5 Steps to an Eco Easter!

Easter has always confused the hell out of me. One second i’m eating pancakes, the next my school principal is rubbing soot on my forehead, then I am told not to eat anything and then BAM I am sniffing out anything that has cocoa in it and gorging on said item! What a strange holiday it is. It is Lucy’s first Easter and it has definitely made me consider how I will bring her up to think of Easter. I have decided that it will be the same as Christmas – a time where family comes together. What it will not be about is the merciless destruction of all over-packaged, sugar-based food stuffs within a 10 kilometer vicinity. She’s already perky enough without the sugar thank you very much!!!

SUGAR!!! Nom nom.. no!

SUGAR!!! Nom nom.. no!

So I started thinking about all the ways we could reduce our Easter impact while staying healthy at the same time…

1. Sustainable Good Friday Fish

If you are a fish eater make sure you choose an ecologically sustainable breed of fish for your Good Friday Feast. The Australian Marine Conservancy has a brilliant website that tells you exactly which breeds are best – see the list here. If you are not from Australia though the Marine Stewardship Council provides global information on sustainable seafood – see their list here.

2. Make Your Own Chocolate

Itty bitty eggs all wrapped in unrecyclable tin foil… every eco-minded individuals worst nightmare. By making your own chocolate you can completely avoid the packaging as well as making them a hell of a lot healthier. In this recipe I made raw Fruit and Nut Chocolate in a slab but you could easily pour it into a chocolate mold for a more traditional feel!

You could also try these AHMAZING Raw Easter Eggs from one of my favorite foodie ladies Adele (aka Vegie Head)…

Image and recipe courtesy from www.vegiehead.com

Image and recipe courtesy from http://www.vegiehead.com

3. Always Buy Fair Trade

It can be really hard to walk past beautiful brightly-coloured eggs that are so perfectly designed to catch your kids eyes. But it is important to remember that a lot of those eggs are produced in terrible conditions by children… just like yours. See the list of companies here that are doing the right thing and using certified Fair Trade cocoa. But if you are out and about and have forgotten the list, then make sure you look out for the FTA (Fair Trade Australia) logo…

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4. Opt out of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt

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I loved Easter Egg hunts as a child. In fact, I still love ’em. I went to my brothers house last Easter and I had to be reminded that I was helping my nephew find eggs… not competing with him. But it does occur to me that it can be a glorified form of littering really? Running around and scattering bits of candy wrapped in non-biodegradable packaging around the garden. I am sure there is a percentage that get forgotten or that some poor animal finds first. BUT this doesn’t mean you need to forgo the hunt altogether. Why not try these ideas:

  • There are loads of funky reusable ‘eggs’ around which you can open and put in healthy treats. I haven’t found an Australian manufacturer yet but these ‘Eco Eggs’ are made from a non-toxic plant-based plastic that are fully compostable! (Although I’m not sure why you would chuck ’em… they would last for many many Easters). There are also gorgeous wooden eggs (see here) which you could paint and decorate with the kids.
  • I have never been to an op-shop and not seen a whole stack of wicker baskets for $2 each. No need for new! If that’s not the case wherever you are though, check out this gorgeous upcycled jumper basket…

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  • You could make your own eggs! There are plenty of gorgeous options from these little felt eggs (from the very creative One Inch World) or you could even make old greeting card boxes like these (from yours truly!) to hide treats in.
  • Instead of hiding eggs you could instead hide some gorgeous hand-painted rocks (hear me out!) and at the end of the hunt treat them like coupons. The children can come up to a ‘treat’ bar and exchange rock creatures for their treat of choice!

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5. Avoid Palm Oil

Both Woolworths and Coles home brands of hot cross buns contain palm oil.

Consumers (a yucky name for you and me) are definitely wising up these days. It is so nice to that the tribe of people that give a shit is growing and that people are starting to speak up about unacceptable corporate behavior! Better yet… they are boycotting it. Coles and Woolworths have both used Palm Oil in their homebrand Hot Cross Buns this year. They have (rightfully so) copped some flak for this nasty inclusion (if you want to know more about Palm Oil I have written a blog post all about why it is so nasty – see it here). Don’t condone their use by buying these products, why not make your own instead. Total eco babe Alison (from Relauncher) posted this recipe for Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns. I am trying it out tomorrow!

