Monday, 26 August 2013

The Greening of the Laundry Room

Getting laundry done around here was quite a hassle for a long time. We had no running water for a year and a half and are on our third year with no power. We were dragging everything to the Laundromat for most of the time until this spring when our local Laundromat closed. Not wanting to face driving 20 minutes each way to the next town to do laundry, I decided to see what I could do about doing it at home.

 I tried washing it by hand with a plunger and washboard, using an old wringer to squeeze it out. I then tried to find somewhere on the outside of my house to hang it to dry. I didn't really want my clothes blowing up against the house and we have coal trains going by all day here so its perhaps not the cleanest air to dry stuff in.


LOVE these clothespins! Best investment ever, they work sooo much better than the new fangled ones!

I ended up moving the drying rack up into our very hot attic where it dries the clothes in no time at all and is out of sight. We will be putting a woodstove in downstairs this winter just under the area the clothes rack is located so this system should work in the winter as well.

We realized that we could run our washing machine on the generator, so have been doing it that way lately.

My other concern with doing laundry at home was the soaps and chemicals that we normally would be using in our wash and what effect they would have on our river. Then I found the most amazing thing ever! The Non Detergent Laundry Ball!!

I love this thing. I still don't understand it, but our clothes are clean and have a nice light fresh smell to them. I save water because I don't need to do a rinse cycle, there is  no harsh chemicals, I  save tons of money not buying soap and there is no garbage from soap containers, fabric softeners etc.

Here is some information from the creator of the laundry ball on how to remove stains without bleach or chemicals :
We have tried 2 different methods of using lemon juice to whiten clothes:

Method #1 Instructions:

1.Place your white clothes in a large basin.
2. Fill the basin with very hot water.
3. Add a generous amount of lemon juice, and allow your white clothes to soak overnight.
4. The next day, remove your clothes from the basin and place in your washing machine with your SmartKlean Laundry Ball or whatever product you’re using to wash your clothes (we hope it’s green!)
5. Wash as usual, and your whites should be brighter than ever!
Tips & Warnings
-Try it twice if the first time does not work to your satisfaction.
-Don’t let the mixture sit too long in the lemon juice!

Method #2:
For an easier, milder version of this technique, you can wash your clothes in your washer as normal, and during the rinse cycle, pour in about a cup of lemon juice. Then hang in the sun to dry.
Additional cleaning uses with lemon:
Lemon juice is a viable alternative for cleaning jobs requiring acid, such as hard-water stains, tarnish, dissolving waxy buildup, and cleaning wood. It can also be used a rust remover. We’ve had some success treating rust stains on clothes and other fabric with lemon juice and salt. Squeeze lemon juice directly onto the stain, then sprinkle on a generous amount of salt. Rub the fabric together until the stain starts to break up. Wash away the loosened rust with soap and water. Repeat the process until the stain is entirely removed.

 This ball lasts a year (365 washes) and the plastic is recyclable. Pretty soon we should have our solar power system here and set up, and then our laundry will really be green without the generator running.

I am really enjoying hanging the laundry to dry. Its almost a meditation, a time to slow down, the fresh smell of clean laundry in the air, the care and attention to hanging it up properly all give a sense of satisfaction that you just can't get by tossing it in the dryer!

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Greening of the Kitchen

I'm on a quest to green my house, to use less or no plastic and produce little or no waste that isn't compostable or recyclable. You can read here how I did this with my bathroom. Todays post is about the kitchen. Although I was feeling proud that we were recycling and composting a lot of what came through our kitchen , there was still a ton of garbage going out, mostly in packaging, so I decided it was time to start shopping differently.

First up was our meat consumption. I used to shop regular grocery stores and they don't do their own butchering anymore so all meat comes in  Saran-wrapped Styrofoam , the source of most of our smelly garbage. I have since purchased some awesome stainless covered containers and sourced out a few local butchers that can serve my meat straight into my containers. The bonus part is they also carry free range, grass fed organic meat and have some fresh partly prepared dishes such as stuffed potatoes and stuffed mushrooms, cordon bleu of various flavors, and shish kabobs etc. which help to vary our menu and keep the work load down.

Next I sourced some local fruit and veggie stands and sewed myself a bunch of mesh bags to carry my purchases home. No more veggies in a can (except for stewed tomatoes, when I get to it, I will can those myself in reusable glass jars)

For just about everything else in the dry goods categories: pasta, rice, flour, spices, even chocolate, I can get those at the bulk food section of my local Safeway using bags I made myself from recycled pillowcases.  I got a wonderful glass door cabinet for free on Craigslist and used it to house a bunch of glass jars where I keep all my bulk food purchases.

 I  bought some reusable glass bottles for oil, vinegar etc. and get them refilled at the Soap Dispensary along with my favorite dish soap. I also carry one with me in the car and have one at work to refill as water bottles.

