A Guide to Eco-Living in the City

It seems as though the two couldn’t possibly mix. A city and honest to goodness eco-living? Well, it turns out that you can make the impossible a possibility.

I spent a lot of time living in the city during and after my college years. With millions of residents, thousands of cars, and a constant array of lights, it can seem impossible to live an eco-friendly lifestyle when living in a metropolis. In reality, America’s major cities are leading the battle against climate change through eco-living practices.

While city-wide efforts have helped to implement better mass transit and solar energy and support local farming in nearby communities, that doesn’t mean city dwellers get a free pass on implementing eco-living practices. Here are some of the ways I was able to reduce my carbon footprint during those years.

Being a Minimalist

Sometimes it can be better to live with only what you need, and sometimes a small studio apartment forces you to do so. Instead of cramming things into the tiny home I lived in, I chose to let the city take care of my needs.

Within just a few blocks I could pick up fresh produce, take a walk in the park, or find live entertainment. I used public WiFi instead of wasting on resources on a personal internet connection, and even ditched my television in lieu of the various attractions around the area. I also saved on energy by unplugging anything that wasn’t in use, reducing the already minimal amount of electricity my apartment used.

Who Need a Car?

I will never understand why so many who live in cities choose to own a car. Maybe other cities do not have the same reliable public transportation mine did, but I was able to take the bus to and from work everyday. Aside from saving on vehicle costs, I did my part to reduce nearly 20 pounds of CO2 emissions by walking anywhere I needed to go besides work.

As an added bonus, the city I lived in had a bikeshare program that helped me travel to different areas when I needed to.

Sustainable Shopping

Every city has the grocery conglomerates, but they also have a wide variety of privately-owned local business to buy produce from as well. Choosing to buy local helps reduce the reliance on overseas shipping and using trucks to haul frozen food across the country. Plus, it is ten times healthier!

These are just some of the ways I was able to practice eco-living while residing within a city. For all of you other city dwellers out there, what ways do you help out the environment? Does your city make strides to fight climate change, too?

Easy Eco-Friendly Home Hacks That Save Money

While many view eco-living home renovations as drains on a bank account, there are a number of ways that going green can actually save you money.

I see a lot of articles online talking (or rather complaining) about how expensive it is to live an eco-friendly life. Sure, installing state of the art solar panels is going to run you an easy $20,000 but no one said you have to go that far just to reduce your carbon footprint.

In reality, choosing to make your home more environmentally friendly can actually save you money every month. Don’t believe me? Well, I have proof!

Cook From Scratch

Its no secret that cooking at home with fresh ingredients saves an incredible amount of money, but have you ever considered it’s eco-friendly benefits? I hadn’t either, but it makes sense when you think about it.

When you use fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market or your garden, you eliminate much of the energy used in processed foods. Processing in an industrial kitchen that certainly eats up energy; then food is wrapped up in plastic and hauled on a truck all the way to the constantly-running freezers at the supermarket. Cooking with local produce is a simple way to save money and do your part to conserve energy.

Use a Pressure Cooker

This was another one that I found surprising. Using a pressure cooker to make meals saves an astounding amount of energy when compared to other cooking methods. It also happens to be much faster way to get the job done.

That means less time waiting for a hot meal, less energy wasted, and less money spent on your electric bill.

Food

Start a Garden and Go Vegetarian

This is a two-for-one win in my book. Growing green beans, salad greens, and cherry tomatoes instead of buying veggies at the store can save you a ton of money in a year’s time. Even growing herbs in your windowsill can save hundreds over time.

Aside from zero-energy consumption, growing your own garden also allows you to make more veggie dishes than meaty ones. Not only is this cheaper, but greenhouse gas emissions have gone up in the past decade from an increase in livestock raised for slaughter. Saving animals, reducing causes of climate change, eating healthier, and saving money all at the same time is about as green as you can get.

My runners up for this list were:

  • Line dry clothes
  • Take shorter showers
  • and switch to organic cleaning products

What eco-lifestyle choices have helped you to reduce your carbon footprint while saving money each month?