Image and recipe from http://www.relauncher.com.au

Or if you are getting into the raw swing of things you can try my recipe for Raw Cross Buns here

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Happy Easter!

What are you doing to make sure your Easter stays eco? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

How To Make Almond Milk – Plus 3 Bonus Recipes!

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“Nut milk”. Is that not the most unfortunately titled of all food items? Actually… it might just be pipped by it’s cousin “Nut Cheese”. Putting immaturity aside for a second though this is seriously awesome stuff and has become my obsession since my clean living revolution (read about that here). My milk of choice would have to be almond. Nut Milk is super easy to make and because almonds are naturally so nutritionally dense you don’t need to fortify them with anything… making homemade just as good than store bought. Actually better because you miss out on all the waste associated with packaged milks. If you need more convincing, here are some of the nutritional benefits of Almond Milk;

Low in Calories – Considering nuts are so calorific and full of all those good fats, I was shocked to discover that it is low in calories – around 60 per 250mls (compared to 426 for the equivalent serve of cows milk!)

Easy to digest – Free of lactose, casein, gluten and soy making it the best choice for your non-dairy dairy!

High in protein 

Full of nutrients – Nut milks have no cholesterol and higher levels of minerals and vitamins than other non-dairy equivalents like rice and soy (a avoid soy anyway… for these reasons). This milk is full of vitamin E, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fiber and phosphorous. The high levels of vitamin E and flavonoids make it a cancer fighting tonic!

Tastes Delish!!! – Nut milk is a lot milder than soy and is delicate and sweet. It is brilliant in smoothies, baking and all sorts of other recipes (like Chia Pudding – yum!)

Almond milk doesn’t contain much calcium though, so it should not be considered a replacement for your calcium intake. 

Equipment

To make nut milk you need a nut milk bag or material equivalent. I use these Living Synergy nut milk bags which are produced by local raw foodie queen Jen Keenan (of Living Synergy Dunsborough retreats)! You can buy them directly from the link I provided or see the large list of Australia Wide stockists here. They are very reasonably priced at around $17. If you are outside of Australia, Amazon also has an impressive list available.

This being said if you can also make your own nut milk bags out of just about anything. Sew a bag shape out of cheesecloth or muslin or upcycle an old (washed) stocking (panty-hose). I have used the panty-hose trick before when I was making this Coconut and Cucumber Facial Cleanser.

Almond Milk

Ingredients

  • Raw Almonds (organic if possible)
  • Water (filtered if possible)

For every 1 Cup of almonds I use 3 Cups of water.

Optional Extras

  • Sweeteners – raw honey, agave, stevia, maple syrup, dates
  • Raw Cacao – chocky milk!!!
  • Spices – cinnamon,cloves, cardamom, cayenne?

MAKING ALMOND MILK

Method

  1. Soak your almonds in filtered water in the fridge for between 6 – 48 hours. The longer the better but if you don’t have time 6 hours is fine. 
  2. Strain the almonds. (I strain into a colander over a bowl and then use the ‘wasted’ water in the garden).
  3. Place in blender with new water – for every 1 Cup of almonds you make you should add 3 Cups of water. (If you want to make a nice thick almond cream use 1 Cup almonds:1-2 Cup of water)
  4. Add any additional items to the blender (sweeteners, spice etc)
  5. Blend on high until the milk is foamy
  6. Pour blender contents into your nut milk bag or cheese cloth. There are a few ways you can do this – I place the nut milk bag over the top of the blender and pour into a bowl. You could also place the bag or cloth into a jag and fasten with an elastic bag before pouring.
  7. Squeeze all the pulp in the bag to extract all the milk.
  8. Store in a glass container with an airtight lid (a sterilized old jar will work just fine!)

Your milk will last between 4 – 5 days in an airtight container.

Now you will notice that you are left with the pulp of the almonds. Now hold your horses… DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY. This byproduct is a versatile base that you can make a whole range of recipes from! Here are three that I have tried, but really the possibilities are as limitless as your creativity!

Bonus Recipes

Almond Pulp Crackers

I made these awesome crackers from a recipe from awesome vegan blog Figgy and Sprout. Served with homemade Baba Ganoush they went down a treat.

