Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Spring Cleaning, the Green and Easy Way

By Brianna Knoppow

Spring has sprung in D.C., and it’s finally warm enough to open our windows while cleaning. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to wait for a nice day to clean? With all natural cleaning supplies, fresh air isn’t mandatory, it’s just a nice treat.

Here’s a few of my favorite green cleaning methods. I hope they soon become your favorites too.

  1. Chemical-free all-purpose spray

    Purchase or reuse a spray bottle. Mix 2 parts water with 1 part vinegar. Pour in a few drops of lemon essential oil to add a nice scent. Spray on your counter tops, mirrors and windowsills. Wipe lightly for a clean surface without the harsh chemicals.
    Ingredients: Just vinegar, water and lemon essential oil

    "Was I avoiding parabens or phthalates?”

    “Was I avoiding parabens or phthalates?”

  2. My eco-secret for streak-free mirrors

    Believe it or not, the secret behind clean, streak-free mirrors is reused newspaper! Grab yesterday’s paper out of the recycling bin, spray your mirror with all-purpose cleaner and wipe the mirror dry with newspaper. Your mirror will be as beautiful as you are.
    Ingredients: Just newspaper and all-purpose cleaner

  3. DIY foaming hand soap

    Cut down on plastic waste by purchasing a reusable foaming soap dispenser and a large bottle of castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s. Fill the dispenser with 5 parts water and one part soap, then shake lightly. Now you can stop feeling guilty about your plastic footprint.
    Ingredients: Just castile soap and water

  4. Toilet time

    Before I learned this trick, I used to dread cleaning the toilet. Now I look forward to watching a fun chemical reaction! Simply pour baking soda into the toilet and wait a couple of minutes. Then, pour vinegar into the bowl. After admiring the chemical reaction, scrub with a toilet bowl scrubber. Your toilet will be just as clean as if you used harsh chemicals.
    Ingredients: Just vinegar and baking soda

  5. Repurposed cleaning tools

    You already have a few items lying around the house that are great cleaning tools:
    – Don’t toss your old toothbrush; use it to clean out the dryer’s lint trap
    – Save that laundry detergent bottle lid to use as a small mixing bowl when trying out new cleaning recipes
    – Use old clothing to wipe your surfaces clean after spritzing with all-purpose spray. Wash these DIY rags in the laundry for reuse.
    Ingredients: Just creativity to repurpose items from your waste stream!

Do you have more green cleaning tips? Leave a comment below, and happy eco-spring cleaning!

Brianna Knoppow works in the environmental field in D.C. and enjoys biking, watching musical theater, and foraging for wild mushrooms. She has an M.S. in Environmental Science & Policy.

Source: Seth Sawyers


posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on A Delicious and Sustainable Spring Salad

By Elizabeth Hubley

This salad is everything I love about spring – crisp, tender asparagus; the first juicy vibrant tomatoes of the season, creamy pasture-raised goat cheese, and a light dressing featuring sweet local honey. A satisfying crunch from toasted hazelnuts brings it all together.

In each recipe I create, I choose ingredients that are good for you, people, and the planet. I believe that we have the power to support our bodies, strengthen our communities, and live our commitment to the environment through what we buy, where we make each purchase, and how we prepare and enjoy each meal. This salad was inspired by last weekend’s stroll through the Takoma Park Farmer’s Market and a quick trip to the TPSS Co-op.

I encourage you to make this salad a local adventure – seek out your local farmer’s market for the asparagus, tomatoes, goat cheese and honey. Support a food cooperative or independent grocery store for the hazelnuts and other dressing ingredients. Each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in. Not sure where to start? Visit Local Harvest to find markets, farms, and co-ops near you.springsalad3

As you enjoy the flavors of spring, know that you’re supporting your own health in addition to your community and the planet. This salad is rich in folate, a B vitamin that is especially important for women’s health. It also contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats for a well-balanced and nutritious meal.

Since local produce is harvested just before being brought to market, it contains more nutrients than food brought in from faraway places. Asparagus contain a wide variety of important vitamins and are a good source of prebiotics, which improve digestion. Tomatoes contain, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as other nutrients that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

Purchasing local honey supports honeybee populations, beekeepers, and the health of our local ecosystem. Honey has been used as medicine since ancient times and locally produced honey has been shown to have much stronger antibacterial activity than conventional honey.

springsalad1Choosing goat cheese from pasture-raised goats is a responsible way to indulge in a little dairy. Learn more about the importance of selecting animal products carefully at Eat Wild. Following a vegan diet? Just double up on the hazelnuts, which are full of protein, healthy fats, and promote heart health. You can substitute another natural sweetener for the honey.

