Wednesday, February 27, 2013


1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup baking soda
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
Mix in a large, non-metal bowl. I re-used (and decorated!) my previous soap tub, which worked great.  Start with the vinegar and continuously stir as you add each powder.  Try to stir out and break up any clumps.  Finish with the liquid soap.  It will seem wet, like a thick paste, but keep stirring and it will begin to flake and crumble into a moist ‘powdered detergent’.  KEEP STIRRING! If you quit too early, you’ll find a very hard mass the next time you go to use it. So use them biceps and stir it to completion. You’ll end up with a sort of soft clumpy cake-y ‘loaf’, that will easily crumble off for use.
If you use plain non-scented castile soap, you may add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
Store in a lidded container and use about 1/4 cup per load.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Trying a Little Organic Gardening this Year? It's Time to Plant Your Onion Seeds Indoors.

Want to grow some sweet organic onions from seed this year? (You can buy the seeds now at Art Knapps). It's so easy! February or early March is the time to start them indoors. You can also sew them directly outdoors into your garden from purchased onion sets in April.

To start onion seedlings indoors, fill a container nearly to the top with a seed starting mix and then make two furrows, about 1/2-inch deep, for the onion seeds. Sprinkle seeds in the furrows and cover them lightly with more soil mix. Label the container with the name of the onion variety. Keep the container in a warm place.
Once the onion seeds germinate, keep the young plants in a sunny south window. Keep the seedlings short and stocky by cutting the top inch or so of growth once or twice. Use the trimmings in salads, soups or sandwiches.

In late April or May, make a furrow in the garden. For more information go here:

Backyard gardening is great for the environment! If you don't have a back yard, you can grow lots of fresh vegetables successfully in pots! We will be posting a separate post about the environmental / physical and economical benefits of growing your own food in our next post.

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Bonus Facts:
West Coast Seeds has a complete chart on when to start your vegetables either in or out doors in the lower mainland of BC:

Here is a quick reference for vegetable seed starting dates in February for Vancouver!

  • Direct sow:-broad beans, radishes and peas in the garden.
  • Start Indoors:-celery, leek, sweet onion, parsley and peppers

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Green Tip of the Day!


If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling up. Twenty million trees are cut down every year just for the manufacture of paper cups. Invest in a reusable cup, which not only cuts down on waste, but keeps your beverage hot for a much longer time. Most coffee shops will happily fill your own cup, and many even offer you a discount in exchange!
 Paper coffee cups and other disposable containers make up 18 percent of America's garbage. Replacing paper coffee cups with reusable mugs can help reduce waste and environmental impact. 
  If you grab your coffee on the go, you create a lot of waste for that coffee-loving habit. Even if you try to go the green route and recycle your cups, those disposable coffee cups aren’t as recyclable as you might think. Come on, java-lover! If you haven’t started using your own reusable tumbler for your daily coffee, why not? These reasons should convince you.

1. In a word: Styrofoam

Americans throw away about 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you do anything to eco-ize your coffee routine, do this one: Resist grabbing a Styrofoam cup to hold your morning brew.
This bad boy is the worst-of-the-worst when it comes to disposable coffee cups. Made from polystyrene, a type of plastic derived from petroleum, Styrofoam cups never fully degrade. That Styrofoam cup you drank your favorite brew out of this morning will still be around 500 years from now.

2. Paper isn’t as eco as you think

Your eco-loving heart may not feel quite so bad if you reach for a disposable paper cup to hold your coffee. After all paper degrades quickly and doesn’t harm the environment, right? Unfortunately, that disposable paper cup the barista handed you isn’t made of paper only. Disposable paper coffee cups are lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic. This coating prevents your cup from turning to mush while you enjoy your favorite latte, but it also means these cups can’t be easily recycled.
Besides their difficulty to recycle, paper cups also pose a sustainability issue. Think about the energy used to simply create the cups. And, twenty million trees are cut down every year just for the manufacture of paper cups.