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See the recipe here.

Raw Almond Pulp Macaroons

Living Synergy (where I got my nut milk bag) provided this amazing recipe for Raw Almond Macaroons. I changed them slightly by leaving out the vanilla bean and using half dessicated coconut and half shredded (both unsweetened) and they are delicious! She the recipe here.

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Crunchy Cacao Balls

I then adapted that recipe into my own little nutritious treat! These little balls are delicious.

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  1. Place 1+1/2 Cups of unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 Cup nut pulp, 1/2 Cup dates, 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil and 1 Tablespoon of Raw Cacao into a bowl.
  2. Get messy and combine with your hands… squish and mix until you can form doughy balls. (or you can use a blender if you are feeling lazy)
  3. Roll mix into balls and then roll in cacao nibs.

What a resourceful way to get your milk!

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Olive’s Guide to Greening Your Cleaning!

My Dad is wonderful and quirky and funny and one of my absolute best friends in the world and we can quite happily while away many hours chatting, mucking about or just generally pottering. However there is one department where our rivalry is fierce and unyielding (until recently anyway)… Cleaning.

Me and my Farsher

Me and my Farsher enjoying a beverage!

A bit of background information to set the scene: my Dad is an absolute clean freak – he enjoys it and he is bloody good at it. He has a daughter (hello!) whose school reports always had two words in common – ‘bubbly’ and more to the point… ‘messy’. His nickname for her has always been Stinkbug. But it seems that this little Stinkbug has grown wings because she has developed her own little range of DIY cleaning products so effective that even my Papa Bear has endorsed them. And best bit? They are all much better for the health of the environment and your house than your standard bleach and fragrance laden concoctions.

If they can pass Dad’s test then they must be good so I wanted to share them with you all and explain how I go about my eco cleaning.

Essential Ingredients

My laundry cupboard

My laundry cupboard

Once you have these ingredients in your house there will be no mess you can’t annihilate. Your homemade products will be strong I assure you, but it is also worth noting that they may need a little extra elbow grease. The reason is that they aren’t full of toxic chemicals – a compromise I can handle! I think of it as a few extra muscles I’m toning.

  • Borax
  • Vinegar – White, Apple Cider or DIY Citrus (recipe link included in Standards section)
  • Bicarb Soda
  • Soda Crystals
  • Washing Soda
  • Lemons
  • Eucalyptus Oil – antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and deodoriser
  • Lavendar Oil – smells so pretty!
  • Other essential oils – Tea Tree, Lemon, any that take your fancy!!!
  • A good quality eco-dishwashing detergent
My DIY Citrus Vinegar

My DIY Citrus Vinegar

Important things to keep in mind;

  • Even though these are much more natural than your standard products they can still be harmful so always wear gloves and keep away from kids.
  • Washing Soda is not good for aluminium and will remove wax polish!
  • Vinegar makes marble cloudy.
  • Essential oils can be potent and some are dangerous to pregnant women, children or pets – ALWAYS CHECK THE BOTTLE.

Upcycled Cleaning Equipment

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Newspapers – Best stuff for plastic free bins and cleaning glass!

Spray Bottles – If you have cleaning products in spray bottles, keep those spray bottles and refill with your own solutions. However if you don’t have any go and buy them from a hardware (Bunnings has them) or homewares store.

Jar Shaker – In my “Olive’s Clean Everything Solution” (see under Standards section) I use a shaker. Now if you want you can go buy one or you can just get a jar with a tin lid and punch some holes into the top with a knife or hammer and nail.  Put the Bicarb into the jar, lid on and shake away!

Socks and Pantyhose – Isn’t it funny that you always seem to only lose one sock out of the pair! In my case it is less losing, more having them stolen…

Meet Allen.

Meet Allen.

Either way, keep your widowed socks and torn pantyhose. These are perfect tap cleaners and door knob buffers!!!

Toothbrushes – Keep all your old ones. They are great for scrubbing hard to reach places or delicate ornaments.

Old T-shirts and Sheets – Keep any fabric that can’t be given to an opshop for use as an old rag. When we had floorboards I used to elastic band them to my broom to make a swiffer mop for dust… worked a charm.

Old Towels – Cut these into small squares, overlock the edges and you, my friend, have the hardiest cleaning cloth in the business!

