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Its that time of year (thankfully) when you feel like throwing open the windows giving the house a spring clean.  This year I am all about reducing my chemical load, both for environmental reasons and for the health of my family. Here are our top tips for a greener spring clean:

Swap your regular cleaning cloths and mops for micro fibre ones. Micro fibre cloths have an amazing ability to absorb dirt and grease with their unique electrostatic quality. They are able to pick up 99% of bacteria, compared to the usual 33% when using traditional cloths.  Micro fibre cloths reduce the need for chemicals as they work with just water.

Make your own natural all purpose cleaning remedies:

Vinegar:

  • White vinegar and salt mixed together make a good surface cleaner.
  • Pour a cup of white vinegar into your toilet once a month and allow it to settle for a few hours before flushing to keep unsightly water rings away.

Baking Soda:

  • Four tablespoon’s of baking soda and one litre of warm water makes a good floor cleaner.
  • Baking soda on a damp sponge will clean all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

Together: To clean the drains, pour ½ a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Let the mixture foam for a few minutes and finally flush with a cup of boiling water.

Lemon:

Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice and you have a furniture polish for your hardwood furniture.

If you want to buy ready made products we recommend Nigel’s Eco Store for for the best range of green cleaning products.  The Award Winning Earth Friendly range is the one I have found the most effective.

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Have you heard about Royal Mail’s new recycling service?

Every year, over 1.1 billion printer cartridges are sold around the world with half of these ending up in landfills. Inkjet cartridges can easily be re-manufactured up to two or three times each resulting in fewer going directly to landfills.

The UK only resells or recycles 11% of their mobile phones (source: TNS Omnibus 2008). Even fewer recycle cameras and MP3 players. Each year, 20 million phones are tossed into landfill in the UK alone which then take more than 1,000 years to break down (www.wasteonline.org.uk).

Now you can recycle your old mobile phones, MP3 players, digital cameras and inkjet cartridges using Simply Drop. Old technology is reused or recycled for parts and metals to be used again.

How does it work

1.Register your items at Simply Drop

2. Send them in a prepaid envelope.

Their envelopes are made from naturally oxy-degradable polythene. Meaning they degrade and disappear in a short period of time, leaving no fragments, no methane, no harmful residues, and therefore no lasting impact upon the environment

3. Get paid.

Choose to receive a personal payment for the value of your technology, or donate your payment to charity.

Recycling couldn’t be easier.

I’ll be rummaging through those drawers of junk to dig out anything I can send. Now I just need some way of dealing with old batteries!

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According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG), in the 2-5 minutes that Teflon coated cookware coated is heating on a conventional hob, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At extremely high temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens. When exposed to fumes of heated non-stick pans the lungs of birds have been known to hemorrhage and fill up with fluid leading to suffocation , a condition called “Teflon Toxicosis”.

For humans an effect called “polymer fume fever” has been acknowledged. This is said to be a temporary influenza-like syndrome, however, the long term effects of this exposure remain unknown. Additionally, when pans with these coatings get scratched during cooking, small amounts of plastic and leached aluminum cling to the food and are then eaten.

In 2005 s study by the Environmental Working Group in collaboration with Commonweal found perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA and a chemical found in teflon and a known carcinogen) in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. John Hopkins Medical Centre did a similar test in 2006 where PFOA was present in the umbilical cord blood of 99% of the 300 infants tested.

You can avoid exposures to the fumes from Teflon and other non-stick cookware by phasing out your use of these products.

What are the alternatives?

Cast iron – known for its durability and even heat distribution.  Maintenance wise it can be a pain as it rusts easily and needs to be seasoned (sealed) with oil and fat to give a non stick finish. Iron can also seep into your food whilst cooking. Some people cite this as a health benefit, however, the jury is out on this for me.

Enamel coated cast iron – for those who like the feel and heat distribution properties of cast iron but dread the seasoning process, ceramic enameled cookware from Le Creuset or World Cuisine are a good choice.  These surfaces are very durable, better at browning foods than Teflon non-stick coatings, and are dishwasher safe.

