The Many Great Green Uses for White Vinegar

February 4th, 2011

It was about 10,000 years ago now that some clever soul stumbled across a discovery that would change lives forever. Wine was already a big hit all over the world, but then someone let some of it oxidize – and bingo, vinegar was born. The ancient Greeks and Romans used copious amounts of the stuff as a preservative and the Ancient Chinese drank it as a health tonic (must have had quite the strong stomachs those Ancient Chinese)

The magic ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid. And while there are lots of different types of vinegar available these days for purposes other than adding to food white vinegar is by far the most useful. White vinegar has dozens of household applications, and the best part is that it’s green. Here are just a few of the ways you can put a $1 bottle of white vinegar to great, green use:

Cleaning Uses – There are plenty of ways white vinegar can be used around the house as a great cleaning agent. This is something that appeals to many people as they look for a way to not only save on the cost of cleaning products but use less chemicals around their home. Here are some of them:

  • You can clean and deodorize a garbage disposal by mixing one part white vinegar with one part baking soda and just putting it down the drain. Simply then let the fizzy mixture sit for about 15 minutes before flushing with plain warm water.
  • The steam created by boiling a bowl filled with water and a few teaspoons of white vinegar can loosen caked on food stains and get rid of lingering food odors.
  • If accidental water condensation marks are marring your wood table you can use equal parts of white vinegar and vegetable oil. Just make sure you rub in the direction of the grain and that next time you remember to use coasters!
  • Why use bleach on grimy grout when a little white vinegar scrubbed in with old toothbrush does a much better job?

Clothes – White vinegar can also work wonders on laundry day to:

  • If you spray white vinegar on an item of clothing stained with antiperspirant before you wash it then the stain will come right off.
  • Just adding a cup full of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the wash can brighten and freshen your laundry better than any bleach.
  • If chewing gum has been accidentally stuck onto clothing or upholstery you can remove it quickly and easily by dabbing with white vinegar until it loosens.

Outdoor Use

  • You can keep your car windshield virtually frost free all winter long just by wiping them down occasionally with a three-to-one vinegar-water mixture.
  • If you have a years old bumper sticker that is refusing to budge spray it with neat white vinegar,leave it to sit for an hour or so and you should then find that the bumper sticker peels right off (and about time. The NKOTB are all over 40 already!)

Know of any more use for white vinegar that have not been detailed here? Share them with is at Tip the Planet, the fastest growing green wiki in the world.


Eating Well for Less

January 14th, 2011

Adding more organic food to your regular diet is not only good for you but the environment as a whole as well. Many people avoid doing so though because the extra expense this inevitably entails. Organic produce is indeed more expensive than the “other” stuff but there are ways you can cut your grocery bill in the other areas so that indulging in some delicious locally grown vegetables or uncorking a bottle of organic wine instead of cracking open another Bud will be a pleasure you can easily afford.

Nix the Takeout – It is so easy to order out rather than cook at home. Easy but very expensive. According to a recent AARP report the average American family spends a whopping 42% of its annual food budget on take out and meals prepared outside the home. Put that money back into your grocery budget and you can buy all kinds of organic treats to make some really great home cooked meals instead.

If you take the home cooking concept even further you can save even more. How about making your own pasta sauce with some fresh herbs and a can of tomatoes rather than paying $4 a jar for that store bought stuff? Or baking a few cookies rather than picking up another pack of additive filled ones on your way home?

That is of course the other advantage of preparing more food at home – you will actually know exactly what you are eating!

Eat Less Meat – This one is almost a no brainer. Meat costs far more than vegetables, beans or starches and causes more damage from an environmental stand point. Even if you can only manage to stomach a couple of meatless meals a week you will still be reducing both your carbon footprint and your grocery bill.

Grow Your Own – Even if you live in a tiny apartment you can grow some of your own produce. Tiny vegetables like cherry tomatoes and baby cauliflower do well in window boxes and for those lucky enough to have more outdoor space to work with the possibilities are almost endless. You do not have to eat all those vegetables at once though, you could try your hand at canning and preserving the fruits of your labor so that you will have a supply of organic home grown food on hand all year round.