Standards

Citrus Vinegar, I LOVE YOU!

Citrus Vinegar, I LOVE YOU!

Citrus Vinegar

Citrus vinegar is unbelievably easy to make. All it takes is discarded citrus peel and vinegar. See my post on that here… I use it on everything

All-Purpose Cleaner

I use this for all counters and surfaces except my chopping boards (see what I do with chopping board below)

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent
  • 1 teaspoon Borax
  • ¼ Cup Vinegar (Citrus Vinegar if available)
  • 10 – 20 drops of Essential Oils (Eucalyptus is good for the kitchen as it keeps away ants and cockroaches and smells nice too!)

Mix into a spray bottle. Shake before each use.

Olive’s Clean Everything Solution

Sprinkle Bicarb soda onto surface. Spray with vinegar until you hear fizz. Wipe off with rag/sponge. VOILA.

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar (Citrus vinegar if you have it)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water

OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…

  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar (Citrus vinegar if you have it)
  • 3 Cups Water

Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water. Pour into a used spray bottle. Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)

Floor Cleaner

Two thirds hot water, one third vinegar. That’s it.

I (of course) like to use citrus vinegar for this but white is perfectly fine. If you have darker floors you can use apple cider. Apple Cider does taint floors slightly though so if you have white tiles don’t try it.

Kitchen

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I wipe down my main kitchen counter with the all purpose cleaner from above, but I also have a large wooden chopping board. I like to use a different cleaner for this as the All Purpose Cleaner contains Borax which is not meant to be ingested. I use the following mix …

Kitchen Counter Cleaner

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus Oil

Mix into a spray bottle. Shake before each use.

If after using that you still have some stubborn smells hanging around (think onion, fish) I use this super simple mix to clean my chopping board which does so without tainting the food…

Chopping Board Cleaner

  • Tip a bit of washing soda onto a cloth or sponge and scrub the chopping board

Dishwashing Liquid/Dishwasher Tablets

Similar to clothes washing, I have not yet invented a washing powder or liquid that works to my liking. I have tried 1 Cup borax + 1 Cup baking soda + ½ Cup salt but sadly no luck – although others I have spoken to love this mix.

I also find the detergents from stores very useful as I often add a teaspoon or two to my mixes and they go an awfully long way! So (same as laundry) I use Eco Store, Ecover or Earth’s Choice – links and information about these companies in the Laundry section of this post.

Cleaning greasy pots and pans

Washing soda is the ultimate grease killer which makes it perfect for washing pots and pans.

  • Dampen your sponge and sprinkle washing soda onto it (quite liberally)
  • Scrub the greasy pan with the sponge
  • Rinse and wash as usual

Hardcore Greased up pan or BBQ

  • Make a paste from washing soda and water (2:1)
  • Apple the paste directly to the greasy area
  • Allow to sit for 30 mins then wash

Microwave Cleaner

  • Slice up a lemon and place in a microwave safe bowl of water
  • Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes
  • Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside. The mess will wipe off really easily!

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My Hugh Jackman Oven Cleaner

Why Hugh Jackman you say? Take a walk with me…

Normal oven cleaners are extremely harsh and toxic like… hmm… I don’t know … a Wolverine!!! And even though a big dangerous Wolverine hunk with knives coming out his fists surely gets the job done it’s nice to also have a more sensitive side that when it comes down to it won’t hurt you… like the Drover. Wolverine (tough) + Drover (sensitive) = Hugh Jackman Oven Cleaner! And there you have it people, an insight into the slightly disturbed brain of Olive. Anyway –

  • 1 ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup white vinegar (you can also use apple cider vinegar)
  • Water
  • Optional: 4 drops essential oil (you can use any scent you like)

Mix all the ingredients together to form a paste. Paint the paste onto the oven stains (I use a pastry brush but you could use an old paint brush!). Let it sit for at least 4 hours (aim for 6) and it will foam up. Then wash with a cloth and warm water. AMAZING! I haven’t met a mess it hasn’t fixed yet.

Cleaning Silverware

  • Line a container with aluminium foil
  • Fill the container with 1 cup Soda Crystals and a litre of boiling water
  • Submerge silverware and soak for 15 minutes. If the silverware is tarnished it will literally melt away. Rinse off
  • Buff… buff like David Hasselhoff damnammit!

