Conveniently Green: The Quick Cycle

Here’s a quick Conveniently Green tip for you–the Quick Cycle on your washing machine. Take a look at your machine–do you have one? Here’s the difference on mine.

Regular cycle:

Quick cycle:

Yep, the regular cycle take almost twice as much time as the quick cycle. More time = more energy = more water. And then it occurred to me one day–not everything in the laundry basket needs to be washed on the full cycle. Sure, some of our clothes need the heavy hitting, but we also have clothes that are very lightly soiled or worn for a short period of time or just need a quick little wash. I started collecting those clothes in a pile and now put them on quick cycle instead of the regular cycle. If I’m mixing darks and lights, I sometimes throw in a Shout Color Catcher (they really work!). I’ve never pulled a garmet out of a quick cycle and thought “oh man, this should have gone for another half hour.” So next time you are throwing your clothes in the machine, take a second to think about clothes that are only lightly soiled and consider putting them on a shorter cycle. Conveniently Green: Just a Little Bit Less!

WFMW: Detangling Playground Hair

Ah, Fall…the leaves are turning, the wind is blowing, warm hats and hoods are pulled on and off and on and off, and long hair gets mind-blowingly tangled.

Unless you live in Southern California, where it’s still quite nice but hair gets tangled on the playground anyway.


When I was little I used to scream when my mother came at me with a comb or brush. Tired of the battles, my mother told me I could either endure the hair grooming or they would cut it all off and I’d have to sport the Dorothy Hamill bowl cut that was all the rage. Despite the fact that it made me look like a boy, and that my hair wasn’t anything near Dorothy Hamill’s, I got stuck with it up until I hit the spiral perm craze.

At any rate, if you love someone who has long hair that gets tangled, and you don’t want them to end up looking like the unfortunate person in the picture, our good friend The Hair Guru has a video tutorial on how you can comb out tangled playground hair with just a comb and some hair oil (you can even use olive oil!). The oil the Hair Guru talks about in the video can be purchased here.

Easy detangling–Works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Conveniently Green: Cleaning Your Microwave

Okay, I’ll admit it–my microwave gets pretty nasty. I know I should invest in one of those splatter screens or whatever, but things boil over, blah blah blah MESS. Don’t judge me.

Don't judge me by the state of my microwave! Judge me by the state of the rest of my house!

Back in the day, I cleaned my microwave with a Clorox wipe. It got the gunk out and disinfected, but then I realized, why do I need to disinfect the walls of my microwave? It’s not like I scrape food off of the wall of the microwave and stick it back in the bowl because food is expensive and there are starving children in third world countries who would love to have my microwave-wall droppings. So let’s do better, right?

I love cleaning my microwave with plain old water. That’s right–water. Over on Practically Green, one of their action items is Clean Your Microwave Without Using Any Chemicals (catchy title or what???) and hey, I get Practically Green points so I might as well clean out the microwave, right? Or something.

Anyway, take a measuring cup or bowl of water, stick a lemon in there (where available), nuke that thing until it boils for a while, and then the moisture melts off the gunk and you can wipe it away with a damp towel or washcloth. No kidding–just wipe it all away.

These lemons aren't ripe but I used them anyway. Ha.

We have a couple of lemon trees. I grabbed two smaller, unripe lemons from the smaller tree and they worked just fine. The lemon in the water adds a pleasant scent. But if you don’t happen to have a lemon onhand that you aren’t using, for goodness sake, don’t go out and buy one. Plain old water works the same way.

Bonus tip! Throw those lemons into the garbage disposal and grind them up. They’ll make your sink smell lovely.

Clean your microwave with water! Conveniently Green: Just a little bit less.

That's better

WFMW Conveniently Green: Diaper Pail and Carpet Deodorizer

Stinky diapers are a part of life when you have a diaper-wearer in your family [insert bad poop+stink pun here]. It’s never fun to walk into the room and be hit with the Wall O’ Stink in the morning or after a naptime. But it’s even worse when the Wall O’ Stink continues after you have removed the diaper from the bottom.

There are all kinds of fancy diaper pails you can buy that claim to contain the stink, although personally I have walked into peoples’ houses and smelled that stench only to see that they already have one of those expensive diaper pails with the expensive refills that aren’t in the least bit Conveniently Green or even Inconveniently Green.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get on your case about disposable diapers. We use them too sometimes. But if you want to make the switch to cloth part-time or even full-time, start here and here.

