How to Make Laundry Day a Little More Eco-Friendly
No more pesky (wasteful!) plastic bags.
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.
What do you do when you’re a reluctant city dweller craving nature? If you’re ecologist Jenny Carney, you build yourself a tiny remote getaway (with a little help from Pa).
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.
Getting paint on your clothes is pretty common, even if you’re being extra careful. Here’s how to remove paint stains.
Whether you’re in the midst of a crafts activity, working on a DIY project, or fulfilling a full-scale room makeover, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with some paint on your clothes. Or, at the very least, a small splatter. But there’s no need to stress about the mess and throw away your ruined outfit. With just a couple of basic tools and a little bit of time, you can erase the stain and have your clothing looking as good as new. Try these expert tested tricks and smart cleaning tips to get rid of even the most stubborn paint stains from acrylic to emulsion varieties. There are different ways of treating certain splatters, depending on if they’re oil- or water-based paints. Plus, don’t think that because a paint stain is dried, that all hope is lost—you can treat both wet and dry stains. (And an extra bonus: We’ve got solutions for other common spots and smudges too).
Remove Excess Paint
Photo by Michael H/Getty Images
Before you get started on any kind of stain solution, it’s a smart move to get rid of as much of the excess paint (or other stain source) as you can—that’s the best way to make sure you get a successful result. If the paint has dried, you can use a paper towel to wipe away the dried residue. If the paint is still wet, use a dull knife or a spoon to remove as much as you can.
Treat the Stain and Rinse
When you’re deciding how to treat the remaining paint stain, consider which type of paint you’re dealing with. If it’s a water-based paint, the solution is simple: All you need to do is rinse the piece of clothing in warm water until the paint color subsides, then launder that item the way you normally would (washing machine or hand washing, for example). If the paint stain came from an oil-based paint, the fix entails a few steps. First, treat the stain with turpentine. Rinse it out, and pretreat the stained area with detergent. Then rinse it out again and launder the item the way you normally would.
Fix Other Common Clothing Stains
What if your clothing is stained from a different household material? We’ve got fixes for those spots and smudges too. Ink is a common culprit: To get a ballpoint mark out of your clothing, use petroleum jelly to create a “dam” around the stain—that will keep the ink from spreading. Then use a clean toothbrush to dab the spot with rubbing alcohol. (Be sure to open a window in the room to keep it ventilated.) Next, dip a cotton ball in mineral spirits and dab the area again. Let it dry, and then rinse with a solution of 1 tablespoon of clear dish soap and 10 ounces of water. If you’re dealing with a permanent marker ink stain, there’s an easy fix: Use a clean toothbrush to rub a stain remover (like Amodex Ink and Stain Remover, $13, amazon.com) into the spot.
Makeup is another big source of clothing stains. The secret to getting rid of lipstick smudges? Hairspray! Simply spritz the spot with hairspray and let it sit for 10 minutes, then remove any residue and what’s left of the stain by wiping the area with a damp cloth. Got some foundation on your shirt? Use a cotton swab to apply rubbing alcohol to the stained area, then blot it with a cotton ball, repeating as needed. Nail polish stains can be trickier, especially if the clothing fabric is acetate or triacete—in that case, your best bet is to bring the piece to a dry cleaner to get the stain out. If you’re going to tackle the nail polish smudge yourself, place the stained area facedown on a few clean paper towels, then apply nail polish remover to the back of the stain. (Depending on the size of the stain, you may need to replace the paper towels to soak up the liquid.) Repeat as needed, then finish the task by rinsing the piece in cold water.
Poppy colors, playful patterns, and cheeky accessories bring life to a blah bathroom. Welcome to your new happy place.
Hay Tann Toothbrush
If you’re going for color in your spa space, these tinted-from-top-to-bottom toothbrushes will provide an unexpected pop.
To buy: $5; momastore.org.
Photo by momastore.org
Angeline Terry Cloth Towels
Choose from pink and purple or yellow and blue (or mix and match the two) to incorporate a vibrant, yet sophisticated accessory to your bath.
