Celebrate Mother Earth! Environmentally Friendly Products

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A special thank you to everyone that attended our Mother Earth event this May with Pfeiffer Nature Center!

We were fortunate enough to have Joan Haynes guide us along to learning about some natural products that may be less harmful both to the environment as well as to ourselves. We wanted to share some literature and recipes with you on our website, in an effort to save some paper, and here they are!

Here are a few statistics:
The Environmental Protection Agengy (EPA) reports that the air inside the typical American home is 2-5 times more polluted than the air immediately outside, and in extreme cases, 100 times more polluted. (source) While household cleaners and personal care products are not the sole cause, they are a large contributing factor. Cleaning products alone are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers. Common contributors to indoor pollution include (but are not limited to): cleaners, solvents, personal care products, air fresheners and scented products, some scented candles, laundry detergent, and dishwashing detergents.

Laundry detergent is a large contributor to personal pollution because you come into contact with the detergents and any softeners used by wearing your clothing afterward, but you breathe this into your lungs and chances are you lay upon sheets and pillow covers every time you sleep. Joan shared with us the natural products that can be used in place of commercial laundry detergents, and shared that wool balls can be placed in your drier for faster, more efficient drying, in addition to softening your laundry in a natural and safe way. Not to mention they save you so much money in the long run! Here is a link to get you started making wool balls, or they can be purchased if you prefer.

As a general disclaimer, if you are pregnant, nursing, or have sensitive skin/allergies, consult with your doctor before using essential oil products. Use caution when using essential oils on very young children or the elderly. Always label home-made recipes well!


 

LAWN, GARDEN, AND OUTDOORS

 

Skunk Odor Remover

1 quart 3% Hydrogen Perioxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tsp. liquid dish soap (Dawn- blue original, non-antibacterial formula)

Mix all ingredients, then use to wash effected areas. If the effected area is a dog, lather (keep out of eyes and ears) then rise well.

 

Herbivore keep-a-way

1 whole Spanish onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tbs cayenne pepper (ground)

Chop the pepper and onion. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, add ingredients, and boil for 20 minutes. Let cool, train through a cheese cloth and pour into a spray bottle. This will need to be re-applied after rain or heavy dew. This should be used on ornamental plants only, unless you like spicy veggies! Use care to keep this spray out of the eyes of yourself, children, and pets.

Other ideas for deterring herbivores:

  • Pet hair and human hair clippings spread near target plants.
  • Mixed plantings; intermix plantings of herbivore-repellant or herbivore resistant plants with more desirable edibles. Herbivores tend to avoid plants with a strong aromatic odor to the leaves, irritating textures, or ones that cause stomach upset. That said, herbivores will eat nearly anything if desperate enough! A few plants that they tend to avoid are: alliums (garlic, onion, chives, etc), wild ginger, lavender, hyssop, mint, sage, rosemary, many species of fern, daffodil, iris, coneflower, coreopsis (tickseed), bleeding heart, boxwood, holly, marigold, sumac… the list is long! When possible seek native species, and be careful of confusing common names.

 

Weed-Be-Gone

1 gallon vinegar (your choice, white works)
2 cups Epsom salt
1/4 cut Dawn Dish Soap (blue original, non-antibacterial)

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a sprayer and apply to weeds that you wish to kill. Morning is the best time for application, after the dew has lifted. A second or third application may be necessary as this is a natural product and not a poison and may not kill the root the first time. Use care not to apply to beneficial inset life (such as bees).

 

Natural insect repellants and killers

Insect problems are no fun for anyone. Be it aphids in your veggie garden, or mosquitoes on us, it is a struggle to deal with these critters while trying not to use potentially dangerous toxins. Here are a few ideas! Your mileage may vary, and the effectiveness of these repellants depends greatly on the insect, the weather, conditions, and body chemistry (when used on yourself). As always, use common sense, and known your allergens before use! It is also important to note that we have several different species of mosquito in this area, and some are more aggressive than others, so what works against one species may not bother another!