Anyway, we use a stainless steel regular trash can with a plastic inner. Every once in a while the plastic part of the can will absorb some of the smell. I usually wipe it out with a Clorox wipe and set it out in the sun, or swish it with a bleach solution, but that’s not really Conveniently Green and also not what I’m writing about today. I’ll work on that for another post.

The cast of characters

What I’m talking about is how to cut down the stench while the diapers are still in the pail. Now nothing can really eliminate it, but you can help. And the good news is that it’s cheap, easy, and Conveniently Green! You can buy various pail powders online, but let me fill you in on a secret: it’s baking soda and essential oil. The baking soda naturally absorbs odors and the essential oil can both add a nice, pleasant scent, and also work to fight the stink. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Some kind of shaker
  • Essential oil(s) of your choice
  • Dirty diapers (not pictured)

Items in the picture you do not need for this deodorizer: two BPA-free reusable water bottles (pink), peanut butter, sippy cup, snack catcher (times two), fruit leather, garlic holder, bag of pasta, mysterious piece of paper. See? I just cut your shopping list WAY down.

To make the pail deodorizer, simply pour the baking soda into the bowl, add 10-20 drops of essential oil (use your nose to judge the amount), mix it all up with the fork so that the oil is evenly distributed, give it a few minutes to dry, and put it in your shaker container. You can use an old parmesan cheese container (reuse! recycle!), or I bought this little shaker at Ikea for some ridiculously small amount of money. I actually like it better than my old parmesan cheese shaker because I feel it’s easier to get the right amount of powder out.

Right at home with my cloth diapers

You can use any oil you like, but I love Tea Tree Oil. It has all natural deodorizing properties and is super-easy to find (bascially any natural foods store like Trader Joe’s, or even some drug stores have it). When I run out of powder, I often will just put a drop or two of TTO on a piece of toilet paper and drop that in the pail, and it works quite well. I’ve also used lavender, and that’s a lovely scent as well. If you want to go crazy with other scents, knock yourself out.

The best part is that you can use this powder all kinds of places. Feel free to sprinkle it in with your cloth diapers–it can go right in the wash. Smelly gym clothes? Booyah! You can even sprinkle it on your carpet and vacuum it up later (that second part is important) and leave your room smelling nice and fresh. Provided you have a decent vacuum. And carpet.

Conveniently Green diaper pail deodorizer: works for me!

Conveniently Green: Conveniently Organic

We all want to buy organic, right? I really think in an ideal world, we’d all buy fresh, locally-grown organic produce from extremely friendly people who set out little bowls of their cut nectarines and peaches in order to prove to you that their nectarines and peaches are better than the nectarines and peaches at the stand 3 feet away, and don’t even bat an eyelash when you go up and down to all the booths feeding your kid little sample pieces of cut nectarines and peaches because you timed it perfectly so that you don’t have to pay for lunch.

Still Life Fruit

Or maybe that’s just MY farmer’s market.

Anyway, in an ideal world we’d all buy organic, but the world is not ideal. And my pocketbook is certainly not ideal. Everyone I know is on a budget and has to make choices when it comes to food shopping. I mean, I know there are people with limitless funds, but I’m pretty sure they send their hired help to make choices for them, and I don’t personally know any of those people anyway (or their hired help).

I like to buy organic when I can. Mouse is a veritable Fruititarian–in fact, I have to save the fruit for last because serving him fruit is like the career-ending injury of food: he won’t eat anything afterward but will insist on more fruit–so I like to give him fresh fruit when I get the chance.

Generally even at the grocery store there is some organic produce, but I often don’t know if it’s worth the cost (especially when the difference is significant) or how to weigh one choice over another. Well good news! While reading through the wealth of information at Practically, a fabulous website you’ll be hearing a lot more about on Conveniently Green, I followed a link to a suggested action item–reviewing the Dirty Dozentm list of fruits and vegetables. The  Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of produce based on research of pesticide levels–which types of fruit and veggies are more likely to expose you to fewer pesticides. The “Dirty Dozentm” is a list of the twelve foods that are the most likely to expose you to pesticides.

