when size matters

which of these three do you want in your house?

Are you tired of lugging (and storing) huge plastic bottles of laundry detergent? And then tossing that chunk of plastic when it’s empty? You have options. Pods are smaller, but still contain plastic and can be pricey. We use concentrated detergent- you get the same number of washes from a much smaller bottle. (hint: measure so you don’t use more than you need.) But a friend just introduced me to detergent sheets (where have I been?). They dissolve in the wash and you’re left with a slim cardboard envelope. A quick search shows I can’t buy them locally but they’re available online. I look forward to the extra space in my cabinet!

watching paint dry

photo by david waschbuesch

DYK over half the stuff brought to household hazardous waste events could just stay at home? We’re talking latex paint. Dry it out and it can go in your regular trash. (Stir cat litter into the paint until it thickens and won’t pour.) If you have just a little left, open the can and let the paint air dry.

Other options: give the paint to a community center, charity, or school. (Would they take my rotten melon and school bus yellow colors?). Or save it for later. Properly sealed and stored, latex paint can last up to 10 years.  

FYI: Oil-based or spray paint don’t harden and should be taken to that hazardous waste event.

if you love it…

…why set it free? Try a little TLC first. Have you whipped out needle and thread, shoe polish, or a can of paint to make something last longer? What about salvaging broken china, makeup, outdoor furniture or Christmas tree lights? While some things are beyond fixing, you might be surprised at how many things you can repair if you check online. I just saved my favorite elephant lamp with what turned out to be a simple fix (yay!). NOTE: If you think this applies to your significant other, you’re reading too much into it. Maybe.

a snuggly water heater

same idea, but much cuter

The only time I think about my hot water heater is when it’s not working. I’m not even 100% sure where it is (just checked- under the house). If it’s not instantaneous, your water heater is sitting there 24 hours a day, every day, keeping water warm. As a test, touch the outside of your appliance. If it’s warm, it’s radiating heat. Wrap it in a water heater blanket and lower your water heating costs by 10-15%. FYI, newer water heaters are better insulated and usually don’t need to cozy up.

your day, your way

photo by onesave

Today is National Energy Efficiency Day- join the crowd and change a light bulb to a more efficient one, turn down your thermostat and check for leaky windows and drafty doors. At the very least, turn off unnecessary lights. And while you’re at it, think about making every day an energy efficient day!

eat your enemies

photo by wai siew

Plant and animal species are called invasive when they’re not native to an ecosystem and cause harm. DYK that one invasive species can destroy an entire coral reef, forest, or body of water? The newcomers unbalance the interactions between the native plants and animals. One intriguing way to get rid of these invaders is by eating them. Ever tried garlic mustard greens, lionfish filet, or green crabs? They’re all invasive… and edible. Next time I see a jar of kudzu jelly, a scourge of the South, I’ll definitely buy some. I think I’ll pass on the Burmese python, but let me know if it tastes like chicken.

well plated

photo by markus winkler

Disposable plates mean you don’t spend the evening washing up. But how often do you use them? Try reusable plates sometimes. If faced with washing dishes, some in my family will eat straight out of the pot. Luckily, that’s not the only option. If you must use disposables, buy paper instead of plastic or styrofoam plates, which don’t biodegrade. Also try switching paper napkins out for cloth on occasion. We use ours a couple of times before washing them…unless it’s spaghetti night. Or barbeque. Or…well, you get it!

the mysterious freezer box

DYK- although frozen food boxes are paper products, most of them can’t be recycled? These boxes (aka wet-strength paperboard) are just like recyclable boxes- with one difference. The paper is layered with polyethylene (LDPE) plastic to keep the box from getting soggy and to prevent freezer burn. Soda & beer cartons are made of it too.

It’s difficult to separate the plastic from the paperboard and some municipalities can’t accept it as recycling. And because of the plastic, it can’t be composted either. So check the box for a recycling symbol and your local requirements, but otherwise, frozen food boxes go in the trash.

skip (by) the dryer

DYK that your clothes dryer can make up over 10 percent of your household energy use? Try drying your clothes on a rack or line. You’ll see less wear and tear on your clothes. Less shrinkage and longer clothing life. No static cling. No dryer sheets. And you’ll use less energy. A retractable clothesline in the back yard is great for quickly drying bed linens and towels (and that fresh smell…). For those with less space, try a fold-out rack. I tuck them between my washer & dryer when they’re not in use. 

move over, popsicles

photo by dev benjamin

How do I love my freezer? Let me count the ways: instant food ready at any time, slows down spoiling, keeps me in constant healthy options, and often saves me a tired trip to the grocery store.

You can freeze all kinds of things: nuts, bread, butter, meat, fish, poultry, casseroles, pies, and blocks of hard cheese, even milk. If I know I’m not going to eat something before its time is up, I throw it in the freezer for a later date. FYI: peel ripe bananas before freezing (we learned that the hard way). 

I now label and date my containers first, after a few defrosting “misunderstandings.” And remember, not only are you wasting less food. A full freezer uses less energy!