DIY Kitchen Scrap Compost Pail

We have had an outdoor compost pile for about 3 years, and we always make an effort to add our kitchen scraps into it, especially in the warmer months. Why let all the organic goodness go to waste? The same wonderful nutrients can be used to feed new gardens beds! Unfortunately, it was always a chore to collect the kitchen scraps because we never had a good container to hold the goodies.We tried old quart sized yogurt containers, but they were too small. Our goal is to empty the container once per week. The yogurt containers filled up way too fast. We looked into buying a kitchen compost bin, but many of them were upwards of $30 to $50! Really? Just for a bucket?

As luck would have it, we happen to frequent our local farmer's market where we get our granola in bulk from a local company. And the granola comes in a nice handy plastic bucket! As we finished munching the yummy granola, we re-purposed the bin for a perhaps a higher purpose.

We drilled some holes on the lid to allow for air circulation. You can see a cocentric ring of holes in the picture on the upper left.

Then we bought a pack of charcoal filters from the pet store. These are normally used to neutralize odors from litter boxes. The filters were a bit large, so we just simply cut them in half, and save the rest for later. You will have to change the charcoal filter every few months. Just taped it with some masking tape to the inside of the lid, and there you have it!

We now have a low cost compost pail that's sturdy and roomy. It even has a handle that makes the weekly dump out a bit more manageable. Have you made your own kitchen compost bin? We'd love to hear about how you did it!

Coconut Oil Uses and Recipes

Coconut oil is super healthy for your skin and body! Try to opt for an organic, fair-trade brand, it's worth it!

Here are some ideas on how to use it. Got anything to add? Leave in the comments and I'll add it to the list!

-body moisturizer
-cloth diaper friendly baby rash ointment
-whipped body cream (when whipped in your food processor)
-healthy fat frying and cooking oil
-fat supplement for whole foods diets
-healthy replacement for corn syrup or trans fats in fudge
-hair reconstructor and scalp renewer
-growth stimulator for eyelashes and eyebrows
-foot and hand callus softener
-moisturizer for dreadlocks
-massage carrier oil
-nipple cream for breastfeeding
-oil for perineal massage (helps with childbirth)
-pregnancy belly oil to reduce itching and stretch marks
-anti-fungal treatment
-lubricant for household needs
-natural sunscreen

Fragrance Oils vs. Essential Oils

What's the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils?

When reading ingredient lists, often you would come across "Fragrance". What does that really mean? Because fragrances are considered trade secrets, full disclosure is not required.  So it can be any combination of chemicals including those derived from petroleum such as phthalates that are hormone disruptors or benzene derivatives that has been linked to cancer and birth defects.

Essential oils, on the other hand, are derived from plants. Either cold pressed or steam distilled, or extracted by alcohol. Essential oils carry healing properties of the plants that they are derived from. The cost of essential oils depend on the type of plant it's derived from. For example, it takes 60,000s roses to make one ounce of rose essential oil. So rose essential oil is much more expensive than sweet orange essential oil, an oil with much higher yield. Just because essential oils come from natural sources, it doesn't mean they are safe for everyone. It's possible to have allergic reactions to essential oils, and you need to be careful when using essential oils during pregnancy. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, any pesticides or herbicides can also be dramatically concentrated. That's why I like to choose certified organic essential oils whenever possible.

Also, because it takes so much plant material, it's important to consider the sustainability of the resources and energy to grow the plants and distill the oils. Certain plants are endangered, such as rosewood and sandalwood. So always make sure that your supplier is using a sustainable source for your essential oils.

So what's your favorite essential oil and what do you use it for? Leave your comments below!

5 Natural Anti-Aging Ingredients

It seems like every cream or serum has the word "nutri-" or "regen-", but inside the shiny bottle, what mystery ingredients are working the magic? More importantly, how much scientific proof is there that those precious droplets will turn back the calendar? To get the most bang for your buck, stop paying for the glitsy bottle. Instead, turn to the back and look for these top anti-aging super stars in the ingredient list.

Green Tea - Packed with catechines, a class of super antioxidants, green tea combat environmental damage and prevents premature aging. It's even been shown to combat skin cancer! Use a green tea mask and leave on for at least 10 minutes to allow the nutrients to sink in. Or just use green tea bags steeped in cold water and apply the bags directly to eyes to reduce excessive baggage.

Argan Oil - Also known as Moroccan oil, has been called liquid gold and produced from the kernel of the argan tree. With twice as much vitamin E as olive oil and lighter texture, it's suitable for both oily and dry skin types. You can apply it directly to face to moisturize without leaving you feeling greasy. It's also fantastic in another product, just make sure it's one of the first ingredients to get the most benefit. Personally, I love it on the corners of my eyes before going to sleep to keep my peepers smooth!

"Vitamin C also stimulates collagen synthesis, plumping up wrinkly areas and lightens dark spots."

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) - Ok, actually they are two ingredients, but they work best as a team. When a free radical strikes, it's usually a chain reaction, vitamin C neutralizes the initial free radical while vitamin E stops the domino effect. That's why when used together, they help prevent pre-mature aging and sun damage. Vitamin C also stimulates collagen synthesis, plumping up wrinkly areas and lightens dark spots.