This is a stock photo, not an actual image of organic fruit

This way when you’re at the grocery store, you can see that celery is on the Dirty Dozentm list, while onions are up on the top of the best list. So if I’m making a choice and want to minimize my exposure to pesticides, but I can only afford a certain amount of organic produce, I am better off choosing organic celery and conventionally-grown onions rather than the other way around. What a great way to help you prioritize!

And the best part for me is that I totally HATE celery, so now I can use this as an excuse not to buy it!

Here’s the Dirty Dozentm:

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (imported)

If one of those is on your shopping list, mosey on over to the organic produce section and see if it’s available there. If you can swing it, try to select the organic version.

You can find the full list of 49 fruits and veggies in order of pesticide exposure here.

And–AND! There’s an iPhone app! What could be more Conveniently Green than an iPhone app?

Okay, there’s nothing inherently Conveniently Green about an iPhone app, but if you happen to have an iDevice, you can download the free app with the complete list here. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can either buy one, or jot down the Dirty Dozentm on a piece of recycled paper, or just write it on your hand like you used to do in high school.

Conveniently Green organic produce–just a little bit less!

And don’t miss this video from the Organic Trade Association. What’s there not to love about Obi Wan Cannoli and Ham Solo?

WFMW: Removing Grease Spots from Clothes

Have I mentioned how much I love bacon? Because I do. I really, really do.  And even when I wear an apron frying it up, I still will occasionally splatter myself. And not just bacon, either–seems like I’m always getting some kind of oil stain or grease spot on myself. I always had trouble getting it out in the laundry too, especially if I didn’t catch it until after the dryer.

But all of my greasy laundry woes disappeared the day I took the advice of some random person on the internet and started using Dawn dish soap. The original blue formula.

See ya later, grease spots!

Simply rub a few drops of Dawn onto the stain and let it soak in for a minute or so, then launder as normal. This works even if the grease spot has been through the dryer once (or twice, or four times) already. I almost look for opportunities to slather my clothing with grease so I can feel so accomplished when I get it out.

It’s the little things.

Does it have to be Dawn? Does it have to be blue? Well, I actually compared 3 different dish soaps, one of which was blue Dawn and the other two were…not blue Dawn (I can’t remember, okay?), and the blue Dawn really did the job better than the other two. Plus the blue Dawn is the soap they use to clean off the wildlife affected by oil spills. And hey, if it’s good enough for a baby harp seal, it’s good enough for me. I mean I’m not going to go over and beat you up if you use something else, but if your dish soap doesn’t work, don’t blame me.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, if you’re going Conveniently Green by using cloth napkins and ditching paper towels, you can simply shoot in a quick squirt of Dawn with your napkins and towels and remove the grease from those too! And if you use cloth diapers, Dawn is a great way to strip them as well. (only use a few drops with an HE machine)

AND! AND! It’s made by P&G so there are lots of coupons for it if you keep an eye out.

I keep a small bottle of blue Dawn in my laundry closet–works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Conveniently Green: Kitchen Spritzer

Sometimes non-stick cooking spray comes in so handy, but I hate the aerosol kind. First, it’s impossible to get the cap off and I end up spraying myself every time, second, the aerosol spray is just not Conveniently Green, and third, I always wonder what kind of chemicals end up on the pan along with the oil.

Pampered Chef Kitchen Spritzer

That’s why I adore my Pampered Chef Kitchen Spritzer. The Kitchen Spritzer works on a hand pump. You add your own oil, then pump the cap a few times, which builds up air pressure in the spritzer. Then when you hit the button, you get a fine mist just like with the aerosol cans. Not only is it environmentally friendly, you also can put whatever kind of oil you want in there with no chemical contaminants.

I use the spritzer for more than just a non-stick spray as well. I love to fill it with extra virgin olive oil and spray it over potato slices when I’m making oven fries. It’s just enough to crisp the outside without overloading the oil. You can use it wherever you need just a touch of oil, and as I said, since it’s your oil you know exactly what’s in there. And it’s not expensive, given how long you can just refill it!

You can order directly from the Pampered Chef website, but I would really encourage you to ask around your group of friends and see if anyone is a consultant, or use the “Find a Consultant” link on the Pampered Chef site. Many consultants are moms, and we moms gotta stick together and support each other!

