Here’s a wonderful promise: You never have to bring home, dispose of, and feel guilty about using another plastic dry cleaning bag again. Nope, we aren’t suggesting you start hand-washing everything from your favorite cocktail dress to your husband’s dress pants—instead, use the Green Garmento three-in-one dry cleaning bag.
This reusable lightweight bag does triple duty as a roomy hamper (with its own snap-together frame), a totable duffel (cinch the top, throw it over your shoulder, and haul it to the cleaners), and a sturdy garment bag for your cleaned and pressed clothes. (See? No need for those landfill-clogging plastic bags.) With clever pockets to stash things like accessories and even your frequent-customer card, the Green Garmento makes dry cleaning easier, more organized, and gentler on the environment. It’s an all-around win.
Jenny Carney was almost struck by lightning once. A field ecologist, she was using a metal tank of compressed nitrogen to measure the moisture content in a tree. “It started to drizzle,” she says. “Then out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning hit the tank.” Fortunately, the tank didn’t explode. But the simultaneous light-sound experience—“near death by natural disaster,” she jokes—was a pretty exciting moment in her (outdoor) working life.
About 10 years ago, Jenny, now 37, took her scientific-inquiry skills indoors, where she felt they could make more of an impact. She runs a sustainability consulting firm in Chicago called YR&G that advises companies on all aspects of green building and energy-efficiency. It’s rewarding work, for sure. But sitting in front of a computer all day made Jenny, who had grown up in rural Wisconsin and had traversed forests in her previous gig, ache for nature. It’s a familiar feeling, even for those of us with urban roots and desk-centric careers.
Hatching a Plan
Raised by parents who had let their kids wander free with an ethos of “benign neglect,” Jenny had fond memories of slipping past barbed-wire fences to say hello to the neighbors’ cows. She dreamed of a similar vibe for adulthood, but she didn’t have the budget for a traditional country house.
Then she read a book that galvanized her. It was by journalist Richard Louv and titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Suddenly Jenny had a name for the malaise many of us feel from being cooped up too much—nature-deficit disorder—and confirmation that, as she explains it, “a compulsion toward nature is a health imperative.” If she couldn’t buy a place, she decided, she would build one herself. Something tiny. Did she have the construction chops? Not yet. But she was a good learner, and she had a secret weapon: her dad, Paul, who, she notes, “could build just about anything.” She started combing online listings for affordable property relatively close to Chicago, in a part of her home state that she considered particularly beautiful.
In early 2009, Jenny purchased six acres of raw land in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, near the bluffs of the Mississippi River. She taught herself the 3-D modeling software SketchUp and spent that spring designing a small structure. Jenny had never designed anything before, but the software is perfect for beginners. “I was shooting for something more like a studio,” she says. In her head, she downplayed the fact that she would actually need to sleep there overnight. (The land was a good four hours from Chicago.) This “made the project seem attainable despite my lack of experience,” she adds with a laugh.
The structure that she drew and later built is not big and not fancy. Says Jenny: “It’s very intentionally not a house—it’s at best a shelter. I actually call it a shed. Sometimes I sleep in a tent or outside on the porch if the bugs and weather are tolerable. Sometimes I sleep inside.” Jenny’s friend Cayce nicknamed the retreat Xanadu, after the enchanted landscape in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” It’s an apt moniker. The area features rolling hills, small farms, and country roads dotted with Amish buggies. And at 150 square feet, the shed is all about what surrounds it. “The default state at Xanadu is to be outside in nature,” says Jenny. “You have to make the active decision to go inside.”
It’s in the Genes
Jenny grew up watching both her parents make things with their hands. Her mother, Jane, is an artist who teaches reupholstering (just one of her many skills) at the local tech school. Jane taught Jenny and her sister how to cane chairs, a skill that came in handy when they needed pocket money during graduate school. Jenny’s father, a retired construction foreman who worked on bridges, built the family’s current home and several outbuildings with help from his kids and his brothers. Jenny says, “Lots of people from Wisconsin are like this. They’re industrious—they just do things.”
Raising a Shed
By most accounts, Jenny’s shed went up smoothly one extended October weekend in 2009, in large part because Jenny and Paul made a great team. She’s a planner; he’s a figure-it-out-as-you-go-er. “I enlisted his help right away to look at my drawings and tell me whether it was going to work,” she says. “But he didn’t fully engage in the project until we were actually building it.” Then there was no problem he could not solve.
