Friday, 27 April 2012

Is your bathroom a toxic waste dump?

This month I have been preparing for a healthy eating overhall. Although generally as a rule we eat really well, there are some tweaks that can be made to kick start our winter!

As part of this lifestyle change I have been peering into my bathroom cupboards and I have to say I discovered a minefield in there. I do have the natural toothpaste and skincare , however, the nasties I found in my makeup bag were, I have to say, a little overwhelming. So as much as it pains me to do so, I have set about greening up my bag of tricks!

Which leads me to this months challenge - What can you change this month to 'Green' up your bathroom cupboard?

Take a peek, make a list and source some changes. Don't rush - just make better choices each time you run out of supplies, and hopefully we can all have 'cleaner' bathrooms by the end of this year... Well cleaner cupboards anyway, I don't know if it will get me any closer to scrubbing that shower!!

Some of our favourites

 SOTO skincare is so divine, check it out HERE. I often catch my husband lathering his hands after work. A little goes a long way, last for ages and certified organic.

The Sanctum Organic Skincare range is priced really well, has a great family story behind it, and has a comprehensive range of products for guys and girls.
See some examples HERE.

Goodluck guys I'll let you know how I go!

Monday, 12 March 2012

What's in your sunscreen?

Have you ever considered what's in your sunscreen? Australians are all very aware of the risks of sun cancer, with sunscreen part of our every day life. But do we really understand what the differences are between natural and chemical sunscreen?

In short there are two types of sunscreen available: chemical and natural.
  • Chemical sunscreens are designed to absorb ultraviolet (UV) rays, these sunscreens absorb into the skin and are made with nanoparticles.
  • Natural sunscreens use the active ingredient zinc oxide to form a barrier between the skin and the sun and are not absorbed into the skin, rather they sit as a layer on top for protection.

What are Nanoparticles anyway?

Nanoparticles are basically very small particles of metal oxide which are invisible to the skin. They are manufactured smaller versions of chemicals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sunscreens are used widely, especially as they are invisible and often considered more attractive than the white zinc nose! 

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been used in sunscreens for many years, but as larger particles. Now that they have been reduced to 'nanoparticles' this is where the concerns arise. As it has been suggested that the smaller particles are able to be absorbed through the skin. These nanoparticles produce 'free radicals' which are linked with the formation of cancer.                          


There are other chemicals contained in your sunscreen that can cause adverse reactions as well.
  • Oxybenzone, is an endocrine hormone disruptor and is absorbed through the skin. This, it has to be said, is being phased out by manufacturers, however, it is well worth checking the label. 
  • Parabens are a group of chemicals that are used as a preservative. They are considered to be hormone disruptors as well, which interfere with how hormones function in the body.
Now, the jury is out on whether 'free radicals' are produced, or even if sunscreens with nanoparticles are absorbed into the skin. But I firmly believe that any suggestion that a product may be linked with cancer, alter hormonal function or be absorbed into our bodies with adverse effects has to be treated with some scepticism. 
Studies are inconclusive but they are ongoing, so expect to hear more about this very important issue in the coming years! 

Image courtesy of Sam Spratt on Flickr.

What are your 'mail' habits?

There are heaps of things we can do to make our homes greener more efficient places. Turning lights off, watching your water use, recycling the list goes on. But sometimes it's the small things that we can easily overlook that can really make a difference.

Ok so I will come clean, it came to my attention the other day that I had completely overlooked our mail. I had done the usual junk mail ban but had not looked at our printed bank statements! I realised we had folders filled with them. So I set about fixing my HUGE oversight.
Now I will say that this is easy enough to say but harder to pull off when it comes to doing the tax quarterly. I am still considering how we can get around this but for the moment it has all been shifted to email and online while I consider some options.

So this months challenge you ask?
 'Check your mail habits'.
Have a look at all your mail, can it be changed to online statements or catalogues? Mostly you can go online and change your preference yourself to save you waiting on the phone. You will be surprised once you start digging around!
Fresh ideas welcome on how you manage your mail and waste!

Have a great March

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Eco products save you money!

Ecover have you heard about it? Don't worry you are seemingly not alone...
Well it's far from new, in fact it has a 30 year history of creating a range of environmentally friendly, safe and biodegradable cleaning products made from plant based ingredients supplied throughout the world these days.
At the risk of this sounding like a paid advert, which it is not I might add, I will share a little background. For a few years my family and I lived in the UK, so while restocking our eco cleaners we discovered a huge range of eco cleaning products including Ecover, that were well priced and best of all performed perfectly.
When we arrived home I discovered that it was virtually impossible to find any of the brands we had been using overseas and quite frankly the ones we could find were largely unaffordable.  Ecover and other environmentally friendly products are available throughout Europe, are readily accessible and not over priced, in fact they compete with the mainstream market very well. They are actually sold throughout the supermarket chains alongside their petrochemical counterparts!
So why is this not the case here? Earlier this morning I was chatting with one of my suppliers in relation to a couple of brands and we discussed just that. Money talks and unless the eco friendly brands can get a higher market share, it will always be difficult to get the average consumer to reach a little deeper into their wallets for a 'green' alternative. Look I get it, which is why I started my own eco website in an attempt to supply green household products at competitive prices. 
 I firmly believe that there remain a lot of skeptics out there who simply don't believe that you can be 'green' and really 'clean'. To be honest I feel like I am banging my head against the wall some days. But the evidence is there, they are competing in the cleaning stakes with the mainstream market. Lets face it the leading brands are hardly going to lay over and let them in without a fight are they. 
At the risk of chewing your ear off I will finish off by saying this. We all need to think a little bit harder about what we are using and what damage it is doing to the environment every time you wash the clothes, clean that toilet or turn on the dishwasher. Not to mention your families health and wellbeing!
Have a think about it...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Preserving Oven Roasted Tomotoes

Felt like kicking my heels together today...the tomatoes are here and RIPE! This is by far my favourite time of year. A couple of years ago when suffering from a serious glut of tomatoes, I came up with the idea to oven roast them and preserve to keep for the year. Too be honest there are no hard and fast rules, I just tend to guide myself by quantity of fruit and what herbs I have going.  I will admit you don't get that much bang for your buck, but it is all worth it when you crack open that jar in a month or few!

