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7 Laundry Hacks That Save Time, Money and the Planet

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Laundry is a drain on the modern green household. It sucks up energy, water, and time — three things very precious to any eco-warrior. Fortunately, technology has some excellent solutions to our laundry problems. Here are seven laundry hacks that help you make sure your washer and dryer are doing their part for the planet.

1. Upgrade to an Energy Star Model

If your current washer and dryer are more than 10 years old, upgrading them will save you significant time doing your weekly laundry and also reduce your utility bills. Energy Star–rated washers can reduce your water use by 45 percent and your energy use by 25 percent. An Energy Star–rated dryer will save you around $245 in energy costs over its lifetime. If upgrading isn’t an option yet, be conscientious about using your current washer’s settings correctly. If you have water level settings, make sure to set your washer to the lowest one. If not, always use the correct load size setting — small for small loads, medium for medium loads, and so on. You could save more than 1,200 gallons of water per year.

2. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

Almost 90 percent of the energy a washer needs is used to heat water. If you wash your clothes in cold water, you’ll cut down your energy use significantly and save $66 or more a year on your energy bill, depending on the amount of laundry you do. New high-efficiency (HE) washers clean just as effectively with cold water. Make sure to use a specially designed HE laundry detergent.

3. Select the Fastest Spin Speed

Choose the fastest spin speed your washer (and your clothes) can handle. The faster the washer spins, the more water is whisked out of the load, and the less time it needs to spend in the dryer. Be sure to use this for towels, if nothing else.

4. Take Advantage of Sensor Features

Load and moisture sensors will intelligently adjust your washer and dryer cycles. Load sensing assesses each load you put in the washer and determines how much water is needed to clean it properly. Similarly, moisture sensors are more efficient than setting a timer on your dryer. These sensors can tell when your clothes are dry and stop the machine, reducing your dryer’s energy use by about 15 percent.

5. Opt for Models That Use Less Water

Traditional top-loading washing machines fill up the entire tub with water and rub clothes against the agitator in the middle of the tub. New top-loader models don’t have an agitator — they flip and spin clothes through a stream of water instead of filling the whole tub, which significantly reduces water usage. Front-loading washers tumble clothes to clean them instead of using an agitator. Either option is an eco-friendly choice that will reduce the amount of water you use to do laundry.

6. Turn Down the Dryer Heat

Longer drying cycles on a low heat setting use less energy. Be sure to clean the filter in between loads to keep the dryer in top working order.

7. Toss a Tennis Ball into the Dryer

This old-school trick really works. When you’re drying large, bulky items — such as down comforters, jackets, blankets or pillows — throw in a couple of new tennis balls with the load. The balls bounce around in the dryer to separate the waterlogged, heavy material, which reduces drying time and energy usage.

Follow these laundry hacks to take advantage of today’s washer and dryer features that save time, energy and water for a super-green laundry routine.

Jennifer Tuohy is an earth-conscious mom who writes for The Home Depot on a variety of green, tech, and parenting topics. She provides advice on easy, simple ways to be greener when doing your laundry. To see a selection of Energy Star-rated washers and dryer like the ones Jennifer mentions in this article, visit The Home Depot here

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7 Laundry Hacks That Save Time, Money and the Planet

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7 Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats That Won’t Go to Landfill

So many of the productsthat we buy and use daily will end up in a landfill at the end of their lives especially those made fromplastics or other unrecyclable (or uncompostable) materials.

Yoga mats usually fall into this category.

Fortunately, more and more incredible companies are producing sustainable, chemical-free yoga mats. Most are made fromjute or all-natural rubber materials that are gentle on the earth, without sacrificing grip quality.

Sound like something you’d be into? Read on!

7 Eco-FriendlyYoga Mats That Won’t Go to Landfill

Manduka eKO Lite Mat

Thick and extra-cushioned for joint support (but weighing less than five pounds) this high-quality mat may very well change your life. It’s made from biodegradable, non-Amazon-harvested, natural tree rubber which means no toxic PVC, no plasticizers, and no foaming agents! Trust me,it’s worth the investment.

Yoloha Nomad Cork Yoga Mat

Ifyou’re tired of your yoga mat getting slippery when wet, you’ve just found your holy grail. This 4 millimeter yoga mat is constructed from anti-microbial, premium-grade cork that is both self-cleaning and biodegradable! Bonus: Any cork material leftover during the mat’s no-waste manufacturing process is reused to make new products. Pretty cool, huh?

Affirmats Yoga Mat

This eco-friendly, non-toxic yoga mat is a real treat! Each mat is decorated with a positive affirmation like “I am enough” or “I am free”to inspire you during your practice. Made from slip-resistent jute and eco-PVC, this 5 millimeter mat is completely free of nasty phthalates, latex and heavy metals. It even gets more slip-resistant with use!

Barefoot Yoga Original Eco Yoga Mat

The Original Eco Yoga Mat is eco-conscious and non-toxic. Composed exclusively from all-natural rubber and jute fiber, you can rest assured that it is free ofchemical additives. Highly durable, flexible and natural-feeling, you’ll never go back to your old mat.

Jade Harmony YogaMat

This Jade Yoga mat is a favorite among yogis. It contains zero PVC, EVA or other synthetic rubber, and is made instead from sustainable, renewable rubber. Designed in a number of sizes and widths, odds are you’ve just found the perfect tailormade option. Bonus: For every mat sold, Jade plants a tree!

Dragonfly TPE Lite Mat

The TPE Lite Mat is a beautiful take on minimalism in yoga gear. Look closely and you’ll discover that the entire surface is imprinted with tiny dragonflies! This mat is made using closed-cell technology to prevent any sweat and other nasties from penetrating its surface. So, rest assured: your mat will stay germ-free.

