Protect your family and the environment with nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products

An average home generates over 25 pounds of toxic, hazardous waste each year.  Much of this waste can be attributed to household cleaning products.

The EPA says that only a fraction of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through testing for human health concerns. More than nine out of ten suspected poison exposures occur at home with household products.

According to a 15 year study, women who work at home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than those who work away from home.  The study concluded that this was a direct result of the increased exposure to toxic chemicals, many of which are found in common household products.

If there is only one thing you can do: You can make a positive impact on the planet as well as the health of your family and your budget by using nontoxic, concentrated, biodegradable green cleaners in your home. It is possible for the average household to eliminate 108 pounds of packaging waste from landfills, and 248 pounds of greenhouse gases.  That’s the equivalent of planting 10 trees!

Take small steps: Baking soda is a non-toxic cleanser that is safe enough to eat. Begin your switch to green cleaners by trying baking soda in place of cleanser for cleaning your kitchen or bathroom sink this month.

Inner simplicity: So when you start to run out of some of your cleaning products, research the market for safe, non polluting green products.  And when you go outside and look at our beautiful mountains, lakes and streams, you can feel good about doing your part to keep God’s creation clean and green.

Outer simplicity: Toxic products create air and water pollution during manufacture and use.  Nontoxic, concentrated biodegradable cleaners have less of a negative impact on drinking water and the air we breathe in the U.S and around the globe. By switching to nontoxic cleaning products you will be loving your neighbor as yourself.


Great Green Gifts!

I have read many, many blogs and posts about making gifts this season and keeping your purchases local.  Here are some ideas of places to scour and things to make that may save you time, money, and will keep your dollars here in our area…

Freecycle Asheville— you can post what you are looking for or what you wish to give.

Trash Inc. Asheville— same as above, but with a store front! Get creative with stocking stuffers


Other Impressive Ideas……..

  • Cookies are a welcome gift– try a different take on traditional sugar cookies with almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or citrus flavorings….adding fresh spices adds lots of healthy vitamins and minerals…try to get your ingredients from local providers (eggs, butter, milk, etc.)
  • Potpurri: use stems and leaves from woody herbs, add some dried citrus slices and some essential oil….make a pouch from fabric scraps and voila!
  • Bath Salts or Scrub: I enjoy making sugar scrubs- mix up and fill a clean sterile jar (great way to reuse funny sized jars) …recipes abound on the ‘net…I use brown sugar, granulated, and raw sugar to create a soft exfoliant
  • Farm Share:Check through Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture or our Buncombe County extension office to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture share; maybe with other family members or some friends and neighbors
  • Look for local: local jams, jellies, and honey would be a welcome gift for someone with little to no access to a farmer’s market….include a few simple ways to use each product
  • Get a Haircut: a great gift for the man or woman who has everything….a gift certificate for a simple hair or beard trim from a local small business

Stocking stuff-ing….

  • Socks. everyone needs them.  Buy some hand knit socks (or make them brave souls!), or find some made with certified organic fibers- maybe fair trade
  • Toiletries & Other Miscellaneous: if you have been wanting to switch from plastics and other chemical products, here is your chance! Give wooden toothbrushes, or tooth powder, homemade deodorant, dish cloths (hide the paper towels 😉 ), fabric sandwich bags, reusable grocery bags, decorate a plastic container and give a compost bucket 9love the reuse here)
  • Mind your beeswax: Making lip gloss is actually easy to do. There are recipes on the ‘net of course….beeswax is a great moisturizer and it supports the Bee Industry

What fun ideas do you have for stretching your dollar and keeping it local this season???


Advent Decorating Ideas—- Go Native!

Why not use the bounty of our natural Western North Carolina landscapes to bring inside the anticipation and excitement of this special season?

There are so many different plants that work well in vases, on tables, tucked into a wreath, or even above door frames or windows.  Use matte or shiny spray paint as a fixative- clear or a color- they even make sparkly ones 😀 …often I find this to be a more cost effective and time saving solution to specific craft products.

IMPORTANT! If you have small children and/or pets, please review theses items (or any others you are new to) with the Buncombe County Extension Office or the Poison Control Center.  Some berries and leaves may cause serious trouble if ingested. Here is another list for NC

Okay- ready to get creative???

  • Decorate your tree stand: A landscape bucket would work (large enough to place the tree stand inside, or rig a different plan for watering)–spray with spray paint color of choice and attach bark to cover outside….or use twigs to create a vertical emphasis.

** You can also do this to vases or other containers**

  • Deck the Halls: or wherever…. use white pine and other evergreen pieces to create a table topper, runner on a sideboard, or if you are really handy— use heavy duty glue or a glue gun to attach pieces of greenery to a rope or chain, then wind around railings or banisters.
  • Presents! Use small leftovers of greenery with berries to tuck into a bow for gift giving

Here is a list of plants I thought of that are nice to bring in this season: (Ask before cutting!)

  • Ferns
  • Magnolia branches
  • Cotoneaster berry
  • Sumac tree leaves
  • Birch bark and branches or limb pieces
  • Lichen
  • Nandina berry
  • Pinecones
  • Smooth rocks
  • any evergreen
  • Holly branches
  • English Ivy (great way to prune this guy!)