3. Filtered out

Although brewing a pot of java at home can save some costs on the environment (and your budget), you still create a bit of unnecessary waste with that paper coffee filter. Just think about how many filters your java addiction fuels. One a day? Two? Three? Sure, you can compost that filter, but why not stop the waste entirely? Instead, choose a reusable coffee filter for your machine.

4. Problems with plastic

We’re no fans of plastic at Organic Authority, and that includes disposable plastic cups. Even if they have a tasty iced coffee drink inside them. Most plastic iced coffee cups are made from plastic #5, which isn’t readily recyclable at many curbside-recycling programs. That means most disposable plastic cups end up clogging a landfill. It’s just not worth that caffeine jolt. If you need your iced coffee fix, bring in your own reusable tumbler to your favorite coffee shop.

5. Coffee sleeves: The unnecessary add on

Sure, coffee sleeves prevent your fingertips from burning on that piping hot coffee cup, but that’s nothing that your own reusable mug can’t handle. That little cardboard sleeve may recycle easily, but it still means pointless waste. Go sleeveless!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Environment Friendly Dishwasher Soap Recipe Saves you Money

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt (for scrubbing action)
 Use 1 Tbsp per load (you can use a heaping tablespoon if you feel the need, but we do not).
Each batch yields 24 ounces of detergent. We recommend storing in a container you were going to dispose of anyway, like an old yogurt container or coffee can you can fit it under your kitchen sink. Feel free to double the batch, or multiply to create any amount you’d like.

Fill “Rinse Aid” compartment with white vinegar:
(You can also add lemon juice as a rinse agent)




  Tips to avoid clumping

This detergent will clump because of the citric acid. Here are a few ways to make it clump less.
  • Add a tsp of rice to the detergent to help absorb moisture.
  • After combining ingredients, leave mixture out and stir several times each day for a day or two. (This is how we do it.)
  • Add 1/2 tsp. citric acid separately to each dishwasher load rather than adding it to the detergent.
Some people have had success forming blocks of detergent by using ice cube trays. We have never tried this so we can offer no help here; if you want to try it look to the comments for help.

Cost savings breakdown

Prior to making our own, we were using Palmolive eco+ liquid detergent. Here is the cost analysis:
  • borax | 76oz = 4.29 | 8oz=.45/batch
  • washing soda | 55oz = 2.19 | 8oz=.32/batch
  • citric acid | 80oz = 27.00 | 4oz=1.35/batch
  • kosher salt | 48oz = 1.99 | 4oz = .16/batch
  • total for 24 oz = $2.28/batch
  • white vinegar (as rinse agent) | 1gal = 1.79 | 4oz=.06/fill
Use 1 rounded tablespoon of this homemade detergent per load. If you feel it necessary use a heaping tablespoon, but we do not.
  • Palmolive® eco+ gel 75 ounce detergent – $3.79 – 28 loads = $0.14 per load
  • Homemade powder 24 ounce detergent – $2.28 – 48 loads = $0.05 per load
Here are the cost savings for the homemade rinse agent that goes along with this recipe:
  • FINISH® JET-DRY® Rinse Agent 4.22 ounce solution – $3.99 – 1 fill = $3.99 per fill
  • White Vinegar as a Rinse Agent 1 gallon solution – $1.79 – 1 fill = $0.06 per fill
That is a huge savings of 6650% on an effective rinse agent. Sounds too good to be true… but it is indeed true! The rinse agent costs just pennies and detergent only half as much.

Is Borax Toxic

After thorough research, I concluded borax is only as toxic as baking soda or table salt; if you ingest it in high quantities, it may make you sick. If you use it as described in our recipes, it poses no toxic threat.
Just make sure you don’t confuse Borax with Boric Acid, the two are NOT the same. Use borax (I recommend 20 Mule Team brand), steer clear of boric acid.

