facial Tissue

Vintage handkerchiefs from Cobblestones.

Since I love all things grandma, I'd always thought handkerchiefs were cool. But when I saw my glamorously eccentric friend Regina pull a brilliantly patterned square of cotton from her purse and actually use it to blow her nose, I knew I had to have one. Pretty and practical? Sign me up!

We went to her source for "the best handkerchiefs": Cobblestones, a vintage store in the East Village that's been around for over 30 years. There, owner Delanie handed me a basket of dozens of gorgeous used- and cleaned- ladies' handkerchiefs to choose from. I ended up buying two floral patterned ones for a total of $10. I thought that'd be enough, but now I wish I had more.

Brett and Kate at The Art of Manliness write, "The handkerchief is to the tissue as the reusable diaper is to Pampers." According to, North Americans use 50 lbs. per person of tissue papers per year. This includes all facial tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels. I'm not sure how much of that can be reduced by using handkerchiefs, but every little bit helps.

Pre-soaking handkerchiefs.

Tips for success with switching over to handkerchiefs:
  • Keep a back up hanky in your purse, along with a little pouch to put hankies into once they're too soiled to reuse. Remember to empty this at night.
  • Handkerchiefs can be tucked into your sleeve or decolletage, according to Miss Manners. (I rarely wear clothes with pockets so I appreciate this idea.)
  • Tuck a handkerchief under your pillow at night.
  • Handwash hankies with gentle (ideally fragrance-free) detergent. Pre-soak them in water with a splash of vinegar or table salt to kill any germs.
  • Keep track of clean and dirty hankies with stylish, labeled bins.
  • Have plenty! This way you'll have a fresh hanky every day, can wash a bunch at once, and be ready in case you get a cold. You can find vintage ones online at Etsy and Ebay. There are new, organic cotton ones on Amazon. You can also make your own: rolled hem or standard
  • If you don't feel comfortable using a handkerchief? Check out The Hankie Book. It's a "book" handmade of organic cotton "pages", so you easily get a fresh wipe every time!

Do you already carry a handkerchief? If so, can you share strategies for making the switch from Kleenex to handkerchiefs? If not, would you consider using them?

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Poo, No Problem: How to Wash Hair with Baking Soda

Today I jumped on the No Poo bandwagon and washed my supercoils with baking soda instead of shampoo. Here's how:

No poo = green cleaning for your hair!
  1. Before washing, I divided my hair into four sections, dampened it with water, and deep conditioned as usual.
  2. I brought a little bowl with about 1T of baking soda into the shower. I also carried a pint jar filled with rose & lavender infused water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. (See this blog post to learn how to make rose water.)
  3. Once in the shower, I slowly added enough water to the bowl of baking powder to create a thin paste. 
  4. Working section by section, I first rinsed the conditioner from my hair with water then massaged the baking soda paste into my hair, working from the scalp to ends. 
  5. I used a duck clip to rebind each section before moving on to the next.
  6. Once my entire head of hair was cleaned with baking soda, I began the rinsing process on each section. First rinsing with water directly from the shower head, then sealing my hair with 1/2 cup of the rose-lavender-ACV rinse.
  7. I think most people rinse again with water, but I didn't. Maybe another time I'll try it that way.
Truth be told, I don't wash my hair often so I was surprised by how clean the baking soda got my hair and scalp. The entire process left my hair feeling and smelling extremely clean. It looks very shiny too.

I would absolutely wash my hair with baking soda again. I don't have a problem with SLS-free natural shampoos (in fact, I'm kinda in love with Alaffia, especially their Beautiful Curls line), but it's nice to have a plastic container-free, supersimple, and supercheap option under my sleeve. I think this would be especially convenient when traveling since I'd get to sidestep the whole TSA approved carry-on sizing issue and it's light.

More on No Poo:
No 'Poo: Get Beautiful Hair with just Baking Soda and Vinegar (via Care2)
Is Baking Soda Too Harsh for Hair? (via Black Girl with Long Hair)
How to Wash with the No-Poo Method (video via Ashley's Green Life on YouTube)
No 'Poo to You, Too!!! (via Crunchy Betty)

Have you ever washed your hair with baking soda?  Would you try this?

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Consider supporting this blog by shopping via my Amazon shop or buying my green cleaning eBook. Thanks.

Monday, March 11, 2013

DIY Affirmation Jar

Don't be a dope. Nurture your hope!
Life gets heavy sometimes, even if you're just dealing with your own personal dramas. For those of us who are activists for the earth, children, animals, and pretty much any other cause that tugs at our hearts on top of that, sometimes it feels like you can never do enough to change things. It's a challenge to not feel hopeless, but it's also superimportant that we don't.