I buy the fresh bread in a paper bag. I still have butter wrappers to contend with but I am thinking of trying this guys method for making your own butter.                                           

I use natural soap for dishwashing,and orange peel infused vinegar and baking soda for cleaning around the kitchen.

I switched out paper towel and paper napkins for small cloth towels and cloth napkins all found at thrift stores. I bought some muslin cloth and embedded it with beeswax to make a superior product to saran wrap. Here is a tutorial on how to make your own.

We still get some products in glass jars and boxes but at least they are recyclable or reusable in the case of the jars. We are about to embark on our first try at winemaking and will be able to reuse our bottles and equipment again and again.

We are eating healthier, fresher products, cooking from scratch and shopping locally for our food. Within the next year or two, I will be starting to garden as much of our own food as we can. My goal is to not ever have to take the garbage out, cause there isn't any!

I am also trying to rid myself of plastic products. I won't lie, it's hard, everything these days, is made of plastic or packaged in plastic. I have found a metal dish drainer, a metal bucket for mopping the floor, wooden dish scrubbers, stainless popsicle molds, stainless ice cube trays, metal and wood cooking utensils, glass and metal containers for leftovers, stainless straws to name a few things. Really, most of the plastic in our kitchen now is the garbage can and  recycling bins which hopefully one day soon I won't even need and can reclaim some of my kitchen floor back!

And of course as with the rest of the house, most of the kitchen was built for free from Craigslist, the cupboards, sink, bench, leaded glass doors, all free, the rest, second hand for a fair price and thrift store finds for d├ęcor and dishes, napkins, small kitchen appliances etc.

Buying things at the thrift store means a whole lot less packaging in most cases and it's recycling something and keeping it from the landfill. I love all my "treasures" that I find!

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The Greening of my Bathroom.

As I may have mentioned before, living on the water has opened my eyes to the amount of pollution that humans produce and how it affects our waterways. I should have listened to my Grandmother as she was preaching all this stuff to me since I was 14, but I just didn't get it back then. So...I'm sorry Gran for not being a better steward of the Earth thus far, but know that I am now doing all I can to rectify that!

It's been a process, and each room in the house has its own challenges. I have been inspired by this mans blog about living a No Impact lifestyle in New York, this woman's journey to live a Plastic Free life and this woman's Zero Waste Household.

 I have been recycling more, refusing more (packaging and one-use plastic items), and looking at what is in my garbage and how I can stop producing it. The end goal is that all the garbage I do produce should be at the very least compostable and if not, then definitely recyclable. I am also conscious of the fact that most of what goes down a sink drain ends up directly in the waterways. The Great Lakes are now facing a new pollution danger in the form of tiny plastic micro beads from skin care products as one example. So here is a look at some of the changes we have made in our bathroom in order to clean up our ecological footprint.

We have switched to wooden toothbrushes made with boar bristles. Love the brushes, hate that they came individually wrapped in plastic... Sigh!'s a constant battle to find/demand plastic free packaging, it is EVERYWHERE!

 I had switched toothpaste to one that does not contain fluoride but I still don't like the plastic tube, so next I got toothpaste tabs from Lush which are packaged in cardboard. You crush these tabs between your teeth until foamy, then brush.
Once these have been used up, I will be making my own tooth powder and storing it in glass jars.

I bought a razor handle made from deer horn and metal which I can replace the blades on. Realistically, the much better version would be the safety razor with the blades in a paper envelope, but I am still addicted to that strip of lubricant on the multi-head blades and more than a little scared of that one large sharp blade in the safety razors.

I hated all the plastic bottles for shampoo, conditioner, body soap, bubble bath etc. so decided to try the products at Lush. They carry a bar version of shampoo, conditioner, soap and a lovely bar body scrub/moisturizer that you use in the shower, buff it on, rinse off the grains (of natural almonds and adzuki beans), and your left with silky soft fragrant skin. You can get all this with no or little (paper) packaging. I am not 100% satisfied with them however as they do use some artificial fragrances and sudsing agents. I have been experimenting with making my own versions.

My first attempt at making moisturizing bars. I will share the recipes when I have perfected them.

My soap collection in the shower.

The bottom rack holds four different kinds of soap.

 The rack above holds bar conditioner on the left, moisturizing scrub in the middle and bar shampoo on the right. ( The conditioner was quite soft, so I ended up putting it in a white ceramic dish to keep it from oozing out between the bars)

 I got all these products at Lush and LOVE them. I am very satisfied with their performance and smells although not happy about some of their ingredients.

Now it seemed that the garbage can was mostly holding Kleenex. I remembered from my childhood, that my Father always carried a handkerchief, so decided it was time to start that tradition again. I found a bunch at various thrift stores and have a stack of his and hers. I am still a bit grimed out by the thought of the boogies dancing with my other clothes, so I have a special little basket for the soiled handkerchiefs and they get washed separately.

