“Cheap – easy – works very well”

You may remember that in a Green Ideas a month ago, I mentioned my own hesitation about homemade toothpaste, soap and detergent.  How could they be as good as the commercial stuff, and aren’t they a nuisance to make and use?  But my wife has started making soap and my sisters have started making toothpaste and laundry detergent – so who am I to argue??

So here’s my sister’s simple recipe for laundry detergent.  Ingredients:

  • Four bars Ivory soap (or other natural, unscented soap)
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda (not baking soda – difference explained here; not all stores carry it so you may need to ask for it; quite alkaline so handle with care)

Melt soap in a pot with some water (or grate it in a food processor).  Dump into a five gallon pail, then add borax and soda, and stir.  Top the pail up with water, and let stand overnight.  Then stir (with a big whisk or a paint mixer on a drill if you have one) and pour into jugs.  Shake before using, and use about a cup per load.  My sister’s comment: “Cheap – easy – works very well.”  And she’s a farmer, dealing with tougher stains than most of us do!

If you’re looking for smaller batch options, here are a few alternate but similar recipes from Grist and Mother Earth News.  And since some people aren’t fond of using borax, here’s a recipe that swaps it out for baking soda.  Happy laundering!

PS: Remember to always keep all soaps, detergents and their ingredients safely out of reach of children.

Thanks to sis Jane Duivenvoorden for today’s Green Idea!

Just avoid Bitcoin

Perhaps you’ve heard of Bitcoin – a ‘virtual currency’ not tied to any government, central bank or country, with no actual coins or paper notes.  It exists only on the internet – Bitcoins are created and spent through a complicated system of computer calculations, passwords and cryptography.

I’m thinking I can’t be the only one who finds this all very mind-blowing.

But here’s a disturbing reality about Bitcoins: they are created (or ‘mined’) and transacted by computers processing an enormous number of calculations.  That uses electricity, most of which comes from fossil fuel power plants.  It’s estimated that, globally, Bitcoin mining and usage now consume as much electricity as Bulgaria, and it’s growing exponentially.  (Really great facts here.)

So what to do?

  • Just avoid the Bitcoin bandwagon; stick to conventional or electronic transactions in conventional currencies; and
  • Avoid buying from any merchant that accepts Bitcoin (here’s a list), because a lack of market is the best way to derail what is clearly a huge, looming environmental problem

(Besides, doesn’t Bitcoin sound a little too much like the great Dutch Tulip Mania of the 1600s?…)

January is a great time to declutter

If you’re like me, maybe you’re finding the garage is a bit fuller than it used to be, the basement is filled with stuff that’s rarely used and the desk is full of important papers that haven’t been touched in months.  All signs that it’s time to declutter!

Where to be.gin?  The David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green has an excellent step-by-manageable-step process for decluttering.  It starts decluttering one corner of your bedroom, and builds from there to your home office, kitchen, garage and storage locker.  Instead of me cutting and pasting, why not check out the original posting here?  It’s worth a read.

Then happy decluttering!