Stovetops and Burners

  • Fill your kitchen sink with warm water and add ½ cup of washing soda
  • Place the greasy burner into the water and allow to soak for about 30 minutes
  • Remove the burner and rinse off any residue
  • Wash as per normal (with soap and water)
  • While doing this why not grab that exhaust fan down and do it in the same sink (I always used to get told off about my exhaust fan during home inspections… seriously, who notices that?)

Really Stubborn Stove Stains (also good for BBQ’s)

  • Sprinkle washing soda directly onto greasy areas of the stovetop
  • Use a damp sponge to scrub the mucky area
  • Rinse with a rag and warm water

Laundry

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Sadly I have not yet made a good DIY clothes washing liquid or powder… I will keep experimenting until I get there. There are some pretty good alternatives on the market though, not to mention some simple tips and tricks to reduce your impact…

Clothes Washing Powder/Liquid

I have 3 brands that I really trust… unfortunately it can be difficult to get my faves at the major supermarkets but I think they are starting to stock them nowadays. Here they are in order of fave.

Eco Store – Read their eco credentials here but in short: super concentrated so you don’t have to use much, not tested on animals, in recycled packaging. BOOM. They also do beauty products. (See the Eco Store website here)

Ecover – Made from natural, sustainable plant-based ingredients and with huge consideration put into their to have less impact on aquatic life. (See the Ecover website here)

NOTE: Keep an eye out for places that offer a refill service with these products! I keep my containers (or you can take your own) and refill them straight from a bulk container at either PAWS (Northbridge) or Manna Wholefoods (Fremantle).

Earths Choice – This is the most accessible option and what I consider my emergency cleaner. If I can’t get to an eco store (there aren’t many where I live) then I can always find this at the supermarket. Products are all free of phosphate, dye, bleach, ammonia and aggressive enzymes. (See the Natures Organics website here)

Olive’s Natural Clothes Washing Tips

Brighter whitesAdd 1 Cup of lemon juice to your regular wash OR soak clothes in hot water and 1 cup of lemon juice overnight then wash as normal. Dry them in the sun for added bright!!!

Darker darksPour two cups of strong black tea into your wash load during the rinse cycle to restore dark colours.(Obviously if you have any light clothes in this wash they will get stained!)

Prevent fading – Turning clothes inside out before washing helps prevent fading

Getting grease out of clothesAbsorb as much grease from fabric my dabbing (not rubbing) with a rag. Mix 4 Tablespoons of washing soda with ½ Cup of warm water in a bowl to form a paste then rub the paste into grease stains (wear gloves!). Wash as normal (add ½ cup to washing machine for particularly hardy stains). Check your item of material to see that grease is gone before drying (otherwise the heat may set it) and if some remains… repeat the process.

Use Less DetergentI add ½ cup of Soda Crystals to my washes which not only softens the water but also help to break down really nasty stains. It also means I can reduce the amount of detergent to the manufacturer’s instructions for soft water.

Wow! I am sure I have forgotten one of my solutions. If I have or you need any advice then please let me know in the comments. I’d also love to if you have any green cleaning solutions to share.

Happy Green Cleaning!

Amazing DIY Deodorant

The debate over deodorant and it’s links to cancer are just about as contentious as the great dairy debate. As yet “no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer” (see studies here and here). BUT do we really need to a scientific nod of approval to be concerned or should we occasionally just employ some good ol’ common sense?

Here is what we do know…

The active ingredient in deodorant (unless otherwise stated) is aluminium and they can also contain parabens.

  • Scientists have found that the aluminium content of breast tissue was significantly higher in the outer regions of the breast, in close proximity to the area where there would be the highest density of antiperspirant. A disproportionate amount of tumours occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast which seems to support that this could be linked to aluminium-based antiperspirants. (read more)
  • Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds may be absorbed through the skin and cause estrogen (hormonal) effects (that research is in here). Estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • A 2004 study found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumours (see here). These findings are not uncommon as you can see from this study or this one or this one!

So (for me) even though there is no categorical proof, I just don’t like the thought of rubbing aluminium, parabens and god knows whatever other chemicals in a sensitive region near my breasts and lymph nodes. I also don’t like the thought of a chemical blocking my pores especially when those pores are trying to excrete natural toxins from my body.