To buy: Washcloth, $13, hand towel, $30, bath towel, $72; rikumo.com.
Photo by rikumo.com
Flex Shower Mirror
Hang this turquoise rubber-wrapped mirror from your showerhead or use the suction cup instead to mount it directly to your shower wall. Either way, this bit of color will brighten up your everyday routine.
To buy: $13; umbra.com.
Photo by umbra.com
Mint Striped Trinket Dish
Use this small ceramic footed bowl to corral jewelry or small soaps on the countertop and provide a sweet surprise for guests.
To buy: $12; anthropologie.com.
Photo by anthropologie.com
Alabax Medium Fixture
Incorporate color even in your light fixture with the help of this sunny yellow flush-mount.
To buy: $119; schoolhouseelectric.com.
Photo by schoolhouseelectric.com
Snapp Pedal Bin
This bright three-gallon tapered bin boasts a removable liner and an easy-to-carry handle at a bargain price.
This article originally appeared on TravelandLeisure.com.
Everyone loves an extra-long weekend, but evidence is mounting that a three-day weekend isn’t just good for your peace-of-mind (or your personal life). According to a recent article by Alex Williams, a City University London visiting lecturer reporting for Quartz, just one additional day off every week could be majorly beneficial to the environment.
We already know that when working hours are reduced, there’s a parallel decrease in energy use. People aren’t commuting, and towering office buildings aren’t blasting heat or A/C.
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Utah, for example, saved no less than $1.8 million in energy costs when it transitioned state workers to a Monday through Thursday week. Even with extended daily hours, employees still worked less—and from commuting alone, some 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide were kept out of the atmosphere each year.
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And it’s not just the environment that benefits. A shift in the workweek could reduce illness, increase productivity, and be a boon to our general wellbeing. Make your long weekend a trip to the beach, and you’ll really be reaping the health advantages.
Composting reduces your home’s waste, helps the environment, and refreshes your flower beds. Get started with these FAQs.
The average American household throws away about 25 percent of its food. But if we composted that stuff, we would lighten landfill loads while creating nourishment for gardens and lawns. Cary Oshins, a soil scientist and the director of education for the United States Composting Council, explains the easy, earth-friendly practice.
How do you start?
Get a bottomless plastic, metal, or wooden container that holds about 80 gallons, or 10 cubic feet. (One you can buy: the Earth Machine Composter, $109, homedepot.com.) Place it on the ground in a shady area of your yard. On the kitchen counter, set a small lidded container (such as the Oxo Good Grips compost bin; $20, oxo.com) for catching compostables as you cook. (For more information, see Composting 101).
What foods can go in the compost bin?
Fruit peels, coffee grounds (and paper filters), eggshells, leftover vegetables. Don’t compost meat, cheese, or fish, because they attract animals. And skip cooking oil, which draws insects.
Any and all organic matter. Most of your compost should be made up of dry materials, like torn-up newspaper, twigs, dead leaves, and paper plates. These items contain carbon, which gives the microbes that decompose the pile the energy necessary to work their magic. Food and other moisture-rich items, like grass clippings, supply the protein that microbes need to reproduce. You’ll get the best results with a roughly three-to-one ratio of dry to wet. No worries if it’s not perfect; composting is very forgiving. For more guidelines, go to seattletilth.org and search “compost pile ingredients.”
Is there any upkeep?
Watch the moisture level. The pile should be damp, like a wrung-out sponge—not soaking, like a swamp, or dry enough to blow around. If it’s too dry, spritz it with the hose. Too wet? Add shredded newspaper or wood chips.
What about the smell?
Maintain a thick layer of dry stuff, like dead leaves, at the top of the pile, and cover new food scraps with old compost. (Have a small shovel handy for this purpose.)
How can you tell when a pile has decomposed?
