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Some “Green” New Years Resolutions

New Years is just a few days away, and with that in mind, maybe it’s time to start thinking of some New Years resolutions. Now, I’m sure most people (like myself) already have a few of the more common New Years resolutions in mind, such as, eating less and exercising more, volunteering, and maybe giving up a favorite treat like chocolate or alcohol. While these are all very good changes to try to make for this coming new year, there are also some changes you can make that will not only help you out but the environment as well. Here are a few New Years resolution ideas from Mother Nature Network, that will help cut your carbon footprint as well as save you some bucks in 2014.

10 easy, green New Year’s resolutions for the eco-slacker

It’s easy to think about all the big changes you’re going to make in the New Year as the old year comes to an end — but by the second week of January, most of us are already finding reasons to skip the gym or break the spending freeze. That’s why we’ve come up with ten green New Year’s resolutions so easy you’ll have no excuse not to keep them — and as they help you save money, cut your carbon footprint, decrease your home’s waste stream, and improve the quality of the Earth, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Never buy bottled water again
Trade your bottled water habit for an at-home filtering pitcher and you can help make a dent in the 1.5 million barrels of oil used to make plastic water bottles each year; pair it with a reusable bottle (like one made of glass, aluminum, or recycled plastic), and you’ll always be prepared to tackle your thirst. Bonus: With bottled water no longer on your shopping list, you could save as much as $1,400 this year.
2. Brew your own Fair Trade coffee
Carrying your own coffee in an insulated travel mug helps you reduce waste from cardboard cups and carrying sleeves — which are thrown away at a staggering rate of58 billion each year. For greener at-home brewing, choose a Fair Trade blend that supports farmers; add organic milk instead of artificial creamers; and try a French press(instead of a traditional brewer) to save electricity.
3. Remember your reusable bags
With more than 1 million plastic bags ending up in the trash every minute, takingreusable bags to the store is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint — but the hardest part about using them is simply remembering to take them with you. A set like this one from Blue Avocado is almost impossible to forget: It comes with six different bags, sized for everything from frozen goods to fresh fruit, and the entire collection folds down into a slim packet for easy transport.
4. Cut back on paper towels
If you’re grabbing a paper towel for everything from wiping up spills and cleaning your counter to scrubbing the bathroom and keeping your hands clean at dinner, it’s time tomake a change. Instead, invest in a few cotton cloths and some fabric napkins; then drop them in the wash when you run a load of laundry. Using the cloth alternatives is just as easy as using the paper versions, and you only need to buy them once — plus you can help eliminate the 3,000 tons of paper towels that end up landfills every day.
5. Use a bike for short trips
It takes a certain amount of dedication to permanently give up a car in favor of a bike, but even an eco-slacker can make it work for short trips that don’t require hauling a lot of stuff: picking up milk at the local grocery store, after-dinner ice cream at your favorite dessert spot, your morning yoga class, brunch with friends at the coffee shop. Ride your bike for trips shorter than 2 miles and you could cut your carbon footprint significantly, save money on gasoline and car maintenance, and increase your fitness level — all at the same time.
6. Order from your local CSA
Going to the farmer’s market always sounds like such a great idea — until Saturday morning rolls around and you realize you have to get up early, have enough cash, and fight other customers for the best strawberries. Instead, have your local CSA programdo the hard part for you by putting together a box of their best produce each week — and, if you’re really feeling lazy, have it delivered right to your door so you get fresh, local fruits and vegetables without giving up your lazy coffee-and-crossword mornings.
7. Become a weekend vegetarian
Cutting meat out of your diet just two days a week can decrease your carbon footprint by about 1/3 of a ton — and coming up with meat-free meals for Saturday and Sunday isn’t as hard as it sounds. Try pancakes and fruit for breakfast; fresh salads or roasted vegetable sandwiches for lunch; and veggie pizza, bean soups, and creamy risottos for dinner. And since doubling a recipe rarely adds any time to your prep work, you can make extras to eat throughout the week (and trim your carbon footprint even more).
8. Eliminate phantom power
It takes approximately one second to unplug the charger for your cell phone, mp3 player, e-reader, or iPad — but if you really can’t be bothered, then let nifty, energy-efficient gadgets do the work for you. Use power strips to turn off all your appliances at once; put your television, DVD player, game system, and stereo on a timer so they automatically shut off overnight; and invest in chargers that stop drawing current when the device’s battery is full. You could cut your energy bill by as much as 10 percent annually — without lifting a finger.
9. Switch to green power
Switching your home to run on green power sounds like a big job — installing solar panels, geothermal energy, or a tankless hot water heater is not a job for the construction-impaired. But you can also make this happen without getting out of your chair: Call your local energy company and see if they offer renewable options (most do). You might see a small jump in your bill, but it’s an easy way to make a big change.
10. Replace your lightbulbs
Replacing your lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lights may be the ultimate change for the eco-slacker. Despite all the jokes, it takes only one person to change a lightbulb — and since CFLs last longer than traditional bulbs, you’ll be saving time for years down the road while cutting your energy use by as much as 80 percent. Can’t even face the hardware store? Order your bulbs online and have them come straight to your door.