The Best Ecotourism Destinations in the U.S.

Looking to take an eco-friendly vacation without wasting precious fossil fuels while saving money? There are more places in North America than you might think!

Countries like Africa, Australia, and South America offer a plethora of eco-lodges that offer low-impact tourism centered around the indigenous peoples of the area. In the United States, however, ecotourism seems to be a scarce and rarely heard of phenomenon. It isn’t impossible to find wonderful destinations in our country though.

If you are starting to plan your next eco-trip, consider some of these beautiful locations!

Eco-Tourism in the U.S.

I had to do a little digging to find eco-tourism locations in the country, or even its neighbors, which prompted me to find out why this wonderful way of traveling hasn’t taken off here like it has in other countries. The main reason stems from the fact that environmentally-responsible tourism has its roots in developing nations. A large part of the movement is giving back to local communities that are just beginning to blossom.

The U.S. does not have a national, government-run tourism board like many other nations have. This has led to smaller community-based organizations heading the movement. While North America might not have the same scale of eco-tourism that other countries do, you can still experience rapidly evolving eco-destinations in the country.

Most of them are far from perfect, but I picked out the top two locations based on the principles of eco-tourism.

El Monte Sagrado

Old

This resort made entirely of adobe-styled structures, constructed from fly ash, can be found in Taos, New Mexico. It runs on what they call the “Living Machine”, which consists of plants and sea life that treat water for reuse. That, and photovoltaic solar cells that power the electrical components of the Living Machine as well as heating and cooling.

The resort collects rainwater, composts, recycles, and even uses water from their Living Machine to irrigate crops. They transport treated water back to the city of Taos, and have even founded a local school.

Sadie Cove

Located in Homer, Alaska, this wilderness lodge features off-the-grid coastal cabins in Kachemak Bay State Park. Using hydroelectric power from a nearby stream, each cabin effectively runs on alternative energy. They offer meals from their organic vegetable garden, and focus heavily on their “leave no trace” philosophy.

I found their benefits to the local ecosystem interesting. They are actively working to have the area officially declared a mountain goat sanctuary, which means you can definitely observe the adorable creatures in their natural habitat.

Have you ever been to either of these locations? Do you know of any other great eco-tourism locations in the U.S.?

The Ultimate Guide to Safe, Non-Toxic Makeup

Looking for safe alternatives to your daily beautification routine? Here’s everything you need to know.

In the age of health consciousness, women have finally started choosing organic and safe alternatives to their makeups. Now that more and more us as are finding out just how many toxic chemicals companies stuff into their ingredients, such as “fragrance”, the hunt is on for healthier substitutes.

There’s a lot of information out there on what is safe and what these chemicals do to our bodies, which can be a little confusing. What exactly are parabens and what harm can they really do? Is it worth shelling out the extra cash on organic lipsticks?

I’m here to clear the air and answer some pivotal questions in what could be consider one of the largest epidemics in the beauty industry.

The Danger is Real

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, almost 90% of the over 10,000 ingredients the FDA approves in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by them or similar institutions. That’s a scary thought! Research has begun to show us that many of these ingredients contain known carcinogens, often linked to breast cancer.

Currently, no system exists to regulate the potential toxins found in traditional cosmetics products. If you’re ready for the scariest part, let’s take a look at exactly what goes into your daily routine.

 

The Culprits

I encourage you to go through the labels on your makeup and look for these common red flags. Ingredients such as phthalate, sulfate, paraben, triclosan, and toluene have all been linked to different forms of cancer, as well as organ and reproductive harm. Companies will try to hide these ingredients by combining them into larger words or counting them as part of their “fragrance”.

Finding the Right Brands

It isn’t always easy to find an alternative that looks and feels like you want it to, but more and more companies are jumping on board the organic makeup bandwagon. You’re going to have to shop online to find truly green products, but that’s half the fun!

Several companies are blowing major name brands like MAC out of the water with a focus on non-toxic ingredients, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly practices, and vegan certified products. Alima Pure and Juice Beauty are two excellent companies to start your search with.

