As a new couple my husband and I did not start out living green or reusing much of anything. Over the span of 8 years together we have learned how to reuse some things. The things I’ve listed below deal with making things that I use to see as garbage into things that can have a new life. Whether they be used for their original purpose or imagined into a new creation, they now have a longer life outside of a landfill.

There are also many things that can be bought and used multiple times. Cleaning products that are more about less waste, getting the job done, and nontoxic chemicals score high marks in our family. Some of these things are microfiber cloths, refillable mops with washable heads (O Cedar ProMist mop with semi-disposable microfiber refills. I use the refills, which work better than the thick scrubbing pad that the mop comes with, until they fall apart), and unlabeled spray bottles.

Reusable: what/how

Ziplock bags:

For bags that are still in good condition and weren’t used to store anything that could contaminate the next use. Wash the bags and let air dry (turned ½ inside out dries faster). Reuse. Don’t forget about uses other than food. These are great for storing useful items for the kids.

Quick pick occupation bags, have a few play items that your child won’t miss during everyday playtime set aside in a ziplock bag ready to grab for going to those places you know you’ll have to wait.

It’s always a good idea to have extra clothes for if there are accidents. In a gallon size ziplock bag pack one outfit that could be used with just about anything you’d originally have your child dressed in. Neutral bottoms with a solid color shirt, don’t forget extra socks and underwear. Once you’ve used the clothes in the bag use the bag for the dirty clothes.

First aid boxes can take up too much valuable space, but with kids that play hard cuts and bruises are inevitable. Packing the basics will get your family through the tough spots easier.

Quick first aid check list: (try to find mini versions of the bigger items) sticky bandages of various sizes, small towelette wet wipes, alcohol pads, medicines for pain/fever, stomach, allergy, wounds (antiseptic)

There are so many uses! Just think of anything that you may need to protect, slim down, keep from soiling other items, keep together, store, etc.

Torn Clothing:

Cut out any intact portion of the fabric and use it to make something new.

Examples: Jean pant legs sewn in a tube shape, stuffed with fiber fill (pillow stuffing) sew closed and use as a draft stop at door base.

Also soft light weight fabrics make good cloth curlers to wear over night. Just cut the material into long strips, wind damp hair around the cloth, tie into a secure (but easily undone) knot, sleep on them, once dry undo for nice curls ready to work into whatever curly style for the day.


Glass Jars:

Recycle what you don’t reuse. Wash jars and remove labels by soaking in hot soapy water or draping a vinegar soaked paper towel over label and let sit to release glue. Use to store food, as decorative craft projects, holders for craft items/pencils/fresh flowers etc.


Seasoning Bottles:

Recycle what you don’t reuse. Wash then use for kids or adults. Kids can use these in the sandbox, bathtub, or play kitchen area. Adults can use these as shaker for homemade seasoning, craft items like glitter, store baking soda in shakeable container ready for use in cleaning. (Ideas from “Hannah Help Me’s” Hannah Keely)


Water/Soda Bottles:

Wash out and refill. Great for packed lunches. Creates much less plastic waste.


Cardboard Tubes from toilet paper/paper towels:

These are great craft items for kids to make music shakers, binoculars, spotting scope, swords, etc. Wonderful items for the dress up box that are inexpensive to make.

Cardboard tubes make great tunnels and chew toys for pet rodents like gerbils, hamsters, and mice . They love them!!!


Milk Jugs:

Wash and reuse for other drinks. Great for tea/kool aid/water to take on picnics.

Fill with water and freeze to put in ice chest, keeping things cool without all the water mess making things soggy.

Fill for emergency water supply.

Storage or easy use jugs for homemade laundry detergent.


Plastic Shopping Bags:

Recycle what you don’t reuse. Use as trashcan liners, cold weather prep for outside water pipes (wrap pipe in cloth and seal with plastic bag), or take home bags for shoppers at your yard sale.


Rx Bottles:

Great to take camping or hiking to carry dry fire starting items.


Plastic Dishes/containers:

Kids can use these in sandbox, water play, play dough, or play kitchen.

Adults can use these for storing left overs, sending packed hot lunches,or easy access/contained craft items.