Keeping the Kids Busy This Holiday Break

For the next week, or so, most children will be off from school for winter (or holiday) vacation. Keeping your kids busy and entertained can be a bit of a job during this break. Luckily, our friends at Seventh Generation, have a few ideas and activities for your kids, and even you to do while they’re home from school. Check out these 25 ways to keep busy, and enjoy your holiday time together.

25 Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained Over Holiday Break

The holiday season is here and we have a special gift for you. Here’s list of 25 ideas for things kid can do on their own, or with a parent or caregiver, that should help you survive — and even have some fun — until the holiday break is over.

1. Bake some cookies together. Keep a few batches for yourself, deliver the rest as gifts.

2. Host a holiday-themed movie party/sleepover. Have a few of your kids’ friends over for a fun afternoon (or night if you want to make it a sleepover) of watching holiday movies. Provide a few snacks or have them help you make a homemade pizza.

3. Volunteer together. This is something you can do year-round, but the holidays are usually a time when more help is needed. Soup kitchens and food banks in particular are often looking for extra help during the season. If your child is under the age of 16, you may either need to grant permission or be present. Check to see if your local mall needs gift wrappers. Many malls offer gift wrapping services, often provided by volunteers, with funds raised going to local charities.

4. Create a treasure hunt. Amazing fun that will keep kids busy for hours.

5. Go outside and play.Especially in today’s technology driven world, we forget about the simplicity of encouraging outdoor play. Make sure they’re well bundled if you’re fortunate enough to live in a cold winter environment and let them enjoy the fresh air.

6. Have kids help prepare holiday meals.Most kids like to explore in the kitchen. Yes, it will take longer than if you did it yourself and yes, your kitchen will likely be much messier but the skills that you’ll be able to teach are much more important than some spilled flour.

7.Check to see if your local movie theater offers special holiday prices. Most movie theater chains will offer discounted tickets during the local school break as a way of encouraging the movie-going experience so check it out!

8. Read a chapter book out loud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.

9. Do something nice for someone. Shovel a neighbor’s walk, walk their dog, make dinner for a friend, offer to wrap gifts for someone.

10.Have your kids make everything from holiday cards or gift tags to tree ornaments. The possibilities are endless and most require very few supplies.

11. Learn something new together. Learn to juggle, play the harmonica, knit, etc., or take a class in Cooking, yoga, ice skating, music, etc.

12. Learn to use Skype. And then teach the grandparents so you can keep in touch even after the holiday’s over.

13. Build a fort. Let the kids loose in the living room with pillow and blankets. Turn the fort into an overnight sleepout spot.

14. See a live performance together. Live entertainment abounds this time of year and many venues offer special family or matinee pricing.

15. Put on your own dramatic performance. Write a script, sew costumes or just do a little improv. The rules are simple, one child is in charge and gets to direct. The others must go along with it. You will need to have a day like this for each child. The one in charge gets to direct, assign roles and costumes. You get to watch the finished project!