They started by choosing a location for the structure. Jenny wanted to build deep in the woods, on a level road that followed an old farmer’s fence line. Her city self sought privacy. Paul convinced her to move the site closer to the field where she would park her car, in part so they wouldn’t have to lug building materials as far. (She thanked him later.) They created what’s known as a floating foundation by laying a small bed of gravel for each footing and arranging 12 concrete deck blocks (they look like cinder blocks). Working hard with Jenny and Paul all weekend were Paul’s brother Bob and Jenny’s mom, Jane, who also kept the team well fed. At one point, a couple of friends stopped by to lend extra hands.
Says newbie-builder Jenny, “When you focus on the constituent parts, [a project like this] seems manageable: Build a floor, add some walls, top it with a roof.” And that’s what they did. After the foundation was in place, they framed the floor, dropping supports of different lengths to create a level surface on the hill. Since they were building on an incline, the supports at the top of the hill are shorter than those at the bottom—and the floor appears to stick straight out of the hillside.
Days at Xanadu are spent lounging on the porch and enjoying the company of friends while waiting the 20 minutes it takes for water to boil.
Next they put down plywood floor decking. Then they framed the walls, leaving room for windows, and the roof, which would be metal, to facilitate rainwater collection.
After the skeleton of the shed was in place, they hung exterior walls made of plywood and added a layer of environmentally friendly siding (made of cement, sand, and wood fiber). “Fiber-cement siding,” Jenny explains, “is durable and low-maintenance, yet it’s far more environmentally preferred than vinyl siding. For one thing, it’s inert and noncombustible, so you don’t have to worry about off-gassing or the release of toxic compounds in the event of a fire.” Paul and Jenny finished up by installing energy-efficient windows and a sliding-glass door that opens onto a porch, sheltered by an overhanging roof.
Three and a half days after the project began, the exterior shell was complete. Jenny’s mom rewarded the team with a huge pan of lasagna made on a camp stove.
Filling in the Blanks
The remaining construction took place in stages over the course of the following year. Jenny came back by herself to build the interior walls. She used Energy Star–qualified foam insulation between the studs and finished the inside walls and the ceiling with formaldehyde-free plywood.
That fall, Paul returned, and together they fitted the space with a woodstove and a chimney so it could be used in winter. He and Jenny also built a simple, space-saving Murphy-type bed: It’s a basic platform bed whose head is attached to the wall with hinges. They added hooks to the far legs and chains to the wall so that the bed could be hinged and lifted to hang vertically, flush against the wall, when not in use. Bed linens are kept in two storage bins that, like most everything in the shed, serve a dual purpose—they’re sofa seating.
Something To Eat, Nothing To Do
Jenny researched vegetables that could thrive without care. Since she’s not around to water regularly, they needed to be OK with what nature provides. In raised beds in a nearby field, she grows onions, fingerling potatoes, and beans, which she leaves to dry on the vine, then harvests for dinner.
Days at Xanadu are spent lounging on the porch, blazing trails, hunting for wild morel mushrooms, and enjoying the company of friends and loved ones while waiting the 20 minutes it takes for water to boil on the woodstove.
The Unfinished Product
There’s still no plumbing or electricity installed on the property, and for now Jenny prefers it this way. She collects rainwater in a barrel to wash dishes, cooks on a campfire propane grill or the woodstove, uses a solar-charged battery to power a few lights, and turns to sawdust and a bucket for a loo. As long as you’re prepared to rough it, she says, staying at Xanadu feels like cushy camping.
In an effort to return the land to its original state. Jenny cultivates prairie plants, such as milkweed. (Monarch-butterfly larvae require it, and sadly it’s disappearing.) Last year, she planted heirloom apple trees, which the deer keep picking at. In a field near the garden are tree-swallow houses made by Paul from a design that Jenny found online. Birds make their home there during mating season; field mice take residence the rest of the year. Even the swallows have a second purpose, says Jenny: “They’re insectivores, gobbling mosquitoes to make lounging in the field more appealing for humans.”
Jenny dreams of a high-speed rail link between Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, which would allow her to make the most of the trek. Until then, she does the four-hour drive whenever she can get away, staying as long as her schedule permits.
At the end of each visit, before she heads back to her city life, she has a ritual. She sits on the porch, drinking a beer and reading a poem.
Paul Carney understands Jenny’s pull toward this rustic project. During his retirement, he figures that he spends 90 percent of his waking time outside, gardening, fishing, and working on his house. “In the summer, I just come in to eat and sleep,” he reports.
Recycled Glass Jug
The touch of twine on the neck gives this recycled glass jug a pretty, earthy flair. Use it as a doorstop in an entryway or as décor on a screened-in porch.
