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The recursive how-to

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

How self sufficient do you want to be?

For instance, you can make your own homemade cleaner with a mix of castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, and water, but you don’t have to stop there. You can also make your own castile soap with a mixture of olive and lavender oils, water, and lye. But again, you don’t have to stop there, either. You can also make your own homemade lye.

When you break down the majority of home products, most can be made with a few simple, inexpensive components, easily obtained at the grocery store, or online in bulk. Not only will you know exactly what goes into a product you use to clean your home, but you’ll also ensure the products you use are safe for the environment, as well as being very inexpensive.

When you do look at recipes for household products, don’t just stop at the top level. Use your search skills and see how many of the ingredients can also be made at home. You might be surprised at what you find.

So I ask again: how self sufficient do you want to be? About the only limit to most do-it-yourself projects is whether you have access to a water barrel.

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Do not toss that Netflix wrapper

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I enjoy Origami, the art of Japanese paper folding. I originally started practicing Origami as a way of enhancing my skills when working with paper. A favorite hobby of mine is bookbinding, but the materials, such as handmade papers, can be quite expensive. Origami helped me to get a “feel” for working with paper. Over time, though, I began to enjoy Origami for its own sake.

There’s something very soothing about the tactile feel of the paper, and following the steps in a diagram. Origami is also an inexpensive hobby, even if you’re using traditional Japanese Origami papers. And if you muck up, the result is recyclable.

There’s no cost to trying your hand at Origami if you’re a Netflix subscriber. The Origami Netflix web site provides detailed Origami diagrams that are tailored to the shape and size of the wrapper that gets torn off from the Netflix DVD envelope. I took at shot at the glider, which made it all the way through my living room and into the dining room, before coming to a sudden stop against Zoë, my cat.

I also made a Netflix Origami shirt, though I have to be more careful how I tear the sheet loose, as you can tell from my snapshot of my effort. Still, the tear does add a grunge feel to the work.

Netflix Origami shirt

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Money

Making do is making green

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve been experimenting with a few simple household items in order to replace more expensive bath and kitchen items. For instance, distilled white vinegar in a shallow dish will dissipate over a couple of days and help eliminate persistent, bad or stale odors in a room. Baking soda sprinkled on a carpet and allowed to sit overnight before vacuuming will do the same for a carpet. Best of all, there’s no fake, cloying, floral scent left over.

I’ve also been experimenting with replacing more complex products, such as dishwasher soap. One popular formula mixes equal parts of baking soda and Borax (such as Twenty Mule Team Borax), though I’ve been having better luck with a recipe consisting of washing soda, Borax, and sugar free lemonade Koolaid (citric acid helps to prevent white deposits on dishes), based on a recipe found at The New Homemaker. My main modification is that I don’t add the essential oils.

The primary advantage to these home mixes is that they’re typically cheaper, but a secondary advantage is that most of the alternatives are also much better for the environment. They don’t contain bleach and potentially other, harmful chemicals, and though something like Borax is toxic if ingested, most cleaning material is toxic when ingested. What happens to the material when it hits your sewer system and your water supply is what makes the difference.

As I find recipes that work, I’ll post them online. In the meantime, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has posted a list of unusual uses for ordinary objects you might find both interesting and helpful. For instance, to remove the chlorine discoloration from hair, dissolve eight aspirin in a glass of water, work into your hair, leave on for ten minutes, and then rinse. Much cheaper than exotic shampoos, and better than turning your silver hair blue.

(Note, the P-D does have a habit of changing URLs over time, so you might want to print the page.)