16. Play (or learn) card games. Amazing how much fun you can have with a single pack of playing cards. Little ones can learn crazy eights or Old Maid. Teach the older kids rummy or poker, or discover new games to master.

17. Make a time capsule. Time capsules are a fun way to record the present and remember the past. They are easy to make, and your kids will love making predictions about their lives!

18. Flashlight tag. Give everyone a flashlight and turn out the lights! If you get ‘tagged’ you’re out or you’re frozen.

19. Make Cootie Catchers. If you don’t remember how to make one, go online.

20. Plan for daily quiet time. At the library check out several story books or a novel to read together over the holiday. Try audio books too! REMEMBER: talking about books is almost as important as reading them.

21. Have everyone in the family (parents too!) write down 2 or 3 favorite activities on a small piece of paper. Put them all in a jar and pull one out when the kids get bored.

22. Make Silly Putty. This childhood favorite is a cinch to make, and it will provide hours of entertainment.

23. Go sledding. If you’re lucky enough to have snow, then look for a nearby hill for hours of entertainment. Grab your tube, toboggan, or saucer for hours of entertainment. Sledding is fun for all ages, but toddlers should ride with a parent, and should be well-bundled in layers to stay warm and cushion their tumbles.

24. Play board games. Put your family to the test with the ultimate board-game challenge. Set up a championship and spend the day competing for prizes.

25. Make ice candles. Help kids transform your backyard into a winter wonderland with this enchanting and easy outdoor activity.

Have a Green Christmas

While you may be dreaming of a white Christmas this year, you can also make it a green one. Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, the Christmas holiday also creates a ton of waste. Luckily, you can cut back on some of the waste this year by making minor changes to your holiday routine. In this article from Eartheasy, you are given tips on how to have a greener Christmas. Tips on everything, from your decorative lighting, to the tree you use, and even the gifts you give. Let’s see what changes you can make this Christmas to help the environment.

How to have a ‘green’ Christmas


Buy Less
Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.

• Not all gifts have to be store-bought.
You can give more while spending less by giving gifts that are personal and unique. While young children may favor the bright, shiny store-bought item, moat adults appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Here’s a page with some great ideas for meaningful holiday gifts that aren’t found on store shelves: 
Tips for sustainable giving
• Simplify the ‘gift-go-round’. 

Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that’s just too long? Here’s an idea to help shorten your list and simplify the family gift-giving ritual. We tried this in our own family last year and it was appreciated by all.

Before the holiday season begins (Thanksgiving is a good time because the extended family is often together), put the names of all adult family members on separate slips of paper and put the slips in a hat. Take turns picking one name per adult – the name you pick is your gift recipient. Keep your chosen pick a secret, to help maintain an element of surprise. 

Your gift list for the adults in your family has just been shortened to one! You can now focus on a special gift for the person whose name you picked, without the dificulty and expense of finding just the right gift for everyone.If the family’s not together on Thanksgiving, ask Grandma or someone else in the family to pick the names from the hat for everyone, by proxy. It works just as well. An agreed on spending limit will also help everyone from feeling they have to go overboard with a fabulous gift for the person whose name they chose.

Buy Smart – think ‘green’
• look for locally made gifts
Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources 
Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. Here are some examples for you to consider: 
Gifts from recycled materials
• give ‘battery-free’ gifts 
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. Here are a few examples of gifts that have less of an impact on the environment: 
Naturally-powered toys
• avoid children’s toys that promote violence 
There is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is “Peace on Earth”. There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens creativity and sense of active play. Here are some examples:
Educational toys and games
• ‘re-gifting’ is OK 
There’s much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What’s to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. 
Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful.
A great way to teach children the spirit of giving (and simplifying) during the holidays is to ask them to pick 3 toys that they don’t play with very much, and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter etc. I saw children bring toys in to the shelter I worked at year after year – it was a wonderful experience for everyone!” ……..Lauren, New Hampshire 

Connect with Nature
Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.

Annual Christmas Day Bird Count

Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends.