Most importantly, take time to prepare and enjoy this delicious salad! Know that you will be supporting your own health, people near and far, and living a little lighter on the planet.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 2


Shaved Asparagus Salad:

1 pound asparagus

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 oz local goat cheese

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon raw honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus. With a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin strips and toss into a bowl.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with asparagus.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese into the bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk well to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
  6. Divide the salad onto two plates and top each with half of the hazelnuts.
  7. Enjoy!

Make it a meal: top with a poached or hard-boiled local organic egg.

Tip: If you can’t find toasted hazelnuts, simply roast them in an oven at 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Elizabeth is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Yoga Instructor who created Siena Wellness to inspire people to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives that positively impact the world we share. She believes that each of us has the power to change the world through daily choices that positively impact our own health, help lift people out of poverty, and protect the planet.

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Written By EcoWomen Guest Blogger Brenna Mannion

You have met those people. The ones who exclaim, “Mosquitos just don’t bother me!” accompanied by a nonchalant shrug. Well I hate those people. Not that it’s their fault, obviously, but mosquitos and all their winged brethren love to bite me. I grew up in central New York, and once the snow melted, all you wanted to do was be outside. To survive, I spent my formative years basically bathing in traditional insect repellants. But as an adult I realize that just because they reduce the amount of bug bites and itchy discomfort, the chemicals contained in those products are harsh (at best) and dangerous (at worst). You know something? I’m wary of spraying myself with bug repellants containing DEET and all sorts of other chemicals that are so powerful, according to the “OFF!” website they can “harm plastics and acrylics”. Um, if it breaks down heavy plastics, imagine the havoc it wreaks on your epidermis. So, outside of wearing long pants and sleeves in the swampy DC summer heat, what’s a natural gal to do?

The answer lies in essential oils. Bugs do not like the smell of things like eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemongrass. There are two avenues to take advantage of various oils, buy one of the many commercially available “natural bug sprays” or make your own. To save yourself a ton of trial and error, there are basic recipes online that you can use as a starting point and customize them to your liking. Most involve a handful of essential oils, putting them into a small hand held sprayer and mixing them with a carrier liquid. But not water! Another reason to buy that large bottle of vodka this weekend. My favorite combination is eucalyptus and lavender. The trick is lots of reapplication – but that’s not hard when it smells so lovely, instead of the inside of a laboratory. This whole homemade bug spray thing may sound hokey, but it really works. I know from personal experience – as well as a raving testimonial from a male friend who used this method while fishing in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and in Darwin, Australia during the wet season. He said his stuff was just as effective as any pesticide/chemical based spray.

Eucalyptus, cinnamon, and peppermint are all good insect repelling essential oils. If you’re not a DIY-er, there are natural repellants available online and at places like Whole Foods. A couple of good brands to try are California Baby, Herbal Armor, and Bite Blocker. Many of the commercial repellants rely heavily on citronella oil, so if that smell brings back unpleasant memories of backyard barbeques with angry Aunt Betty, then you may want to consider making your own.

Now, with all that being said, if you plan on doing real deep woods hiking, with lots of exposure to ticks that may carry Lyme disease, it might be preferable to wear long sleeves and pants, and carry a backup spray with the powerful, DEET-containing repellents on the edges of your clothes (avoiding direct skin contact). Sometimes Mother Nature just has the upper hand. But for the vast majority of your summer activities, natural repellants will work wonderfully!

If none of this sounds appealing, here are a few more avant-garde ideas. The internet is full of testimonials of people who eat garlic or take vitamin B1 supplements to ward off ‘skeeters. Be mindful though, that your boyfriend may not appreciate you swallowing raw cloves of garlic before going camping in a small tent. Try installing a bat house! If you can get bats to nest near your home or vacation spot, as my friend says “they can hang out and eat all the mosquitos.” Please let us know how that works out. If nothing else, it will be fun around Halloween.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DIY Gift-Wrapping: Do It YULESELF

This Holiday Season,  Wrap Your Gifts With Sustainable Style And A Personal Touch

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Catherine Sweitzer

Whether DIY is a personal mantra or a nice idea you keep at arm’s length, there are many ways to make your gift wrapping a little more festive AND green.

