Germs Gone Wild: 4 Natural Cleaning Recipes To Drive Away Dirty

Many store-bought cleaning products contain numerous toxins, such as synthetic fragrances, propylene glycol, and Ammonium Hydroxide. Making your own cleaning products is an easy way to save money and reduce toxins in the home.

To minimize packaging waste, save your spray bottles and jars to store your homemade cleaning potions to minimize packaging waste. With just a few basic ingredients, you can make a variety of products. These staple ingredients include baking soda, borax, washing soda, lemon juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, Castile soap, and essential oils. If you have children, this can even be a fun family project.

Here are four simple, natural cleaning recipes that will have you saying goodbye germs in no time.

Natural Disinfectant

Ingredients:

  • Fill a dark spray bottle with 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Fill a separate bottle with white vinegar

To disinfect surfaces, such as counters, door knobs, tabletops, sinks, cutting boards, and even the toilet, spray a few times from each bottle (the order doesn’t matter) and then wipe. This system can be used on produce, but rinse with water before eating. Note, the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t be mixed together in the same bottle before applying, as it causes the hydrogen peroxide to break down.

Research from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University shows this simple system is highly effective at killing a variety of germs, including E. coli and Salmonella. Although vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are both strong disinfectants on their own, they are particularly potent when they team up.  Don’t have time to create this recipe? Check out our natural cleaning products available at YouChange.

Powdered Laundry Detergent

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 bar of soap (Fels-Naptha or Castile bar soap are popular options)
  • Several drops essential oil (optional)

Finely grate 1 bar of soap by hand with a box grater or in a food processor. If you want an unscented laundry detergent, use unscented bar soap.

Add the bar soap, washing soda, borax, and essential oil (if desired) into a mixing bowl and stir. Put the mixture into a sealed container. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load of laundry as the water is filling the washing machine.

* Note: This detergent can be used in both standard and HE washing machines.

Laundry Stain Remover

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 part liquid dish soap (Dawn is often recommended)

Dish soap is good at breaking down oil, while hydrogen peroxide allows stains to fade or disappear. Shake the bottle before applying and beware that hydrogen peroxide can have a lightening effect, so use with caution on colored items.

Mix the two ingredients together and add to a dark bottle or store in a dark place, as peroxide breaks down in light. Apply the mixture an hour or two before laundering.

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid
  • optional: several drops of essential oil

Mix together ingredients and store in a sealed jar. Use 2 tablespoons per load and pour in a couple tablespoons of vinegar in the rinse compartment to help remove sediment.

Disinfecting or cleaning your home doesn’t have to done with products be laden with chemicals.  These easy to create recipes are made with all natural, safe ingredients.  Add to that reduced waste, and you have a recipe for a clean, eco friendly home.

Feature image courtesy of Andrés Þór

Trade You A Hammer For A Nail: Home DIY Project Market Gets Social

As the use of the internet and social media has grown, so has the proliferation of home DIY projects. According to a survey conducted by TheStreet, Inc. and GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, 70% of all home projects now involve some sort of DIY component.

It’s so easy to hop on Pinterest or your favorite DIY website to locate a project; why hire someone when you can save money and do it yourself? Of course, DIY projects can become costly very fast if you don’t adhere to a strict budget.

Supplies alone can get expensive if you’re paying retail prices for new materials. There are now websites that help DIYers locate free materials for their projects – and for people looking to unload their unwanted supplies.

Home DIY project

Image courtesy of Kevin Bailey

For example, DIY Exchange is a free website that was created to help DIYers locate, share and sell extra DIY project and home repair materials. Members can find (and list) a wide variety of items, including appliances, light fixtures, fencing, joint compound, drywall and much more on DIY Exchange.

Another useful feature is the ability for members to barter labor for labor, ask and answer questions within the community, offer project coaching and discuss stories of success. It’s designed not only as a listing site like Craigslist, but one where DIYers can build a community.

Saving the green in your wallet isn’t the only reason to reuse construction materials – saving the environment is another huge factor. According to Green Waste, home construction, remodeling and demolition projects account for 25-30% of the country’s municipal solid waste each year. The U.S. EPA says that 170 million tons of excess home renovation materials end up in landfills annually. However, the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association estimates that number to be closer to 350 million tons.