Compare the results from former years and you’ll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

For more information, see our page Annual Bird Count

Family nature hike
A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than the score of the football game. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.
Nature restoration activity
Planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the ‘taking’ of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

Decorate a tree for the birds
Place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. Yo attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter.

“This year our family is planning a “Merry Christmas to Nature” day. We found some “decoration recipes” in library books and plan to decorate the outdoors with edible ornaments for the birds, chipmunks, rabbits, etc..
Another thought is to visit a local animal shelter or sanctuary… ”       Jo and Amelia Guelph, ON
“Another way to make the Holidays more sustainable is to use a living tree as your Christmas tree. For many years, my family has used a potted Norfolk Pine as our Christmas tree.
While not as large or full as the traditional trees, Norfolk Pines can grow to be quite large and in my opinion, they make quite an attractive Christmas tree.
These trees are a great addition to a house year round and they simply need to be decorated come Christmas time, saving much time and effort. They also eliminate the need to cut a tree each year or to buy a fake plastic tree, saving valuable resources.
The use of our Norfolk Pine has become a Christmas tradition in our house and I would like to see more people adopt it as their tradition as well.” Jeff H. Aurora, MN
Lower the impact of holiday lighting

In the past, he house with the most decorative holiday lights used to be considered the ‘best’. Times have changed. The cost of electricity goes way beyond the utility bill. Electricity drains natural resources.

• Reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays
A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the ‘season of giving’. Saving electricity is also a way of giving, since conserving resources benefits everyone.
• Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting
LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. As an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out the rest of the strand will stay lit. 

• Outdoor Mini-lights will also save energy
A 100-light string uses only 40 watts. If you’re buying a new set of lights, compare based on equal ‘lighted lengths’. Some higher priced brands have 100 mini-lights for only 8 1/2 feet of length, while some 100 mini-light strings cover up to 40 feet in length. For the most efficient outdoor holiday lighting, consider the new solar LED strings now available.
• Turn tree lights and outdoor house decorative lighting at bedtime
It’s simply a waste of energy to leave the holiday lights on at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.

Remember, never install lights with the power on. Test lights first, then unplug to install.
Choose a live tree
Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. While artificial trees theoretically last forever, research shows that they are typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. Discarded artificial trees are then sent to landfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and almost ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold, saving both transportation costs and added air pollution. Live trees also smell like Christmas! When buying a live tree, consider:

• live potted trees can be used for years
If you buy a small tree in a large pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for 2- 3 years without having to plant or re-pot the tree.
• re-pot the tree for longer use
If your tree becomes root-bound, you can replant it in a larger pot for several years’ extended use.

• replant the tree when it becomes too large for your holidat tree
If you have the space, of course, replanting the tree outdoors is an option. Be sure to anticipate the full-grown size of the tree, and avoid planting near foundations or underground services.
• chip and mulch the tree
Many communities now have free chipping servicse for trees.
 This is useful since the chips are used as mulch for municipal landscaping or sold at low cost to gardeners. This chipped material makes an excellent mulch for your shrub beds and garden pathways.

Homemade Cards
Store-bought Christmas cards are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for a throw-away item. The amount of cards sold in the US during the holiday season would fill a football field 10 stories high, and requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees. Homemade cards may not be as professional, but they are more personal and just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family during the weeks before Christmas.

Last years’ calendar is a good place to start when making homemade cards, since the images are large, colorful and printed on heavy paper similar in weight to card stock. Cut out sections of pictures and ‘glue-stick’ them to a folded-over piece of paper. Size the paper to fit your envelopes, or have the card and message on one side and fold over to put the address on the other side. Staple at the bottom and no envelope is needed.

Childrens’ art work is another good source for Christmas card pictures. Even the ‘scribblings’ of the wee-ones are interesting, fun and especially appropriate for the season. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles will probably appreciate a ‘child-s art’ card even more than a stor-bought card. Simply cut out sections of the artwork which look best, and glue-stick it to a card of the required size.

Making your own cards is easy if you have the material to work with. Try to get in the habit of saving pieces of heavy paper (good one side) to use as the backing for your glued-on pictures. “Card stock” is the ideal weight, and even small pieces are worth saving.

Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. 
(Source: The Recycler’s Handbook, 1990)

In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons. In Canada, the annual waste from gift wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,00 tons. If everyone wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or fabric gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks.

• Use environmentally friendly wrapping paper
Choose wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp or paper using recycled content

• Avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper 
You can do a beautifully wrapping job for your gifts without having to use metallic wrapping paper. This kind of ‘paper’ is difficult to recycle and it has no value for use as mulch since there are heavy metals used in the foil paper. Foil gift wrap is also harder to reuse, since it wrinkles and creases easily when the gift is being unwrapped.
• Reuse gift wrap where possible 
Large wrapped presents usually have large enough uncreased sections to be reused for wrapping smaller gifts. If you open large gift packages with care, the paper can be set aside for re-use for other gift-giving occasions. Fancy ribbons and bows, of course, can be stored in a box till next year when you’ll appreciate having them around and not having to buyr new ones.

• Use tape sparingly, or not at all
If you’re going to use ribbon to finish off your wrapping, you may not need to use tape. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse.

• Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap 
There are many options which are cost-free, attractive solutions. Gift bags can be made using fabric scraps, or wrapping can be made using comic strips from the paper, old calendars, maps, posters and more. For more ideas, visit our page:
Gift-wrapping Alternatives 
Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. And added to this is the carbon cost in transporting all these trees to the landfill. Much of the environmental costs associated with the holidays can be reduced by simple awareness and some pre-planning.

• Reuse or recycle gift packing materials
Bubble wrap can be stored for reuse, or recycled. Foam packing chips are not as easily recycled; if you don’t want to store this material for reuse, take it to a shipping center like Mailboxes. etc, who will accept it for their own use. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling; storing and reusing these boxes is even better as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.
• Save any special gift wrap, ribbons and bows

When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse; it can often be cut down for smaller presents. Creased wrapping can be ironed flat. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse.
• Recycle old electronics
New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, cell phones and other electronic items are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced are usually still in working order, however, and should not be discarded to a landfill. Here is information to help recycle these items: 
Recycling electronic goods
• Christmas trees can be recycled too 
Live trees that have been cut are a useful material for composting. Composting requires a carbon source and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood. Artificial trees which are up for replacement can also be recycled. These trees are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers.

Note: Never burn Christmas tree branches in your fireplace. It can cause the buildup of creosote, which is a highly flammable compound.

Keeping Your Laminate Flooring Clean

Keeping Your Laminate Flooring Clean

Laminate flooring can be an inexpensive eco-friendly flooring option. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes that can fit perfectly in to any home’s décor scheme. Another wonderful attribute to laminate flooring is how easy it is to keep clean. Only a few steps will help to keep your laminate flooring looking new for years to come. Here are some tips to keep your laminate flooring clean and in tip top shape:

  1. Sweep and Go – One of the reasons homeowners choose laminate flooring is because it is so easy to take care of. Often times, all you will need to do is sweep it and go! Using a soft, non-scratching broom or dry mop, collect the dust and build up and toss it away. You can also vacuum laminate floors. Just set the vacuum to a low carpet mode or a wood floor mode if available. If further cleaning is needed you can move on to the next step.
  2. Gentle Cleaners – Laminate floors should not be cleaned with harsh chemicals, waxes or shining products. These products can cause a build up to form on your flooring that can make it slippery, sticky, or streaky looking. Instead keep it simple by cleaning your floors with products specifically made for laminate flooring. You can also use gentle cleaners like water and ammonia, or water and white vinegar. Those products both clean and disinfect without leaving behind a residue.
  3. Wet and Wild – Be sure you never let water stand on your laminate flooring. This can cause warping and damage the look of your flooring. When you clean your floor make sure to use a minimum amount of water and to dry the floors quickly. This will prevent any damage from occurring.
  4. Spot Clean – If a stain should appear on your floors you do not have to get upset. There are many ways to get stains out of your laminate flooring without further damaging it. Finger nail polish remover can usually get off tough stains like paint, blood, or wine. Test on a hidden surface first to make sure it does not discolor the flooring. For sticky messes like gum, use ice to harden it and then carefully scrape it up, making sure not to scratch the laminate flooring.
  5. Scratch Free – Never use scouring pads or abrasives when cleaning your laminate floors! Scratches are the number one concern when it comes to laminate floors and there are many ways to avoid getting them.  Make sure your pet’s nails are kept trimmed to avoid them scratching the floors. Place mats at the entrances of your home to prevent scratches from rocks, pebbles, or dust that are stuck in the soles of visitor’s shoes. Placing a rug in high traffic areas or under furniture that is often moved, like dining areas, is a great way to avoid scratches as well. Rugs or padding under heavy furniture is also recommended.
  6. Humidity – Humidity plays a big part in warping over time. Laminate floors prefer a climate in which the humidity stays relatively constant. This may mean you need a humidifier or air conditioningsystem to keep your floors looking like new. During the dry winter months heat can lead to cracking. Keep the humidity up with a humidifier. During the wet summer months an air conditioner or dehumidifier can help to keep your humidity levels constant and prevent swelling and buckling.
  7. Replacement – Should something happen to your floors it is usually easy to replace a portion of them. If you can find the matching type, simply add in the replacement boards along the walls. This will help the new boards not to show up due to a difference in wearing.

As you can see, laminate flooring is very easy to keep clean and maintained. It is just a matter of sweeping it regularly and keeping the scratches off of it. Depending on where you live, such as near a beach, you may have to sweep or vacuum more often, but the floors should last you many years.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @

Tips for Winter Dog-Walking

All across the country, states are getting hit with winter storms. If you happen to be a dog owner, you don’t really have a choice of just staying inside and waiting the storm out, you have to walk your dog. However, there are a few things you should know before taking the pup out for a winter walk. The good people at Seventh Generation, have a list of do’s and don’ts for walking man’s best friend this winter. So, check out these tips and keep your furry friend safer.

Dos and Don’ts of Winter Dog Walking

A snowy jaunt with your pup is just what the doctor (and vet) ordered for a bout of cabin fever. You don’t have to go out of your way to make it happen—any old yard or street will do—but you should bear in mind that as your needs change with the seasons, so do your dog’s. Here’s how to keep fun and safety top of mind:

Do: Size up your pup. If you have a long-haired breed, or a breed known for cold-weather tolerance (like a Husky or a St. Bernard), you’re probably OK to leave the coat behind. Tiny breeds like Chihuahuas, short-haired breeds (even big ones like Great Danes), and senior pets, though, all need the extra protection a coat offers.

Don’t: Let your dog eat snow or lick the ground. Or his paws, for that matter. Ground chemicals used for ice melting are not only rough on the paws, but also the organs. Another common winter concern: the presence of ethylene glycol (better known as antifreeze). If your dog tries to drink from that sweet, blue-green puddle, lead him quickly away.

Do: Consider boots. Our feet clearly need shoes, but did you know your dog’s feet are fragile, too? Paws are built for insulation, but they’re also super-sensitive—kind of like our fingertips. Good boots will protect your dog from salt, cold and chemicals. Find the right fit by bringing your dog to the store with you, or if you’re buying online, looking for companies that have detailed sizing charts—including nail measurements. And be patient. It takes a while for some dogs to get used to walking in boots.

Don’t: Air dry. If your pup doesn’t don boots, a full foot wash-and-dry after your stroll is a must. This little cleanup helps avoid licking of any chemicals or salt that might have gotten stuck between the pads of the foot while you were out. Go full-on pamper and rub on some organic paw and nose balm or lotion afterward.

Do: Choose your leash wisely. A front clip harness will help minimize strain, and a solid leash (rather than retractable) helps exact control. One important consideration: How good is your traction? If you’re wary of falling and not having free hands to catch yourself, a waist-wrapping leash might be your pick.

Don’t: Neglect grooming.This tip is for the pre-walk more than the walk itself. Matted fur isn’t as good as well-groomed fur at keeping dogs warm; it provides less adequate insulation. Plus, your dog will want to look nice while she celebrates the season.