I was inspired by blogger Glamazini who created a God Box to help manage her depression. It's such a brilliant and simple techique. She jots down negative ideas and anxieties onto a slip of paper. She then surrenders her fears to God by putting them into a box, trusting God will take care of her. I love her idea!

Writing down negative things didn't feel right for me so I decided to make an affirmation jar instead. I write down the exact opposite of the negative thought I am feeling, read it aloud to myself, and slip it onto the affirmation jar. For example, I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about paying off my student loans, so I wrote "I repay my student loans with ease and joy." Even just writing it offers a little relief and makes me picture a scenario where I have actually paid my student loans.

I love my affirmation jar!

I think it's a good idea to decorate your jar with things that inspire you and remind you of the beauty and good that's in the world. I decorated my jar with a collage of a painting scrap, catalog, security envelope innards, receipt paper, a tea bag tag reading "Be heard", a felt ball my friend made, and this awesome quote from MLK: "Faith is taking the first step even though you don't see the staircase." I made the lid with 2 scraps of fabric and a strip of felt held together with embroidery thread to create a slit to pass paper through. It's held on with string from a gift and two rubber bands. (I can make a photo or video tut if people are interested because I have it's hard to explain how to create the lid with words. Lemme know.) 

Whether you make a God Box or an affirmation jar, I just wanted to remind you that you don't have to deal with things alone. You're not dealing with things alone. Don't lose hope! The Universe/ God / Nature/ whatever higher power you believe in is conspiring for good things to happen for all of us. Trust in this and take relief in the truth that everything is working out for the best.

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Please like Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook, join my email list, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my blog posts (by RSS or email) to keep in touch and discover more creative green homemaking tips.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Industrial pollution begins in the womb."

In 2004, EWG tested the blood of 10 unborn Americans for 413 different toxic chemical pollutants. A total of 287 chemicals were found including212 industrial chemicals and pesticides that were banned over 30 years ago. There was an average of 200 chemicals per fetus.

Watch this eye-opening 22 minute lecture, 10 Americans with Ken Cook, President and Founder of the Environmental Working Group, to learn more about the study.

There is so much surprising and heavy information in the lecture. Here are five things that stood out most to me:
  • This video really illustrated to me that eating organic foods, cleaning with non-toxic solutions, using natural personal care items, and making other healthy personal choices is not enough to completely protect yourself and your unborn children from chemical exposure.We need to get these chemicals banned!
  • The chemicals found in the fetuses are those linked with cancer, birth defects, infertility, and hormone disruption. Some are also immune system toxicants and neurotoxins like lead, PCBs, and mercury which affect development of intelligence and motor coordination.
  • We are seeing an increase in heath problems, disorders, and diseases as our exposure to chemicals increases. For example, there has been a 20% increase in American couples dealing with difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to full term in the last ten years. (The largest increase in infertility has been in women under 25 years old.) The sperm count in American and Northern European men goes down 1% every year.
  • We need a reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (1976), a law that gave the green light to 62,000 industrial chemicals when it was created and does not require any health or safety studies to be done before a chemical is introduced to the market. 80% of all new chemicals are approved in 3 weeks!
  • Support is needed to get Congress to reintroduce the Safe Chemicals Act (formerly called  Kid Safe Chemicals Act). It would protect children and the rest of us by assuming chemicals found in umbilical cord blood to be hazardous. It will require those and any new chemicals to be proven safe in order to enter or stay on the market.

Also, I mention EWG here and on social media a lot because I love them! They do great research and activism and provide awesome resources like healthy cleaning, eating, and personal care guides for free! If you have a few dollars to spare now or in the future, I encourage you to make a donation to support their work.

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Please like Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook, join my email list, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my blog posts (by RSS or email) to keep in touch and discover more creative green homemaking tips.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Laundry Soap That Grows on Trees. Seriously!

I tried Eco Nuts.
Soap nuts are the fruit of the Sapindus mukorossi tree, a plant native to India and Nepal. They contain saponin, a natural detergent. They are mostly used as a gentle alternative to chemical laundry detergent. Fans of soap nuts say they can also be used to clean dishes, hair, skin, counter tops, cars, jewelry, and pretty much anything else you'd use a regular soap or detergent for. I thought I'd give them a try so I purchased a trial size package of Eco Nuts.