Most of my holiday projects are about the same: cute with minimal dedication.  Greening your holidays doesn’t need to be an added burden this busy month! I used three simple ideas while wrapping gifts this year: a recycled tree cutout, map wrap, and magazine streamer. Keep reading to learn how to wrap it yourself!

Stuff You Need:

  • Paper Bags
  • Maps or Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors

The bags I used were left over from Sweet Green take-out and holiday shopping – go ahead and raid your stash of Whole Foods bags for an instant abundance of wrapping supplies. The maps and magazines were things I found around the office, although both can be found thrift stores.

And don’t forget the last thing you need: Gifts!

Now for the wrapping ideas!

Recycled Tree Cutout

Need – Brown Bag, Magazine, Scissors, Tape

Choose a bag that will be appropriate for the size of your gift. Then choose a magazine image that you would like to be peeking through your wrapping paper.

Grab the paper bags and pop open the bottom of the bag and flatten it out. It looks a bit like this:

Cut off the handles of the handles of the bag then cut the bag lengthwise to create a large piece of wrapping paper.

Cut HALF of a tree in what will be the “front” of your wrapping paper (as you can see I goofed up the “half” bit on the bottom).

Grab your image and tape it to the front of your gift. Line up the wrapping paper so your image is peeking through, tape it just right and tah dah! green gift wrap magic:

Map Wrap

Need – Map, Tape, Ribbon, Scissors

Check out the photo of the presents under the tree if you need to be sold on how darling this looks when finished!

It isn’t fancy but newspaper or a map as wrapping paper turns out well especially with a little ribbon for flair. For extra points, use cloth ribbon with wire, which is easily reusable.

Magazine Streamer

Need – Magazine, Tape, Scissors

Some things are difficult to wrap. Namely, anything that isn’t in the shape of a square or rectangle.  By cutting strips of magazine, newspaper, or a map you can piece together wrapping paper that fits the form of your gift AND it looks artsy.

For this, I cut strips of magazine to be wrapped around bracelets.

The bracelets turned into a small wreath of glossy magazine photos; the possible results are as varied as the shapes of all of the awkward-to-wrap gifts!

If you need a little extra help gift-wrapping, don’t forget to stop by the DC EcoWomen Gift Wrapping Fundraiser happening throughout the next couple of weeks.

Here’s to a happy holiday season, may it be filled with green and festive DIY-ing!

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Written By EcoWomen Fashion Blogger Rachel Mlinarchik

While it’s tempting to buy a costume off the rack, it really just creates more stuff. Add to that the fact that most Halloween costumes are made under questionable working conditions in far-flung locales, and the creative, DIY approach seems the best way to go. To get you inspired and ready to create a costume from your closet, I’ve put together three easy DIY Halloween costumes ideas from my own wardrobe.

1. Princess Leia

This first look is a crowd pleaser for sure. I mean, who doesn’t love Star Wars? To put together your own DIY Princess Leia look, you really don’t need very many pieces.

Almost everyone has a white turtleneck shirt or sweater, white jeans, and boots in their closet. Borrow a toy gun to carry around (a nice touch, but not essential), pin up your hair, and boom: Princess Leia.
See more of my Princess Leia costume and the photos I used as inspiration here.


2. Fortune Teller

A DIY fortune teller costume is even easier than Princess Leia and requires a very simple three-step process:

1. Get out every scarf and scarf-like item of clothing you own (focus on hippie prints).
2. Get out all of your jewelry, especially rings.
3. Put it ALL on.

For a little extra oomph, add heavily kohl-lined eyes and deep red lipstick, as I’ve done here, and start telling people that you see a long life and a great love in their futures.

The 90s are the hotness right now, so why not channel them with an iconic Courtney Love costume? All you need is a slip dress with something racy underneath, ripped up tights, and some seriously messed up make-up.

3. Courtney Love

If you check out my full look, you’ll see that I did this one as a couples costume with my husband dressed up as Kurt Cobain, but Courtney can easily stand alone.

I hope these three DIY looks get you thinking about creative ways to use your own closet this Halloween. If you like them, be a hero and share them with a friend — you might single-handedly ensure that one less cheap polyester costume ends up in a landfill this year.

Guest blogger Rachel Mlinarchik curates sustainable style that is kind to the earth and the people on it at

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Furlough For Enviros: Five Earth-Lovin’ Activities For Your Staycation

As a woman living in the DC area, chances are pretty good that you’re currently on an unexpected paid staycation, courtesy of the government shutdown. But now, almost a week later, you might be running out of ideas of what you can do with all this newfound free time while still remaining friendly to the environment.

