The Dirt on Conventional Cleaning Products

Please take a few moments to read the post on Healthy Child, Healthy World titled,

5 Secrets Most Conventional Cleaning Product Makers Don’t Want You To Know.

Chris Gavigan does an excellent job summing up the problems with cleaning products and the lack of regulation over them. It truly is a worthwhile and informative read.

Reuse. Even Better Than Recycling


If there’s one thing better than recycling, it’s reusing an existing item. While recycling uses less energy than creating something new, it still requires fuel for transport and lots of processing energy to complete. There are many things we use every day that could be re-used; all it takes is a little imagination.

I’m not crafty. I really wish I were, but even for the Martha Stewart-challenged of us, there are ways to reinvent the things we have. I’ve come across some interesting ideas lately and thought I’d share them with you.

Oxford Cloth or Flannel Shirt. New Use: Cloth Napkin. I hear these fabrics make great napkins. You cut out the sizes you want and either hem the edges or use fusible web and an iron to seal the seams.

Wine Bottle. New Use: Garden Hose Guard. Bury the inverted bottles in the ground at the corners of your garden beds. Idea courtesy of Kris.

Bath Towel with Frayed Edges. New Use: Bath Mat. This idea came from Nicki at Domestic Cents. She folded a towel in half and made a great bath mat by sewing the edges and adding a checkerboard pattern.

Cereal Box. New Use: Magazine Holder. A few cuts is all it takes. Check out some simple instructions here.

Egg Carton. New Use: Earring or Craft Supply Holder. These are great for sorting small items. I’ve also cut them in half and used them as paint trays for my daughters — 6 colors each and they’re easy to hold.

Tissue Box. New Use: Plastic Bag Dispenser. Stuff the box with plastic bags (the ones left over from your days before reusable grocery bags) :). It makes them easy to store and retrieve.

Junk Mail. New Use: Craft Paper for Kids. My kids are into scissors lately. They will cut a piece of paper to shreds and move on to the next. At this point, they don’t care what they are cutting. Junk mail is great for this and other little art projects. Once the kids are finished, I recycle the bits.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. What are some things that you’ve found new uses for?

Photo Credit: evelynishere

Welcome GRS Readers!

Welcome to Smart Family Tips and thank you for visiting the site. My thanks to J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly for hosting my Earth Day guest post. If this is your first time here, you may be interested in the following posts:

90 Minutes to Big Savings

Why It’s Cheaper To Be Greener

Save Some Money: Bring Your Own Waste-Free Lunch

Good, Green, Cheap Fun

Saving Money? What For?

Square Foot Garden: Early Spring

I hope you’ll look around while you’re here. Please let me know if you have any questions. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing to the feed either by RSS or by email, below.

10 Things for Earth Day!


Happy Earth Day, Everyone. It would be great if  every day was Earth Day, but we can’t overlook the impact of even small starts. Today I want to suggest 10 things that are easy to commit to (or re-commit to) this Earth Day.

1. Recycle. If you’re not doing this already, please start. Lots of communities have curbside recycling service, making it even easier.

2. Turn off the faucet. When you brush your teeth, when you’re washing dishes, anytime water doesn’t have to be running to get the job done.

3. Remember to use those reusable bags. Keep them in your car. Fold them up and store them in one larger bag to make it easier to remember.

4. Reuse what you can; donate what you can’t. Get creative. Try to think of new uses for old things. If you truly have no use for something anymore, donate it if possible. Try Goodwill or The Salvation Army for household goods and clothing. Donate eye glasses through drop off locations at Lens Crafters and The Lions Club.
Use to learn more about where to donate electronic equipment.

5. Reuse grass clippings by adding them to your compost pile, or using them as mulch around plants and trees.

6. Go for the least amount of packaging possible. Buy in bulk when you can. Choose products that contain recycled packaging materials when available.

7. Use fewer disposables. Cut back on paper napkins, cups, and plates.

8. Get a reusable water bottle to replace all those plastic bottles.

9. Plant something. Even if it’s just some tomatoes. They do very well in pots if you have limited space. If you’re not into tomatoes, consider an indoor herb garden. Any food you grow yourself not only tastes better, but is better for the Earth — no emissions needed to get it from a far away place to your table.