Instead of contributing your old home improvement and DIY supplies to our growing landfills, you can make an eco-friendly decision to pass them onto someone who will put them to use. If you simply don’t have the time to list your materials on the DIY Exchange website, another option is to call up your local Habitat for Humanity chapter and see if they need materials for an upcoming project.

Either way, it will serve us all best to reduce the amount of waste that goes into our landfills. Paying forward our home renovation and DIY project materials is one simple way to do that.

Feature image courtesy of Sean

(DIY) Non-Toxic Finger Paint Recipes So Easy A Kid Could Do It

Kids love to unleash their creativity with arts and crafts. Some of those art supplies, though, can be toxic, which is especially problematic for younger children still prone to put everything in their mouths.

How can you encourage artistic self expression and protect your children from chemical exposures? Create your own finger paints from ingredients in your pantry, of course.

So easy a kid can do it

Finger paints are among the easiest arts and crafts for young children. All you need is the paint and a canvas – be it a plate, paper, cookie sheet or tabletop.

If you are going to be covering your kid’s hands with paint, though, you want it to be safe enough to ingest. Good thing that inexpensive kitchen staples such as flour and corn starch can provide hours of creative fun.

Homemade finger paints can be created with a variety of food ingredients. It depends on what you have on hand at the moment, as well as what your child’s allergies and sensitivities might be. Remember, anything your child cannot eat should not be used to create finger paints.

While the recipes are certainly edible, that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be tasty. However, your kids won’t be ingesting synthetic chemicals or toxins if they decide to put their fingers in their mouth using these non-toxic finger paint ideas:

A dash of color

Finger paints can be created from just one food, too. Consider using yogurt as an edible finger paint ideally suited for small children. Colors can be added if desired. Pure mashed fruits and veggies are also a colorful finger paint option, whether straight from a baby food jar or mashing up produce from the garden.

It is important to use only organic and food-derived food colorings in any recipe to limit your child’s exposure to synthetic ingredients. Conventional food colorings contain synthetic colorants. Natural food colorings are available that are derived from fruits, vegetables and other colorful foods. Alternatively, mashed up colorful foods, such as blueberries, can add a non-toxic color to the paint.

Consider pouring portions of the finger paint base into individual sections of muffin tins. Each muffin tin can be individually colored, yet all of the paints are in one container.  Ice cube trays are another smart container for smaller amounts of paint. Paints can also be mixed in old glass jars with lids, such as baby food jars, or any repurposed small container, and stored for more arts and crafts fun at a later time.

A few heads ups:

  1. These non-toxic paints can be a little thicker than store-bought varieties
  2. Consider using a paintbrush for older children to apply to the paper
  3. The thicker paint will also take a bit longer to dry.

Now let the kids go (non-toxic) paint the town!

Feature image courtesy of Renate Flynn

Burn The (Halloween) Midnight Oil: Transform Halloween Into DIY Candles For Thanksgiving

Well folks, Halloween has come and gone once again, leaving in its wake a trail of spiders, witch hats, and a lingering sugar-high that may well last into late November.

Now of course the question is, what does one do with all the spooky decorations? Most are easily boxed up and stored to be re-used next year, but what about all those tiny pumpkins and gourds that so brightly adorned your mantle and front porch?

You can certainly compost them, or keep them around for Thanksgiving decor, but you can also employ a little ingenuity to create a fun autumn craft that will make your home feel warm and inviting until the snow blows.

This simple tutorial teaches you how to create festive Thanksgiving candles out of leftover gourds and mini-pumpkins using just a few basic supplies. With natural beeswax and lead-free wicks, hollowed out mini-pumpkins are transformed into cute, waste-free, natural DIY candles.

The process is simple, and a perfect activity for little hands to help with (just make sure adults handle the power tools and hot wax).