Cut Back on the Sundries – If you sit down and really look at your last receipt a big shop at the grocery store you will almost certainly be surprised by how much you spent on items from the non food sections. This is another area where you can save big by just changing a few household habits. Go back to using reusable kitchen cloths for clean up instead of buying so many paper towels (which will save a few trees as well) and buy concentrated household cleaners instead of that big economy size that seems like a great deal but isn’t really.

Have more tips for saving both money on your grocery bill and the planet? Then share them at Tip the Planet, the internet’s fastest growing green wiki.

Is Your Game Console Eco Friendly?

December 27th, 2010

Once again this year there were an awful lot of game consoles under an awful lot of Christmas trees. Of course this systems are very different form the old Ataris and the original Nintendos. Games look more like movies and some video games are actually even good for you.

Although the pricetag and personal gaming preferences are big issues when trying to decide between the most popular video game systems, it’s important to remember that the cost of the system doesn’t end at the cash register.

The games aside (which for all three “big systems” still cost $50 and up) there is the issue of energy consumption to consider. It takes a considerable amount of juice to run these gaming systems, more in fact than you might have realized.

Not too long ago the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) decided to test the newest models of the top three gaming systems – The Sony Playstation 3, the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii- to see exactly how much energy they consumed.

To perform the test researchers played one hour of EA Sports Madden 2011 on each console. During this test the Wii was a winner in the energy efficiency stakes by a mile.

The EPRI gamers found that during that hour the Nintendo Wii used an average of 13.7 watts, the Sony PlayStation 3 used an average of 84.8 watts, and the Microsoft Xbox 360 used an average of 87.9 watts. They did note however that both the higher consuming game systems had been tweaked to reduce their energy consumption over older models of the same console. The 2007 model of the PS3 consumed 150 watts and the Xbox 360 from the same year 118.8 so improvements are being made.

If you want to cut the amount of energy your gaming console consumes you should do what many gamers often forget to do – turn the console off when not in active use, as they all still consume energy even when no active game is being played.

Green New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

December 21st, 2010

New Year’s resolutions. We all make them but far too often we all break them within weeks as well. Mark Twain once wrote “ New Years Day – the accepted time to make your annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual” and for many of us that definitely strikes a chord.

One of the biggest problems is that in making New Year’s resolutions we set the bar too high. Here are a few eco friendly New Year’s resolutions that you can make that should not be so hard to keep, but will make a difference to your life and that of the environment around you:

I Will Kick the Clutter Habit – While you are finding spots for all the new goodies you got for Christmas take the time to rid your home and your life of some of the forgotten clutter that you have accumulated over the last year.

That two sizes too big sweater you are never going to wear? Donate it to your local thrift store, it will fit someone. That cell phone that has been lying in the back of your kitchen drawer ever since you upgraded over the summer? Donate it to one of the many companies who recycle such things rather than throwing it away to rot in a landfill.

I Will Remember to Take Grocery Bags with me to the Store – The good news is that more and more grocery stores are getting more responsible and offering low cost recyclable grocery bags right at the checkout. And many of us have bought them. The problem is that we forget to take them with us the next time we go to the grocery store and still end up coming home with a trunk full of plastic bags. Getting into the habit of returning those recyclable grocery bags to the car after they have been emptied of their contents should easily solve that problem though.

I will Kill Off my Phantom Electricity Use – No, Phantom Electricity is not the name of a new super villain (although it wouldn’t be a bad one) but the term used to refer to all the electricity we all waste everyday by leaving electronics plugged in when they are not in use. If you cannot remember to turn off each appliance or gadget individually try plugging several into a power strip that you can simply flick a single switch on to turn them all off.

I will outsmart the Bottled Water Companies – You pop at least a couple of bottles of water into your purse or briefcase every morning before you leave for work and then purchase another one after you have been to gym. Add that up over the course of a week and that is an awful lot of money that you could have spent on something else as well as an awful lot of plastic bottles that will spend a long time in a landfill someplace.