An Easy Solution

Room for argument? Maybe. But lets not forget that cigarettes were once marketed as the ‘perfect cure for a sore throat’. So if I can eliminate any risk whatsoever I am going to; which is why I love making my own deodorant! It is so simple, so cheap and bloody effective!!! With 3 ingredients (that are probably already in your cupboard) you can make a deodorant that will last all day, comes free of wasteful packaging, is super cheap and has no harmful chemicals in it. Here’s how…

Ingredients

  • Cornflour
  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda)
  • Coconut Oil
  • OPTIONAL – Essential Oil. I use Lavender and Lemon before!

‘Cornflour’ is much easier to say than ‘phthalate’!

Method

Mix equal amounts of cornflour and bicarb soda. Maybe start with 1/4Cup each.

Add 2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil to start with and mix the ingredients until you get the right consistency. You want it to be a malleable paste . Get your Goldilocks on – it shouldn’t be too wet or dry! (if your coconut oil is too solid, warm it slightly until it is gooier).

It is kinda like make scones!

It is really hard to show consistency in a photo (especially when your camera is broken) but this is the level of ‘moosh’ you are after…

If you want, add some smelly essential oils to get a more fragrant deo. I added a few drops of Lavender Oil to mine because I love it but even by itself the deodorant smells like coconut which is pretty yummy anyway!

NOTE: If you are pregnant some essential oils should not be used. For a full list see here.

How To Store

I store our deodorant in an old beauty container but you can use a jar or any thing with a lid really. Alternately, you could save your own deodorant container if you’ve got a wind-on one and pack your deodorant into there! Reuse is better than recycle after all.

I keep mine in my bathroom and it stays at a good consistency. That being said, coconut oil melts really quickly in warmer temperatures so if your bathroom heats up you may want to keep it in the fridge. That could actually be really soothing to apply in a hot summer!

If your deodorant gets too solid, place some warm water in a bowl and then put your container into the water for a few minutes. As I’ve just mentioned the coconut oil will react quickly and become soft and malleable.

Expiry – this stuff doesn’t go off. Use it as long as you’d like.

How To Apply

Scrape off some of the mix (I use my fingers but you can use a spoon or knife or whatever) and apply to your underarms with your fingertips. It may look powdery or seem like it would be sticky but once you massage it into your pits it is surprisingly dry and fresh feeling.

My Review

My husband and I have been using this since the Less Is More Festival back in February – so it has been tried and tested on an Australian summer – and amazingly it works! Actually, more than just ‘working’ it is the most effective deo either of us have ever used. It is not a antiperspirant but it 100% stops any odour. Neither of us have even had to reapply throughout the day! Other than my Raw Chocolate (see that here) this is my absolute favourite DIY discovery – 10 out of 10 Olives!!!

Looks almost good enough to eat!

If you get a taste for DIY beauty products you may also like these recipes that I have blogged about before…

Enjoy – and let me know how you go in the Comments!

DIY Eco-Cleaning Products

As readers of this site may already know I am taking the challenge to live Plastic Free for July (thanks to the amazing initiative of Western Earth Carers who invented Plastic Free July). In a previous post (click here to see it) one of my 5 Steps to going plastic free was to make your own cleaning products. It is fun, easy and SO much better for the environment.

If you want to investigate all the dangerous chemicals we use in our homes (and the effects they have) then see my preivous post about it here but I can sum it up in a nut-shell. Lots of chemicals we find in home products are linked to major health issues such as cancer, fertility defects, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. These are then they are poured straight down the drain into our waterways and oceans where the creatures are ever so delicate. Needless to say, it wreaks havoc on our ecosystems. And worst of all, these products come wrapped head-to-toe in single-use plastic packaging. Yuck. There is a better way… in fact there are lots of better ways!!! (Another benefit is that they are a lot cheaper than the nasty chemicals too).

Your Eco Cleaning Essential

There are a few ingredients that you cannot live without if you want to make your own cleaning products. I try to get most of my ingredients from ‘eco stores’ like Planet Ark but if you aren’t near their every single one of these can be found in supermarkets.