Woven Chindi Metal Bench
Made in India with repurposed fabric scraps, this one-of-a-kind bench offers a great way to add some eclectic flair into your space.
Recycled Rope Doormat
Leave dirt and debris at the door with this durable mat at the ready. The recycled polyester is resistant to mildew, so it can withstand the springtime mudroom mess.
Common Good Dish Soap
A concentrated, plant-based formula enhanced with natural extracts is stored within a sleek glass bottle to tackle a multitude of kitchen messes.
Reclaimed Teak Garden Stool
Whether adorning your indoor workspace or your exterior potting shed, this reclaimed teak stool will be a—ahem—natural fit wherever it’s placed.
Farmstead Stoneware Striped Serving Bowl
Crafted in Portugal with lead-free glazes and scrap materials, this handmade bowl may have had minor environmental impact, but its bright colors are sure to offer major wow-factor.
Your book says the United States wastes 50 percent more food now than it did in the 1970s. Why is that?
Portion sizes have grown tremendously since then. Plus, it’s become normal for restaurants and caterers to produce excessive menus and buffets and for consumers to buy more than they need.
We’ve come to expect large amounts of food.
Yes. Research NRDC has done found that people are not comfortable with empty white space on plates or in fridges or grocery carts. There’s an urge to fill those spaces with food. And in our culture, throwing food out is acceptable. In fact, leaving something on your plate is considered posh.
What else contributes to food waste?
A lot of produce won’t get picked for market because it’s not pretty enough to be sold. It gets tossed or turned into the soil.
What’s the environmental impact?
About 70 percent of our water and 50 percent of our land is devoted to agriculture. So when we’re not eating that food, it’s a huge unnecessary use of resources. About 33 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases are produced to grow food that never gets eaten.
What types of food get wasted most?
Fruits and vegetables. Tied for second are dairy products and bread. Meat is third, but it has the biggest impact. If you throw out a hamburger, that’s the equivalent of taking a 90-minute shower, in terms of the water it took to produce it.
How can we waste less produce?
If you need small amounts of specific fruits or veggies for a recipe, buy them from the salad bar so the excess won’t rot in your fridge. Or buy frozen versions, which have almost the same nutritional value with none of the pressure.
What else can we do?
Be realistic. What tends to happen is you buy all these groceries on the weekend because you’re feeling aspirational about how much you’re going to cook. But by Wednesday, life has happened and you’re ordering takeout. And then the broccoli goes bad. Instead, plan for that. If you can, shop often and buy less.
How else can we be conscientious shoppers?
Use a shopping list or an app. And take a last look in your cart before checking out. Think about when in the near future you’re going to eat each item. If you don’t have a clear answer, don’t buy it.
You also talk about conducting a “waste audit.”
For two weeks, jot down what you throw out to pinpoint what you are wasting and why. Did dinner plans change? Did you get wooed by a sale and buy too much? Write down the cost so you feel the financial pain.
How closely should we follow expiration dates?
Take them with a grain of salt, as they’re not federally regulated. A “use by” or “best by” date typically says when the product will be at its best quality. There may be a change in taste, color, or texture.
So we may be throwing out food that’s still OK?
Yes. A big misunderstanding is that when food is old, it will make you sick. The main reason for illness is pathogens like salmonella and E. coli that contaminate food at the farm or processing plants.
What do we need to be careful of?
Mold, green potatoes, and rancid meat, oil, or nuts.
What are some ideas to use up food?
Toss a mishmash of items into a tortilla or in fried rice or pasta salad. You can also sauté wilted lettuce with butter and garlic. Even if you waste a little bit less, it’s still an accomplishment.
Recycling’s universal insignia, the Mobius Loop, was coined by University of Southern California student Gary Anderson in honor of the first Earth Day in 1970. Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognizes it as an indication of recyclability, meaning it is accepted by most community programs for repurposing, but it doesn’t necessarily contain reclaimed materials.
Three arrows enclosed in a circle implies the object is recycled, but take care to note what is repurposed—the packaging, lid or cap, or product itself—as producers are required by the FTC to indicate. Black arrows against a white background imply a combination of new and reused materials, and sometimes contain the exact percentage in the loop’s center. When the arrows are white and the background is black, the product is 100 percent recycled.
