Author Archives: laurawolfram

multitasking baking soda

One of the tiny ways in which I’ve been greening up my lifestyle recently is by weaning myself from toxic cleaners like Formula 409 and Fantastik, and making my own eco-friendly cleaning fluids instead.  Baking soda and white vinegar have become my good friends in this venture.  I’ve been scouring the kitchen and bathroom surfaces with baking soda and hot water, rinsing the sink and bathtub drains with baking soda, vinegar, and a kettle of boiling water, and dumping a half cup of baking soda in with most of my laundry.  A solution of vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice is also good for mopping the floor — though I’ve found that in general, hot water is also pretty good at wiping away most of the grime, even in the kitchen.

I have yet to replace my dish soap with a less toxic version, however, so if anyone has suggestions,  please share.  I know there are plenty of environmentally-friendly commercial products available (in fact, my local grocery store seems to have an entire shelf devoted to them), but I’d rather try something homemade, since it’s not only cheaper but also won’t generate as much plastic waste.

Also, I’m going to start using rubbing alcohol or a hydrogen peroxide solution instead of Ajax to scrub the litterbox (one of the few places in my home that definitely does need an antibacterial treatment from time to time).

As some of you already know, I’ve also been using baking soda in lieu of shampoo and deodorant (it works, really!), but that’s a subject for another post, I think.

-by laurawolfram

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How to do your laundry in the bathtub.

Motivated more by penury than environmentalism, I recently decided to start washing all my clothes by hand. Towels, sheets, and blankets still go to the laundromat, since they’re too unwieldy to rinse and dry in the confined space of my little NYC apartment. Otherwise, I’ve kicked the washer and dryer habit, which is good, since both machines eat electricity like candy.

Feel like giving handwashing a try?

You will need:

  • a large plastic or — better yet — metal bucket
  • a bathtub
  • laundry detergent (I like Seventh Generation)
  • a laundry line, either in the bathtub itself, or anywhere else that’s convenient for you

1) Fill the bucket about halfway with your dirty clothes, packed loosely. Dump in the appropriate amount of detergent, fill the bucket with warm water. Allow the clothes to soak for at least ten minutes.

2) Take a shower. Wash, scrub, exfoliate, condition — do whatever you normally do in the shower. While you’re doing all this, stomp on your laundry to agitate it and force the soap through the fabric. You can also use a washboard during this stage, though I don’t think it’s really necessary.

3) When you’ve finished your shower, empty the laundry bucket and wring out the clothes. Fill the bucket about halfway with cold water, and then pound the hell out your clothes so as to remove as much soap as possible. Rinse, refill, repeat. Unless you’ve used way too much detergent, the rinsing process shouldn’t take more than a bucket or two of cold water.

4) Wring out your laundry, hang it up to dry. My laundry line suction-cups itself to the tiles of my bathroom wall, so that I can let my clothes drip-dry right over the tub.

Addendum: To shrink denim back to its proper size, soak it for five to ten minutes in very hot water. No tumble-drying necessary!

by laurawolfram

a bright idea

One easy way to cut down on your home energy use: replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. CFLs need far less electricity to produce the same amount of light as their incandescent counterparts, and as an added bonus, they last much longer, too. You can read more about them here and here.

I held out against CFL bulbs for a long time, erroneously associating them with the unpleasantly harsh light cast by standard-size fluorescent bulbs. Yet when I finally installed 23-watt (equivalent to 100-watt incandescent) n:vision CFL bulbs in my bathroom and bedroom last week, I was pleasantly surprised. The bulbs give off a warm, buttery light — just as good, if not better, than their energy-sucking predecessors.

Major retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart now carry compact fluorescent bulbs, as do many neighborhood drugstores and grocery stores. Alternately, you can search for a store near you using Energy Star’s store locator feature.

by laurawolfram

Be afraid.

Global warming isn’t a conjecture. It isn’t a possibility, a theory, or a distant prospect. It’s a fact. It’s happening right now, and it’s happening fast.

Sea levels are rising. Glaciers and ice caps are melting. Around the world, temperatures are creeping noticeably upwards. If this trend continues, Earth’s inhabitants can look forward to stronger and more frequent hurricanes, some catastrophic flooding, a spike in insect-borne diseases like malaria and encephalitis, and a whole host of other nasty side-effects by the end of the current century, if not earlier.

Worried? You should be.

It’s not too late, though! Though small changes in our own lifestyles, as well as some thoughtful political action, we can halt this impending disaster. The contributors to this blog will narrate their recent efforts — both big and small — to save the planet.