There are many ways to spend your furlough days more environmentally-friendly than sitting and watching TV in your air-conditioned home. You can use to take this time to try something new, to rebuild, refresh, and explore – here’s how.

Explore The Area

Even though all your favorite museums and national parks are closed, there are no limits to the places you can explore in and around the district. There is a lot of natural beauty interspersed throughout the city, and as far as I know, the government isn’t allowed to shut down the trees.

As for art, there are many privately-owned art galleries, still open for business, like the Phillips Gallery and the Corcoran. The Eastern Market is still open, the home of many artists selling their work.

Having some extra time means you can go further away, as well. Mount Vernon is just a 10 mile bike ride away once you cross the Potomac. Alexandria is an adorable destination; the riverside parks are ideal for lounging on the beach, and Old Town is full of niche shops and restaurants, and its Torpedo Factory Art Center is a unique – and wonderful – experience.

Create Your Food

Choose real potatoes over couch potatoes! A government shutdown is a great excuse to plant some winter root vegetables, or prep your garden for spring.

But I know what some of you are thinking. Who has the space for a garden in DC? I barely have room for my fake cactus in the corner of the living room! Have no fear.  You can still take the time to create something edible that doesn’t necessitate the use of mulch. Something simpler, and garden-free: Infusion. Infuse olive oil, infuse vinegar, infuse liquor, infuse everything! You can transform a cheap alcohol into a tasty, easy-to-drink concoction, like vanilla or basil-flavored vodka. An herb-and-fruit infused vinegar would make a classy addition to a salad, especially alongside a rosemary-infused olive oil.

Grow Your Network

This is the perfect opportunity to work on improving your professional life. Meet up with an old contact for coffee to catch up and ask for advice. Take the time to think about your goals and career path, and talk about those with your colleagues as well.

Update your resume. Go to a DC EcoWomen happy hour you might have been too busy for otherwise. Know that you are not alone – surely there are meetups for your fellow temporarily-unemployed.

Rebuild Your Home

Is your bland wooden table falling apart, or are you sick of your tired-looking chair? This may be the perfect opportunity to revamp some of your old furniture.  Pull out that toolkit, teach yourself how to repair that broken clock or DVD player – you can learn just about anything on Youtube. Learn how to upcycle your used goods into something new, like old records into a chip bowl, or a wine cork message board (because everyone needs another reason to drink wine!)

Cheap, throwaway goods not meant to last very long have become the norm in our society – it’s quick and easy to throw something away and not think about the consequences, like the ever-growing Great Pacific garbage patch. But now that you have extra time, take the extra hour or two to learn how to fix or upcycle your goods instead. Resist consumerism by repairing, not tossing.

Discover Your Talents

Do you spend endless hours gazing at crafts on Pinterest that you have no time for?  Do you have a burning desire to start a blog or take up an instrument? You can take this week to research that side project that has been burning in the back of your mind. Explore your interests, and you might just find a new thing to love as much as you love being an EcoWoman!

No furlough? No fear!

These activities aren’t exclusively for the furloughed. For all you EcoWomen that don’t work for the federal government, a personal day might be in order!

What other enviro-friendly activities do you plan on doing during the furlough? Let us know in the comments!

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on For Earth’s Sake, Get Organized!

Marin Rose presented at the DC EcoWomen Conference in the “Organize Your Life” workshop. The following is excerpted from her corresponding post on the Functionable Fashionable blog.

Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot about the environmental benefits of being organized. You might think that saving things rather than discarding them is better for the environment – this is sometimes the case. The truth is, though, that the basic principles of organized living support the tenets of being green. And there are, of course, eco-friendly ways to make your home more functional and more fashionable. It’s all about finding the right places for your existing belongings and making plans to reduce future consumption.

The first step in drawing order from chaos is the all-important “purge.” Disposing of large quantities of stuff sounds wasteful but, done thoughtfully, it is actually the very definition of efficiency. Many organizers advise you to sort your belongings into these categories:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Trash

Items that you keep will continue to serve a purpose for you and your family. Donated items will benefit others in your community. Sold items also help others, with the added benefit of a profit for you. Only trashed items are environmentally harmful. Ensure that your trashed items are few. In addition to the abovementioned four categories, also create piles to:

  • Recycle
  • Shred

Anything in working order that you are unable or unwilling (due to time or logistical constraints) to sell is eligible for donation. Goodwill, for instance, takes all sorts of clothing, books, music and household items. You might also consider offering things to libraries, schools or shelters.