 I have always been fascinated by the thought of having a bidet in the bathroom but having never actually used one, wasn't sure of the specific logistics of use ( I have so many questions) and didn't really want to take up the extra floor space with one either. I found one that mounts under your  toilet seat


but after I bought it and got it home, I found that it didn't work with our style of toilet. I thought it wasn't to be, then I discovered this hose that hooks up to your toilet water intake. It hangs on the wall beside the toilet and you can give yourself a hosing down when you're done your business and use a small towel to dry off after. I love it, it's powerful, I feel much refreshed after and just saved more money and trees by not needing as much toilet paper.

When I was in Indonesia they used squat toilets with a bucket of water to clean up with. I didn't understand ( and still don't) how exactly they cleaned themselves like that. The hose is pretty good at cleaning you up, better I think then just pouring water over yourself. This funny video from India explains the proper protocol but I still have issues with using my hand to scrape clean my bum and then everyone touching that bar of soap with their dirty hands,(shivers!!!) so I always took some toilet paper in my purse and some anti bacterial gel for my hands after. The thing he doesn't explain is how they dry themselves off after all that splashing and washing. I would have buckets of water running down my legs and into my shoes, I never saw any soap or towels in the public washrooms I used in Indonesia.

The only cleaning products I use for the house consist of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar for the most part. I soak orange peels in the vinegar to give it a nice smell for the bathroom. I use a squeegee on the shower doors after each shower to prevent scale buildup on the glass from our hard water. I wipe down surfaces like the sink and taps with microfiber cloths to keep them shiny and clean.

There is a wonderful store in Vancouver called the "Soap Dispensary" They sell many natural products to replace plastic utensils in the house and they refill all kinds of soaps, cleaning products, oils etc. so, for those things that are liquid, you now have an option to refill and reuse containers instead of buying new ones each time.

 We are saving money by using natural ingredients, they are better for our bodies, the environment and we produce next to no garbage from our bathroom.  I used to take out two full recycling bins every week ( and thought I was doing good by recycling all that) but now it could take us months to fill one bucket and that's even better. A lot of what goes into recycling bins doesn't always end up getting recycled and plastic is just a nasty, dirty product of the oil industry that never really ever goes away, it just breaks down into smaller bits that get digested by whatever and ends up in our food chain.

Oh, I almost forgot, we have more or less finished the bathroom. I still have a bunch of trim to put on and the chandelier to rehang, a few minor tweaks here and there but here's what it looks like so far.
    In keeping with the theme of recycling, pretty much everything in the bathroom I got for free on craigslist -the matching toilet, tub and sink ,the sewing machine cabinet, the white shelves and corner shelf , the desk. All of the accessories are thrift store finds. The only thing I paid for as new was the steam shower unit and I got that for 2/3rds off the regular price as the store was going out of business. I also got the sauna used from another business that closed for half price of new. The carpeting on the floor is indoor/outdoor carpeting ( won't get wrecked if it gets wet and warm on the feet in the winter) The biggest expense was the wall paneling and trim.                                                            





Looking into the bathroom from the hall outside the kitchen. We have installed  pine flooring on the ceiling, used glass blocks above the door frame to increase light to the hallway and have installed door skin wall panelling. ( Drywall is too heavy for our float home and an issue with the humidity from living on the water) The door to the bathroom is glass as well. At the moment I have a sarong hanging in front of it for privacy but someday the plan is to frost the door panels and hang a sheer in front of that. After living without power for three years now, I want to grab every drip of daylight that comes in the house and let it reach as many corners as possible, therefore most of my doors are glass paned.

The steam shower which gets its hot water from our propane hot water on demand system( which I love...endless hot showers if desired!)

We somehow misplaced the original shower head for the tub but found this one instead, I like it, it's funky :)

It matches the old brass fittings that the bathroom came with.

This carving was once a shelf on my boat that has now been repurposed as a step for the bathtub. There are glass blocks mounted below it that have a string of led lights behind it ( if we ever get power!) that castes a lovely glow to see where you are going.

Bit of a nautical theme going on, I couldn't help it, I live on the water :) The large jars at the back of the tub have Epsom salt, Sea salt and Himalayan salt's for your bathing pleasure.

The boat shelf was an 8 dollar thrift store find, I know, cute eh!

One of two towel holders by the tub

The infrared sauna behind the back wall of the tub.

The white shelf has a matching one beside it but turned around for shelf space by the toilet. One of these days they will get painted and probably have a frosted window mounted on top.

The bathroom sink was mounted into an old singer sewing cabinet with a fair bit of modification ( overcome, adapt, improvise, that's our motto around here)

Seriously LOVE the carvings on the little drawers!

Beside the sink is an old desk in bad need of a makeover with another thrift store find, the mirror that looks like a porthole.

I am loving the bathroom. I always said I would build my house around my bathroom and I did. It's my pride and joy, my oasis of health and cleanliness where I can soak my daily aches away. ( and feel good about what's washing down the drain!)

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The Eclectic Ark