Product Packaging/Shoe Boxes:

Boxes for mailing (wrap in paper with no design, no confusing markings for postal service), or to package gifts for hand delivery. (This is very common in the south. Remember it’s the thought that counts, and it makes wrapping easier.)

Storage containers for office, kid’s bedrooms, etc. Make it match by spray painting, decoupaging, or fabric covering.


Old Clothes, Material, Towels:

Cut these up to use as rags for cleaning. Or old material makes great curtains or table cloths for a child’s playhouse.


Large Zippered Bags from New Bedding:

Storage Bags! These are great for clothes that have been outgrown, holiday decorations like wreaths and table cloths, or even reusable gift wrap items.


Gift Wrap Items:

Gift bags and tissue paper are gently used, so reuse it. Fold them up gently and store in a dry place. Keep it handy for all those gifts throughout the year. To get even more organized store by size or occasion. Clothing gift boxes make great storage containers for tissue paper so it doesn’t get torn.


Stuffing from new purchases:

Purses and bags usually come with paper stuffing to help them keep their shape. The paper is about the size of gift wrap tissue paper once stretched out. Fold it up gently and store it with your reusable gift wrap. It also makes great craft paper for projects like paper mache.


Coming up with ways to reuse items takes being secure in thinking outside of the box. Not everything has to be new and name brand, a sense of pride grows within you when you know that you are able to make things work and do for yourself no matter what.


Along with striving to think green daily there are also things a family can do together to grow in a green life. Something I like to call “Eco-Trips”.

These “eco-trips” are any outing themed to or enhanced by an eco-friendly idea. We turn our normal family outings into fun learning experiences by incorporating stories, activities, facts, and songs into our trips. In doing these things we grow in knowledge, learning to take better care of ourselves and our environment. Even spur of the moment learning experiences are everywhere if you keep yourself open to them, and take advantage of the opportunities.

Nature provides endless opportunities for teachable moments. Learning about the outdoors, animals, and plants helps us to understand that we are a part of nature with all of its beauties and dangers. Here are some ways we get our daughter involved in nature. We take regular trips to botanical gardens, rivers, and lakes. To get her even more involved we read a story about things that we might experience on our outing. For example, stories about the seasons like “The Four Seasons For Little People” by: Joseph Parramon, or one about how nature changes in ” The Water Hole” by: Graeme Base. Possibly even a story to remind her of safety like in “”Oliver Finds His Way” by: Phyllis Root, where a young bear gets lost and calls to his family, in a way they would recognize, to be found.

We also play games to keep the fun and learning going. An example of an interactive game is a nature scavenger hunt. This one we actually learned from the botanical garden staff. For children that can read use short descriptions of what to find. For the younger ones either read it to them or have simple pictures. As listed items are found mark them off with either a sticker or a crayon. (These are safe if the child falls down.)

Another game to play for the little ones is color match. On your adventure take along some color flashcards. Along the way have your child be on the search for things in nature that match the color on the cards. If your child doesn’t know color names yet this is a great way to go over those. For example, to your child “Lets find something GREEN. (show color card) GREEN this is the color GREEN. The grass is GREEN, can you find something GREEN? Yes! The leaves are GREEN! The grass and leaves are GREEN!” Here you’d be reinforcing the color and it’s name by showing it and excitedly saying it many times. Then move on to another color. With this game it’s full of good stuff. They experience nature, colors, color name reinforcement, and quality family time.

Even a senses walk can add new levels to what your child learns and experiences. To do this you can be pretty much anywhere (thinking safety first of course). Then find out what your child hears, smells, tastes, feels, and sees while wearing a blind fold or covering their ears, etc. Try to get them to focus on things that may be harder to detect. In doing such activites you’re teaching your child about what is in nature, how to enjoy it, and eventually how all things work together.

Another eco-trip we take as a family is to a science museum. Places like this help the whole family learn how things work and change. Again reading activity realated stories before the adventure helps open your child’s mind.  Science is in everything! So pinning it down to one topic is impossible. Here are a few quick topics. In “Wind Says Good Night” by: Katy Rydell  it tells by the end of the story how the weather effects nature and it’s creatures. How if you only look closely you’ll find different creatures in the garden in the book “Who is in the Garden” by:Vera Rosenberry. Rmembering to teach your child through family interaction, In a book called “My Father’s Hands” by Joanne Ryder where a little girl watches her father work in the garden, sees what his hands look like as he works, and knows that she can trust his hands as he shows her the creatures and treasures in the garden.

