Category Archives: Conscious Consumption

Solar Powered Fuel for Your Body!

Solar ovens and solar dehydrators are two awesome and easy ways to utilize the sun’s energy for cooking and preserving your food. They both can be built with something as simple as cardboard or if you have the capabilities and want, then you can make a sturdy structure with wood. Obviously, the options are as abundant as your creativity allows.

Dehydrators are an excellent option for storing all the excess fruit and vegetables from your spring and summer’s harvest. While freezing is an option as well, drying your food frees you from relying on an electrical appliance that has the ability to fail or shut down. The food that you dry can be kept in a sealed container, such as a glass jar, for up to a year!

Solar ovens are especially useful for those who live in an efficiency or studio. A friend I work with constantly complains about not having the capabilities to cook because she does not have a conventional oven or stove. However, living in Durango, Colorado, which is a city proud of it’s sunshiny 300-days a year, she has yet to realize that a wonderful cooking option is at her back door.

Here are a few sites to give you some insight and examples of how some solar dehydrators and solar ovens are built.

Mother Earth News: This aricle is extremely informative and gives the reader a good insight to a good solar dehydrator design.

The Farm: Here is another design that incorporates found cardboard and household items, making it easy for anyone to get creative.

Solar Cooker: This link sells different soalr cookers, but it also shows you some of the easiest ways to make a solar cooker. All you need is something reflective and you are in business.

Pizza Box: I think this may be a link for students and science fair projects, however, it still shows a good idea on a how to make a solar oven with simple objects.

My suggestion would be to build a box, with whatever you have and make sure it is sturdy. Then, find an old window at a garage sale and maybe an old screen as well. Use some rocks to place inside the box to capture some heat. Depending on where you live, you may not have to paint anything black. Just experiment and have fun and make sure your oven is not too big so you do not have a ton of heat loss. Finally, enjoy the deliciousness of a slow cooked meal under the sun.

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Renew your home’s spirit with Green Spring Cleaning!

Spring, the season of renewal and rebirth, is in full gear!  Flowers are blooming, butterflies are emerging, and love is in the air! Nature is truly looking it’s best and beckoning us to come play.  However, the grime and dust that has built up since the winter months is staring us directly in the face at home. Dust bunnies of guilt!  To get out and truly enjoy the beautiful spring weather bring some renewal and rejuvenation to your home by conducting a green spring cleaning!  With a clean and organized home you can truly enjoy the season by starting fresh and green clean. By going green with your cleaning you can save money, improve your indoor air quality and thereby improve your health, and help to protect the environment:

The Green Cleaning Triumvirate: with these 3 natural cleaners all your household needs will be covered for a very low cost!

1) Baking Soda: an all around wonder cleaner and deodorizer that can be used for a multitude of home tasks from cleaning carpet to removing stains on almost anything! It can be used to clean in the kitchen, bathroom, and all around the house.  Plus, baking soda is super cheap and never spoils! So get yourself a box of this magic stuff. Check out some great uses for cleaning with baking soda here.

2) Borax: a natural mineral based cleaner that can be used in a variety of ways around the home. Borax can be used as an abrasive for cleaning surfaces and grout, boosting laundry cleaning, to deter bugs and pests in the home (including fleas!) , and more. Check out some uses for borax here.

3) Vinegar: White distilled vinegar can be used for numerous household tasks from cleaning chrome fixtures, to getting rid of pests, disinfecting, removing lime deposits, cleaning out coffeemakers, and more!  Check out all the great uses of vinegar here.

To continue your spring cleaning journey here are some great ideas to clean and de-clutter your home the green way!

1) Clean your pipes! After a long winter your home’s pipes may need a bit of a cleaning.  To de-clog drains and pipes and to give them their seasonal cleanse use this eco-friendly recipe: Pour 1 cup of baking soda down drain followed by 1 cup of hot vinegar.  Wait 5 minutes then pour 2 quarts of hot water down drain.  To declog your disposal use the same recipe but half the amounts.

2) Get rid of old and unwanted clothes by hosting a clothing swap with friends!  A clothing swap is a great way to hang with friends, get rid of that bag of clothes you have been meaning to donate, and get some hip “new” threads for yourself.  You will feel renewed with your new recycled look :).

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Weed Eating

dandelion_1
Weeds. Most weeds are deemed weeds because they are not very pretty and they seem aggressive. However, weeds grow in disturbed areas or areas of compacted soil. We as humans have created many disturbed areas, therefore, creating a perfect habitat for weeds. There is a succession in the plant world. Weeds are the first step in this succession. They inhabit these disturbed areas, till the soil with their roots, bring in nutrients and eventually make it habitable for other plants to grow. The more we try to eradicate weeds with machines and chemicals, the more we are aiding an area for weeds to thrive.