Repelling insects with live plants:

Some plants are known to repel some species of insect. Bear in mind that these may work very well or not at all depending on the species and weather conditions. Some mosquito species seem to dislike the following plants to various levels:
Catnip, Rosemary, Marigold, Citronella Grass, Lemon Balm, and lavender. Unfortunately these seem to work best when reduced to essential oils, but if you like these plants anyhow, it can’t hurt to try them.

Repelling insects with home-made spray:

Always use caution when applying a repellant to the skin or clothing. Avoid contact with the eyes/nose/mouth and always check with a doctor before using if you are pregnant, nursing,  have sensitive skin, or before using on small children or the elderly. Some essential oils are harmful to pets so always research before applying to your beloved animals. There are several pre-made repellents made with natural ingredients on the market, but if you would like to make your own:

4 oz water
4 oz of witch hazel or other carrier oil (almond oil, etc)
30-50 drops of essential oil (see below)

Mix all ingredients well and apply lightly. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is one of the best to use. This natural oil, which comes from the lemon eucalyptus tree, is recommended by the CDC as an alternative to DEET. Several studies have found this natural bug repellent as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. It may also work well against ticks. Oil of lemon eucalyptus may be poisonous if ingested in high quantities. According to the CDC it should not be used on children under three years old. Other essential oils you can try, but seem less effective, are: Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint.

Repelling insects in your garden:

Neem oil is a fantastic help in the garden. It is a natural oil made from the pressed seeds of the neem tree.

1 gallon water
2 tablespoons neem oil (available at some garden centers, online, or health food stores)
2 tablespoons liquid soap (use a liquid castile soap OR original blue dawn soap)
Optional: 5-10 drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a spray applicator. Shaking will result in excessive foaming so avoid vigorous shaking. Be sure to never use antibacterial soaps or this could kill your plants. This spray is best applied on overcast days or in the evening. This kills by contact, so be careful as it will kill not only harmful insects but beneficial ones as well. Neem also is helpful in reducing mold, fungus, and powdery mildew.

Other insect controls:

  • Install a bat house (if appropriate) in your yard. Bats eat many of the pests we hate, by the millions!
  • Companion-plant your garden. A little research shows which plants benefit from one another. Stronger plants ward off pests more easily.
    Inter-mix predator-attracting plants. Mixing plants that attract predatory insects will bring in nature’s original pest control! Many solitary wasp species, for example, are attracted by marigolds or nasturtiums and will also kill pest species such as aphids, spider mites, and sucking insects.
  • Remove man-made sources of standing water. Old tires, trash, bad drainage, stagnant bird baths, etc… are all places for mosquitoes to breed. Mosquitoes are just part of nature, but removing trash that hold standing water can help reduce them in your yard.
  • Create better habitat. Attracting insect-eating birds (and other insects) can help create a more balanced population in your yard. Planting native plants and flowers, and creating less lawn can actually reduce pest species by increasing your overall biodiversity!

 

PERSONAL CARE

Foot Soak

1/4 cup Epsom saltWarm water (enough to cover feet in a basin or foot tub)
3 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops peppermint essential oil

Pour the salt into the foot tub or large basin of choice. You can even use a clean bucket– we won’t judge! Stir until dissolved. Add essential oils and stir again will well mixed. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes; some light reading or calm music is optional. Relax!

 

Thieves Hand Sanitizer

2 cups aloe vera gel (use gel – juice is very runny)
¼ tsp vitamin e as a natural preservative
1 tsp witch hazel (make sure it has no alcohol – Old School house in Eldred carries no alcohol one)
30 drops Young Living thieves essential oil
10 drops Young Living lavender essential oil (to prevent chapping and rawness)

Mix in a bowl and use a condiment bottle to squeeze it into smaller bottles.

