Archive for February, 2010

Itty Bits: Shorter Showers

Posted on February 26th, 2010 by Tonia 5 Comments

It’s not easy being green.” -Kermit the Frog

Most of us don’t live off the grid in the woods.  We have houses that need maintenance…We have jobs that require us to have cars…We have families that have needs and wants.  But, I definitely believe that a “normal” urban life can also be a green life. 

It’s important to remember that low-impact-living is a process, not something that happens over night.  I have found that when I try to make too big of changes, I end up not being able to sustain the new practice and revert back to my old ways.  Our weekly goals/challenges are all about taking small, sustainable steps towards a greener lifestyle.  Please leave us a comment if you have an idea for an Itty Bits Challenge!

Last week our challenge was to time our showers and keep them under five minutes.  How did you do?  It was tough for me, but I’m proud to say I was able to do it.  If there was anyone who needed to take this challenge, it was me {taking hot showers in the winter is just the ticket to get your core heated up, so I tend to stand around in there and lolly-gag.}  I’d like to shorten my time even more.  I think if I do it gradually, I won’t even notice the difference.

Our next challenge is perhaps something many of you are already doing:  Use reusable shopping bags.  Mike and I have about 10 different reusable bagsfor groceries…and yet, embarrassingly, we often forget them and are forced to choose between paper or plastic.  This is a bad habit that I am dying to change…hence, a perfect Itty Bits Challenge!


Bits of green around the web, with a spring theme:

You Grow Girl teaches how to start your own compost pile (urban friendly!)

Maple syrup season is only two months away!  I can’t wait for the annual harvest at my parents house in northern Wisconsin.  Making maple syrup is a 25-year-long tradition in my family. Give it a try!  Learn how here.

Yep, it’s true, environmental awareness feels like a burden sometimes.  We’re not alone in feeling that way.  The Environment Report discusses common green dilemas in their daily podcast.

If you’re spring-breaking this year, make it an eco-vacation.

Not only are these my favorite kind of dog, but they’re made in my homeland of Peru and your purchase supports fair trade artists in developing countries.

A pot-hole garden.

A mini homemade greenhouse.

A backyard chicken coop.

The best damn minimalist-living blog out there.

A family that’s living the dream.

That’s all for this week!  Happy weekend, and don’t forget your reusable bags when you head to the store!

Natural Beauty II: DIY Facial

Posted on February 24th, 2010 by Tonia 4 Comments

I always get the itch to do a little self-pampering in the early spring.  I especially love facials.  After a long winter of dry-skin, I can’t wait to get my healthy summer-glow back.  But most facial products are chocked-full of nasty ingredients (see Natural Beauty: Avoiding Toxic Make-Up).  Knowing that I’m putting toxins on my face and then washing them down the drain takes all the enjoyment out of the facial for me.  So, I started to explore all-natural options.

…Actually, I have yet to find an all-natural moisturizer that I am completely satisfied with.  Do you have a favorite moisturizer, cleanser, and toner?  Please let me know in the comments section!

Since I don’t have a favorite store-bought moisturizer, I usually use aloe, jojoba-oil, and other homemade options.  I feel that homemade is the best option when it comes to skincare.  It’s the only way to have full control over what exactly is going on your skin.  There are tons of recipes to be found online for homemade face scrubs, masks, toners, and cleansers.

If you have never done this before, you might be surprised by some of the ingredients {or you might want to eat them.}  Turns out that foods like honey, yogurt, bananas, and oatmeal aren’t only good for us on the inside of our bodies…they also do wonders when topically applied.

naturalbeauty1Take some time this week to give yourself a homemade facial.  I found the following recipes on the Epic Beauty Guide, which is one of my favorite blogs.  You will be happy with how your skin looks after you try these:

Sugar Scrub

Removes dead skin cells so mois­ture can pen­e­trate, heals scars and acne, anti-aging.


2 Tbsp. organic, cold-pressed olive oil
1 Tbsp. organic, raw honey
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 small, dark glass con­tainer {dark glass pre­vents the oil from oxi­diz­ing and will not leach into your scrub}


1.  Pour your olive oil into your glass con­tainer. Then pour in your honey. Mix well.

2.  Add the sugar slowly and mix as you go. You may use less or more than 1/4 cup. You should end up with a thick scrub. Add a lit­tle more oil if you feel it’s too thick.

3.  Apply to your freshly washed face, neck, and chest.  Mas­sage the scrub gen­tly.  If you have very sen­si­tive skin, rub the scrub in your hands for a few sec­onds to soften up the gran­ules, then apply.

4.  Rinse off with luke­warm water. Skip the toner (you want to keep the remain­ing olive oil on your skin).

5.  Store the leftovers in a cool, dark place like your med­i­cine cabinet.

Milk & Honey Mask

Mois­tur­iz­ing, anti-aging, evens out skin tone and tex­ture, heals dam­age, soothes inflammation.