Cut your tomatoes either in half or to a size which suits.
Put them into a bowl, add dried oregano, finely chopped basil and season well.
Mix gently to avoid mushing tomatoes add a splash of Balsamic or Sherry vinegar.

Set your trays out with cake racks on top. ( You can just use baking paper directly onto tray if you like).
Place tomatoes onto rack evenly spread, and place into oven for roasting.

Roast at around 180 degrees, just keeping an eye out that they don't burn. Usually in my oven about 15 to 20 minutes.

While tomatoes in the oven put clean jars and the lids into boiling water to sterilise. Once jars have been boiling for a few minutes carefully remove from water being sure not to touch or contaminate lid or inside of jar.

When choosing jars ensure they are clean reasonably new and don't have plastic rings. You are looking for jars that have the dent in the lid that makes the 'pop' when you open the seal.

Once tomatoes are ready spoon into jars ensuring there are no pockets of air. Just tap jar lightly on the bench to push down the fruit. When jar full pour some good olive oil over the top. You should only need a small amount if jar filled, pop the lid on tightly.

Now for preserving, we have a 'fowlers unit', but this is not essential. A boiling pot of water will do the same trick. Place the jars into the pot or unit so that the water is almost at the top but not covering the lid, bring to the boil.  Special note, this is not about cooking the fruit but sealing the jar so 5 minutes or so is usually enough at boiling point.

When you're done carefully remove from water and allow to cool. After a month or so the tomatoes will have marinated and be ready for eating. These tomatoes are great on sandwiches, salads or on a cheese platter with some tzatziki and crackers.
Store in cool dark place and enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sick of that skyrocketing Electricity Bill?

I know we have all heard the news: turn stuff off and it will save you money. But there is more we can do than just that. This month I have put together a few ideas to get you motivated and looking around your home
Check it out and make a wish list if you need to. Most of all remember small changes can make BIG differences. Make sure you keep me posted!!

Turn it OFF and Save:
1. Ok I am going to say it: turn everything OFF! Things like game consoles, televisions, computers, printers the list goes on... All of these sap energy out increasing your power bills.

Cracks and Gaps:
2. Check your home for gaps and cracks that allow cool or warm air to escape. You can SAVE up to 45 per cent on heating and cooling energy with roof and ceiling insulation. ( Check for indoor leaks along the edge of flooring, walls and ceiling. Here's a few more spots to check:                          

  • Window frames
  • Baseboards
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall or window mounted air conditioners

3. Check your light bulbs. The government website states " The cost of running a light is directly related to the wattage of the globe plus any associated ballast or transformer. The higher the wattage, the higher the running cost". Where possible switch to light emitting diodes (LED) lights, or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) these lights are the most energy efficient, last longer and use much less energy. A little more expensive yes, but you get much more 'bang for your buck', as they say!

4. The electricity and gas that we use to run our appliances increases our greenhouse gas emissions. A way to reduce these emissions that are harmful to our environment is by choosing energy efficient appliances.                                            
Most appliances in Australia have an 'Energy Rating Label' to help compare how much electricity the product uses against other appliances. A 'Gas Rating Label' can be found on gas heaters, ducted heating and gas water heaters. In short the higher the star rating the more money on energy bills you can save.
Now once again you may find that the highest rating products are more expensive, but choosing a cheaper product with fewer stars could end up costing you more in the long run.

Hot Water Systems:
5. The average Australian household can use around a quarter of its total energy on heating water, so it's important to use an efficient system that suits your needs. Using an efficient system is a great way to reduce your energy costs and your environmental impact.

Have a great month

Monday, 30 January 2012

'Recycle, Reuse, Reduce'.
To get started we need to look at our general household waste.  Have a look at your waste over the next week and assess just what portion is recycling, what you can reuse and what you might reduce!

After you have had a good look are there any changes you can make? I think one of the most important things about managing our waste is having somewhere to put it. Councils these days will mostly offer 3 bins General Waste, Glass & Plastic's, or Paper and Cardboard.

If like me you live in a rural area with no waste management services, it really comes down to your own motivation I am afraid. We have three wheelie bins and recycle everything. Our kitchen waste is shared between the worm waste system, compost and the chook's. The kitchen has 2 scrap bins which can be emptied a couple of times a day depending on what we are doing. We freeze any meat scraps and take out on the tip run. This means that our kitchen rubbish bin only contains what can not be recycled or reused. It can takes us a few weeks to empty our kitchen bins.

Compost bins: Composting is like gardening it can be as big or as small as you like. The Bokashi bin is just an example of a compost bin designed for the urban kitchen, fantastic solution for apartment living.
Have a look here

The key about this months challenge is to get you thinking. I am not suggesting that we all run out and buy a compost bin, but go about our rubbish with a bit more food for thought!

Looking forward to hearing how your going. Keep me posted on Facebook and Twitter