I must say, there are some weeds that are aggressive. The cattle industry has seemed to create the weed list due to the assumption that it is harmful to their livestock or simply that the livestock or wildlife will not eat these weeds. True, there are some that are toxic to livestock and wildlife, however, there are several household plants that are toxic to animals and children. Most of the weeds on this noxious weed list are edible or medicinal plants! If we could figure out a way to harvest these plants for their use and to keep their numbers under control then I think a harmony can be created.

Dandelions are everywhere. I remember how fun it was to make a wish on a dandelion. Their flowers, when sucked, have a hint of honey. Their leaves, when eaten in a salad, are a bit bitter, but full of vitality. The great thing about eating these weeds from your yard or local park or a friend’s home, is the vibration you get from eating something fresh and straight from the ground. Nothing is lost in transporting it from some country to your local grocer. You will vibrate.

Dandelions are one of the most popular liver revitalizers. The root makes an excellent tea, and has a cooling quality that an inflamed liver would truly appreciate. Dandelion is a source of potassium, sodium, calcium, iron and phosphorus. The leaves are a richer source of Vitamin A than carrots. The root contains bitter glycosides, tannins, triterpenes, sterols, volatile oil, choline, asparagin and inulin. Anything that is bitter or considered a bitters is good for your liver and digestion!

So, this little weed, we all are sure to know, is jam packed with vitamins and minerals and cleansing properties. Imagine what else we could be eating from our yards or parks; as long as nothing is being sprayed. There is a whole garden available, which needs no tending or planting. How much easier could it be?

Here is a recipe for Dandelion Pesto, provided by Turtle Lake Refuge in Durango, Colorado.
1 cup cashews, pine nuts or walnuts
3 cups chopped dandelion greens
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups chopped basil or oregano
3 cups sorrel greens
3 cloves garlic
2 lemons, juiced
1 tsp, sea salt
1 cup divine water

Blend and add to anything and enjoy! Be open to mixing up the recipe. I just used what I had at home and made it according to my own taste.

Enjoy!

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Scoobie Snack!

Homemade Dog Food

So Nate and I have finally made the plunge and commitment to adopt a dog. I am more than thrilled. We are big advocates of home-cooking for ourselves, so we have also always been intrigued by making our own dog food. I know we can definitely add more lovin’ to our homemade batches than the store bought. Plus, we are hoping that it is an economical option. From the recipes I have researched, it seems like some of our items can come from the bulk section in our local grocer. There are a slew of recipes on the internet and in raw cookbooks. This is just a basic breakdown. It is noted that dogs need 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 30% starch. Protein can be eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish or pork. Starch can be rice, pastas, potatoes, oatmeal and anything else you may think of, while carbohydrates are vegetables.

After researching some articles, I was led to www.bornfreeusa.org. This website is not for the faint at heart. They delve into the gruesome details of what is put into commercially made pet food. This shows why so many pets develop tumors and cancers, among other illnesses. Just to give you a taste, the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. The slaughterhouses have found a way to make a profit on their waste, which is considered “unfit for human consumption.” Some of these unfit ingredients include intestines, heads, hooves, udders, and the possibility of diseases and cancerous animal parts. Rancid meat and oils exist in pet foods. Tons of bacteria exists and is never cooked out during the processing of making pet food. Sometimes, the processing of the food, brings out more bacteria than it kills. However, the pet food market has been swimming in $15 billion annually in profit. Close to all pet food brands are dominated by a bigger entity. Nestle owns Purina, and more. Del Monte owns Meowmix, Kibbles n’ Bits ad much more. Masterfoods bought out Mars which owned Pedigree, Sheba and more. Proctor and Gamble purchased Iams Company. Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet. Private labelers who make food for Wal-Mart and Krogers are just as grotesque. They have been involved in may recalls in pet food that has killed and sickened many animals. Some of these big names are sometimes no different from each other; literally. Some have joined together to buy their ingredients in bulk, one company processes everything, because it cheaper and they slap a couple of different names on the packaging. It does not sound any different from the many issues we as humans face in our society and in our government, however, we sometimes do not look into the other products or aspects these corporations are thriving on.

What began as a simple curiosity into making dog food, turned into a world of eye opening. Sometimes things that we think we know, but once the gritty details are revealed, it tends to have a whole new impact. Therefore, I think Nate and I will stick to making homemade dog food. I do believe there are some good brands at the natural grocery stores that are aware and humane, but I think it will be fun to make our own. If you want more facts just visit www.bornfreeusa.org and they will tell you what labeling on the packaging means for you to better determine what is best for your pet.