Note: I am aware that some of these come wrapped in plastic – namely the lids of the Essential Oils and the Washing Soda packet. I am trying to source alternatives. Looks like I will be filling the Dilemma Bag. :(

  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda) – This miracle powder does everything. It cleans, deodorizes, scours and softens water.
  • Lemon Juice One of the strongest food-acids around and effective against most household bacteria.
  • White Vinegar Another hero. Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, stains and wax build-up.
  • Borax (aka Sodium Borate) – Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors, changes light globes. (Might not do the last thing actually)
  • Washing Soda Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Be carfeul though – washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
  • Cornstarch AKA Corn Flour Can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Soap – Unscented soap in is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. I buy a natural soap bar and grate it before using.
  • Essential Oils – The ‘essential’ Essential Oils for basic house-cleaning are lavendar, lemon and Eucalyptus. Most of these oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and they smell bloody lovely. I always keep a lavender by the bed to help me nod off (and to keep mosquito’s away!) .
  • Olive Oil – A great alternative furniture polish (the most basic will do!)

Easy Surface Cleaner

This can be used on any type of counter – I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, wooden furniture/boards. The only thing vinegar shouldn’t be used on is marble as it can damage the surface.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Note: White is most versatile but Apple Cider can be used on surface darker than the vinegar

Method

  1. Sprinkle Bicarb Soda over the surface
  2. Spray Vinegar over the surface (do a little jig while you hear it fizz)
  3. Wipe off with a damp sponge/cloth

If it is a particularly stubborn stain: Make a paste with the vinegar and bicarb and leave for 15 minutes before wiping off.

Dishwashing Detergent

This is care of the Plastic Free July website. Thank you! :)

  • 1 Cup borax
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • ½ Cup salt

Method

  1. Mix ingredients and store in a reusable and resealable container.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the soap compartment.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse agent compartment.

Gentle Microwave/Oven Cleaner

  • 1 x lemon
  • Water
  • Microwavable container

Method

  1. Slice up lemon and place in water
  2. Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes | Bake in Oven on 200C (390F) for 40 minutes
  3. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside (once oven is cool). The mess will wipe off really easily without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.

Strong Oven Cleaner

  • 3/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Salt (table is fine, sea salt is better, Kosher is best)
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Method

  1. Dampen the oven surfaces with sponge and water.
  2. Mix bicarb soda, salt and water to make a thick paste
  3. Spread throughout oven interior – liberally on tough mucky areas
  4. Let sit overnight
  5. Remove with spatula and wipe clean.
  6. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water
OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 3 Cups Water

Method

  1. Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water
  2. Pour into a used spray bottle
  3. Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)

My Crazy Bathroom Cleaning Technique

Whenever I do this I have ‘Maniac’ playing in my head and fully pretend that I am Alex Owens from Flashdance – get my head shaking around and stomping my feet. This is of course not necessary but neither are cupcakes 99% of the time – they’re still fun though.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Method

  1. While you shower in the bathroom you intend to clean close the door, cover bath and shower plugs and allow the room to steam up
  2. Have bicarb in a shaker and put on a shower cap
  3. Sprinkle bicarb everywhere (sink included) – 3Tablespoons should be enough for whole room
  4. Spray all over the room with vinegar
  5. Use a damp sponge to scrub surfaces, sinks and towel racks
  6. Use old stockings to clean around taps
  7. Use on old toothbrush for corners
  8. Even do the walls! Use a broom

Tip: You can upcycle a shaker out of anything… e.g. an old coffee tin with holes in the bottom or a plastic bottle with hole in the lid or just use an old Parmesan shaker. 

Bathroom Mold

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Water

Method

  1. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle
  2. Spray onto areas with mold
  3. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower/bath

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
1 Cup White Vinegar

Method

  1. Mix Bicarb Soda and Vinegar
  2. Pour into basin and let it set for a 10 minutes
  3. Scrub with brush and rinse

Clothes Washing Powder

  • 1 Liter Boiling Water
  • 2 cups Bar soap (grated)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Method

  1. Add finely grated bar soap to boiling water and stir until soap is melted (do this on a low heat)
  2. Pour the soapy water mix into a large, clean bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  3. Add 6 Litres of water and stir until well mixed.
  4. Cover bucket and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry (You will need to stir the soap each time you use it as it does gel – maybe a fun job for kids?)