Other things I do to help my daughter grasp a bit of science/astronomy is to sing songs about nature and the seasons ,or say this little quote. I’m not sure if I made it up or heard it somewhere, I honestly don’t remember.  “Constellations, constellations, groups of stars in  picture formations.”

 Outings to teach the children or even the whole family to give back can be fun too! Serious eco-trips like going to the recycling center to learn how and what to recycle don’t have to happen all the time, but taking advantage of the moment can be a priceless learning experience too. One of these of-the-moment eco-trips really stuck with my daughter at only three years old.

As a family we take many day trips to the lake. We cook out, relax in hammocks, read books, and play games. During the day we also swim, take nature walks, play at the park, and check out the shore line. The shore line is a great place for teachable moments, especially when you see animals or their tracks!  The sad part is that we also see debris. Trash that was left behind or washed up was making our beautiful lake look terrible. So we decided to have our nature walk and clean up at the same time. It became like a game to our daughter to see what she could find and how much she could pick up. We were all so proud of what we had accomplished.

In acts like these we teach our daughter to leave places better than we found them. This effects her way of thinking long term, to see that trash doesn’t just go away. She’s learning not to just focus on herself and that moment. Even now at four years old, she looks up at me with tears in her eyes and says, “Mommy, why do people think that the ground is a trash can? ”

Whether your eco-trips are planned or spontaneous it can always be a learning experience by enhancing those trips. Doing what you can when you have the opportunity. Use those teachable moments. Share your adventures with others through your personal stories or actions. Working in eco-friendly themes becomes easier once you truely have a heart for your environment.

Mom Tips: Inexpensive Dress Up

Playing dress up is a huge part of learning. As children try on different styles they also try on personalities, careers, and emotions. Wrapped up in garments and accessories; they are on their way to finding out who they are and what they will become.

The dress up box doesn’t have to be filled to the brim with expensive single focus costumes. It’s a box where imagination and fun can flow freely. It doesn’t have to be a source of stress for your pocketbook.

Costumes can be fun and even included, but these are single focus items. To really get the imagination going I include drapes of cloth, homemade weapons or wands. Things that will open the child’s view to something that they may not have seen before with the pirate, princess, and ballerina “only” costumes.

While gathering items to fill the dress up box don’t forget about discount places. There is no shame in using things that have been used before. That’s part of the three R’s. (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) In this case we are reducing what is bought new, and reusing what was already made. If buying used is new to you, these are some places to look: Salvation Army, thrift stores, consignment shops/fairs, flea markets,yard/garage sales, and after season holiday sales.

While shopping allow yourself be a kid and let your imagination roam. Think of how many uses you could get out of one item. My daughter’s favorite things in her dress up box are fabric, scarves, handkerchiefs, and accessories. She can become whatever she can think up.

These are some of the items we have, and where we go them:
Fabric- was given to us, thrift store finds
Scarves- I’ve owned since I was young
Hats- gifts, bought, thrift store/flea market finds (cleaned & lysoled)
Halloween costumes and accessories- after holiday sales, thrift store
Graduation cap and gown- from my own graduation
plastic jewelery- $1 shops, gifts, bought new (inexpensive)
flowers- thrift shop, gifts from daughter’s admirer
fancy cups- birthday party favors
tea party set
old costumes/uniforms- from my childhood
purses/bags- consignment shops, thrift stores, bought new, gifts
homemade wands, weapons, etc.- Reusable items and craft supplies
face masks- halloween sales
Empty makeup containers- Reused from my own makeup bag.

These are all things that we have added over time. We didn’t pour alot of money into it. So don’t forget that dress up is all about fun, learning, and not just for the kids (they’ll never forget dress up time with mom and dad). Keep it a happy experience for you and your child.

Eco-Mominess: Raising Green Kids

Raising kids to think green is like teaching them anything else in life, take it a little at a time. Then incorportate it into the family’s everyday life in a fun way. In whatever area you choose to begin, get excited about it. Let your children see your excitement and that excitement will quickly grow within them as well. (It helps to start when they are younger.)