Glass – I remember my Nana using glass pots. Glass is inert and is therefore probably the safest material around. The two major advantages of glass cookware is that you can see the food you’re cooking and they can be easily transferred between the hob, oven, refrigerator and freezer. Another big advantage of glass pans is that they clean easily and can be put in the dishwasher. There is no need to worry about seasoning, worry about scratches, rusting or other damage. Chipping and cracking can be a problem, but only with very rough usage.

Stainless steel is a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. However, unless your stainless steel cookware is dinged and pitted, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible. Most chefs agree that stainless steel browns foods better than non-stick surfaces.

Hard anodized cookware – many health conscious cooks are turning to anodized aluminium cookware as a safer alternative. The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware’s base metal, aluminium, so that it can’t get into food, and makes for what many cooks consider an ideal non-stick and scratch-resistant cooking surface. If the surface becomes scratched your protection from the aluminium can not be guaranteed. There have been some studies that link absorption of aluminium to Alzheimer’s.

Dupont (makers of Teflon) are looking for a new material to substitute Teflon after being asked by the US federal government to eliminate any new emissions of the key Teflon chemical from its factories by 2010.  My thoughts, beware of any new substitutes until proven safe.

Source: Natural News, EWG

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If you are shivering at home with a decrepide heating system this could be your lucky day.  The government have launched the boiler scrappage scheme (similar to the car scrappage scheme) meaning that if you buy a new boiler you could save you money, the environment, and give a boost to the jobs market .  The Government said the boiler scrappage scheme would save the same amount of carbon as taking 45,000 cars off the road.

If you own a G rated boiler you could be one of the thousands who could get £400 from the Government to replace their inefficient heating systems.

This would cut the cost of getting a new heating system from an average of £2,500 to £2,100 while household energy bills should fall by as much as £235 a year. (Source: The Mirror)

Energy firms including British Gas and NPower have already pledged to match the payment, meaning you could get up to £800 discount on new boilers.

In a slightly willy wonka way, there are up to 125,000 vouchers up for grabs which will be dished out on a first-come first served basis.

To find out more, work out if your boiler is G rated or register for the scheme click here.

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We love these funky and original Christmas stockings. We love them even more because they’re handmade from 100% recycled materials and appliquéd with vintage fabric, buttons and hand stitched with your choice of name.

Each one is individually designed and handmade to order exclusively for you- there will never be another one like it. They measure approximately 47 x 34cms, cost £55 plus p&p and take a week to turn around – so you can still get them in time if you order now from Alice and Emma.

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I know, I know its the 30th November so we’re cutting it fine with this piece. You’re probably all over this already but you can always save any ideas you may take from it for next year. However, if not then you’re in luck.

1. Marilyn Scott-Waters, The Toymaker, can bail you out with her free printable Advent calendar.

Just grab the two PDF files from Marilyn’s Christmas web page, and fire up the ol’ colour printer.

You’re going to print out one copy of each page. On the page with the Christmas tree picture, cut out three sides of each of the numbered doors.

The second page is glued on behind, with tiny seasonal pictures to be revealed as each door is opened day by day through December. Easy-peasy!

The Toymaker’s design has real old-fashioned charm — like all of her paper toys — but all the speed and convenience that a busy modern parent could hope for.

2. If you’re not worried about delivering your calendar a little late and you don’t mind spending a bit more time try the baby sock advent calendar.

I loved the look of this, it would definitely last you a few years and use up all those unpaired socks in the draw.

3. Or, again more time consuming but very creative , these numbered paper cones. The creator, Lisa Tilse has hung them on branches but you could thread or clip them onto some gorgeous festive ribbon and hang them down the bannister.

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If like me you are obsessed with lighting fires to keep the house toasty as we go into winter you will love these.

Instead of buying chemical fire lighters (which stink so bad you know they can’t be good for you) you can use these organic cone firelighters which smell amazing and are lots better for your family’s health.

These organic kindle cones from earthwhile are £ 11.99 for a bag of 12 and are a far cry from the harsh chemical firelighters.  They look great and are set in lovely cinnamon and spice infused soya wax (rather than parafin) which mean that when you burn them they fill the room with a lovely natural fragrance.

HG-945

They are not cheap but look like a great housewarming present or a gift for Christmas or just a treat for yourself on those chilly nights in.

Pine cones have long made good firelighters and if you don’t fancy buying these they are usually in plentiful supply throughout the year if you take a short walk through a pine wood.


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