If you already have a pet and would like to change their diet, just remember to incorporate it slowly. Start lessening what you already feed them and incorporate some homemade goodness.

Enjoy.

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Keep Earth Hour going by slaying some vampires…energy vampires that is!

On Saturday March 28, 2009 the citizens of the world stood up and called for action on climate change with a simple flip of a swtich.  All over the world people turned out their lights for 1 hour from 8:30pm-9:30pm to make a statement to the leaders of this world that it’s citizens are ready to take the challenge of climate change head on!  Check out this video from Earth Hour 2009 rolling out across the globe:

Why not make every hour Earth Hour?  Well, living without lights everyday could be pretty hard in modern society, but we can at least cut back on our energy use right?  An easy way to save energy as well as money on your monthly bills is to slay some vampires…at least the ones plugged into your house!  That’s right, I am talking about energy vampires also known as any electronic device plugged in when not in use.  Even though the device may not be ON it stills draws energy from the circuit which leads to higher energy usage and bills.  According to the EPA the average US home spends $100-$200 extra dollars a year on energy vampires.  Just think what you could do with that cash!

Some of the most notorious energy vampires include TV’s, DVD players, cell phone chargers, computers, stereos, kitchen appliances like blenders, toasters, coffee makers and microwaves. How does one slay an energy vampire?  Do you throw garlic at your TV? No way! An easy solution to stop those vampires from leeching off the planet is to plug everything into a power strip.  Then you can simply switch the powerstrip off or unplug it when not in use.  This is especially important in the home entertainment and office areas since that is where many of the really thirsty vampires leark….muahahaha.

If you are in the market for some new appliances or other electronic devices consider purchasing Energy Star qualified products.  Energy Star products meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the US EPA and the US Energy Department.  Energy Star rated products include products ranging from home appliances and electronics, to office equipment, lighting, heating and cooling products, and more.

So continue your commitment to Earth Hour by slaying those energy vampires and reap great savings for your wallet and the planet!

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Effective Microorganisms: Probiotics for the Planet and your Indoor Compost

We all hear about how great probiotics are for contributing to a healthy digestive system for humans and other animals, but could it be possible that these bacteria could have the same effect on the planet?  The company EM America has developed a series of products that utilize probiotics which offer safe, natural, and dramatic results in the areas of household uses, agriculture, health, and the environment! It is truly a cure all for the planet!

Probiotics, which comes from Greek and means “for life”, are living microorganisms that when administered to a host reap positive effects on the health of the host.  The purpose of probiotics to bring balance to the good and bad bacteria in a host.  The probiotic bacteria will reproduce until a homeostasis is met between the two.  Adding probiotic supplements to your diet is reported to have positive effects on gastrointestinal health, lactose intolerance, immune function, blood pressure, prevention of colon cancer, and more.  Now this same principle is being applied to treat the ailments of the planet.

EM America’s probiotic products can be used for everything from bio-remediation of soil that has been severely polluted, to waste water treatment, to treating odors in households and in livestock arenas, as fertilizer for gardening, as natural household cleaners, to prepare with raw foods, and more! As for urban sustainability, EM has created a product called Bokashi that is extremely helpful for those who want to compost in an urban setting but do not have a lot of space to do so, or have hesitated due to fear of odor and pests. Nobody wants their neighbor to say their house smells!

Bokashi is a fermented rice or wheat bran that has been inoculated with the EM probotic formula and is then dried and used in indoor composting containers to help food to break down quickly with less odor.  The probiotics in this miracle mix can even break down foods that many compost fans traditionally steer clear of, such as meat and animal products, due to the smell and pest issue.  This is because the Bokashi actually ferments the food waste so that there is no rancid smells!

In order to use this you need to purchase or make an indoor composting bucket.  EM America sells fancy Bokashi Buckets on their website, but you could easily make one for yourself.  All you need is two 5 gallon buckets, one lid, and a drill.  Check out this video on the EM America site that shows you how to make your own.  Once you have your bucket system, you pile the food in there, sprinkle in some Bokashi, and continue to layer food waste and Bokashi until the bucket is filled.  Let the food ferment for one week in the bucket, then after the waste has pickled you can add it to a worm bin, existing compost pile, or bury it directly in a garden with no worry of pests or smells.  It is as easy as that!  Plus, if you purchase the liquid version of the probiotic formula you can make your own Bokashi and then use the liquid for a plethora of other household applications!

So say goodbye to fear of bugs, flies, and smell in your compost and hello to a happy, healthy, and balanced system for the planet!

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Texture and Color, ooh and you can eat it too!