Bottled water is not that special. For as much as it costs it should contain gold dust but it doesn’t. And neither does most of it come from some magical bubbling spring in some exotic corner of the world. Several bottled water brands use the same H20 that’s available for free from your faucet. So buy a water filter for your faucet if you don’t like the taste of “neat” tap water and one of those cool looking reusable stainless steel bottles. You will not only be doing the world at large a favor but your wallet as well.

Giving the Holiday Gift of an Experience

December 6th, 2010

I recently read an article decrying the giving of holiday gifts altogether. The author offered helpful suggestions for making the move and although they were indeed very good I am afraid for most of us they just wouldn’t fly – tell my significant other that they weren’t getting a Christmas gift this year as an eco friendly gesture? I’d be in divorce court. Tell the kids that Santa isn’t coming this year? Bit tough to do.Scrooge wouldn’t even have the nerve.

However I certainly agreed that we really don’t need to keep giving the types of gifts we are used to. Most of them barely ever get used, or shoved into the back of a closet. Even that great game console the kids want so badly will become obsolete in months. And all that wasted wrapping paper! So the idea of giving an experience, one of that authors suggestions, actually really appealed to me.

Of course coming up with the right experience to gift might be a bit harder than charging another tie but I actually found a site that helps a great deal. giftybox.com offers hundreds of different ‘experience gifts” that are perfect for almost any taste.

The best thing is that each “Giftybox” offers a choice of different local activities for the recipient to choose from so they are not completely stuck with your vision of what they might enjoy. From a professional family portrait to a weekend at some of the nations finest hotels to a NYC Broadway show there really is something for everyone and some gifts are less than $40.

Of course you do not have to go to a special website to pick a good experience gift. Just think about the person you are choosing a gift for. What do you know they would love to do, but never allow themselves to? It could be as simple as going out for a meal with their spouse without the kids which means a gift certificate for a restaurant and your services as a personal babysitter will probably be the best gift they get all season, leaving the others in shade.

Facing Up to the Biggest Challenge To Environmental Awareness

December 3rd, 2010

If you ask the “experts” what is the biggest challenge facing the environmental protection movement as a whole these days is and you will get a thousand different answers. But there really is one challenge far greater than all the others combined – public awareness.

The sad fact is that too many people simply don’t care. Many rationalize this disinterest in the world around them as OK because they are too busy, or that their lone actions cannot make a difference (the same rationale they use for not exercising their right to vote either) They don’t seem to realize that they are a part of the environment themselves and that everything that goes on in the world around them does have (or will have) a direct impact on their own lives in the end.

But just like voting, every individual action does have an impact, even if it is seemingly very small. And that is what Tip the Planet is all about. The people who contribute there are not, on the whole, “qualified” eco experts. They are just normal people who have picked up some tidbit or another of knowledge, some simple way to live a more environmentally conscious life and take a few minutes every once in a while to share it. They are people like you.

However small you may think your tip is please share it. And then take a few minutes to read what others have shared. Improve it if you like and join in the conversation (there are lots of helpful tutorials to show you how). Then tell a few friends about it and encourage them to do the same. Every action really does count – even if it is “just” sharing that old herbal cold relief remedy that your Granny used to swear by or that neat little trick you found for clear skin using ingredients from your refrigerator.

Holiday E Cards that Do More

November 24th, 2010

This is going to sound rather Grinch like, so apologies in advance, but personally I hate holiday cards. It’s not that I have anything against chubby little Christs in mangers, or jolly fat Santa and his nasally enhanced friend Rudolph. I simply can’t stand all that waste.

Did you know that forty percent of the junk clogging landfills across the nation is paper waste? And considering that between Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa Americans send out a whopping 1.5 billion greeting cards in November and December annually, you can bet that a lot of that is cards that were thrown out with the tree in January. That’s why I am only going to be sending e cards this year.

Of course that stance has its critics. But I treasure those holiday cards/recycle them as gift tags/work for Hallmark, you can’t do that, it’s rude they cry.  Actually even The Emily Post Institute says it isn’t. In fact they recommend sending e cards during the holiday season calling them a “greener and less expensive” alternative.

Then there are those that will point out that e cards use up energy resources as well. Yes they do, but their carbon footprint is 1/60th that of a physical greeting card and I have to make some effort to send out some form of Seasons Greetings if I ever want my family and friends to talk to me again.