One green act that our family does is to pick up trash while on famiy outings. We don’t make a chore of it. We always have a collection bag on hand. We make it part of the experience by reminding our child of the good she is doing for the planet, herself, and for other people. Whatever we take into a place (indoors or out) goes out with us and is disposed of properly along with any trash we pick up along the way. If we’re worried about germs or just getting filthy hands we wear gloves, take wet wipes along, and hand sanitizer. We always have most of these things with us anyway, but that is just who we are.

One fun thing that my daughter noticed is that doing good deeds is contagious and helps you feel proud of yourself. The more she did, the more she asked, “Mommy, what good deed can we do today?”

On one occassion, when she was only 3 years old, we went to the local park and noticed that there was much more litter than usual. There was trash everywhere! So I got a washable tote bag from my car, and we began picking up trash. She played a little, helped, and played some more. She didn’t lose her playtime. She learned that she can help and have fun too. We had picked up around 3 bags full when other families noticed what we were doing, and started to help. They got their kids involved and soon our park was clean again. Each child and adult that chose to help soon felt that pride of doing something good, and we could see it on their faces. We could hear it in their voices as they talked about other places they could help. My daughter was so excited about the events of only those few hours that she told people about it for a least a month after.

Every little bit helps. So teach your children to use only what is needed. Reuse where you can, and recycle when you see a receptacle. Or better yet make some of your own for at home too. As a parent make being green fun for them, let the desire grow, and do good deeds often. Make it a family passion.

Mom tips: Stretch and Save

When the money is coming in and you are living comfortably it’s easy to lose all sense of frugality. But, when the money is not flowing so well you have a constant reminder to make things stretch.

They key to living frugally is to think frugally. Being frugal doesn’t mean that you’re living without. I means that you are being wise about your spending and using.

Take a good look around your home. Look at the whole picture, and see what is neccessary and where you can save. Many everyday items, that are must haves, can be purchased more wisely.

Don’t forget to shop around to see where the best deal is. While shopping check out the unit price. This means to see how much you’d be paying per ounce, pound, number items in the package. What do you actually get for your money? Will you use the item? Compare price in multiple stores and even online, especially for big ticket items.

Multiple use items. Items that can be used in different areas of your life. This one is huge for clothing. While comparing prices also look for quality. How long will this item last? If you buy good quality you don’t have to buy as often. Purchase clothing that can be worn in many areas of your life, not a one time outfit. Can the item purchased be reused? Once you’re finished with it’s original purpose or no longer is of use to you, where and how can it have a longer life? Old t-shirts are great cleaning rags, art smocks for kids, or even insulation for around those outdoor water pipes in the winter.

Whether you are buying in bulk or not, think of how you can seperate the items to be used for a longer period of time. An example from my home is dish scrubbers. This little item can get stupidly expensive. I’ve seen up to around $4 for 1 dish scrubber. For real! So for this item that only gets used for a few days and then tossed, it’s not worth it. I get a package of 5 thin scrubbers from the $1 shop (be careful there, somethings are deals and some aren’t). When I get home I cut them up into useful sizes. Think about it, how much of the normal size scrubber do you actually use? Mainly the corners right? So a 3 inch square piece is plenty. Ok, now that $1 package of 5 is now a $1 package of around 20 that will last me a while. With food you can do the same thing. If you get food items that will last in the pantry or freezer, seperate them out. Use what you need for that meal and store the rest for another day. This can go even farther by seperating the food item more to make it stretch. You don’t each have to have a huge piece of meat for every meal. Cut it up, add other things to it, and eat off of about 1 pound of meat, several meals for the whole family. You can also freeze the portion of the meal that wasn’t eaten to thaw for another day.

Coupons! Coupons! Coupons! They can help or they can hinder. Don’t be tricked into buying something that you wouldn’t normally buy. The thing is that you’re not saving money unless your coupon is for something (item and brand) that you already buy or is cheaper than that item.

While shopping, here are a few tricks to keep you from over spending. We’ve all heard the one about not going shopping hungry. (This works, but can backfire…I’m usually so full that I don’t even what to look at food!) Ask yourself this question along the way, “Do I really need it?” Make a shopping list and stick to it, with a budget in mind, and calculator in hand. When you accomplish your budget goal and have what you need from you list, it’s rush! You feel proud of yourself. For me I feel like doing a happy dance, and sometimes I do!