While some of these organic products might cost a little more than what you are used too, can you really put a price on your health? I personally think opting to continue using toxins on my body is crazier than spending a little extra on quality makeup, but that’s just me. What are your thoughts on safe makeup alternatives?

The Products That Turned Me On to Safe Makeup

Most women use some form of makeup nearly everyday of their lives. Unfortunately, these products are full of potentially harmful chemicals.

It wasn’t that long ago that makeup was just another instinctual part of my daily routine, but I recently became more informed about the potentially harmful chemicals that go into everything from foundation to lipstick. This made me re-think what I put on my face each morning.

Toxic ingredients like parabens and phthalates have been shown to cause damage to our vital organs in a wide variety of studies. So, if you are looking for safer alternatives, then check out this list I have compiled of safe makeups.

Getting Started

The hunt for safer makeup was on after I learned about the toxic chemicals companies often hide in ingredients like “fragrance”. To make sure that I was actually choosing safer alternatives, I turned to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) with their catalog of over 60,000 products each ranked with a hazard score from 1 to 10.

Even if nothing on this list appeals to you, I urge you to look at their catalog an find safe products for your everyday routine.

RMS Beauty

RMS develops a broad range of makeups without adding in ingredients that damage the body’s vital systems. From their line, I picked out a raw coconut cream to act as a moisturizer, a colorless un-powder, and an un-coverup to take care of some of my essentials. I also found a wonderful blush along with a bronzed taupe eye shadow that I’ve fallen in love with.

Dr. Bronner

Since the toxic conspiracy leads all the way into bath and body products, I decided to find some of those as well. After all, my makeup routine does start with a good cleaning.

I was able to purchase a bar of castile soap, but I ended up going with the rose castile liquid soap instead because I liked the smell. I even found a hand sanitizer from Dr. Bronner that fits right in my purse! Unfortunately, I did not find any shampoo or conditioner from this line.

Juice Beauty

When it comes to making myself look 20 again, there are a few things I simply cannot do without. Fortunately, Juicy Beauty offers an in-depth line of skin care products that aren’t half as corny as their name sounds.

The first item I put into my online shopping cart was a green apple Brightening Gel Cleanser, immediately followed by algae mask for those home spa days. Next up was a brightening eye cream that featured the same green apple smell and a booster serum to help make full use of my moisturizer. Last, but in no way least, I picked up a sensitive peel to exfoliate my skin.

All of that put me over my spending limit for the month, so I’ll be back with more recommendations for other products when I can make another purchase. It was well worth the investment though, and I feel a lot better knowing my body isn’t being affected by toxic chemicals. What products have you swapped out in your routine?

Healthy Substitutions for Your Kitchen

Looking to take healthy cooking to the next level? Try out these healthy substitutions when cooking at home.

In my never-ending quest to create a healthier lifestyle, I am always looking for ways to improve my eating habits. Even when buying organic groceries and cutting out meat, cooking a healthy meal at home can still be challenging. Is it even possible to take your already healthy cooking to new, healthier heights?

The answer is yes! After some research, I found a few alternatives to tried and true staples that I use to make my recipes and meals even better for my body.

Whole Wheat Flour

I am not on the gluten-free wagon, nor is it a necessity in my home, but using processed white flour isn’t the healthiest option out there when baking or making some pan-fried veggies. By choosing to use whole wheat flour instead, I incorporate the entire grain into my diet. Not only is it healthier, it also adds some much-needed fiber, which helps to keep me feeling full throughout the day.

I did find that some of my recipes needed adjusted, but at least my vegan chocolate chip cookies are as healthy as baked goods get. You can take this alternative one step further by purchasing whole wheat bread and pastas, too.

Unsweetened Applesauce

Finding a butter substitute for baking can be a daunting task, but in trying out vegan recipes I found that unsweetened applesauce makes for a pretty good alternative. By mixing it with a few ground flax seeds, it provides the perfect consistency without all of the saturated fats.