Making soap nuts liquid detergent.

According to Eco Nuts, you can just toss five nuts into the bag and then toss that bag into the washer with your clothes. You can do this up to 10 times! However, they do recommend making a tea (liquid detergent) with the nuts if you plan to do a cold water wash.

I am a total novice when it comes to these soap nuts so I just experimented. I boiled them, sans bag, in 4 times more water than nuts then soaked them for 10 minutes. When that didn't result in a lot of liquid detergent, I ground the same nuts in my food processor and boiled the mash. That time in much more water (about 4 cups). Of course, I got more detergent but, surprisingly, that batch seems to be as potent as the first.

I've used soap nuts detergent to hand wash a few soup pots, to machine launder a few sweaters, and to hand wash some handkerchiefs. I'm pleased with the results. I appreciate that the soap was gentle on my hands. I also think the ecological footprint of soap nuts (minimal packaging, biodegradable, compostable, organic) is pretty impressive.

Still, I don't think I would use these for regular washing. The majority of my laundry is done with cold water and making a tea each laundry day would be a real pain in the applejacks. Also, I think they smell kind of funky, like a mellow ginko funk. Fortunately, I don't smell it on anything I've washed, but I did smell it while making the liquid and it was hard to not gag.

In conclusion, I think soap nuts are the best choice for sweaters and other delicate clothing so that's what I'll use them for in the future. I'll probably just purchase the pre-made liquid detergent for that so that I don't have to face the funk of the brewing berries. It comes in a cool wine box when you buy the 3 liter value size.

More on Soap Nuts:
The Mother of All Soap Nut Resources (via Crunchy Betty)
Household Uses for Soap Nuts (via EcoNuts)
Soap Nuts Profile and Purchase (via Mountain Rose Herbs)

Have you tried soap nuts? What do you think of them?

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Consider supporting this blog by shopping via my Amazon shop or buying my green cleaning eBook. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Giveaway: My Zine of Green Cleaning Recipes

I collected my favorite cleaning recipes and doodled them into a colorful one page zine. The little book includes non-toxic recipes for:
  • 2 all-purpose sprays
  • 3 mildew & mold killers
  • wood polish
  • glass & mirrors
  • HDTV/ LCD plasma screens
  • 2 tub scrubs
  • oven cleaner
  • 3 floor cleaners
I'd love to share it with you for FREE as a thanks for belonging to my email newsletter list. Of course, this means you'll have to actually sign up for my email newsletter list if you haven't already. (You can do that here.) I will not be sharing the March newsletter over social media like I have past ones so please sign up this week (by Friday 3/8) so you can get the zine.

The email newsletter I'll send out this weekend will have a link to the PDF of my zine. All you need to do is print the PDF then cut and fold it like so.

How to fold a one page zine
If my pictures don't make the process clear, you can find great detailed instructions at Experimenting with Nature.

Members of my monthly(ish) mailing list can expect an encouraging email sharing a few special posts from the blog (in case you missed 'em) and updating them on what's new at Olivia Cleans Green like giveaways and workshops. That's it. Pinky swear! (Check out the last newsletter I sent.) Bonus: I promise I'm way too busy to send you excessive emails and too sweet to sell your address to a spammer. You totally wanna join now, riiiiigggghhht? Do it!

UPDATE: A link to this zine is now included in every monthly OCG newsletter. All the more reason to sign up!

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Please like Olivia Cleans Green on Facebook, join my email list, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my blog posts (by RSS or email) to keep in touch and discover more creative green homemaking tips.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What's Inside of 20 Popular Cleaning Products

Ever wonder what's inside of ubiquitous cleaning products like Windex, Soft Scrub, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes? Since you're visiting a green cleaning website, I bet you do!

Thank goodness for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their online Guide to Healthy Cleaning features a wonderful database of over 2,000 commercial cleaning products. There you can search for a specific product and find a safety rating of A to F based on the health and environmental concerns posed by the known ingredients that compose the product. (I emphasize known as so many manufacturers refuse to make all their ingredients public.)

Below are links to the EWG's reports on 20 cleaning products. I picked each of these products because either: my mom used it when I was growing up, I've seen it in the homes of people I love, or I used it before going green.

What is inside of these popular cleaning products? How safe are they? (Images via EWG)

Visit EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning for yourself to: learn how they created the report, search for more products, learn to decode labels, and see a list of the safest products they reported.

Spooked? Visit the resources page on my website to get a quick start on green cleaning. All the info there is free. Please also share this post with someone you love.

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 

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