It’s critical that you securely dispose of sensitive documents – anything displaying your social security number, or financial or medical information – by shredding it. Just remember that the shredded materials are recyclable.

There’s a common misconception that letting go of clutter means throwing away things of value. In fact, when items are disposed of conscientiously, they are actually set free to take on increased value. Unused, unloved items are redirected to new homes, where they will actively serve a purpose or be converted into something else that does so. Not only does this benefit recipients, it also eliminates the need to dedicate resources to the production of a brand new item. In this way, second-hand markets reduce overall resource consumption.

But these at-large efficiencies, though compelling, are not the only benefits of de-cluttering. They are also felt on an individual level. How many times have you purchased something only to discover you already had one – or more – at home? How many perishable items have you had to throw away unopened? When we finally take time to empty out our closets, pantries, attics and garages, we get a full picture of what we already possess. By taking stock of what we have and organizing it in a logical, accessible manner, we cease to over-buy. We save money by eliminating unnecessary purchases, and we save time searching or shopping for the things we need. We re-allocate existing products, thereby saving natural resources – all while providing for our local and global communities.

For young children who are resistant to the idea of cleaning out their bedrooms, framing the subject in an Earth-friendly vein may just help your cause. Kids now are taught in school to be environmentally conscious and often come home with all sorts of dictates for how the household must be more greenly managed. Organizing their own belongings is one way they can take personal action. Talking with your family about mindful consumption is an opportunity to impart valuable life lessons – not only about the environment but about personal organization skills and responsible financial management.

Your tech-savvy children are well equipped to contribute in an even greater way to household efficiency. Today technology presents some of the best opportunities for saving natural resources, as well as your time, space and money. Next month we’ll explore some of the creative ways we can use electronics to get organized and go green.

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Questions for Marin? Send inquiries to [email protected]

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on DIY For Summer: Revamp Your Old Furniture

Good As New – Tips on Revamping and Fixing Up Your Old Furnishings

Odds are that you’ve got a lot of old furniture around the house.  You might just want to get rid of it, if for nothing else, just to save the space. While reducing clutter in your home is never a bad idea, and keeping your older furniture in mint conditioncan be difficult, don’t be too quick to throw away those unique pieces that aren’t being used. There are plenty of ways that you can refinish or “revamp” your furniture and put it to good use, especially if you have something older that just needs a new style or look. There is a bit of a process involved, and how you proceed will depend on several things. The first decision you have to make is what pieces of furniture you want to put the work into.

What to Keep? 

In order to decide what to keep, you need to assess your home and figure out what you have space for and where you want to add another piece of furniture. Here’s the process:

If furniture is stored

Do a walkthrough of each room and decide where you have the space for extra furniture. Choose a piece of furniture from storage that would fit in those places or be useful in the room with the extra space.

If furniture is in use

Simply identify the pieces that you feel don’t quite fit in terms of style, then set them aside as your project pieces. Once you’ve chosen the furniture you want to work on, there are several different things you can do to create the 2.0, new and improved versions. A lot of what you do will depend on what kind of furniture you’re dealing with, but more often than not, you’ll be working with wood of some kind. Here are some of the basic things you can do that will apply to most pieces of old wooden furniture and can be implemented in a variety of different ways:


Sanding is something you’ll have to get used to if you want to make a habit out of sprucing up old furniture is using a sander. An electric sander would be highly recommended, considering the amount of time it takes to properly sand something down by hand. You can get your hands on a mid-grade sander for around the $50 or $60 mark, which is a worthwhile investment if you plan on using it a lot. Sanding down a piece of furniture makes painting it much easier and will ensure that the paint goes on smoothly and properly. Painting over furniture with a finish or a glossy coat of paint isn’t going to look as nice as it would if you have a blank canvas to work with. Sanding basically allows you to start fresh with an old piece of furniture.

Spray Paint

Once you’ve got your furniture sanded, spray paint is one of your best tools available when it comes to giving it second life. The nice thing about spray paint is that it’s easy to use and comes in all kinds of different finishes, aside from just different colors. Whatever you plan to do with an old piece of furniture, the odds are pretty good that spray paint can help you get there.