Avocado Everything

It might not be everyone’s favorite fruit, but it is incredibly healthy for you. It contains a variety of healthy fats to keep your heart in tip-top shape and makes a great mayonnaise or cheese substitute with its creamy texture. If you really can’t stand avocados, try using hummus instead.

Keep Your Greens Dark

Looking for a healthier salad or something more nutritious than iceberg lettuce on your sandwich? Switch to spinach, arugula, and watercress. I honestly think all three of them make any sandwich taste better, and they certainly take my salads to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Ditch the Dairy

Milk is used in all sorts of baking recipes, added to cereal, and used to make cookies taste even better than they already do. Choosing skim milk or a plant-based alternative like soy, almond, and rice helps you to cut back on fats and calories. They can even be used in place of heavy whipping cream for recipes like fettuccine alfredo. If you’re trying to avoid glaze or adding additional sugary parts, you can always be creative and try to add decor with some small pieces of candy with no added sugar.

Smoke Your Own Salmon

Sure it super tasty and seems healthy but some smoked salmon is full of additives. Some brands cut corners by injecting salt as well as sugar and some brands even spray on fake liquid smoke. If enjoy smoked salmon, why not try smoking it yourself. Cold smoking can be a bit tricky but we have found it easiest with a natural gas smoker. Knowing exactly what is in your food should be a priority for anyone trying to make a healthy change

These are just a few of the alternatives I’ve started using in my home. Do you have any others you would like to recommend? I always love hearing about new ways to stay healthy!

If you want to learn more about cold smokers check great post by Electric Smoker Guy, too: Best Electric Cold Smoke Generator – Attachment – Box Review

Making the Switch: Why Eating Organic Makes Sense

Grocery stores all over the country are swapping out their inventory for organic foods. Here’s why you should make the switch too.

The organic label has become incredibly popular over the last few years but navigating labels and health claims are still confusing to many consumers, myself included. What do all these labels mean, and is organic food actually better for our health and well-being? How are we supposed to know if the items we buy are actually GMO and pesticide free?

If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what the true benefits behind switching to organic foods are, then this article should help.

 

What Does the Organic Label Really Mean?

When you see that “Organic” label, it refers to the way an agricultural product was grown and processed. Here in the states, that means absolutely no synthetic pesticides, genetic modification, petroleum based fertilizer, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. I’ll give you a moment to let that last one sink in.

When it comes to livestock, whether they are raised for consumption or for their eggs/milk, organic means they have access to the outdoors and have only eaten organic feed. It also means they haven’t been pumped full of antibiotics, growth hormones, and haven’t eaten other animal by-products. A lot of this food has been used as a natural home remedy, but if treated with a lot of chemics they certainly became more dangerous than healthy for you. Let’s focus on why do we really need organic food!

What Are the Benefits?

Aside from not eating vegetables that grew in sewer-sludge, an organic diet offers a lot of benefits to both our mental and physical health.

  • Fewer Pesticides: that means fewer toxins that lead to things like birth defects, weaker immune systems, and cancer.
  • Fresh Food: without preservatives, the food has to hit the shelf and your plate faster. Organic food is often made on local farms near the market. This also supports small business and the local community.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Local, organic farms reduce pollution, conserve water, and consume less energy than their mega-corporation counterparts. This is not only better for the land but also a healthier environment for surrounding animals and people.
  • Nutrient Rich: Studies show that organic foods provide our bodies with more nutrients than mass produced meats and vegetables do. A healthier diet means a healthier you!
  • Non-Chemical Animals: Eliminating antibiotics and growth hormones reduces the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains while keeping this hormone altering substances out of your diet. Not feeding cows animal byproducts also reduces the risk of mad cow disease.
  • GMO Free: Genetic modification alters the chemical makeup of plants, causing them to grow larger and become more pest resistant. However, studies on animals have shown them to damage internal organs, thicken the digestive tract, and slow brain growth. Pumping our bodies full of chemicals isn’t good any way you look at it.

Anti-cancer, anti-toxic chemicals, and beneficial for the environment?! It’s almost like this was the way food was meant to be grown! Now that you know the benefits of making the switch, are you more likely to buy organic produce?