Do: Be vigilant. Learn the signs of antifreeze poisoning (similar to alcohol poisoning and noticeable quickly), frostbite (pain, brittleness and discoloration), and ice melt poisoning (hypersalivating and vomiting, to start). Keep your eyes on your dog to help avoid these concerns and catch any issues quickly.

“Upcycle” Your Holiday Cards

The holiday season is upon us, which means you are most likely about to receive a ton of holiday greeting cards from friends and loved ones. It’s always nice to receive a heartfelt card around the holidays, but what are you supposed to do with the cards after the holidays are over, throw them away? Instead of disposing of your holiday cards this year, try reusing them in creative ways. This article from Seventh Generation, has 5 cool, creative ways to enjoy your holiday cards this year, and holidays to come.

5 Fun Ways to Upcycle Old Holiday Cards

On my first holiday as a married woman, I was a little surprised to see that my affluent in-laws cut off the front of old greeting cards and used them as gift tags. Flash forward several decades and their frugal Yankee ways are now recognized as “upcycling.” Whatever you call it, that first holiday (and my in-laws) inspired me to find second and even third uses for just about everything, including old holiday cards. Here are five fun ideas to inspire you.

Holiday Card Gift Tags

No craft skills needed to create the cards in our post photo. Just cut the back off old cards and tape or tie the front to packages this year. Of course, if you’re feeling a little craftier, cut the card fronts into different shapes, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon to the tag. This is a fun project for your children, too!

Holiday Card Place Card

Personalized place markers make great holiday keepsakes for guests. Cut a 2×3-inch piece from a card and fold in half. Add a ribbon for trim and a printed piece of paper with your guest’s name. For an extra personalized touch, add a photo of your guest.

Recycled holiday place cards

Holiday Card Pinecone Ornament

This inspiration comes from Better Homes and Gardens. Use a flower punch to punch flowers from cards of coordinating colors (browns, creams, golds, oranges, and reds and shown here). Trim the punched-out flowers in half, and then in half again so you’re left with individual petals. Start at the bottom of a 1-7/8×2-1/2-inch Styrofoam egg and hot glue petals on in rows, overlapping as you move up. Don’t worry if the hot-glue melts the foam a bit. It will give the pinecone a natural uneven texture.

Recycled holiday card ornaments

Recipe Cards

About as simple (and special) as it gets. Re-use holiday cards as recipe cards to include with holiday food gifts.

Recycled recipe cards craft


Cut the fronts from old holiday cards send them as postcards. Remember that postcards require less postage than a regular card!

Recycled postcards craft


Make Your Holiday Less Stressful

The holiday season is the best and, sometimes, worst time of year. It’s the best because you get time together with your loved ones, and a little time off from work doesn’t hurt either. The other side of the holiday season, however, is filled with the stresses that can come with gift shopping, holiday cards, and holiday parties. By keeping things organized during this crazy time of year, you can help cut back on some of the stress which can come with the holiday season. Here are a few tips from Enviro Maids, on how to stay organized and less stressed this year.

How to stay organized during the busy holiday season

How to stay organized during the busy holiday season, December 2013Each year the holidays seem to sneak up faster than the year before. You’d like to relax and enjoy the season, but it’s hard to do when you’re inundated with lots of tasks and little time to get it all done. To help keep you on track this busy holiday season, we’ll share tips on how to get organized and stress less with help from and

Holiday Allies

Your calendar and checklists will be your best allies this holiday. How do you get everything you need to get done without feeling frazzled? Start by jotting down everything you hope to get done during the season. Include everything from cutting down a tree, to hosting a cookie exchange, sending cards, making your own gifts, parties to attend, and everything in between. Once your list is complete, edit it down by prioritizing items from things that must get done to things that are not as important. Once your list has been narrowed down (be realistic) mark each occurrence on your calendar. Stick to the dates as you would any other appointment — bake on the 10th, shop for the holiday party on the 11th, etc.