7 habits of young looking people

Like it or not, aging is a rite of passage that everyone goes through. With every birthday, we get wiser, but it also comes with a few more fine lines, or wrinkles. We've all met the lucky guy or gal who's in their 50's but looks 30. Are they just born with fountain of youth skin? Or do they know some secret that we don't? It turns out, there are some simple ways to prevent premature aging. No, I'm not talking about some $100 per bottle magic elixir. Here are some tips to get you started on the road to fabulous skin and looking good today and 10 years down the road!

1. Wear sunscreen and avoid tanning salons. UV rays are the number one cause of skin aging. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to cell damage, protect yourself from both by wearing a natural non-toxic full-spectrum sunscreen. This means inside the car and in the winter too. And don't forget to apply on hands and necks, those are the most often overlooked spots for sunscreen, and first places to show signs of aging. 

2. Don't smoke. It's proven beyond a shadow of doubt that smoking causes wrinkles, oh, and cancer and heart disease too. Nicotine causes narrowing of the blood vessels so skin is starved of oxygen and nutrients. Also the facial expressions when you smoke can contribute to wrinkles.

Top Alternatives to Toxic Products: Bug Spray

Summer is upon us and it's time for fun outdoors. My favorite thing about winter is that there are no bugs! True story: I went to the ER once for a mosquito bite because my leg swelled up so much I could barely walk. If you're like me, you'd do anything to keep those disease carrying biting creatures away from yourself and your kids. But as a cloth diapering, holistic mom and well informed scientist, I'd also do anything to keep pesticides and dangerous chemical away from myself and my baby. What to do?
You might already have some bug spray ready to go. Let’s find out what’s in your bug spray; its pros and cons.

What’s in your bugs spray?
While I don’t use these myself and don’t recommend using these on your body, I think it’s important to understand their applications and pros and cons when deciding what’s best for your family. 

DEET  - An insect repellent that discourages insects to land, but does not kill the insect. It can be purchased at 5% to 100% concentrations. Generally, the higher the percentage, the longer the protection, but for most applications, 10 to 25% is sufficient. The Center for Disease Control recommends under 35% for adults and under 10% for children. 

Pros: Proven, long lasting protection and approved to prevent spread of disease by the Center for Disease Control. Excellent mosquito repellent.
Cons: May cause headaches, lethargy, seizures, and convulsions. Not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Dissolves plastics such as fishing lines, breathable fabrics such as GoreTex, sunglasses, etc. Poor tick repellent. May cause skin irritations, avoid contact with eyes or broken skin.

Top Alternatives to Toxic Products: Nail Polish and Remover

Did you know that nail polish is considered hazardous waste?

Nail coloring has been around for centuries and has been practiced by many cultures. But today's nail polish contains dangerous chemicals such as toulene, phthalates, and formaldehyde. Your nails are not impenetrable barriers, like skin, they are sponges that breath. Chemicals painted on your nails can easily be absorbed into your body.

Here are the top 3 toxic ingredients commonly found in nail polish:
  • Toulene, a solvent, can cause tiredness, confusion, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss when inhaled.
  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer that prevents nail polish chipping. Also a hormone disruptor that has been linked to reproductive system disorders. This chemical is banned in all personal care products in Europe. In the US, some nail polish manufactures started eliminating it from their formulas. Be sure to check labels for this and other phthalates. 
  • Formaldehyde, commonly found in nail hardeners and a known carcinogen. The EPA allows no more than 0.1 parts per million in the air of new homes, but nail products can have more than 20,000 times that (0.2%).

Top Alternatives to Toxic Products: Deodorant

Deodorant - Your underarm skin is one of the thinnest and most sensitive areas on your body, so it's important to treat it with tender care. Common deodorants contain aluminum chlorohydrate (an antiperspirant) and parabens (preservatives) that can irritate skin and even has been linked to cancer (source).

Sweating is a necessary function that cools the body and purges toxins from the bloodstream. Aluminum chlorohydrate works by plugging up sweat ducts so sweat and toxins can't get out.

Too much sweat leads to moisture, creating an ideal breeding ground for smelly bacteria. How to avoid toxins and keep dry and fresh naturally? Read on.

Alternatives to Top Toxic Products: Mascara

Why should I pay extra for natural products? Is it really better for me and the environment? While I encourage everyone to buy organic, fair-trade, local everything, sometimes it's simply not possible whether because of availability or budget. In the real world, we must pick and choose our battles. So what are the beauty products you should really avoid or substitute? Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting about the  top 5 toxic products to think twice about.

Mascara - Our eyes are so valuable yet, so vulnerable. Chemicals placed near eyes can be easily smudged into them. Surprisingly, it's illegal for other skincare products to contain mercury, FDA makes an exception for eye make up (source). Therefore, mascara to may contain up to 65 part per million mercury as a preservative. In addition, aluminum powder and triethanolamine (TEA) are commonly found in mascara, both have been linked to toxicity and allergies. Using mascara and fake eyelashes increases your chance of losing eyelashes while you're removing makeup. And for every eyelash you lose, it can take 2 to 4 months to grow back! So much for boosting your va-va-voom! Also, it's important to replace your mascara at least every 3 months. Bacteria can grow inside the tube (yes, even with all those preservatives), and cause eye infections. 

Recommendations: For those special occasions, try the Mini Fruit Pigmented Mascara by 100% Pure. It's 100% Vegetarian and natural, and the first ingredient is green tea, and contains no chemical preservatives. I also like the small size because I never seem to finish my mascara within 3 months.
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