In 2010 the government ordered all phosphates in dishwashing detergents to be decreased significantly. But phosphate isn’t the only concern. Dish washing detergents can contain a myriad of chemicals. Surfactants, stability and dispensing aids, fragrances and colors, mildness additives, preservatives and antibacterial agents are sometimes added. In some cases these might be naturally occurring substances, but often they won’t. Some will be toxic to aquatic organisms and likely won’t be filtered out at water treatment facilities.All good reasons to use a natural dishwashing detergent.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Organic Natural Soap has a Multitude of Uses

Castile soap is a great product made of organic, vegetarian oils. Dr. Bromner’s includes water, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic hemp oil, organic jojoba oil, citric acid, and tocopherol, or vitamin E (a fat soluble chemical). It’s highly concentrated, so a tiny bit goes a long way.

It can be used as hand soap, face soap, body soap and shampoo. You can wash your clothes with it, as well as your dishes and even your food. By adding some baking soda, you can create an effective soft scrubbing cleaning paste.

I like to squirt a little in my toilets and sprinkle some baking soda, then scrub. Since I use the peppermint scented castile soap, it leaves my bathrooms smelling so refreshing after I clean my sink, toilet and floor with it. (I clean my sink and floor with a squirt of castile soap diluted by a lot of water.)

Since I’ve started cleaning my bathrooms with castile soap, I’ve been able to let my son help me out. He sprinkles baking soda in the toilet while I squirt the soap in, then we take turns with the scrub brush. I LOVE the fact that my children can help me clean and it’s not dangerous. And I love not having to worry about them accidentally exposing themselves to toxic cleaners – I doubt they would swallow castile soap, but even if they ever did, I wouldn’t have to panic.

Castile soap also naturally eliminates pests: simply squirt a mixture of castile soap and water on plants to get rid of insects.

Natural Soap Product has a Surprising Amount of Household Uses!

Want to go greener, using a great organic natural cleaner, that doesn't cost you the bank? We are going to be talking a lot about this amazing, easy to use natural product over the next few posts. Get ready to be less toxic, get back to simple basics and save more money. 

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Today's Green Tip: Use Cloth Napkins, it's so Easy!

You can plan to use pretty cloth napkins instead of paper towels
at your lunch and dinner table today. You can even use them more than once before washing by keeping them folded on place mats between meals, (so long as the meal wasn't too messy that time!)
 Well, at least it's a step in the right direction..:)..Why?

According to Natural Resources Defense Council “the paper and pulp industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any industry in the world.” Here is a quick summary of some of the issues:

Paper Manufacturing is Environmentally Harsh:
  • Stream hIt uses a lot of timber destroying wildlife habitat.
  • It’s a major generator of water and air pollution including dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals.
  • The industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming gasses.

How do we use tissue paper?

Tissue Use Our usage of tissue falls mainly into four categories; toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue and napkins. The chart at the left shows the breakdown of use in North America. With some simple behavior changes we can significantly reduce usage for paper towels, napkins and facial tissue. For remaining use, buying tissue products made from 100% recycled paper will help further. Together these will actually make a big environmental impact.

What if we used eco-friendly tissue paper habits?

By changing to eco-friendly habits we can reduce our tissue usage to Western Europe and Japan levels. That means cutting use from 50 pounds to 33 pounds per person each year. If you also bought only 100% recycled products for the remaining use, a household of four people will save the environment:

  • About 1½ live trees per year.
  • Cut water and energy used in manufacturing by more than half.
  • Eliminate the toxic dioxin used for pulp bleaching.
  • Reduce local sewer tissue waste and landfill waste.
House Smart Home Improvements continues to bring you simple, useful information about what you can do to go green. We install energy-efficient windows, doors and install furnaces and heat pumps. Call the pros, call House Smart Home Improvements today 604-585-2020

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Green Tip of the Day


By turning off your computer instead of leaving it in sleep mode, you can save 40 watt-hours per day. That adds up to 4 cents a day, or $14 per year. If you don't want to wait for your computer to start up, set it to turn on automatically a few minutes before you get to work, or boot up while you're pouring your morning cup 'o joe.

By House Smart Home Improvements 604-585-2020

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Green Tip of the Day

If every household in Canada replaced one regular light bulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.
Don't like the color of light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other places where it won't irk you as much.

By House Smart Home Improvements 604-585-2020