There are plenty of internet sites that offer e cards but these happen to be ones I particularly like, mainly because the cards from these sites actually do a little more than just send a holiday shout out – they actually benefit some pretty worthy causes as well.

Care2.com – Care2.com is an advocacy site that solicits help on dozens of different issues relating to wildlife conservation, human and civil rights and general environmental issues. For each card sent during the holiday season 5% of the ad revenue to several nonprofit environmental and humanitarian organizations.

World Wildlife Fund – At their website at worldwildlife.org, the WWF offer a range of cute, animal themed holiday greetings e cards that make a change from the same old reindeer while reminding people that for some species the number of holidays they have left to celebrate may be running out.

The Hunger Site – by sending an e card from the Hunger Site(thehungersite.com) you will be making a small contribution to the health and wellbeing of children all over the world who need better food to stay healthy and thrive.

You can even go a step further than the free e cards and make a charitable contribution in your recipient’s name, then send a greeting to tell them about it. It’s a holiday gift that does a bit more good than yet another tie.

Getting a Greener Christmas Tree – Eco Friendly Options for The Season

November 18th, 2010

You try to be an eco conscious consumer but you do love a Christmas tree. The good news is that that is fine, you just might want to consider one of the more eco friendly Christmas trees – both live and artificial – that are available these days.

Are Fake Trees Really Better for the Environment Than Real Ones?

Some well meaning souls, in an attempt to go green have eschewed the live Christmas tree in favor of a mass produced plastic artificial version. Unfortunately that is not the best choice in many cases. The majority of the mass produced plastic Christmas trees are made from a petroleum by-product and are not biodegradable. Worse still if they even get singed a little by the Christmas lights they will give off petroleum fumes.

Eco Friendly Live Christmas Trees

You do have several options if you really want a live tree adorning your home for the duration of the holiday season. The first would be buying a live potted tree and then finding it a nice spot in the garden after all the festivities are over. You simply have to make sure that you know how to take care of it while it is indoors, something that the nursery should be able to advise you about.

Alternately if you do buy a cut tree you can recycle it properly in January.Pickyouownchristmastree.org has some great advice for just how to do that in your local area, including the contact numbers for local Christmas tree recycling programs, which many cities now boast.

Eco Friendly Fake Christmas Trees

Some people just can’t stand the idea of a live Christmas tree anyway, eco friendly or not. All those needles, all that mess. But what alternatives do you have to one of those petroleum based pretenders? Well how about redefining your basic concept of what a Christmas tree is? Design firm Buro North did and created a recycled wood Christmas tree that is a full 80% more environmentally friendly than using a live tree and to be honest is far more stylish.

You can also take a leaf out of Buro North’s book and have a go at creating your very own recycled products Christmas tree. You’ll be amazed by how creative people can get. How about a tree made from old Mountain Dew cans? Or this one, a decorative tree made from, of all things, baby food jars?

Baby Food Jar Christmas Tree

What you’ll need:

  • 33 (4 oz.) Baby food jars with lids
  • 2 strings of gold star wire garland (used to decorate packages)
  • Strand of 35 miniature Christmas tree lights
  • Gold or green spray paint
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue (dries clear not white)
  • Wire clippers
  • Sturdy box cutter

How to make it:

  1. Spray paint outside of baby food jar lids. Let dry.
  2. Hot glue the baby food jars arranging them as in photo.
  3. Using the wire clippers, cut 33 pieces of the gold star garland in about a 7″ length.
  4. Wind each piece of garland in a circle to fit inside the jars. Place in the bottom of each jar.
  5. Take each baby food jar lid and make a large “V” cut using the box knife. (see close-up photo)
  6. Screw on all the lids onto the jars.
  7. Place the first light on the string of lights through the cut in the lid of the top jar.
  8. Place the remaining lights in the jars, weaving back and forth for the rows.
  9. When you get to the last row of the tree (before the tree trunk), you will need to double up 2 lights in 2 jars in order to get the lights into the tree trunk.
  10. Plug in your tree and enjoy the beautiful light

Have more great Christmas tree tips to share? Then please do so at Tip the Planet – the fastest growing green wiki on the web.