  • First drill a hole in the pumpkin or gourd to hollow it out, or alternately, use a knife to cut the top off and scoop out the seeds as though you were making a tiny jack-o-lantern.
  • Once you have created a hollow inside, use a tin can or double boiler to melt pure beeswax until it becomes liquid.
  • Cut a lead-free wick so that it extends about a quarter inch above the top of the gourd and place it inside, holding it centered while you pour in the beeswax.
  • After you have poured the beeswax, place the finished candles somewhere where they won’t be disturbed and allow them to harden and cool.

Not only is this a great way to re-purpose Halloween decorations, but these homemade candles readily replace store-bought versions which may use artificial waxes, wicks which may contain lead, and a host of artificial fragrances, too.

When complete, these natural votives make great seasonal decor, thoughtful hostess gifts, or, paired with a sweet note, they can become wonderful Thanksgiving gifts for your children’s hard-working teachers.

Feature image courtesy of rjcox

Upcycled Secret Book Safe Tutorial

How to make a secret book safe. Photo: Dinah Wulf

How to make a secret book safe. Photo: Dinah Wulf

What can you do with an old book? You can try giving it to a library or secondhand bookstore, but not all books are acceptable for donation, including those that have out-of-date information or are too damaged to read. Being the trash-to-treasure gal that I am, the answer to this question for me is simple: I upcycle it!

For one recent project, I made a book-safe. I’d wanted to give something like this as a gift, but I figured that I would have to buy it because it would be too difficult to make.

But I took the time to figure it out, and it was a lot easier than I thought. Here is how to make a secret book safe.

Materials:

  • Thick, hardback book
  • Decoupage medium or glue-and-water mixture
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paint brush
  • Sharp knife
  • Metal straightedge

Step 1: Wrap the cover and front pages

Although the book I used was slightly damaged, I wanted to keep a few of the front pages intact to show the copyright date and an illustration. So I covered the front cover, those pages plus one extra page with plastic wrap to protect them from glue I’d be using in Step 2.

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Step 2: Brush the book’s edges

I used Mod Podge, a decoupage medium, and a paint brush to seal the three edges. Make sure you saturate them with approximately three coats.  Allow the Mod Podge to dry (about 15 minutes) between each coat. Then set something heavy on top of the book to create pressure.

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Step 3: Mark the area to cut

Next, using a straightedge and a pencil, I marked the area I wanted to cut out.

Step 4: Make the cuts

Using a sharp knife and a metal straightedge, I carefully cut out a few pages at a time, making sure to remove small bits and pieces along the way. Take your time while doing this step.

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Photo: Dinah Wulf

Step Five: Seal the edges as you go

After I reached the desired depth, I sealed the inside edges with Mod Podge and allowed it to dry completely.

Step Six: Final touches

I then used Mod Podge around the top edges and glued the extra front page on top.  After a few minutes, I used the knife to cut out the center.  This top page gives it a nice clean look.

That’s it in six simple steps! Be sure to save the book pages for other book page craft projects. Also, consider using ribbon to cover the inside edges or decorative paper to cover the inside back for a more finished look.

Dust Off an Old Filing Cabinet and Turn It into Something New

Take your old filing cabinet from functional to fun with these upcycling ideas.

Take your old filing cabinet from functional to fun with these upcycling ideas. Photo: Shutterstock

Was being more organized one of your New Year’s resolutions? Then it’s time to dust off that old filing cabinet in the garage and give it a new look.

If you’re still using the cabinet, file these tips away for later: House Revivals compiled a list of ways to upcycle your filing cabinet into an end table, kitchen island, work bench and more. A standard piece of office furniture never looked so chic!

If filing cabinets aren’t your thing, check out 12 ways to upcycle other thrifted furniture.

DIY: A Hand-Me-Down Play Table Makeover

Getting hand-me-down furniture is a great way to keep good stuff out of landfills. But if your new-to-you pieces need a little refreshing, it can be hard to know where to start. Blogger Dinah Wulf explains how she ‘glammed up’ a play table she received from a friend. You can adapt her simple steps to almost any furniture face-lift project.