What are your ideas? What plants do you love to use?

Happy Advent everyone!



Tips & Tricks: Reader Submissions

Thanks to fellow Creation care giver, Leslie Brenegar and Good Housekeeping for these ideas….

1. “Take Leave of your Leaf Blower: Using a gas powered leaf blower for 1 hour can emit the same amount of carbon monoxide as driving a car 224 miles….and can spew ELEVEN TIMES the exhaust particles…………if you rake you can burn 300 calories or more 🙂 ”

2. “Plastic Bags: You can recycle more than plastic shopping bags in the bins provided at grocery, drug, and big-box stores. Most take any clean film made of #2 or #4 plastic, including dry cleaning, bread, and newspaper bags….AND the wraps from bulk snack and water-bottle cases…..AND from toilet paper, napkins and paper towels.  They are not able to take: salad bags, cling wrap, frozen food bags. For more info, see plasticbagrecycling.org

3. Natural Beauty for hands and feet…. I HAVE TRIED THIS AT HOME and it is really easy and very inexpensive.  The down side is that it can be messy.

Ingredients: Kosher salt (or any coarse salt) AND/OR Raw sugar (or a little granulated) add to this a smidge of olive oil (or grapeseed oil or almond oil if you are fancy 😉 ), and you have a nice Foot (and Hand) scrub.

* this works with either salt or sugar, or with a mix of both.  I tend to use about a 1/2 cup of salt with 1/8 cup sugar….the sugar gets melt-y in the olive oil and is a really nice addition

Method: I soak my feet together in a bowl of water as hot as I can stand, then one at a time, I scoop a small handful of the salt/suagr mixture (maybe 2 Tbs.) and gently rub around the foot including the heel and even ankle. Hold your foot over the water bowl- here’s the mess- the salt can tend to splatter around so I keep a large beach towel under the whole setup and then shake it outside when I am through.….P. S. dogs love this part, so watch their proximity or they may overload on daily salt intake  🙂

TWO FOR ONE:  You exfoliate (salt/sugar) AND moisturize (olive oil) I like to follow up with a shea butter lotion (greasy- so wear old socks) ….any lotion will be nice, put on some cotton socks, and let your feet moisturize.

OPTION: leave a small amount if left by the kitchen sink for a quick hand exfoliant


Tips & Tricks: Food + Face

I have been following the blog of a super fun lady…..her blog is CRUNCHY BETTY.  I like to follow her articles- and I have passed on bits of her ideas to you….I also have tried most of the recipes she recommends.  Her posting recently was based on a couple of manuscripts written in 1779 & 1609.  (Go to her blog for the full story–it’s awesome).

Anyway, she share this scan of 2 pages:

How neat is that?  For me, it validates the return to our ancestors’ cleaning methods; and here is why:  Recipes very similar to those (minus a few hard to find ingredients) are still used today– by me and by many others who read Crunchy Betty.

Here is an example from her site:

“16. To help a face that is red or pimpled”

“Dissolve common Salt in the iuyce of Lemmons, and with a linnen cloth pat the patients face that is full of heat or pimples. It cureth in a few dressings”.

“Does this translate today?: yeah! One of the most well-known home remedies for getting rid of pimples is lemon juice, and even though salt is reported as comedogenic, I’ve read hundreds of reports from acne sufferers that this exact remedy works for them today”. 

IF YOU TRY THIS, be sure to dilute the lemon juice with water and only add more lemon juice after you determine a comfortable level.  Citric acid is strong and may sting in concentrated amounts.  As with all food on the face recipes, ingredient amounts vary depending on your skin type and what you are after (just like in your spaghetti sauce) 🙂  You can also try a paste of apple cider vinegar and a dab of baking soda.

So there you have it- we are not crazy.  Our foremothers were unable to buy Clearasil® which is full of these ingredients:

Water Diluent
Glycerin Solvent
Myristic Acid None
Stearic Acid Thickener
Palmitic Acid Other
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate Other
Lauric Acid Other
Potassium Hydroxide pH Adjuster
Fragrance / Parfum Fragrance
Isoceteth-20 None
Triclosan Other
Pentasodium Pentetate Complexing/Sequestering Agent
Tetrasodium Etidronate Complexing/Sequestering Agent
Menthol Flavor – Active
Caprylic Acid Other
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Other
Maltodextrin None
Capric Acid None
Sodium Hydroxide pH Adjuster
Sodium Benzoate Preservative
Potassium Sorbate Preservative


Or…… you can use Lemon Juice which is full of these:  Citric Acid.  The other nice part of using Lemon is that it is at most $0.50 to $1.00.

And, remember, lemon juice is a powerful cleaning agent too.  A few drops with vinegar and water can help to cut grease.

One other ingredient mentioned by the Great Great Great+ Ladies is Sweet Almond Oil.  I ordered some form a reputable online source and used it to pieces.  It is wonderfully absorbent on the skin and makes a great addition to any face mask, hand lotion, etc. you may make.

So try to research and put some food on your face.  It’s less expensive, and more importantly, as with my stance on grocery items- you can understand all of the ingredients.

Want some great food ideas? Leave a comment or contact Penny Gibbs.