Often, plastic items identify the exact type by a ranked Resin Identification Code scale, which indicates the specific category and proper disposal method. For example, polyethylene terephalates (Level 1) compose most clear containers—think soda bottles and ketchup—whereas their screw-on caps are polypropylenes (Level 5). Both can typically be collected curbside, but the former is repurposed for tote bags and the latter becomes brooms or brushes. Not all communities will accept each number, so check with your center before discarding. Hint: The higher the number, the less common the plastic, and thus more difficult to reuse.
For discarded cardboard, glass, or even mobile phones, organizations like the Electronic Recyclers International or Recycled Paperboard Alliance have adopted their own trademarked badges apart from common monograms. You might recognize cereal boxes branded with the “100% Recycled Paperboard” seal, implying their cardboard is entirely recycled. Or maybe you’ve seen companies bearing certificates of ERI registration. While following FTC guidelines, these groups operate closely on the producer level to monitor accreditation requirements beyond the broad scope of non-trademarked symbols.
De-Clutter & Organise Your Homes With These 5 Tips
Get 5 of the biggest clutter hotspots organized quickly with our room-by-room tips and tricks.
It’s unexpected guests calling. They’ll just be popping over to drop something off and chat in about an hour or so.
Everyone’s shoes are piled up at the front door, the heap of holiday mail is all over the dining room table, your three teenagers’ stuff is crammed in the half bath upstairs, a science project is strewn around the kitchen and you’re apparently coaching a professional sports team in the garage.
Don’t worry. If you’ve got a few minutes before people arrive, you can get all of that looking decluttered in no time.
1. The Entrance Area
The front door or entrance area can be a major clutter spot. When everyone comes in from a long day the first thing they do is plop down bags, coats, shoes and other junk right there.
Stow Away Shoes and Boots: Put a basket, bin or low shelf near the doorway for everyone’s shoes, bags, coats, mittens and hats. Just go ahead and dump them all in. Then fold up a winter blanket and place it on top, covering the clutter.
If you don’t have any bins or baskets sitting around, take two minutes to pair up shoes (instead of just lumping them in a pile) and line them against the wall. Good enough.
Tip: On rainy days, avoid muddy or wet footprints by using a boot storage system you can make yourself! Take a large, high-edged cookie tray and place it by the front door. Attach some pebble sheeting you can get at any home improvement store inside the tray and have the kids put their wet rain boots right on top.
Grab some manila folders from the office and quickly make a pass at organizing the mail. Stick letters in one folder, magazines in another, etc. Then, throw all the sorted folders in a cabinet or drawer. You can go through them after the guests leave – and you may have the beginnings of a long-term solution.
3. The Bathroom
Most bathrooms are quite small, yet we keep a lot of important things in there. Make the most of the space with our de-cluttering ideas.
Take a Makeup Inventory: There’s probably a ton of makeup cluttering the bathroom sink and vanity. Quickly assign a drawer to each family member and stuff their items in there. Who cares if it’s wrong – you can sort it all out later.
Organize Items Based on Frequency of Use: Keep things you use daily – like toothpaste, makeup, lotion and razors – and move them to the easy-to-reach spots on the shelves and cabinets.
4. The Kitchen
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. That usually means it’s the most cluttered too.
Those Darn Dishes: If you’re going to tackle one thing, make it the dishes. Just corralling them all from the various countertops and getting them into the sink (or in the oven, assuming you’re not baking) should be enough. Wipe the counters and the stove, push in the chairs and you’re good to go.
5. The Living Room
A stack of magazines looks better than having them all strewn about. Put stray dishes in the sink. Put smaller toys in bins or drawers, but bigger ones you can get away with just putting in a corner. If there’s a stray cheese puff on the carpet, go ahead and throw it away. But you can get away with not vacuuming. Run a Swiffer Duster along the TV, shelves and decorations and call it good.
6 ways to make your bedroom tidy
Find out how you can tidy up your bedroom.
A messy bedroom is often the trademark of a child or teenager but adults are guilty too. An orderly bedroom creates a sanctuary that helps ensure a good night’s rest.
When our surroundings are clean, uncluttered and well-organized, we tend to be more productive and calmer in our lives. Arrange things in their rightful place, from the closet to the dresser, to reduce visual stress. These six tips will tame the chaos a little bit at a time.
1. Tackle the toughest place first: the closet
If you can’t see the floor of your closet then it’s probably time to throw out clothing and shoes that aren’t being worn. As a general rule, if you haven’t worn an item in a year it’s time to consider donating it to a local charity or have a rummage sale. Next, sort your scarves, belts and purses with hanging organizers and hooks. The objective is to easily find items when you need them. To prevent misshapen handbag straps, use decorative purse bins. Box any miscellaneous items in neutral or pretty containers but be sure to label everything. Though not as attractive, a modular set of clear-plastic drawers may be used for items that don’t hang well, such as an evening wrap. Place all items within easy reach. Slim nonslip hangers maximize space and ensure items don’t fall to the floor.