10. Play outside. Turn off the television, video games and computer and have fun outside for a while.

If these ten things don’t work for you, spend a little time on Earth Day thinking of at least one thing you can commit to. Choose anything that works for you, but choose something. If everyone, everywhere did just one thing, we’d make great progress towards a greener, healthier world.

For more ideas and information, check out Planet Green’s Earth Day Resolutions and the Earth Day Network.

Photo Credit: wot nxt

Safer Alternatives to Teflon

Post Updated on August 4, 2010 after I received new information from the Thermolon company.


We’ve probably all heard about the dangers of plastics, especially about the problems with heating foods in them. (If you’d like more information on why plastics are harmful, click here). While there’s been speculation for some time that the nonstick coating, Teflon, might be problem, recently, a study in the Human Reproduction journal confirmed some very real concerns with the product. This study established a link between PFOA, the chemical in Teflon, and reproductive health in women. According to Enviroblog (the blog of the Environmental Working Group), “PFOA is [also] linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, and changes to lipid levels, the immune system, and liver.”

So, if Teflon is bad, what should we use? One option getting a lot of attention lately is something called Greenpan. These new pans are coated with Thermolon, a Teflon substitute that contains no PFOAs. The original information I found indicated that Thermolon was made using nanotechnology, but this information appears to be incorrect. The Thermolon company contacted me to let me know this:

” . . . there is no nanotechnology used in Thermolon. Thermolon is actually created using sol-gel technology, a process known since the 1800’s. The sol-gel process is a versatile solution process for making ceramic and glass materials. In general, the sol-gel process involves the transition of a system from a liquid “sol” into a solid “gel” phase. Applying the sol-gel process, it is possible to fabricate ceramic or glass materials in a wide variety of forms.

Thermolon has an elemental composition of oxygen (O), silicon (Si), carbon (C), aluminum (Al) and titanium (Ti). However, it is important for you to understand that there is no free element atoms present in our coatings. Instead, atoms are bound with atoms of other elements in a perfectly stable compound known as silica (-Si-O-Si-) – i.e. basically sand.

In Thermolon coatings, these elements are combined with other elements as a ceramic material. Ceramics are earth-type materials such as clays (Aluminosilicates) that have been used as cooking utensils and tableware for centuries. As previously stated, basically, it is made of sand and has been thoroughly tested by independent Labs in the US, UK, Germany etc – even by the Swiss Government. All certify it to be completely free of toxins or anything harmful to man, beast or the environment.”

I hope this new information allows you to make more informed choices regarding Thermolon and GreenPan products. Below, you’ll find some other options as well.

On The Stovetop:

Stainless Steel. Stainless is considered very safe. Used properly and coated with a little oil, it is possible to reduce sticking in a stainless steel pan. Because stainless alone is not a very even conductor of heat, it’s best to go with a tri-ply version that has an aluminum or copper core, like these:

Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Cookware

All-Clad Stainless Cookware

Cast Iron. When properly seasoned, cast iron is virtually non-stick. These pans may also be good for your health because they increase the iron that is absorbed into your food as it cooks. Instructions on seasoning and cleaning cast iron pans (which is easy to do) can be found in a variety of places; here’s one.

Lodge Cast Iron

Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron: If you’re not interested in seasoning your pan or in cleaning it with salt, porcelain enameled cast-iron is an excellent option. These pans, like standard cast-iron, should last a lifetime. There are several manufacturers of porcelain enameled cookware, two are below.

Heuck Porcelain Enamel Cast Iron 3-Piece Skillet Set, Red

Lodge Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, Caribbean Blue


Glass or stoneware are your safest bets for baking. Both Pyrex and CorningWare are good options.

I use a combination of stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron at my house. I’ve stopped using Teflon all together. I’ve heard some arguments that regardless of the dangers, so little of the “bad” chemicals are released during cooking, that Teflon is essentially safe. I say, why chance it? If there are other options available that work as well, if not better, I feel safer using those.

Photo Credit: Chris Campbell