Furniture Polish

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour oil and lemon juice into a jar
  2. Stir to combine
  3. Dip a dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture

Unclog a Drain

  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (if stubborn clog)

Method

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by the boiling water.
  2. If it is reeeeally blocked chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover – allowing the crazy fizzing which means it is breaking up all the gunk.
  3. Flush that with 2 litres of boiling water

Carpet Cleaner

  • Vinegar

Method

  1. For pet stink and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas.
  2. Blot with an cloth until moisture is absorbed.
Note: Soda Water also works but it is hard to find plastic free. Perhaps Mineral Water would work as it is the carbonation that lifts the stain. Will keep you posted next time there is a carpet accident at home! :) 

Natural Air Fresheners

All that commercial air fresheners do is mask a smell and/or coat our nasal cavities. I don’t like the idea of that especially when you read the ingredients you find in them. So here are some really simple and natural ways to… well… freshen your air!

  • Mix a bit of Bicarb Soda or Vinegar with Lemon Juice in small dishes around the house – this will absorb odours!
  • Keep a spray bottle with water and 10 drops of lavender oil by the door. Spray before guests come in so they get a beautiful, relaxing welcome!
  • Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase
  • Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking.
  • To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • If you grind your own coffee keep the grounds on the counter
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove before guests arrive. (I then use left overs in my tea!!!)
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room
  • The greenest tip of all… Get some houseplants!

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner

I love citrus. At the moment every time I walk into the lunchroom I get these beautiful wafts of oranges and mandarins. Then comes afternoon tea and I get to devour a nice fresh lemon… don’t judge me… I am pregnant and I am allowed to eat weird stuff! But it did pain me to see all the peels getting chucked in the trash especially considering that so many cleaners boast about their citrusy scent or about how powerful they are due to the use of real lemons! As with most things I have decided that it would be much easier (and healthier) to go straight to the source, which is always nature.

Looks almost good enough to eat!

Unless you have your own citrus tree (lucky you) you might not get through enough peel to make a lot of this. Firstly, as long as you put it in the fridge your peel will last up to ten days. Secondly, a good trick is to put a container in the kitchen at your office and ask people to put their peel there instead of the bin. Anyone that follows my Facebook page may remember that at first I got called a ‘freak’ for this email request BUT by the end of the week I had had plenty of interest in the recipe and I had enough peels to make a good few batches of cleaner. Once it is ready I am going to take it into work (along with the recipe) to show people how well it works. Sharing the eco love people!

What You Need

  • Citrus peels – any kind! If you want an extra strong cleaner use only orange peels
  • Bicarb soda
  • White vinegar
  • Essential Oil (optional)
  • Something to scrub with – scourer, dish brush, nail brush
  • Old jars
  • Old spray bottle (use one of the containers that used to hold your nasty cleaner!)

Method

1.  Gather your peels and place in a bowl.

2. Cover with water and then sprinkle bicarb soda quite liberally over them.
3.  Dip the peel and give a quick scrub. Place the scrubbed peel into a colander. (This is to remove all the nasty chemicals from the peels and make it a truly natural cleaner).
4.  Once all the peels have had a quick scrub rinse them thoroughly.
5.  Place all the peels into a jar.
6.  Fill the jar up to the level of your peels with vinegar.
7.  Store in a dark, cool place for between 2 weeks and a month. Shake it once a week if you remember – make sure the lid is on tight!
8.  Shake the mixture vigorously then pour the mixture into a container, straining the old peels.
9.  Mix 1 part vinegar mix with 1 part water and pour into your spray bottle! If you would like add ten drops of an essential oil with antibacterial qualities (i.e. teatree, lavender or lemon).

It is a fantastic cleaner and will work on most surfaces (not glass) and strong stains. Be careful if you use only orange peels as the oil in orange peel is very strong and can be quite abrasive. It is always best to do a spot test.

At first I had hoped that this could be used as a detergent but I want to actually test that recipe before I just send it out there as I am not sure quite how well it will work. This one I have used before and it is tried and test! As soon as I try the detergent mix though I will make sure I report back to you all.

Happy Cleaning!

P.s. This is also a great plastic free cleaning recipe if you are partaking in Plastic Free July. See here to register