2. Keep night tables and dressing bureaus uncluttered
The rule of three applies here as it does with other furniture surfaces. The only items you need on a nightstand are a light, alarm clock and a catchall tray for keys, eyeglasses and water. If you read in bed, keep a book within reach too. Gather all other reading material, CDs and DVDs on your nightstand or bureau and put them in alphabetical order on a bookcase or invest in shelves.
Owning a nightstand that contains more than one drawer means clutter can be kept out of sight. Notepaper for taking messages and other items can be placed in compartmentalized drawers for easy access in the dark. To curb the mess on your vanity or dresser, choose acrylic makeup organizers and other non-plastic containers with sections for heated styling appliances, such as hair dryers and flat irons. New accessory holders are designed to hang from towel racks when flat surfaces are limited.
3. What’s under your bed?
When you were a child, monsters hid under the bed. Now, space under the bed is a prized commodity. De-clutter by creating an under-bed storage system. Long boxes or blanket bags with or without wheels are easy to open and allow storage of oversized items. Underbed shoe organizers with dividers are the perfect tool to hide away out-of-season shoes. In fact, any items that switch from season to season are the first things that can be assigned to under-bed storage.
4. Don’t overdo pillows and bedding
Raise your hand if you make the bed every day. We didn’t think so! But a neat bed sets the tone of the room. While lots of pillows and layers of pretty linens look great in decorator magazines they turn into clutter when tossed aside for sleeping. A trunk or storage chest at the foot of the bed can serve as a storage unit for pillows and blankets. It’s a bit more housekeeping, but your room will look neat and tidy when you rise in the morning.
5. Sort and customize
Before going to battle against clutter, it’s important to have a strategy. Sort items by size, style and color. If you are new to organizing, experts suggest dividing drawers and spaces into equal quadrants to get started. Next, measure closets, floor space and drawer interiors and draw a quick layout before shopping. Linen or mesh inserts are great for separating drawer contents, but for bulky items (or extra-large drawers), look for extendable plastic dividers. If you store items out-of-reach on a high shelf in the closet, invest in a garment hook and foldable two-step ladder to store under the bed.
6. Be patient and give rewards
Don’t get overwhelmed. Decide how you want to confront clutter. The best way to keep your room tidy and not let clutter take over your bedroom is to spend a few minutes each day to put things away, hang up clothes and toss things out. Remember, your best friend when dealing with paper clutter is the rubbish bin. Stay on top of the mess. It will make cleaning easier too. Set an example and reward your kids for keeping their rooms tidy. When not searching some something in a pile, you will have more time to read, rest and enjoy your sanctuary.
5 Tips For Hosting A Memorable Overnight Stay For Your Guests
Inviting guests into your home involves more than providing a comfortable place to sleep, you have to make their stay memorable. You have to make them feel welcome. Here are a few tips on how, but be prepared, your guests might not want to leave… especially, if Lenor is your cohost.
Comfort, space and scents are more soothing in a new environment than unfamiliar ’junk’ (what is valuable to you might be junk for others). Place a single flower bloom in a simple glass, add a nice clock, and a selection of books, or music suited to your guests’ tastes. Also put in some nice scented candles, and make sure everything is freshly washed with a long lasting crispy scent from Lenor. Also, make sure that you place spring water and a few snacks in the room for your guests.
Room, Closets and Drawers
Choose the guest room carefully, and make sure there is adequate closet and drawer space. Supply a variety of hangers, and make certain there is a full-length mirror. A desk is always nice with papers and pen on it.
The Right Pillows and Sheets
Use cotton or linen sheets, ironed. Provide both light and heavy blankets. With Lenor, you can give the sheets a long-lasting and comforting scent. Careful, they might be late for breakfast, because they don’t want to leave their lovely smelling new bed for a while.
For visitors during the coldest months, think of putting out extra blankets, soft and wonderfully smelling thanks to Lenor.
If the bathroom is shared, clear space in it for guests’ toiletries, supply clean and wonderfully smelling soft cotton towels. Lenor, here as well, can do the magic for you by combining luxury treatment with coziness and warmth.
Do you know why scented sheets and towels are so important? Because whenever your guests will smell that scent or a nice perfume close to it, even years later, it will remind them of the great times at your place. Your hospitality will become a happy memory that will stay with them forever.