To sum it up:
*Ask yourself “Do I need it?”
*Buy for quality
*Shop around
*Compare unit prices
*Mulitple use items
*Seperate items for longer use
*Coupons: Use for your normal item/brand purchases
*Shopping: Have a budget goal, make a list and stick to it.

Eco-Momminess (Non-toxic cleaning etc.)

There are many reasons to become more eco-friendly, but in our family ours got started by necessity. Our eco-practices began because of the sheer fact that my husband handles alot of harsh chemicals at work, and we wanted him to be exposed to the least amount as possible. We can’t change what he works with without changing jobs all together, so we changed what we use at home. Plus we all have allergies of various sorts and green cleaning helps us to feel well much more often.

Spray Cleaners:
1/2 water
1/2 vinegar
splash of lemon juice

-Combine these in a spray bottle. Give it a little shake, and it’s ready to clean. It cleans and deodorizes!
(Think about this…You use your store bought cleaner on a surface that you will be cooking on …add heat it may become really toxic. You clean a surface to prepare food on…if you didn’t go back and rinse the cleaner off it’s going into you food, and into your family. You clean the surface of your baby’s highchair…their food always touches the tray, it’s going into your baby. Get the picture? It’s not a pretty one. People just choose not to see it.)

Ok, so…If you need the cleaner to be SCRUBBY:
Sprinkle area to be cleaned with baking soda and salt. Spray with above cleaner. Scub until tough mess is gone, and wipe clean with a different cloth (it leaves bits of baking soda and salt behind that doesn’t get dissolved)

Spray Cleaner (from Hannah Help Me’s , Hannah Keeley)
Spray bottle
3/4 full of water
2 drops liquid dish soap
2 cap fulls Rubbing alcohol

-Combine in the bottle. Shake it up, and it’s ready to go.
(I use this one more for floors, bathroom, and windows)
Homemade Laundry Detergent
(Modified from recipe used by Michelle Duggar,”19 kids and counting”)

5 Gallon bucket with lid
1 Bar Laundry Soap (this does exist!!!)
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1 Cup Borax
Hot water
Strirring utensil
*Bar soap brands: Zote (least chemicals), Octagon, Fels-Naptha
*Washing soda brands: Arm & Hammer, store brands

The work!!!
-Grate the bar of soap (newer Zote is easier to grate than old)
-melt soap flakes in a pot of the stove top with water.
(enough water to break it down, starts to look soupy)
-Heat on low-med until melted
-In bucket mix Borax and washing soda with hot water.
(just enough to incorporate all the powder)
-Once melted pour soap into the bucket with Borax and washing soda.
-Mix while filling bucket to the top with hot water.
-Place lid on top, and let it sit for about 24 hours.
-Stir and use. 1/2 cup to 1 full cup per washing load.
*Safe to use with bleach or fabric softener.
Ok, they are gross, hard to get rid of, and nobody wants to talk about it! But they happen! And who wants chemicals in their home to get rid of them? Hopefully no one!!!! So here goes!

Safely get rid of fleas in carpet
(This is a small batch, Make as much as you need!)
13 oz. Salt
32 oz. baking soda

-Sprinkle in carpet and sweep in. Let it sit in carpet for about 12 hours or longer. Then vaccum up. DISPOSE OF VACCUM BAG OR CONTENTS OF CANISTER IN TIGHTLY SEALED PLASTIC BAG…DON’T LET THEM OUT!)
Repeat as long as necessary.

*A little gross, but how it works.
Salt injures the flea’s body and the combo dries them out, along with the eggs. Comb. = dead fleas

It’s not toxic ,BUT the combo also dries your feet. So where some sort of shoes while you have it in the carpet.
Use a micro fiber cloth, damp or dry, to dust. No Chemicals! It traps the dirt better than a regular rag and it can be washed and reused.
Garbage Disposal:Clean and Deodorize

Baking Soda
Lemon (cut and seeded)

-Pour baking soda into sink drain/disposal
-pour vinegar into drain *POOF* cleaning bubbly magic
-Disposal: run lemon through to freshen it all up.

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