When rescuing furniture, look for pieces that have a solid structure. Photo: Dinah Wulf

When rescuing furniture, look for pieces that have a solid structure. Photo: Dinah Wulf

One of my best friends gave me a Disney princess table when she moved. I loved the shape of the chairs and the storage pocket in the center; however, it was a little worn from use. I took the table on as DIY project and glammed it up a bit, giving it a Hollywood Regency style. This project required priming and painting as well as adding seat cushions, a monogram and a clear crystal knob.

Step 1: Sand and prime

I used a light sandpaper to remove a few old stickers and then cleaned the surface. Even though the surface was already smooth, I decided to prime it first. Two coats of primer worked perfectly. (When priming, make sure the first coat is completely dry before you add the second.)

For furniture with scratches and a dark pattern, prime it first. Photo Source: Dinah Wulf

For furniture with scratches and a dark pattern, prime it first. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Step 2: Add paint — and protection

I painted both chairs and the table with two coats of white paint. After the paint dried completely, I used painter’s tape to create my Hollywood Recency–style design.

Next, I painted my design and the storage cover blue. I also used the blue paint for the balls on the table and chair legs. When the paint was completely dry, I used two coats of polyurethane to protect the furniture from its future encounters with crayons and markers!

Pull the fabric taut while stapling the fabric. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Pull the fabric taut while stapling the fabric. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Step 3: Add cushions

For the seat cushions, I used a circular wooden plaque, polyester fiber fill and fabric. In regard to cutting the fabric, I find that it’s best to keep some extra material (see the above photo) and trim it after you’ve finished attaching it.

I glued the seat cushions to the chair with extra-strength wood glue and added a self-adhesive monogram. I also added a few coats of decoupage medium to seal in the monograms. Finally, I reattached the storage pocket and added a knob to the lid.

A children's play table after a makeover. Photo: Dinah Wulf

The children’s play table after the makeover. Photo: Dinah Wulf

I have had this table now for more than two years and it’s still in great shape. My daughter uses it every day. It’s definitely one of my favorite trash-to-treasure pieces.

Make a Recycled-Magazine Frame in 4 Easy Steps

A recycled-magazine frame makes a great gift. Photo: Dinah Wulf

A recycled-magazine frame makes a great gift. Photo: Dinah Wulf

I have always wanted to make something out of magazine pages. With some careful crafting, you can achieve a mix of images and colors that looks quite lovely.

I finally sat down and made a recycled-magazine frame to give to my brother. Although this project was at times slightly tedious, I have to say it was also a lot of fun to make — and the end result was well worth it.

Here’s the four-step process I used to pull this off. Try it out and let me know what you think by sharing feedback in the Comments section.

Materials

  • Any frame
  • Old magazines
  • Tape
  • Paper cutter
  • Decoupage medium
  • Small paintbrush

Step 1: Gather magazines

Gather a few magazines that you’ve already read and no longer want. (I say “a few” because I used pages from four different Rolling Stone magazines to get the colors I wanted.) Consider the colors you would like for your frame, then find and cut pages with those colors out of the magazine.

Step 2: Start cutting

Cut the magazine pages into strips. I made the width of my strips the same width as the frame I chose. The frame holds a 3-by-4-inch photo, and each side of the frame is 1 inch wide. I ended up cutting 1-by-7-inch strips out of eight or so magazine pages.

Next page: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ and Get to gluing

DIY: Upcycling Garage-Sale Finds

Upcycling a garage-sale find can be a perfect DIY project. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Upcycling a garage-sale find can be a perfect DIY project. Photo: Dinah Wulf

I adore going to garage sales. With a little time and effort, you can find hidden treasures that just need a little TLC. You’re helping sellers off-load their unwanted items (so those hidden treasures don’t end up in the trash!) while also helping yourself by saving a few bucks.

Not long ago, I bought a red bench for $5 at a garage sale. I brought it home and turned it into the perfect DIY weekend project.

With a little cleaning and by adding an upholstered cushion, I upcycled my find into something fun and comfy.

Ready to tackle your own found-furniture face-lift? Follow my step-by-step process.

To do a project like mine, you’ll need:

  • A bench (or similar type of furniture)
  • Spray paint with primer
  • High-density craft foam
  • Scissors
  • A yardstick
  • Fabric
  • A staple gun and heavy-duty staples

Next page: Steps 1 and 2: Cleaning and painting

6 Easy Eco-Actions to Take with Your Kids

When you think about moving toward a greener lifestyle, recycling often tops the list — and for good reason. However, there are many more ways to incorporate eco-friendly actions into your family life. Below are six easy, kid-friendly activities you may not have considered.

A young girl mails in her recyclable toothbrush. Photo: Donna DeForbes

A young girl mails in her recyclable toothbrush. Photo: Donna DeForbes

1. Switch to an eco-friendly toothbrush

Since dentists advise us to replace our toothbrushes every three months, using a green one seems like a sustainable no-brainer. Here are a few to choose from.

Preserve toothbrush handles are BPA-free, made from recycled #5 plastic yogurt containers. And after you’ve used the toothbrush for three months, you can mail it in (postage paid) to be recycled again. They also have toothbrushes specially designed for kids.

The Environmental Toothbrush, invented in Australia, is made of biodegradable bamboo. The packaging is biodegradable, too. Their toothbrushes come in adult and child versions, and you can order a year’s supply.

Brush with Bamboo also offers a BPA-free bamboo toothbrush in compostable packaging.

2. Have “power down” days

In our tech-addicted society, it’s refreshing to take a tech break once in a while. “Powering down” means spending a day without the television, computers, phones, etc. It’s a way of slowing life down while reconnecting with your loved ones and yourself.

A few summers ago, my neighborhood experienced a five-day blackout after a storm, and this unintentional “power down” ended up being quite enjoyable.

The silence was delicious; you don’t realize how much background noise is created by household appliances until the power goes out. Undistracted by electronic devices, my family played board games, read books, took long walks and shared meals with our neighbors. We showered by candlelight and went to bed early, against a background of cricket song.

The lack of electrical power reduced our energy consumption, yet we felt more energized afterward. It inspired us to integrate regular “power down” days into our year.

3. Keep kids in their favorite clothes

If your child is like mine, he or she has a few favorite outfits they prefer to wear over and over and over again. And what’s wrong with that? Too many times an outfit goes into the hamper after just one wear even though it looks perfectly fine. Little kids don’t have body odor yet, so why waste time and energy doing more laundry?

Your washer and dryer (and your kids) will love you for it. Plus, less-frequent washing is one more way to extend the life of your clothes. In the same way that some people use the three-second rule for food dropped on the floor, why not enforce the three-day rule for clothing? Only toss it in the hamper after it’s been worn three times. As long as your child has clean underwear, you’re good.

Next page: Eat ice cream by the cone; Get creative with trash; Donate to a green cause

8 Tips for Greening Your Super Bowl Party

Hosting a green Super Bowl party is easy if you follow some of our simple tips. Photo: Shutterstock

Hosting a green Super Bowl party is easy if you follow some of our simple tips. Photo: Shutterstock

The National Football League has taken steps to make Super Bowl XLVIII a green event, including purchasing renewable energy certificates, hosting e-waste recycling events and using biodiesel in outdoor generators.

How can you do your part? If you’re hosting a party for the big game, help green the event by making your gathering as eco-friendly as possible. To help you do so, we’ve put together a list of eight simple tips for planning your green Super Bowl party.

1. Green your TV

Photo: Shutterstock

Even your TV can be green. Photo: Shutterstock

Having a group of people watch a game together does save some energy, since only one TV will be on instead of many. Still, most people want to see a football game on a big screen. If you’re considering buying a new TV for your party, choose an energy-efficient model. Many televisions are Energy Star certified, and on average these models are 25 percent more energy efficient than other models.

If you do choose to buy a new TV, be sure to donate or recycle your old one. The EPA offers suggestions for where to do this, or you can search for local options here at Earth911.

Next page: Make food at home

How to Lower Your Pet’s Carbon Pawprint

Photo: Shutterstock.

Even the cutest of pets can have not-so-cute effects on the environment. Photo: Shutterstock

Sparky might be your best friend — but he’s not exactly eco-friendly, according to a recent article by Care2.