Now that your calendar is filled, your next step is to create or download checklists for each task or event. For example, you can have a gift giving checklist, a card sending checklist, a baking checklist, etc. Each list will help you stay on track to help get things done more efficiently. A gift giving checklist, for example, should have separate columns — name of recipient, budget, gift idea, store where to purchase gift, etc. This list will help you stay on budget and let you monitor who you still need to buy for.

Gift giving

Gift giving can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays. There are many things to contend with: deciding who to buy for, figuring out what to buy someone who has everything, sticking to a budget, the list goes on and on. Put the joy back into giving a gift by trying these suggestions:

  • For large families consider drawing names or buying just for the children.
  • Set a price limit so everyone spends the same amount.
  • Pick an annual gift theme — buy everyone on your list useful gadgets, personalized baskets, restaurant gift cards, or seasonal gear.


Everyone likes to receive holiday cards, but carving out time to write you own can be a little challenging. Some shortcuts to card writing include:

  • Handwritten notes have a special personalized touch, but when crunched for time purchasing custom printed cards online is a huge timesaver.
  • If you decide to hand write your cards and envelopes, make the process go a little faster by enlisting the help of your children. Older children can stuff, seal and stamp each envelope.
  • To avoid writer’s cramp, create address labels on your computer. Once all your addresses are saved, the process will go by faster next year. Other tips:
  • Take the pressure off yourself when party hosting — have everyone bring an appetizer or dessert to your holiday party or holiday dinner.
  • Shop online to avoid crowds and lines
  • If you do venture out to shop, shop early in morning or later in the evening when stores aren’t as chaotic.

Cleaning the Fireplace

With the coldest days of the year right around the corner, many people are beginning to light their fireplaces. There is nothing quite like relaxing by a nice warm fireplace on a cold winter night. But, before you start gathering wood to throw on the fire, make sure your fireplace is properly cleaned. In this article from Enviro maids, there are tips on how to properly and safely clean your fireplace before you begin lighting those logs.


Fireplace Cleaning Instructions


Safety First!

According to the CSIA, your wood burning fireplace should be inspected annually by a certified professional. The professional will sweep your chimney and check for any structural problems as well as remove any creosote buildup to help prevent chimney fires and other safety issues. This step is a must and should never be skipped.

Even if you don’t use your fireplace very often, objects such as a bird nest can block the inside of the chimney leading to a chimney fire when the fireplace is lit.

Now that we have the safety part handled, let’s look at how you can get your fireplace looking clean and welcoming. Let’s face it: fireplaces are dirty; but a little bit of ash and pieces of wood left behind are part of the charm. It’s when the soot and stains cover your glass doors and hearth that it’s time to give your fireplace a good cleaning.

Ash Removal

Leaving behind a one-inch layer of ash is actually a good thing; it acts as an insulator and makes it easier to build your next fire. When the ash gets too thick, however, you’ll want to sweep the inside of the firebox. Always wait at least 24 hours after your last fire has burned out before removing the ash, to give it time to completely cool. Once completely cooled, sprinkle the ash with damp coffee grinds to help control the dust during removal. You can also spray the ash with water. Scoop the ash and place it in a 100% metal receptacle. Take the container outside, away from your house and garage.

Shoo Soot!

To remove the black, cloudy film coating your glass doors — a.k.a. soot — reach for your most versatile household cleaner — white vinegar. Mix a solution of equal parts warm water and vinegar; dampen a cloth with the water/vinegar solution and dip the damp rag in a bit of ash (that’s right, ash acts as a mild abrasive). Gently scrub the glass clean. Finish by wiping the glass with a clean cloth and a bit more of the water/vinegar solution.

Fireplace Façade

Over time, the material surrounding the front of your fireplace can become stained and dingy. To spruce up brick, spray the area with water, followed by a mixture of all-purpose cleaner and water. Scrub the area with a brush; rinse with a sponge or clean rag. For brick that’s older than 50 years, avoid scrubbing with a cleaner as this may damage the brick. For marble or other stone, spray dirty area with water and wipe with a soft cloth dipped in gentle dish soap. Rinse and dry.