The Pampered Chef Kitchen Spritzer: Conveniently Green, and works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

WFMW: Remembering Reusable Shopping Bags

Everyone knows that reusable shopping bags are an easy way to go Conveniently Green, right? The problem is, how do I remember to bring and use those bags? I have a big collection of various types of bags–canvas ones, free ones, ones I got gifts in, and so on, but I was consistently forgetting to 1) bring them back to the car, and 2) bring them into the store from the car. More than once I’ve had to abandon my shopping cart to run back and get my bags, and I will admit that quite a few times I’ve just gotten plastic bags even when my reusable bags were sitting in the car because I had Mouse with me or it was too big of a hassle to go back and get them (or too embarrassing!).

This is my tiny purse that fits into my diaper bag

I know a lot of people like the little nylon bags that turn themselves into tiny little capsules you fit in your purse, but I already have such a collection of various other bags I just don’t want to buy more. So I finally figured out a way to remember my bags, both out of the house and out of the car.

I simply place my purse and keys inside the bags after I empty them in the kitchen. I never leave the house without my purse and keys, and if they’re inside the bags, I never leave the house without the bags too! I leave my purse in there if I’m going to the store, I leave my purse in there (or place it in there at home) and again, never forget it going into the store either.

A reusable shopping bag tip for a scatterbrain like me? Works for me!
works for me wednesday at we are that family

Conveniently Green: No More Paper Towels

Would you believe me if I said I use almost no paper towels?

Of course you would. It’s Conveniently Green, after all.

Here piggy piggy piggy!

What do I use instead? Old dishtowels. Those are one of the things I love when two independent-living people get married–the combination of household items. You’ve got your single-person set of dishes (the ones from the 70’s even your mother didn’t want anymore so she gave them to you for your first apartment), your bizarre array of silverware (Target meets more of Mom’s castoffs), your set of crappy knives since you haven’t gotten married yet and as such, don’t own a set of decent knives, and of course, your linens, and so does he. Combine the households, and you get a whole lot of ugly, mismatched, castoff household items just waiting to be locked in a closet.

I already had several dishtowels pre-Train Guy. He added his to our collection, and then we got some as a couple, and then we got married and finally got decent ones. Well, that’s not entirely true. The decent ones we got for our wedding got ruined and now we still don’t really have a set of decent ones. But what we do have is lots and lots and lots of mismatched ones. And those are the ones that have been turned into paper towels.

I'd love to blame the leaf ones on Train Guy but they were totally mine

Mine live in a drawer, apparently right underneath my keys and two random triangle crayons. When I need a paper towel, I grab an old dishtowel instead. When I’m done it goes right in the washing bag with the cloth napkins. Are they beautiful? Of course not. But like the cloth napkins, if you’re ripping off a piece of padded paper you’re going to use once and throw away, who are you to scoff at stained towels you’re going to use once and wash?

Conveniently Green: Just a little bit less!

Conveniently Green: Ditching Plastic Bags

I’m on a quest to ditch my plastic bags. Not just grocery sacks, which I’m getting pretty good at, but other plastic bags I find along the way. I’ve previously confessed my love for Ziploc and don’t know if I’m ever going to find an alternative that makes me happy, but I’m working on it.

Go bananas! Go go bananas!

Today I’m going to talk about produce bags. You know, the thin plastic ones you pull off the roll and then can never get open even though your fingers are sliding all around where the arrows point to? Yes, those.  Well, whilst wondering around on the web one day, I came across the idea of using mesh bags as produce bags. Mesh bags are reusable and see-through so the checker can instantly scan your produce correctly, and best of all, they weigh next to nothing so don’t interfere with the poundage when you’re purchasing by weight.

As an added bonus, I’ve found that some stores that offer a 5-cent discount for reusable bags, like our nearby Henry’s market, are willing to count reusable produce bags in the total. I know 5 cents isn’t a lot, but I always feel glad walking out of the store 25 cents richer.

You can get mesh bags many places. I have some from Etsy, and I ordered a bunch from an online party supply store (after making sure there’s nothing toxic in there) to give as goodie bags at Mouse’s upcoming half-birthday party. If the moms can pry them out of the kids’ hands, they can use them for produce bags as well!

Mesh produce bags: ditch the plastic and go Conveniently Green. Works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday