The 4-leggers in my household are not entirely pro-bath. Our terrier mix loves life after a bath; she runs madly about the house with pure joy. During the bath, however, she looks like we’re torturing her. We’re just grateful she stands still for it because her “little brother” is a corgi-mix built for escape. He is slippery and wily when wet and groans out his woes the entire bath time. And then there is the big queen-to-rule-them-all kitty who needs regular brushing and occasional “spot cleaning” assistance with her thick double coat because one cat tongue is simply not enough to manage it all. This crew loves to sleep on the foot of our bed, so whatever dirt and smells they’ve tucked away throughout the day end up on my handmade quilts. Simple answer: regular baths, right? The double-conundrum is that good pet shampoo is ridiculously expensive, and I am also on a quest to stop buying plastic packaging (apparently, there is a rule somewhere that dog shampoo must be sold only in plastic bottles that I cannot recycle here in Oregon). Fortunately, it’s easy and inexpensive to make good homemade dog shampoo with gentle, sustainable ingredients I always have on hand.Read More
On Tuesdays in the spring and summer, I step away from my computer and into my own version of paradise. Pulling my car into a bustling central Pennsylvania farmers market, I head directly to the Jade Family Farmstand. These ambassadors of all that is local and delicious fill my bag with bright rhubarb, fragrant sorrel, and oddly delicious kiwi berries—all certified organic and grown by farmers whose growing practices are summed up in four words: First, do no harm.
But farming practices are as broad as pepper varieties, and not all market stands are created equal. Some resell produce bought wholesale: not exactly what we envision when we fill our canvas bags with “local food.”
How does a savvy shopper identify the highest quality farmers market finds while supporting their local food system?Read More
A lot of people are discovering the benefits of using natural DIY household cleansers—not only are they crazy-easy to make and dramatically less expensive than over-the-counter cleansers, they also give us the ability to choose ingredients we know are safe for our families and pets, and to customize the scents we’d like to have lingering in our homes. However, not all DIY cleansers are equal.Read More
I have been on a big “DIY swap” kick lately. It all started with a growing interest in leading a more sustainable lifestyle, which for me, meant finding ways to eliminate single-use and non-recyclable packaging. The DIY aspect of this project was born out of necessity. I knew the easiest way to avoid purchasing products packaged unsustainably was to just make them myself. There were some growing pains of course. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the best at planning ahead, so adjusting from simply buying an item in a store to carving out the time to make the product did not always go smoothly. However, since I have embraced the process, I’m finding it deeply gratifying to craft my own products, especially my own body-care products.Read More
Lately I have been thinking a lot about how to reduce the presence of plastic in my life. With the recyclability of plastics becoming more and more of a question mark, and a disheartening one at that, the place that I keep arriving at is to just try as hard as I can to remove plastics from the equation altogether. The kitchen was the first place I started with my sustainability makeover. I slowly began to change my shopping habits so that I would wind up with less leftover single-use plastics at the end of the week. It wasn’t easy but it was incredibly liberating; it eased my conscience a bit to know that I was able to take steps toward a greener lifestyle. As my interest in living more sustainably snowballed, I began seeing problems everywhere I looked in my house, particularly with my cleaning products, and especially with my bathroom cleansers.Read More
Before I moved to Eugene in March of 2010, I drove a car every day, everywhere. Living in the suburbs of Boston, it was necessary. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t drive to work, to the grocery store, or even to the gym. When I arrived, I brought my mindset with me and drove everywhere: to work (ten blocks from home), to the grocery store (twelve blocks), and the gym (just over a mile). In my first three months here, I clocked fewer than a hundred miles and made three car payments—clearly not an economical way to get around! I sold my car that June and bought a used bicycle.Read More
The diversity of natural chemical compounds in plants is remarkable. For many years, scientists thought they could be broken down into simple primary and secondary categories: the primary compounds being those that contribute directly to growth and development, and the secondary ones being byproducts that don’t directly contribute to those primary functions. Most of the aromatic oils, gums, and resins that humans have adored for thousands of years fell into this wide category of secondary natural compounds. Why do plants produce them? Understanding the roles these compounds play in plants helps us understand how to use them most effectively. We went to our friend, fourth-generation botanist and plant physiologist Karen Hall, to get a better understanding of natural gums, resins, and gum-resins in plants.Read More
Bath Bombs can be a soothing addition to the bathing experience, and I’ve always wondered how left out people without tubs must feel. As the empathetic person I am, I started to ponder ways in which everyone could enjoy the wonders of a fizzy, aromatic bathing experience. That’s when I dreamed up the idea of shower bombs. As it turns out, however, there were many others who’d had this dream before I did. In the past year, I’ve seen “shower bombs” begin to make their way on the shelves of my local grocery and natural food stores. Yet, my passion for DIY was too strong to simply buy one. I was on a quest to create the perfect shower bomb!Read More
Laundry time is supposed to elicit feelings of cleanliness. However, a few years ago as I began to take a closer look at the ingredients found in my conventional laundry care products, it made me feel far from clean. It became apparent that the “laundry list” of unpronounceable ingredients could not be good for my skin or even going down my drain, for that matter. One thing was sure, my laundry room was a chemical-laden nightmare, and I was in desperate need of an overhaul!Read More
While some people may be naturally born with heightened senses, most of us must hone and practice these skills throughout our lifetime, and particularly when we are children.
During my years of mentoring in environmental nature immersion, I’ve seen countless children develop “super senses” (hear, see, feel, smell, intuit) that astounds their parents. I love stories like the one when a father was flabbergasted by his seven-year-old daughter. “She could hear the sound of an owl hooting way off in the distance,” he excitedly said, “long before I even could sense it and her observation skills are through the roof – I can’t keep up!”Read More