Is it possible we've discovered too many ways to "Go Green?" It's become so trendy, sometimes it seems only wealthy people can save the planet. I'm glad forward-thinking billionaires have promoted it, but now every business from corner store to mega-corporation is selling the concept.
Despite all appearances, however, you don't need to spend a lot of green to be green. In fact, good old-fashioned frugality was always eco-friendly. Take a look at these 30 basic things you can make yourself. These are simple "recipes" and formulas, and all of them will save both the environment and your bank account.
1. Dishwasher Soap
Mix together 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup Borax, 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup citric acid. Store tightly covered in a jar. Use one tablespoon per load. Add a splash of vinegar to the rinse dispenser for best results.
2. Pancake Syrup
I love maple syrup but it's too expensive to let the kids use it every other day. Besides, I want something without the high fructose corn syrup. Combine 1 cup hot water, 2 cups sugar and 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring. Bring to a boil and heat until thickened.
3. Lawn Spray
Mix 1 cup baby shampoo, 1 cup ammonia, 1 can of beer and 1/2 cup corn syrup in a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer. Top off with warm water and soak your grass with this lawn spray once a month. It'll be green and healthy.
This one may seem obvious, and it is, but I think there are still many people out there who don't know that making compost is easy. Really, it's easy! To get started, check out CompostGuide.com or Plow & Hearth magazine.
5. Compost Bin
When I first tried composting, I was really put off by all the expensive composters I found online. The point of this exercise is to save money! Here's a great solution that won't break the bank: http://simplemom.net/how-to-make-a-compost-bin/.
6. Plant Fertilizer
If you're still completely put off by composting, it's OK. Rotting things can be scary. Have some leftover coffee grounds? Just throw them directly onto the dirt around your favorite plants. Grind egg shells and do the same. Pour leftover green tea on them. Kids have fish? Dump the old fish tank water. Every once in a while, take a pronged garden tool out there and scrape around to mix things up. Your plants will love you.
7. Weed Killer
Vinegar is a great weed killer. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray it on anything you can't get out by the roots. It's one of the few things that will work against such noxious weeds as Canadian Thistle. All vinegars are diluted, so try and buy the highest concentration you can find at the supermarket.
8. Laundry Soap
A basic recipe that costs $0.03 per load and uses washing soda, Borax and grated bar soap can be found at Crafting A Green World (http://craftingagreenworld.com/2011/01/30/how-to-make-your-own-eco-friendly-laundry-soap-for-three-cents-a-load/). There are variations on the basic formula for protecting sensitive skin and for stain removal.
9. Make Dinner
Cooking anything at home saves you gas and is cheaper and healthier. Cooking magazines and websites can help or hurt. Don't think you've got to serve the gourmet meal every night. Make things you like and look for recipes with few ingredients. If you have kids, get them involved. They'll eat better and complain less.
10. Glass Cleaner
This is a classic eco-friendly and frugal recipe. Mix 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a spray bottle. Use newspaper to wipe the windows. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but newsprint has no lint, which is why it works so well.
11. Furniture Polish
Combine the juice from 5 lemons with 1 cup of olive oil and pour into a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray the polish on a clean cloth and wipe down your wood furniture to give it a shine.
12. Wrapping Paper
If you have a newspaper printing press near you, go down there and ask for a "remainder" roll of newsprint. There's usually a lot of paper still on it, since the machines can't operate properly once the roll gets below a certain diameter. Wrap gifts with this paper and get the kids to decorate with drawings. Or stamp it and add matching ribbon.
13. Fabric Gift Wrap
Another beautiful gift-wrapping idea is to use old fabric scraps for "furoshiki" gift wrap. This video _ www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn6zdyCAwJs _ shows lots of ways to do it. One of the cutest versions is for wrapping books - one of my favorite gifts in can buy for less at Goodwill.
14. Art Paints
In a glass mixing bowl combine 3/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1/4 cup salt and a package of Kool-Aid (your choice of color). Stir until evenly mixed. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water and then 2 tablespoons vinegar directly into dry mixture, and stir carefully until combined. Cover loosely and let mixture cool until it comes to room temperature. Use as finger paints, with paintbrushes, or with other creative materials that can be used to apply paint to paper.
This one is easy, cheap and very cool. The basic idea is to take old oxford dress shirts and cut them into squares. You could hem the edges but it's not necessary. Frayed edges look very stylish or you can finish the edges with pinking shears.
Mix 1cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups water (more or less) and 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a saucepan. Use a whisk if it starts to clump up. Heat the glue gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Remove from the heat, let cool, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Glue lasts about two weeks.
17. Ant Repellant
Use cloves (whole or ground), bay leaves, cinnamon or black pepper as barriers to keep ants out. Keep in mind that different pests have different aversions, so you'll have to see what substance works best with the ones trying to sneak into your home.
18. Greeting Cards
Good old construction paper and magazines out of the recycling bin make cards that never fail to please. You can get clever and write a little rhyme to match your picture, or just find something pretty. Just flipping through the pictures will get you going creatively. Use your homemade glue as a binder. Out of ideas? Browse a store's card section than interpret in your own way.
19. Tortilla Chips
Use stale flour or corn tortillas to make this easy treat for your guests. Your house will smell great and they taste much better than store-bought. Cut the tortillas into triangles and toss with a tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Dress the chips up by adding lime juice, cumin and chili powder. Or try a dessert version with cinnamon and sugar.
20. Non-Toxic Cleaning Spray
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. The acetic acid in vinegar kills
21. Roach Killer
Baking soda and powdered sugar mixed in equal parts make a good roach killer. Just spread around the area where you see roaches and the little critters will soon disappear.
A lot of new homes have taller ceilings, but off-the-shelf curtain panels are still sold in 84-inch lengths. Rather than buying custom drapery, use tablecloths measuring anywhere from 60-by-104 inches to 60-by-130 inches. Some are thick enough to stand alone; Thinner fabrics may require a lining.
23. Play Structures
Forget buying plastic. Planes, cars, houses and puppet show theaters can all be made from cardboard boxes. It's a parent's chance to shine during the construction phase. Kids can then decorate with crayons or the homemade art paint. Add details (steering wheel, doorbell, puppets) using paperboard from a cereal box and stick them on with the homemade glue recipe from above.
24. Face Moisturizer
This makes a "hard lotion" bar. Melt 3/4 ounce beeswax and 4 ounces coconut oil in double boiler, microwave or crock pot. Pour into containers. Allow to cool completely before using.
25. Body Moisturizer and Lip Balm
Combine equal amounts of beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler. Melt, stir well, and pour into molds. Ice cube trays and cupcake pans work great. For easy clean up, wipe out the bowl with a paper towel while it's still hot. Then wash with hot, soapy water. For easy removal of lotion molds, place the trays in your freezer for 30 minutes and they should pop right out.
26. Chocolate Syrup
I have found this year's homemade holiday gift! It will look great in glass bottles with a cool label and a ribbon. You'll find the full recipe at SmallNotebook.org.
27. Fly Catcher
Kids will enjoy waiting and watching for this one to work. Take a wine bottle and carefully drop in the bottom something sickly sweet, like mango peels or sugar water. The flies can fly in, but can't fly out.
Generally, I let spiders live in our house, but we have had more than one Black Widow in the garage and they're not so welcome. Mix 1 tablespoon lemon oil with 1 quart water in a spray bottle.
29. Shopping Bag
Take an old t-shirt and turn it inside-out. Sew the bottom closed and turn it right side out again. Get a pair of scissors. Cut off the arms (save for cleaning rags) and cut out the neck. You now have two handles and a very cool bag. Bonus style points for using a favorite band's concert T-shirt.