The truth is, owning a medium-size dog can potentially be just as bad as owning a gas-guzzling car. Things like non-biodegradable poop scoop bags, kitty litter, pet food packaging, medications and more lead to a high carbon pawprint for your furry friend.

Does this mean you can’t be a pet owner and eco-conscious at the same time? Of course not! There are several ways to lower your pet’s environmental impact:

Do you have any other tips for lowering your pet’s carbon pawprint? Let us know in the comments below.

5-Minute Tutorial: How to Make Skinny Jeans

The perfect pair of skinny jeans is just 5 minutes away. Photo: Shutterstock.

The perfect pair of skinny jeans is just five minutes away. Photo: Shutterstock

When it comes to jeans, the perfect fit can be hard to find. And for anyone on a budget, it can sometimes be near impossible. But don’t despair — you can turn an old pair of jeans from the back of your closet (or the shelves of a thrift store) into jeans so tight that even the hippest of hipsters will be swooning.

Blogger Jen at iCandy Handmade provides a great tutorial on how to turn a not-so-flattering pair of pants into stylish skinny jeans. Check out her simple step-by-step tutorial, complete with helpful photos. Head’s up: her fix requires a sewing machine, but the stitches are simple and fast.

If your old jeans really are completely unwearable, check out some of our great reuse ideas for old jeans.

Upcycle Your Christmas Cards into Bottle-Cap Magnets

Bottle-cap magnets are a great way to upcycle photos from holiday cards. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Bottle-cap magnets are a great way to upcycle photos from holiday cards. Photo: Dinah Wulf

I love receiving the family-photo Christmas cards I get from my friends. The cards are great, showcasing my friends and their families as they change over the years. The whole family is dressed up and looking their best. The only problem is that the cards sit in a drawer, get tucked away in a box, or even eventually get tossed in the recycle bin. And I feel horrible throwing them away! So I decided to upcycle them into something that I can look at every day: bottle-cap magnets. Making these Christmas-card bottle-cap magnets, I literally turned trash (the bottle caps, not the photos) into treasure.

This project took me some time — days, in fact. Why? Because I, of course, took the cheap route! I chose to use decoupage medium because it was already in my craft closet. For quicker results, you can use resin or other mediums.

Materials

  • Bottle caps
  • Decoupage medium
  • Old pictures
  • A half-inch circle craft punch
  • Magnets
  • Strong adhesive, such as E 6000

Step One

First, fill each bottle cap three-quarters full with decoupage medium. Gently lift and tap the cap on your counter to even and smooth out the glue. This also helps eliminate small air bubbles. Set the caps aside for a while. (I waited 24 hours.)  Meanwhile, use the craft punch to punch out the pictures that you want to use.

Step Two

In step two, the photo is put in the cap. Photo: Dinah Wulf

In step two, the photo is put in the cap. Photo: Dinah Wulf

Your first layer of glue should have hardened slightly. Put another small dab of glue on top of that first layer and then insert your photo. Add a second layer of glue. Again, gently tap the bottle cap on a hard surface to even and smooth out the glue. Allow the second layer to dry. (This time, I waited 48 hours.)

Step Three

Next, attach the magnets to the back of the bottle cap using a strong adhesive. The glue will dry completely clear over time (approximately 48 to 72 hours).

You could also package these cute magnets in a small treat bag with a personalized label and give them as homemade gifts!

Eco-Friendly Hair Dyes You Can Buy or Make Yourself

Most hair dyes contain harsh chemical ingredients that may be harmful to you and the environment. Choose a a low-impact pick instead! Photo: Shutterstock

Most hair dyes contain harsh chemical ingredients that may be harmful to you and the environment. Choose a low-impact pick instead! Photo: Shutterstock

Coloring hair for a new look or gray coverage is routine for many of us, but commercial dyes often contain chemical ingredients that are potentially harmful to both humans and the environment.

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD), an active ingredient in most hair dyes, has been linked to skin irritation, as well as immune and nervous system problems. Ammonia, another common hair dye ingredient, can cause respiratory problems and throat irritation.