 

Shaving Cream

1/3 cup shea butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup jojoba or sweet almond oil
10 drops rosemary OR lavender essential oil
3-5 drops peppermint essential oil

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine shea butter and coconut oil, stirring gently until barely melted. Remove from heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl. Add in jojoba oil and essential oils depending on your scent preference (add only lavender or rosemary oil; both will be too strong!). Stir well to mix.
Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill until solid. Remove from the refrigerator and whip using a hand beater or a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into a jar or bowl with a lid, and store in a cool, dry place. Scoop out small a small amount and lather well before shaving.

The benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fats, which are the most beneficial and readily useable by the body for healthy nervous system function. Coconut oil is not only healthy to eat, but is not harmful like its counterpart, palm oil. These two are easily confused, but are worlds apart in their sustainability! Palm oil provides a ‘cheap fat’ for many food manufacturers and is used extensively in our processed foods, especially junk foods. Palm oil plantations are extremely environmentally destructive as they are planted in vast mono-cultures after sensitive cloud and rainforest areas are removed. Unfortunately, palm oil is rarely clearly labeled on an ingredients list, so avoiding it at the grocery store can be difficult. In fact, there are more than 170 different names that manufacturers use on their packaging to avoid saying the words “palm oil”. Taking a look at your shower products, almost anything that foams contains sodium laureth sulfate, which is often derived from palm oil. And it can often be hidden under the generic term, “vegetable oil”.
Coconut oil on the other hand comes from coconut trees, which can be grown in nearly any soil type and can bear fruit for more than 60 years and there are many companies harvesting it in a sustainable way. Seek coconut oil with a Fair Trade Alliance label and you know you are getting a sustainable product.
Coconut oil is a fantastic moisturizer for skin and hair, and can be used in the place of more expensive (and potentially harmful) products. Used topically, it has some anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and can be used in conjunction with your preferred healing products for general skin and hair care.
Coconut oil is even good as a mild sunscreen, and it can block up to 20% of the sun’s UVB.

 


 

AROUND THE HOME

Cleaning with vinegar

Vinegar is a wonderful tool for cleaning! Make yourself an all-purpose vinegar solution by combining one part vinegar with one part water, and mix in a spray bottle. Use this to:

  • Lightly spray down your shower and rub (then rinse or wipe clean) to help avoid the accumulation of hard water stains. Do the same in your sink!
  • Clean your counter tops. Vinegar is good for general sanitation, because the acid content kills many types of bacteria (please note that sanitary is not the same as sterilization! Use other products if you must get something sterile!)
  • Wash your windows! Wipe off any debris with a soft cloth, then spray your window with the vinegar solution, and dry using newspapers (yes really) for a streak-free clean!
  • Put it in the rinse cycle of your dishwasher to help remove scaling and hard water stains.
  • Put it in the rinse cycle of your washing machine! Vinegar naturally removes odors and softens clothing. Don’t worry– there is no smell of vinegar afterward!
  • Try it to scrub out coffee and tea cups with stubborn stains.
  • There are many other uses for vinegar as a general-purpose cleaner. Vinegar has replaced nearly every other cleaner under my sink!

 FOOD

Who can resist foods that are healthier and more delicious? The first step to getting on track with healthy, environmentally-thoughtful foods is sourcing. Where did your food come from? Where did the ingredients come from? Were sensitive natural areas harmed to grow the ingredients? How is this ingredient made, or farmed? How far is it shipped? These are all tough questions with sometimes even tougher answers. Pausing to think about these will help start you on the path to creating a sustainable lifestyle! Don’t feel overwhelmed, and take it one small step at a time. Even small choices can make a big difference. When possible, seek out local foods.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

3 Ripe avocados, well blended

In a sauce pan, melt:

2 TBSP coconut oil
4 TBSP cocoa powder
½ cup raw honey
Pinch of Himalayan Salt
2 TBSP pure vanilla

Add cocoa mix to avocados in blender and mix well. You can eat it warm, or put it in the fridge and let it harden.
Sarah’s variation: stuff the chocolate into strawberries

Joan’s notes:
I did not add the vanilla. For the workshop I used 6 avocados and tripled the chocolate mixture. We like our pudding really chocolatey. Experiment. Have Fun!!!!