PrAna Henna ECOYoga Mat

This top selling yoga mat is made from non-toxic TPE that is both chemical-free and UV-resistant. Plus, it has a gorgeous henna print on the top side. This productalso has a closed-cell construction so you don’t need to worry about anything nasty absorbing into the mat.

You spend a lot of time on your yoga mat! So invest in one that has a long lifespan and won’t expose you to nasty chemicals. Which mat is your favorite?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats That Won’t Go to Landfill

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Best Non-Toxic Ways to Freshen the Air In Your Car

The air inside a car can get pretty stinky. Bags of food waste. Spilled coffee and other drinks. Dirty gym clothes. Especially in the winter, when you keep the windows closed, the car just doesn’t get a chance to air out.

If you’re tempted to get one of those air freshener trees that dangle from your visor, don’t. Chances are they’ve been doused with phthalates, chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems, says the Natural Resources Defense Council in its report on the hidden hazards of air fresheners. They may also contain terpene, a volatile organic compound that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde, reports PreventDisease.com. Headaches, nausea and depression may ensue.

Instead, here are smart and safe ways to freshen the air in your car:

* Clean it out. Duh! Look under the seats, on the floor and between the seat cushions for old food, dirty clothes and anything else that might be stinking up the place.

* Wash it out. Upholstery and floor mats may need to be professionally cleaned; at the least, scrub them down with hot soapy water if milk, juice and other wet food have penetrated the fabric.

* Keep a trash bag in the car and empty it. Empty the bag when you fill up for gas or run to the grocery store. There are always trash cans you can use to easily dispose of your waste.

* Use non-toxic cleansers when wiping out the inside of your car. If you take your car to the car wash, don’t let the crew there wipe out your car interior with their industrial-grade cleanser; they’ll in all likelihood contain phthalates, synthetic fragrances and other chemicals that could make you sick or at the least, give you a headache. Make up a solution of hot soapy water using fragrance-free, plant-based soap. Use that to wash down your dashboard, steering wheel and other non-cloth surfaces in the car.

* Keep the windows open a crack when you’re driving. As long as it’s not raining or snowing, open the windows slightly to keep fresh air circulating when you’re inside.

* Use baking soda to absorb residual odors. You may already have an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb smells there. You can do something similar in your car. Upcycle a plastic food container, like a small margarine tub, to contain the baking soda. Punch holes in the top of the lid so air can get inside, but keep the lid on so the baking soda doesn’t spill. Put the tub underneath the passenger seat or below the back windshield so it is out of the way.

* Don’t spray perfume or commercial air freshener. The last thing you want is for minute chemical particles to be floating around in your car, where they’d be incredibly easy to inhale. Remove the source of the smell, clean your vehicle and crack the windows open to stay healthy.

Related
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Natural Stain Removal for Your Car

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Ways to Keep Your Old Christmas Tree Out of the Trash

It’s such a waste to trash a Christmas tree after the holidays. It took about 10 or 15 years to grow that tree, and then it’s used for a couple of weeks and tossed out.

Instead, here are 7 ways to put your tree to good use so it doesn’t end up in a landfill.

1) Make potpourri or sachets out of the needles – Snip the needles off the branches and collect them in an 8 oz. jar with a tight-fitting lid. From time to time, transfer a couple of tablespoons of needles into a small decorative bowl, or a small cloth bag sachet that closes tightly with a drawstring. Put the bowl in a dresser or in your bathroom. Squeeze the needles, which will release the oil they contain and emit a nice piney aroma. Put the cloth bag in a dresser drawer or bathroom cabinet, where you can give it a squeeze every now and then to release the pine scent. When the needles dry out, replenish them from the fresh ones in the closed jar. Here are instructions on making the sachet.

2) Use the branches as mulch in your garden or landscape – Use garden shears or, for thicker branches, a small saw. Cut the tree branches one by one. Then, layer the branches under trees and bushes. They make an excellent mulch, and provide shelter for wildlife.

3) Create a bird sanctuary –ThisOldHouse.com recommends placing your tree in its stand outdoors. Fill bird feeders and hang them from the boughs. You can also drape the tree with a swag of pinecones coated with peanut butter.

4) Cut the trunk into pieces and use to edge your garden or for pathways – Cut the trunk into pieces 3 inches thick so they won’t decompose quickly in the elements. Place them flat if you’re creating a path out of them, and on their side if you’re using them as edging.

5) Slice the trunk into coasters – While you have your saw out, cut a section of the trunk into slices about a half inch thick. Leave the outer bark on the wood, but use sandpaper on both sides until they’re smooth. Glue felt to the bottom of the slice. Stain the top of the slice with a water-based stain. You can find the rest of the instructions on Instructables here.

6) Cut the trunk into differing heights to create stands for pots or an interesting winter sculpture – If you’re going to use the trunk as a pot stand, it needs to be made from the thickest part of the trunk, and the bottom needs to be completely flat so it is stable. The top also needs to be flat, so whatever you put on it won’t tip over. There are no rules when it comes to making a sculpture! One option is to make a sculpture out of differently sized pieces of wood. Another is to whittle away pieces of the trunk into a fun and visually interesting design. Do whatever makes you happy!

7) Use it to control erosion –FortCollinsNursery.com reports that many communities use old Christmas trees to shore up eroding beaches and to create windbreaks that help sand dunes rebuild.

If none of these options appeal to you, hopefully, your community will pick up the tree for chipping or composting.

What other ways do you use your old Christmas tree? Please share!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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