ELT Inc. living wall in private residence

ELT Inc. living wall in private residence

Ever since moving to Durango, Colorado, I have become fascinated with the concept of indoor gardening. I am used to being outdoors working on gardens year round in the forgiving Austin climate. Durango is another case. I am patiently waiting until April 1st, to begin my new landscaping job. In the meantime I have been filling my days trying to pursue and fulfill my creative endeavours. That is where indoor gardening came to mind. Of course. I’m sure it is old news to many people, but the only indoor gardening that I was used to were the typical spider plants and ferns found in every office and most homes. Don’t get me wrong, all plants are beautiful, and actually spider plants are one of the top plants which help purify the air. The point is, no matter how small your space, or how cold the climate, you can grow edibles and beautiful, beneficial plants in your home.

There are countless varieties, so I will mainly focus on the concept of indoor gardening. I’ll leave it up to the reader to familiarize themself with a local nursery and have some fun mixing textures and colors amongst plants and vines, edible, aromatic or just aesthetically interesting. Just be aware of which plants may be poisonous to little beings.

First of all, my intrigue was sparked with a company by the name of ELT Easy Green. Their  creation was spawned from the idea of green roofs. Some roofs are too steep to grow vegetation, so they designed a system where they pre-grew plants and implemented them on steep slopes and then walls. While many of their designs have been on the grander, high-rise scale, they have designed a smaller version for the individual.

Their walls are a cedar box frame with cubby holes. The cubby holes are formed using a recyclable black plastic call HDPE ( High Density Polyethylene). This plastic is commonly used as pond liner. It has a long life and can be recycled back into itself fully. ELT living walls are easy to install and plant yourself. Their irrigation system is simple, allowing you to pour water through an opening in the top and it filters through the cubbies, to a catchment at the bottom. The water caught, can be reused to water the plants immediately or at a later time. I wish I had invented this!

If you cannot afford a living wall system, which currently I cannot, there are still numerous, innovative ways for you to grow plants indoors. If space is limited, then vertical is the key. Vines! You can train them to follow any direction or form, or let them hang from baskets. As long as there is a window nearby that allows about five hours of light, then you are set. Some vines that are edible include peas, passionflower and runner beans.

Other indoor vines include Purple heart, pothos and many varieties of ivy. Pothos is an excellent plant and will grow vigorously with little water and medium light. You can think of vines as another decorative element to your home or apartment and train them to grow all over the walls, mirrors or doorways. I have always loved the idea of the bathroom mirror being draped in some foliage.

Most plants which are variegated are good options for indoors. They can most likely withstand more shade than the average plant. Plus, the light and dark greens and whites of their leaves offer a dramatic contrast indoors.

As for other indoor plants, herbs are excellent! Especially in a window planter. Basil, bay, thyme, sage, rosemary, dill, parsley, chives, lemon balm, mint, oregano and savory to name a few. Herbs will definitely need about five to six hours of light, so you may think of a south facing window. Plus they will need more water attention. However, to make a mojito and use fresh mint from your window garden can not be beat. Or making pasta and garnishing it with fresh basil! YUM! The aroma from the herbs alone would be well worth the effort.

For indoor plants, take care to watch their water needs and know their water needs when you purchase them. They will most likely need to be watered more often than if they were in the ground, and an organic fertilizer would be beneficial to use on them a few times a year. Know, they are not receiving the same level of nutritive recycling as if they were in the ground. So, love them and nourish them. A good way to salvage some water is to use water from your shower, before you shower. We all let the water run a bit until it gets to that desirable temperature, well in the mean time precious water is swimming down the drain. Place a bucket under the shower head while it warms up and catch that water. Then move the bucket so you can enjoy a nice wash. Another option is to use the water used from steaming or boiling vegetables like potatoes, beets or broccoli. Even from cooking pasta. Let the water cool before using it on your plants. At least this way, you can make the most of the nutrients lost in the boiling process and recycle them onto your plants!

Be creative! Use anything for planters, just make sure the containers are big enough and do not leach out toxins. Do not use anything painted or stained. Although, you may use old plastic bottles, cans, water troughs from the feed store, terra cotta pots or make wood planters. Yes, the wood will eventually deteriorate, but not for a few years. You may also line it with some pond liner if you can salvage a bit and extend the life of the wood. Wine barrels! Not only are they excellent to use as a rain barrel, but they can be used as a mega planter! Look up a local winery and see how much they’ll sell their old barrels. I’ve inquired and the price was always pretty agreeable. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom of your containers. Plants do not like to be soggy, well at least not these plants.

I hope with spring approaching that this will inspire some people to bring some color and life into their homes, despite the square footage. Being innovative with your plant purchases and designing where they go is definitely a fun spice up your space and beat out any winter blues.

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