 

Healthier, Creamy-Smooth Chocolates

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter (or other fat) – I used coconut oil
2 teaspoons raw honey
6 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

Gently melt the butter. Add the raw honey and whisk with a fork. Stir in the cocoa powder until well combined.

At this point you should have something between pourable chocolate and frosting. Let it cool and eat it with a spoon or refrigerate to harden and use as chocolate chips in cookies or grain-free scones.

Joan’s notes:
I add one drop peppermint essential oil or a few drops orange essential oil. Experiment and have fun!
I pour into a molds and let harden in fridge. Then pop out of molds and keep in Tupperware in fridge.

 

Energy Bars

1/2 cup cashews
8-9 dates

Optional additions:
Unsweetened, unsulfured coconut
Sesame Seeds
Hemp Seeds
Shelled pumpkin seeds
Shelled sunflower seeds
Shelled, crushed almonds

Roughly chop, then blend all ingredients in a food processor. Once all is well combined, press into chunks. They pack a bunch of calories and healthy fat into a tiny little bar. Not for your average snacking, but perfect for hiking and stretches of time where you don’t want to carry much food.

Home-Made Apple Cider Vinegar

If you are like me and use a ton of vinegar, it gets expensive to buy the organic/raw/good stuff from the store. I like using raw apple cider vinegar because it contains a lot more beneficial nutrition. Plus, it is easy an inexpensive to make once you get started!

Any amount of apple cider or fresh pressed apple juice (unpasteurized is best but pasturized will still work)
A wide-mouthed jar (or several), large enough to hold the liquidApple cider vinegar starter- either some raw apple cider vinegar from a friend or buy a small jar of Braggs raw apple cider vinegar.
Natural coffee filters or cheesecloth
Rubber Bands

It is important to have a wide container for this. Believe it or not, the more surface area the better! Vinegar always goes best if it can breathe really well. I highly recommend glass, as it is inert and cannot leach into your acidic vinegar.
Make sure your containers are very clean. Pour your apple cider into the clean jar, and add one to two tablespoons of your Braggs or other starter. Cover the container with two coffee filters or several layers of cheesecloth and secure into place well with a rubber band. You don’t want fruit flies in there– and trust me, they will want in there! Place your jar in a dark place, or at least well away from strong natural or indoor light. Now wait! The cider will first turn hard and may smell quite alcoholic within a week or so… feel free to give it a gentle swirl once or twice a week (or just forget about it entirely like I do…). Then it will start turning into vinegar. After a total of 4 weeks you can begin to taste test. You might notice a horrific gelatnous blob at the top (or bottom) of your vinegar. This is the “mother” (creepy, huh?) and is symbiotic lactic bacteria that are turning your cider into vinegar. It’s really neat. Anyhow, it won’t hurt you, so gently scoop it out and do as you will with it (compost works well). If your vinegar is not strong enough, wait another week and taste it again. Once it tastes right, strain it through a cheesecloth into a bottle and enjoy! Save a little and you can start the process all over again with fresh cider! Here is some excellent additional reading, with photos of “the mother” so that you can be sure you are getting the good stuff (and not some mold).

 


 

RESOURCES AND LINKS

We have many excellent local resources for natural, healthy, and wonderful products! Please check back as this list is sure to grow.

Canticle Farm – A certified Naturally Grown farm, locally operated in Allegany, with wonderful produce and CSAs.

Market on Main – Local store; Organic, natural, local! Many good foods and homecare/body products, all carefully sourced. In Allegany.

Khumba Moon Soap – Locally made soaps, hand-crafted and natural! Body soaps in addition to natural laundry soap. In Olean.

7 Natural Remedies for Allergy Relief – Via Wellnessmama.

 

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