My favorite sustainable household products

Lots of you know we have been working for a long time toward a smaller carbon footprint. I am still a mom of four in a fully capitalist society, and everything I buy seems to come packaged in plastic film, cardboard boxes, or both… but we’re trying. These are a few honest reviews (nothing sponsored) about what is working for us (or not.) You can find past posts on this journey here and here and here.

Best finds:

WHO GIVES A CRAP (plastic-free toilet paper)

Okay, I know it’s weird to start with this, but it was the first product I found, and I’m a chronological girl.

TP is important around here, and this TP is soft, sustainable (the kind we buy is 100% recycled paper,) and packaged entirely in paper (including the wrappers around the rolls, the cardboard box it’s shipped in, and the paper tape on the box.) I buy it in boxes of 48 rolls. Added bonus: half their profits go toward building toilets in water-insecure places.

EARTH BREEZE Laundry Detergent

At the risk of sounding like one of the ads that may have popped up on a free phone game (which is exactly how I found them,) I have to say I love this detergent. Each one of these envelopes holds enough detergent to wash 60 loads. The sheets of detergent actually dissolve in cold water without leaving a residue. I tried several brands of detergent pods, and all left sticky starch residue on our clothes if we didn’t wash everything in hot water.

No, I’m not trying to corner the market in Earth Breeze, but I did buy a year’s worth so I could send a package with each of kids to college/grad school.

DROPPS Dishwasher Pods

These pods come without any plastic packaging or microplastics in the pods themselves. I am sure the detergent would still be toxic if you swallowed one, so keep them out of reach of children, but the packaging is entirely recyclable. And my dishes get clean.

I do not, however, recommend their laundry detergent pods.

RIDWELL Recycling Service

My kids’ orthodontist turned me on to Ridwell, so I asked for a subscription last Christmas. It’s a biweekly home pickup of my hard-to-recycle items, and I LOVE IT. Every pickup includes plastic film (think ziplock bags, bread bags, cereal bags, and all that clear packaging that everything you buy is wrapped in,) threads (fabric including clothes that aren’t in good enough condition to resell,) alkaline batteries, and light bulbs, and a “featured” item that rotates. So far they have picked up our extra school supplies, corks, CCDs and DVDs, ski/snowboard equipment (this pickup might be particular to Colorado,) kitchen ware, Prom dresses, electronics, winter and clothes. You can also pay a little extra for a pickup of Styrofoam or Latex paint. Next week’ pickup is books. They’d better bring a big truck.

Ridwell does all the legwork of finding local organizations that will repurpose these items. Many of you may prefer to do that work on your own, but I just don’t have the bandwidth for that. Plus each pick-up serves as a gentle nudge to clean more out of our house.

LOOFAHS for doing the dishes

I was skeptical, but I am now a firm believer in using a loofah (made from a gourd) to clean my dishes. It is just abrasive enough to get the stuff off, and it holds up well for a time or two through the dishwasher. When it begins to disintegrate, I throw it in my compost. It never seems to get that yucky sour-sponge smell, and a sixpack from my local Zero Market lasted me a year. They also hold up in the dishwasher,

I have yet to find any dish soap that works as well as Dawn, so I use that on the loofah.

STEEL/COPPER SCRUBBIE to clean my cast iron

I no longer have a non-stick pan. I have all metal cookware (thanks, all you nice people who bought us pans for our wedding 26 years ago) and one cast iron skillet I bought at Ace Hardware. I scrub it with the copper or steel scrubbie (I think I found this one in a six-pack on Amazon) without any soap, and heat it till dry. So far it has lasted longer than the Teflon on any of my nonstick pans.

I have thrown the scrubbies in the dishwasher when they got gross. Unfortunately, our local recycling does NOT accept these for recycling, though I have read that they are recyclable in some areas.

