Since many of us are spending our weekends raking leaves these days, we thought we’d share this list of way to use your leaves in the garden and in your home.

Bagging, hauling, and disposing of leaves uses landfill space, fuel, and other resources, costs towns (taxpayer) money, removes nutrients from the environment.  These alternatives make better environmental sense.

1.  Leave them where they are to provide a home for insects, amphibians, and as root insulation for trees.

2.  Compost them along with nitrogen-rich materials (like lawn clippings, food scraps), and have great mulch by spring.

3.  Mow them into your lawn, and see less weeds next year.

4.  Use as winter cover for your vegetable garden plot.  Worms love leaves, and plants love worm castings!

5.  Use as a winter blanket for your more fragile outside plants.

6.  Make leaf rubbings.

7.  Make leaf sun catchers for your windows.

8.  Use them to stuff a scarecrow (and then compost them).

9.  Make a leaf wreath.

10.  And don’t forget to make big piles and jump in them!

Do you use paper towels to clean up every day messes?  Want to cut down to save money and resources?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that paper accounts for the largest share of household waste.  In 2006, 34% of our trash was paper.

Paper towels are one source of paper waste, and most can’t be recycled once used.  Their production uses resources, from plant fiber to petroleum in the production process.  Some paper towels are bleached, which adds dioxins to our environment.

There are more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as recycled, non-bleached paper towels, but why not try to ditch or dramatically reduce their use altogether?

What are some alternatives to paper towels?  It depends up on the job.  Here are some common uses and alternatives:

  • Wiping counters, tables, high chairs:  Use dish towels, rags, old clothes or sheets, cloth diapers, or burp cloths.  Don’t have enough dishtowels?  Look for them at thrift stores.
  • Cleaning windows:  Switch to newspaper and you’ll love how streak-free you can get you windows.
  • Napkins:  Switch to cloth napkins, which you can get cheaply at Ikea (49 cents) or make yourself.
  • Soaking up grease when frying:  Try newspaper or scratch paper (save from school notices, outdated stationery from an office).  If newspaper cones work as french fry holders for the French and Belgians, why not us?

Do you have other alternatives to paper towels to share?

This time of year, as things get hectic and there are toys and temptations at every corner it’s a great time to slow down and focus on the many blessings in our lives.  Having conversations with our children about what they are thankful for can be heartwarming and at times even comical.  Creating a book to detail these stories is easy, and makes a wonderful keepsake or gift for a loved one.  Even the youngest of children can help with this project, which makes it even more special.

Take blank scrap papers and fold each of them in half.  Using a hole punch, make several evenly spaced holes just inside the folded edge.  Thread the paper together using string, yarn, ribbon or whatever you have on hand.

Crease each of the pages open to form a fold and have your child decorate each page.  If they are old enough to write, they can write a note or tell a story. If not, you can ask questions and fill in the story for them.

Just don’t forget to make one to keep for yourself!

Planning to hit the Black Friday sales this week?  Why not change the color and the impact, and make it a Green Friday instead?

Here are a few ideas to help you make this holiday shopping season green:

  • Make donations to honor someone.  Consider making a donation in a loved one’s name.  Here are some organizations we love and support.
  • Give time or skill, not stuff.  How about a gift of date-night babysitting, a home cooked meal, lawn mowing, or laundry for a month?  Or if you have a special skill like gardening, massage, scrap-booking, video editing, or musical skill, how about giving a gift of one of those talents?  Who doesn’t want their family pictures finally organized?
  • Buy gently used.  Wonderful and less-expensive presents are easy to find in consignment stores, used bookstores, online, and even in thrift stores, and you’ll give an item a second life instead of a ticket to the landfill.  If you’re looking online, Craigslist, Freecycle, and eBay are good places to start.
  • Upcycle.  If you’re handy, buy presents at thrift stores and spruce them up a little.  See this site for some creative inspiration and guides to upcycling just about anything you can think of!
  • Buy sustainably-made products.  Look for products made with recycled or renewable materials.  Steer clear as much as you can of plastics, and instead go for gifts made from natural, organic materials.  Another way to reduce impact is to buy items that will last, and can be handed down to others in good shape.  When buying for kids, check out Healthy Stuff to make sure that your gifts are free of toxic chemicals.
  • When you go shopping, remember your reusable bags, take public transportation if you can, and have fun!