Ignore the Tradition of the Piece

A lot of what makes an old piece of furniture interesting is that it can serve a different purpose somewhere else. For example, one might take an old thin crate and use it to hold a DVD collection, or perhaps an old chair could be spray painted and used to house a flower pot. That’s a big part of the trend of re-using older furniture, which is being powered in large part by the influence of Pinterest contributions. It’s all about being creative and working with what you have, so don’t be afraid to do some sanding, some painting and then try and place the piece in a spot where it might not be conventionally used.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles who covers everything from health, marketing, travel and design. She is always looking for ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into her everyday life such as using gift bags and other household items for crafts with her three kids.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 8 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint: Earth Day in DC

Guest Post by Catherine Plume

Today is the 44th celebration of our environment and our planet – Earth Day. Now, with climate change hitting hard, we need to make sustainable choices more than ever.  Chances are that by now, you’re a vigilant recycler, ensuring that you, your family, and/or housemates put all ”allowables” in the bin.  But after you’ve mastered the art of the recycling bin, what’s next?  Have you ever looked at your plastic footprint?

Wikimedia Commons

First, it’s important to understand why plastics are so bad. In a nutshell, there are a host of chemicals in plastics, and their impact on the environment and on human health is not looking good.  Plastics take a very long time to decompose, creating waste that lingers and/or is ingested by wildlife.  While most plastics are recyclable, it’s often cheaper (in short-term financial terms) to produce new plastic than to make products out of second-hand plastic. And most of the secondary products are not themselves recyclable – recycling a plastic water bottle only prolongs how long it takes to reach the landfill. Bottom line: throwing your plastics into your recycle bin is not enough.  So, what to do?  How about reducing the amount of plastics you consume in the first place?  

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  1. Buy products that have no – or less – plastic packaging.  You can buy peanut butter, catsup, mustard, etc in glass jars. Pasta in a 100% paper package is just as good, if not better than pasta in a package with the little plastic window on it.

  2. Use glass containers for storing and microwaving your leftovers.   Save your glass jars and reuse them for storing leftovers. Just remember, NEVER MICROWAVE PLASTIC!

  3. Don’t buy or drink water in plastic bottles.  If the folks who work at on water quality at EPA drink DC water out of the tap, you can too!  Get a stainless steel water bottle and fill it up!

  4. Reuse those plastic vegetable bags.  In DC, we’re all about bringing our own bags to the store.  Take the next step and clean and reuse your vegetable bags!  Buy in bulk as you can!

  5. Make your own shampoo! This isn’t for everyone, but about 6 months ago, I gave up shampoo for water mixed with baking soda. I use white vinegar as a rinse.  It took my hair a few weeks to learn how to make its own oil again, but now my hair is as soft, if not softer,than when I used commercial shampoo.  Google “NO POO” and you’ll find a ton of information and testimonials.  I also use baking soda as toothpaste.  As an added benefit, my job requires considerable travel, and using baking soda has reduced TSA issues.  I’m so glad I made this change!

  6. Use baking soda and white vinegar as your primary cleaning products (just don’t combine them in a container!).  Instead of throwing out your empty (plastic) squirt bottles, reuse them to make your own environmentally friendly cleaning products. There are tons of recipes on the web!

  7. Use astringent to clean your face?  Make your own!  Basil, vinegar and lemon juice make good options – and they go soft on your pocketbook as well as the environment.

  8. Make your own food!  I’m a big consumer of plain yogurt, so my recycling bin was loaded with large plastic yogurt containers.  Then, a friend gave me a yogurt recipe that involves milk, a crock pot and a bit of yogurt to get the process going. EASY! By making my own yogurt, I’ve reduced by plastic consumption by some 50 large yogurt containers per year.  I store it in a crock that I found at Value Village. Now, I’m making my own hummus, tapenade, granola and raita, and I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire.  AND, I’m saving money and making better food than what I can buy in the store – all while reducing my plastic consumption.

About two years ago, while doing research for my blog (, I came across Beth Terry’s My Plastic Free Life blog.  Her book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, was entertaining and easy to read, and gave me some great ideas for reducing my plastic footprint.  Check it out!

And, when you think about Earth Day, recognize that you’re not going to save the world on your own.  The carbon footprint I accumulate through my work travel every year is embarrassing, and I still buy frappuccinos in plastic cups even though I (really, really) mean to bring my own. I still have plenty of plastic in my life, but at least I’m thinking about what I do buy, and the impact of what I’m buying on the environment.  That’s a start right there!

Catherine Plume is the blogger for the DCRecycler