Also, if you’re looking for some good reading material on this, check out Sharon Schneider’s Handbook for an Integrated Life. Her book is about how to align your economic power with your internal compass. Somehow she managed to synthesize so much (and more) of what we’ve spent years figuring out into a highly readable book.

Mid-Winter Update: What’s saving my life right now

I’ve enjoyed Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What’s Saving My Life series for a few years. In that spirit, here’s what’s saving my life right now:

Thick hand cream and rubber gloves:

During the winter (and with all my hand-washing in the clinic) my hands get so dry they crack. There are lots of expensive options out there, but I like the $4 Vaseline’s intensive care deep moisture cream. This is not a sponsored post. I think it works; I like the price; I can still open doorknobs afterwards. All the same, I still need to use rubber gloves for all my household tasks involving water.



For the first time ever, I recently returned a candle to a store because the fragrance was too strong. (No, I hadn’t burned it yet.) Generally, I love candles, the more the merrier. Burning them all winter long (especially in February) makes me feel cozy and warm.


Normally in February, I reach for old favorites. I hate investing my imagination in a new book and discovering I have chosen poorly. Currently on my reading table: Pride and Prejudice and The Westing Game.


Getting Outside

There’s a direct correlation between how much time I spend cooped up indoors and my mood. At this stage in our schooling and in life, I have to be very intentional to make my outside time happen, but when I make it happen, life is better. For all of us.


My current favorite music to listen to includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, the music from the musical Waitress, and Ingrid Michaelson.

What’s saving your life right now?

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Upon the inspiration of Anne Bogel, this is a reflection on what’s saving my life right now.

Midday walks.


Sometimes we borrow our neighbor’s dog. Sometimes we hit a nature preserve (no dogs allowed.) Sometimes we just walk, but it’s always worth the effort.

Good books.

The children and I are reading Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome and Greenglass House by Kate Mitford. I am re-re-re-reading Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night. (Sam just read it for the first time.)

Honestly, I’m not up for a challenge right now. I need something I know ends well. Suggestions?

Colorful food.


This week I made Run Fast, Eat Slow’s Runner’s High Peanut Sauce, and we poured it over bowls of rice, grilled chicken and diced vegetables. Yum.


My friend Lori introduced me to the app Pray As You Go. It’s a lovely 11-12 minutes of contemplative music, Scripture, meditation on the Word, and prayer.

Also, because I’m not playing music in church right now, I am free to seek prayer from our prayer ministers during communion. And I do. Every week.


What’s saving your life right now?

Summer Eats: Week 3

This week, the farm sent us zucchini, yellow squash, onions, garlic, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans, cucumbers (regular and lemon), carrots, musk melons, watermelon, Rainier cherries and peaches.  Yum!

So I made:

Monday: zoodles with pesto*, carrots*, cucumbers*, melon*

Tuesday: chicken pot pie (filling from the freezer, topped with cream biscuits), melon* and carrots*

Wednesday: pot roast* with potatoes*, onions* and carrots* and watermelon * and cherries*

Thursday: sesame chicken over rice, steamed green beans*, watermelon*

Product Details

Friday: stacked vegetable quesadillas (from Simply in Season) with zucchini*, onions*, garlic*, spinach, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese in corn tortillas*

Saturday: fried eggs* with potato*-and-vegetable* hash, pork sausage*, melon


Sunday: leftovers

I ate all the peaches* (so greedy!) on my morning oatmeal every day.

If you’re looking for more Summer Eats here are Week 1 and Week 2.  Please share your favorite farm-to-table foods in the comments!

Summer Eats: Week 1

Our summer CSA deliveries started a month ago, and we’re working to adjust. It’s a change every year, switching from the routine of winter recipes we love (chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti…) to the new and different, based on what’s in season. I love the challenge, and it makes me enjoy cooking again after my winter rut. The kids often don’t love what I serve, but none of them is going to starve, and at least no one complains any more. (More on the why we joined a CSA here and here and here.)