It usually takes four to six months for compost to turn into dark brown or black soil with a nice, earthy aroma. Once most of your pile fits this profile, take away the bin and let the finished compost continue to break down in your yard for a few weeks. Put the bin in a new spot to start a fresh pile. Kick it off by scooping in anything from the old pile that’s not quite decomposed.
What if you don’t have any outdoor space?
You can still recycle food scraps if you have somewhere to unload them weekly. Check with your local department of public works or a farmers’ market to see if there’s a drop-off site. In between hauls, stash scraps in the freezer in a sealed container lined with newspaper.
Finally, how can you use compost?
Think of it as food for dirt. Spread it over your lawn to nourish the grass, or mix it into garden soil.
“It’s not like you get a tick and you instantly have a disease,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. Depending on how many bacteria are in the tick, it could take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours to infect you. “A tick will become engorged as it ingests more blood, so in general, the more engorged it is, the longer it’s been there,” says Dr. Adalja.
Grab Your Tweezers
There are a ton of myths about what will work—nail polish, Vaseline, a lit match (ouch)—but don’t fall for any of these. Aim tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick straight out. Then leave the site alone: “You can injure your skin if you keep digging around,” says Dr. Adalja.
Stash The Bugger
Remember: The tick has to be a carrier of disease and be attached for a while to make you sick. But holding on to it will make it easier to test if needed. Use a jar or ziplock bag.
Check Yourself Out
Be alert for flu-like symptoms or a rash of any kind; if you develop either in the following few weeks, talk to your doctor. Look for rashes everywhere, not only in the area where you found the tick, because another one may have bitten you without your spotting it. Be sure to examine your armpits and groin, lift up your hair to search your scalp, and check your backside in a mirror or with a partner’s help. Rashes can fade fairly quickly, so snap a photo if you’re not able to get to the doctor’s office for a couple of days.
Wherever we go about our daily business in the UK these days, it appears that we will never be too far away from being captured on CCTV. For most law abiding citizens, this rarely presents a problem. We have come to recognise CCTV as almost part and parcel of our daily lives.
Many people welcome CCTV on the streets of our towns and cities in the fight against crime. It can also help to secure the convictions of criminals who might have otherwise been able to go about their business and remain undetected.
The Laws Relating to CCTV
The main laws governing the installation and use of CCTV is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998, but this only applies to businesses and organisations and NOT to domestic property. It’s crucial that people recognise that distinction. If you’re concerned about a company’s use of CCTV, that’s a matter for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to deal with under the statutes that have been laid out under the Data Protection Act.
Is it Legal?
Yes, it is perfectly legal as long as due care is taken. Most people who choose to install CCTV at home do so primarily to deter would-be intruders from trespassing onto or breaking into their homes, and this is completely legitimate.
You cannot stop your neightbour from installing a CCTV system or from operating any kind of video recording device, such as a camcorder. For example, Using CCTV At Home can often help police secure a conviction for crimes that have been committed, such as a theft of a car parked outside your home or to identify individuals who are engaging in Anti-Social Behaviour.
That said, in such cases, the CCTV system you might have at home is more likely to act as a deterrent. This is simply because in a residential area would-be criminals are likely to be far more aware of residential CCTV installations, and so are more likely to avoid doing anything which might contravene the law.
In cases of people who are able to provide video evidence of crimes or acts of anti-social behaviour being committed outside their own homes, that will usually come about as a result of some covert filming using a camcorder or digital camera.
When you could be Breaking the Law for Having CCTV at Home
While home installation of CCTV does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Data Protection Act, if the home installation has not been carried out correctly or is being used for a purpose other than for which it was designed, then you may have a case for taking further action under totally different laws.
For example, if you have a camera which is pointed directly at another person’s property or it’s suspected that it can capture part or all of a neighbour’s property, they might have a case to take action against you under legislation covered by the Human Rights Act. They might have sufficient grounds to say that they have had their privacy violated, that your CCTV system is tantamount to harassment and even voyeurism.
In such cases, they can get the police involved if you’re not able to come to some agreement with regards to what the camera(s) can capture and to make modifications to the installation