If you’ve ever colored your hair, you’ve likely noticed these chemicals in the form of a harsh odor or burning sensation, but these ingredients can also harm local ecosystems long after they’re rinsed out.

To put it simply, when you wash commercial hair dyes out of your hair, chemical ingredients often wind up in local waterways. Ammonia has been linked to soil acidification and changes in ecosystems, and the EPA notes that chemicals associated with personal care products like hair dye are proven to be in our water supply.

Luckily, you don’t have to stop coloring your hair altogether to keep yourself and the planet safe. A growing number of salons are embracing organic and nontoxic hair dyes, and there are even a few boxed hair colors that nix harsh chemical additives. If you really want to ensure you don’t come in contact with chemicals while dyeing your hair, you can even do it yourself at home using natural ingredients.

Read on for the details, and kick those chemical-laden colors to the curb.

Next page: On the Shelf

Fix Broken Gadgets Yourself with Help from iFixit.com

Consumers can send fewer phones to landfills by repairing them instead of upgrading. Photo: iFixit

Consumers can send fewer phones to landfills by repairing them instead of upgrading. Photo: iFixit

A cracked iPhone screen doesn’t have to mean that you need to buy a brand-new replacement.

While incentives from cellphone service providers make it tempting to upgrade every year or two, repairing old devices can do wonders for your wallet — and the environment.

That’s because it’s difficult to fully recycle electronics. Often, the gadgets are actually shipped to other continents where their valuable parts are harvested. Chemicals released during this process can contaminate local soil and water supplies, and unsalvageable materials end up in landfills.

If consumers double the length of time they use their gadgets, the amount of e-waste created could be cut by 50 percent.

iFixit aims to curtail this harmful cycle by providing free DIY repair manuals for everything from phones and household appliances to game consoles and cars.

It was founded in 2003 by Luke Soules and Kyle Wiens, engineering students at California Polytechnic State University at the time. The idea behind iFixit came about when Wiens couldn’t find the repair guide he needed to fix his iBook.

“I knew there was a service manual, and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t online,” says Wiens. “Apple was … [preventing] people from being able to fix their machines.”

After a bit of a struggle and lots of frustration, he figured out how to fix the computer. Then he decided to write his own repair manual for it and to make this one available on the Internet. “The nice thing about being young and stupid is you don’t know what’s not possible,” Wiens adds.

The repair manual received 10,000 hits during its first weekend online.

Next page: Why We Need to Fix Electronics Instead of Tossing Them

How To: Turn Fruit to Vinegar

Photo: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Diners at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler can now enjoy fruit vinegars made in-house. Photo: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

At a place like The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, fruits with blemishes aren’t fit to be set out for buffets or placed on diners’ plates. And even with the fruit that does make the cut, there are leftovers — strawberry stems, for instance, with a bit of berry left on them.

These may seem like damaged goods and remnants, but they’re perfect for creating vinegars — and that’s just what the luxury hotel is doing with them.

“The interest for me is looking at the dish and seeing how far back I can go to take care of whatever ingredients are going into it,” says Jason Mitchell, sous chef at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

In the past, he had used fruits and herbs to infuse vinegars, but it wasn’t until last summer that he began fermenting from scratch at the hotel, crafting completely custom-made creations that can go from rooftop garden to tonight’s menu.

Along with his desire to get as close to the root as possible in creating his meals, Mitchell wanted to reduce waste.

“Take the pineapple, for example,” he says. “You have a core you cut out of a pineapple, and there’s really nothing else to do with it — you can’t make it into a compote, but it’s the perfect element to make vinegar from. It’s a bonus product; for just the cost of a little bit of sugar and water, you can turn it into a nice pineapple vinegar.”

Visitors of the Fairmont are the beneficiaries of his kitchen experiment, enjoying vinegars created from strawberries, pineapples, plums, nectarines, pears, cherries, lemons and grapefruit. These house-made vinegars are primarily used as the base for salad dressings. Unlike many specialty fruit vinegars that often taste more like just plain vinegar, these have an intense fruit flavor that balances nicely with the vinegar.

While you may have to make a trip to British Columbia to enjoy Mitchell’s concoctions, you don’t have to be a sous chef to try making your own.