So I thought I’d share here our weekly menu. My links aren’t working right, so no links today. Hopefully I’ll figure that out and link the recipes where I can. Anything with a * was sourced locally.

Oregano I’m drying

Monday: roasted kielbasa and vegetables (beets*, turnips*, zucchini*, and sweet potatoes with fresh oregano*), and kohlslaw (kohlrabi*, red onion, apples and dried cranberries in a little olive oil and cider vinegar.)


Tuesday: sour cherry nut bars (sour cherries* from our neighbor’s tree), frittatas (eggs* from our chickens) and sautéed chard* with bacon*.


Wednesday: spaghetti and meatballs (I didn’t say we were abandoning ship on our standbys). Don’t tell the kids, but I threw an aging zucchini* in the sauce before I put it through the food mill.

Thursday: maple-mustard spare ribs* with turnip* soup and a garnish of bacon* and croutons* and a green salad.


Smoky turnip soup

Friday: fried rice, sliced cucumbers* and a mango-melon-strawberry* salad.

Saturday: a pasta salad with all the leftover vegetables* and meats tossed in.


Sunday: the other pan of sour cherry bars or toast with strawberry* jam. Hamburgers*, oven fries and fresh cherries*.

Please post your local eats in comments (especially any special ways you’ve gotten your kids love all the stronger vegetables!)


So I guess our chickens read the blog, because after I wondered aloud last week when we’d start seeing eggs, we found 2 soft-shelled eggs in the coop on Sunday.   Then Tuesday, we found a hard-shelled egg (speckled brown) and yesterday, another hard eggs (this one solid brown).  So I think that means we have 2 chickens laying eggs. This week, when the temperature has hardly broken zero.

First egg: translucent. Note the flip-flop wearing of last Sunday.

Third and fourth eggs. No flip-flops were worn in the gathering of these eggs.

We weighed the eggs, just to see how they compared with regular eggs.  The speckled one was 30g and the solid 31g.  To compare, a “grade A large brown egg” from a cage-free chicken was 67g.  Little eggs from young chickens.  This whole chicken thing is an adventure.

Tales from the Air-Conditioning Wars

Every summer, Sam and I play Air-Conditioning Wars.  It goes like this:

Sam says something innocuous like, “It’s hot outside.”  I say, “Well, we’re not turning on the A/C.”

Sam says, “It’s hard to sleep when it’s hot outside.”  I say, “Sleep without a blanket.”

I go away for the weekend. He turns on the A/C.

I come home and turn off the A/C.  I open the windows as early as I can in the morning and turn on the fans to suck in all the cold air.  As the house begins to heat, I run around closing windows and shades if the sun in shining in. (This routine is surprisingly effective as long as it’s not over 90 degrees every day.)  If Sam insists he can’t sleep, I hang the clothes on the line and say he can’t have both soft underwear and A/C.

I’m really a stingy person at heart, and when we turn on the A/C I can hear the money being sucked into the giant compressor and shredded.  This year, I even have proof of what a money pit the A/C is, because I can monitor our electricity use and production in real time.  (Don’t think I wasn’t doing this from New Jersey while I was gone.)

Our energy use over the past week. Can you tell Sam was home over the weekend?

My clothes line killed itself last week: just pitched itself off the patio into the lawn and fractured its arm.  Like horses, clothes lines have to be retired if they break their arms.  I would have taken this as a SIGN [and Sam would have been happy for me to interpret it that way] except that then the A/C STOPPED WORKING TOO.

Now we have soft laundry, courtesy of my clothes dryer that sucks up my money and shreds it, and an 85 degree house.  Thank goodness our house guests live in the Philippines and weren’t actually that impressed by 85 degrees with 5% humidity.

But there’s hope on the horizon.  My new clothes line arrived today (just as my load of laundry was spinning in the washer) and fit into my old pole’s bucket o’ concrete.  And we have a call in to the HVAC guy.  Maybe soon Sam can go back to sleeping in a cool room and having soft underwear.