1 Tbsp. organic milk ~ see if you can get local, raw goat’s milk or cow’s milk; you can also use plain, organic yogurt
1 Tbsp. organic, raw, unfil­tered honey
(Optional) 1 tsp. aloe vera gel ~ see if you can get an aloe plant, then you just break off a “leaf” and squeeze the fresh gel out!


1.  Mix ingre­di­ents together in a small bowl.

2.  After cleans­ing, apply the mask to your face.

3.  Leave on for 10 min­utes.

4.  Wash off with luke­warm water, and a splash of cool water.

Champagne Toner

Cleans out and closes the pores, evens skin-tone, evaporates oil.


A shal­low dish, a mea­sur­ing spoon, a cotton ball, and a bot­tle of champagne.


1. Pour about 2 Tbsp. of cham­pagne into your dish and drop your cot­ton pad into the cham­pagne. Let the pad soak it up.

2. Wipe the champagne-soaked cot­ton pad all over your face, neck, and chest. It is fine to use around the eyes, just don’t get it in there!

3. Don’t rinse off. Follow-up with a light, nat­ural mois­tur­izer — jojoba or sweet almond oil are great.

Natural Beauty: Avoid Toxic Make-Up

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by Tonia 7 Comments

I don’t exactly consider myself a girly-girl. I ride horses {and have no problem mucking stalls}, I go camping {outside in a tent. I know some of you think camping means sleeping in one of these}, and from time to time I make un-ladylike jokes {“that’s what she said.”}

However, I enjoy a good facial/mani-pedi as much as the next girl, and I wear make-up almost every day.  Therein lies a teeny problem: my need {yes dear, it is a need, not a want} for occasional pampering and regular make-up usage conflicts with my ethics.36459As you may know, the majority of cosmetics and toiletries on the market today contain enormous amounts of toxic chemicals which have never been tested for safety by the FDA.  Not only are these toxins sitting on our faces all day long and being absorbed into our bodies, but when we wash them off we are washing them into our water system and the earth.  Some of the most common include:

  • Foaming agents such as sodium laureth sulphate, ammonium lauryl sulphate and 1,4-dioxane.
  • Synthetic colors and fragrances which are not always labeled or identified completely on labels and may be an amalgam of hundreds of chemicals.
  • Parabens, which are often used as preservatives and have been linked to breast cancer.
  • Propylene Glycol which can cause liver and kidney damage

{More information can be found at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which has one of the largest databases of products and ingredients online.}

True story: Recently I switched from using department store make-up to using Aveda products.  When I ran out of my Aveda stuff, I had to go back to using the department store brands for a little while, and I noticed that my eyes became red and irritated after wearing it all day long.  I quickly replenished my supply of Aveda make-up and never looked back.  Besides using natural ingredients, Aveda also manufactures using 100% certified wind-power.

{I am not paid/sponsored by Aveda at all.  I’m just sharing a good experience I had with their products.}

Aveda is certainly not the only option. Even Wall-greens carries all-natural brands of cosmetics and toiletries these days.  If you’re a make-up lover like myself, I challenge you to switch to an all-natural brand, and see what kind of difference it makes with your skin/eyes/allergies.  Even if you don’t notice any outward benefits like I did, at least you can feel good that you’re no longer washing those chemicals down the drain every day! If you already use natural cosmetics, please share you experience in the comments!

Check back later this week for more on the subject of natural skincare, including a recipe for a homemade facial!…

Itty Bits: Green Inspiration from Around the Web

Posted on February 19th, 2010 by Tonia 3 Comments

We must become the change we seek.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Happy Friday!  I’d like to introduce you to our new series, Itty Bits: a compilation of inspiring tid-bits from all over the internet. Itty Bits is also a chance to end each week by setting a goal for the following week.  For example, this week’s goal is to begin taking shorter showers in order to conserve water.  We’ll be timing our showers and trying to stay under five minutes.

Please join us in these weekly goals, and share your experience with us.  Were you able to stick to the goal?  Was it challenging, or did you find it easy?


Start the weekend off by baking bread a la Roost Blog.

Old t-shirts are transformed into a ruffle-skirt over at Craft Gossip.

The Environment Report explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living.

In Boston, the health of people and the environment in urban areas is a community responsibility.  We can all learn from what they’re doing.

Find new uses for old tin cans here and here.

One of my favorite books reviewed by Amanda Blake Soule.

Spend time crafting for earthquake relief  this weekend.

Do a little carbon offsetting to make up for past transgressions.

A family after my own heart: Rural Renaissance

We’re lucky enough to live in a city that allows residents to raise chickens in their yards…now we just need to learn how to raise chickens!  I’ll be reading about DIY-chicken-raising this weekend.

It wouldn’t be the weekend without a good laugh.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to time your showers!