“I encourage people to try it at home because it’s a simple process that you get a great product from, and it’s surprising how easy it is really,” Mitchell says.

Next page: Creating Your Own Fruit Vinegar

DIY: Eco-Friendly Glitter

The Red Bottlebrush Flower is one plant that can be used to create glitter alternatives.

The Red Bottlebrush flower is one plant that can be used to create glitter alternatives. Photo: Shutterstock

Earth911 readers love them some crafts, that’s for sure. And really, what’s not to like when it comes to finding fun, low-waste ways to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces?

If you’re using traditional glitter, there’s a lot not to like. Most of it’s made from plastic, which, even when ground up, takes eons to break down. What’s a glitter lover to do?

Look to Mother Nature, of course. Wildlife Fun 4 Kids blogger Penny Whitehouse offers a guide for making natural glitter, and this kind is much less likely to get stuck to your skin and clothing in the process. Red Bottlebrush, Cadaghi and Lilly Pilly flowers are just a few plants Whitehouse uses to make excellent glitter alternatives, and they smell much better too.

Don’t have these plants handy? No worries. Take a look in your own backyard and get creative.

What alternatives to glitter have you used?

41 Ways to Turn Your Broken Stuff into Even Better Stuff

Just because it's broken doesn't mean it's unusable. Photo: CarbonNYC

Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it’s unusable. Photo: CarbonNYC

You’ve probably heard the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, we like to say, if it is broke, do fix it!

So you can imagine how ecstatic we were to find Buzzfeed’s story on “41 Ways to Reuse Your Broken Things.”

The list is full of great ideas, some we’ve already tried and most we wish we had thought of ourselves. Suggestions vary from using glue sticks to make twist-up crayons to creating cute sandals out of broken flip-flops.

Most of these have links for tutorials and all are definitely fun and creative ideas. And remember, if you can’t reuse it, always check to see if you can recycle it.

Book Smarts: Turn Old Paperbacks into Holiday Decorations

Decorate the completed trees with handmade paper chains, stars, or whatever else your imagination comes up with. Photo: Cindy Baldhoff

Follow the steps outlined in this story for a finished product like this. Photo: Cindy Baldhoff

Looking for a great gift idea for the book lover on your list? Why not upcycle an old book into a Christmas tree? It’s an amazingly simple project that can give new life to a worn book. One of the great things about this project is that it’s easy enough to do with kids — and depending on the size of the book you choose, it could take only a couple of hours to complete.

Once the project is finished, you can decorate it in many different ways — just like a real Christmas tree.

This idea came from the Westwood Branch Library in Cincinnati, which offers classes for adults on how to upcycle old books into holiday gifts. The upcycling projects include turning colorful pages from children’s books into paper flowers, gift boxes, and even envelopes and CD covers. One of the more popular (and easy-to-make) crafts, however, is the Christmas tree. It makes a cute holiday decoration for your home or as a gift for a book lover, and can be decorated to reflect your personal style.

Next page: Getting Started and First Steps

Tips for a Greener Thanksgiving

Reusable utensils and fall foliage decorations are just a few ways to have a greener Thanksgiving.

Using reusable utensils and making decorations from fall foliage are just a couple of ways to have a greener Thanksgiving. Photo: Shutterstock

At the first Thanksgiving, pilgrims ate food that was harvested locally and naturally, and you can bet that plastic and Styrofoam didn’t figure into the equation. It’s time to take some sustainability tips from our ancestors by hosting an environmentally friendly Thanksgiving of our own.

Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse offers 10 great tips for how to have a greener Thanksgiving. Try these for starters:

• Don’t opt for one-occasion-only Thanksgiving decorations. Simply go outside and collect some branches, berries and leaves and make fall foliage creations of your own.

• Instead of using paper, plastic or Styrofoam dinnerware, use reusable dishware and make wash time a family bonding event.

• Rather than wrapping leftovers in plastic or aluminum foil, send them home in inexpensive glass jars (and share the many ways these jars can be reused, like for recipes, crafts, gifts and more).

For more green Thanksgiving tips from MacEachern, visit her blog.