Great Organic Wines that Won’t Break the Bank – Five for $25 and Under

November 10th, 2010

A nice glass of wine or two can be a wonderful way to relax after a hard day and there have been numerous studies published over the last several years that demonstrate a number of health benefits that can be achieved by the regular, but moderate, consumption of wine, especially the red variety.

The problem is that much of the wine that is consumed all over the planet is made from grapes that were treated with some pretty heavy pesticides, possibly negating any benefits at all. This also explains why organic wine is gaining in popularity these days.

100% Organic wine carries the USDA seal, and must be made from 100% organically grown ingredients, monitored throughout its entire production process. Wine that is simply labeled organic must meet 95% of the above standards.

If you have been thinking about giving organic wine a try but were concerned about the price, we have good news for you. Here are some great examples of delicious organic wine that won’t break the bank – because they all cost under $25.

Can Vendrell Cava Brut Reserva – This an organic bubbly that is made with Spanish white grapes, green apples, pears and believe it or not almonds. This champagne style organic wine has a slightly dry finish and goes perfectly with cheese dishes and seafood. Best of all it costs just $19 a bottle.

Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris – For those who love a good pinot this is a fabulous organic choice. Made from organic produce harvested at Ponzi’s Oregon vineyards it has a creamy texture and a fruity finish that will go with that Thanksgiving turkey perfectly as it is the perfect foil for all that meat And the accompanying rich sauces. This one will set you back a mere $17 at the cash register.

Frey Vineyards Syrah- USDA certified 100% organic grapes combine with plum, blackberry and clove flavors to create a wine that is robust, full bodied and ever so slightly tart. Great with mushroom dishes or a nice piece of pork. Priced at just $11.95 this is a real bargain that tastes wonderful as well.

Bonterra Vineyards Viognier- Resplendent with the flavors of organically grown grapes, nectarines and white peaches this is a wine that goes perfectly with healthy and hearty vegetable dishes like heirloom squash soup. A little more expensive at $25 a bottle but still wonderful value.

Coturri Winery Zinfandel- Good zinfandels are praised for light fruity tastes and this one does not disappoint. It is the perfect turkey chaser and if you close your eyes you can almost taste the California sunshine. This also retails at $25.

By the way, if you really want an eco friendly drinking experience we also found some wonderful recycled glass wine goblets – at Target of all places- for just $19.99 for four.

Greening Your Thanksgiving Celebrations

November 4th, 2010

Halloween is over, next up Thanksgiving. Here are some great tips for adding some green to the fall colors of Thanksgiving and having an eco friendly turkey day:

Remember the Three Rs – Reduce, reuse, recycle is a good mantra to live by at any time of the year, but Thanksgiving is a great time to up your efforts:

Use reusable shopping bags when out gathering ingredients for your holiday feast and reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying only as much as you need and choosing products that come in packaging that can be easily recycled.

Although they are undoubtedly easier to clean up, resist the temptation to use paper napkins and opt for the good old fashioned cloth variety instead.

If you have a backyard and you don’t have a compost bin in use yet the inevitable Thanksgiving leftovers will make a great starting point for one.

Shop Locally – Locally grown food supports your local economy, requires less fuel to reach store shelves and generally even tastes better as well since it does not have to be packaged for maximum shelf life. And consider avoiding the supermarket as much as possible, the fall in general is a great time to spend a morning at the local farmer’s market and you should be able to find the majority of the ingredients you need to create your Thanksgiving feast right there.

Celebrate Close to Home – Thanksgiving weekend is one of heaviest for highway travel in the United States, not a good thing for the environment. Wherever possible skip the holiday travel and stay out home to celebrate. If you really must travel (yes we know what mothers are like if you miss a family get together) try to do so as responsibly as possible.

If you are driving before you set out make sure your tires are all properly inflated, which makes your car more fuel efficient and see if you and other friends and family members can arrange a holiday carpool to get you all to your holiday destinations.

Remember the Reason for the Season – Thanksgiving isn’t all about football and food.  Even if you follow no particular religion, however, Thanksgiving is a good time to count your blessings, beginning with the many ways the natural environment sustains and enriches our lives.