Thursday, February 12, 2015

Animal Testing Is All Around Us

Hello faithful readers! Today, I want to blog about a touchy subject for some, animals. I am not talking about Spot or Fido curled up at your feet. I mean lab animals. The dogs, cats, mice, and other animals being used to test products to determine safety and quality.

What does this have to do with being self-sufficient? Well, to be truly self-sufficient, you should not take from the world more than you give. A part of this is to respect other living creatures for their true value to the ecosystem.

Disclaimer: Another touchy animal subject is butchering and cooking animals for meat. This will not be discussed by me on this blog. I have my own views on it, and I respect that others feel differently. While some might think that it is just as noteworthy as animal testing, I do not believe so. To me, killing for food is something that happens in nature. Killing to see what happens when ingesting a carpet cleaner is not.

A part of me wanted to write a more graphic version of this post, including what goes on during animal testing. However, even if I did not post it directly to my blog, there would still be a chance that innocent eyes could find it, and I do not want to add to the overabundant amount of childhood-innocence-stealing website pages on the internet today. So, if you are interested in viewing more about what happens to the animal test subjects, you could either do a simple Google search, or watch the documentary, "Earthlings". Beware though, whatever pops up will probably not be family or workplace friendly.

So why do we need to boycott companies that test on animals? Imagine this for me. You are a dog. You are lovable and trusting by nature. You are a faithful companion. You love to play and just enjoy life. However, you cannot do that. Why? Your home is in a lab, in a windowless kennel with cement floor. Your job is to eat Iams dog food and let the men in the white coats test you to see if their "New and Improved" formula has any adverse effects. You are placed on a table where someone cuts out a muscle in your leg to be tested. You are then dropped carelessly back onto your cement-floored kennel. You cannot bark in pain or protest because your vocal cords have been severed. Those men in the white coats don't have time to be bothered with hearing your bark, after all.

This is a non-exaggerated story of what really happens behind lab doors. Unfortunately, a dog like this is one of the lucky ones. Some products cannot be tested without killing the animals first so that they can do an autopsy on what ingesting the chemicals have done to their body.

But they're just animals, right? There's no other way to test products than to have live subjects, right? And it's better for those live subjects to be something as meaningless as an animal instead of a human, right?

Right?

Yeah, I don't think so either...

As a consumer, the best (and easiest) ways to take a stand against companies testing on animals are:
  • Boycott all companies that practice animal testing
  • Write to those companies, sharing how you feel about their testing procedures
  • Write to companies who don't test on animals, thanking them and sending words of encouragement
  • Educate yourself on animal testing, what it involves, and how other companies are getting by without it
  • Spread the word!!
You can access the full list of companies that are still using animal testing in their products at the official PETA website. However, there were several companies on the list that really stood out to me, including:
  • Cleaning Supplies: Windex, OxiClean, Pine-Sol
  • Clothing: Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani
  • Family Planning: First Response, Trojan
  • Hair Care: Garnier, Herbal Essences
  • Infant Care: Huggies, Johnson & Johnson
  • Laundry Care: Clorox, Woolite, Tide, Bounty
  • Make-Up: Mary Kay, Maybelline, Cover Girl
  • School Supplies: Post-It, Mead
  • Skin Care: Banana Boat, Keri, Coppertone
  • Soaps: Dial, Dove, Dawn
  • Stores: Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreens, Avon
And even some companies that I have seen people use who are trying to go all-natural, including Ivory and Arm & Hammer.   It is also important to note that all over-the-counter medicines and/or their ingredients are extensively tested on animals, as currently required by the FDA.

So what about you? Do you think society should continue to support animal testing? Were there any products on the list that you are using? Do you want to continue/discontinue use? What was the most surprising brand on the list to you? What are some ways that you help preserve the safety/well-being of animals?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Un-Paper Towels


I have a question for you. What do you typically look for in the perfect paper towel?
  • Low price?
  • Durable?
  • Environmental?
If you are anything like me, you would want to have all three. But it always felt like to have any of these qualities, I would end up sacrificing the other two.

Then I discovered un-paper towels...

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, let me explain. Un-paper towels are cloth towels that are are made to replace the traditional paper version. You can get really cute designs on etsy that even snap together to mimic the paper towel roll shape and convenience. I am not a fan of this version because most of the time, I would end up not bothering to snap them together. In fact, most of the time, I won't use these because I love the design so much that I don't want to stain them. So now, my most expensive un-paper towels have been reduced to water clean up and that's about it.

What Works For Me

Terry Cloth (Classic Wash Cloths)

Terry cloth is definitely my go-to for any everyday job. I bought a couple of 18 packs at Walmart when they were having their Back to School sale, and I love them. They have just enough color in them to be pretty without me worrying about staining and ruining them.

Microfiber Cloth

Microfiber cloth rags are great for high absorbancy needs, such as kitchen spills (flying glass of milk, anyone?) or other big cleaning jobs. I only keep a few on hand, because they aren't needed in my home daily.

Flour Sack Towels

Flour sack towels are dirt cheap and great for cleaning. They are relatively thin, but surprisingly absorbent. They are about 28 inches across in each direction. My favorite thing to use them for are wiping down counters, dusting, and light spills on the floor. They also work wonders when cleaning large messes (like toddler's faces after meal times!) Bonus: If you are a cloth diapering parent, they also make GREAT flat diapers!

Cut Up T-Shirts

This probably rivals terry cloth for my number one used cloth. It is such a simple solution, and great for a wide array of things. This is gentler on your skin than terry cloth and microfiber, but can be more manageable for small jobs than flour sack towels, since you can cut them to whatever size and shape you want. My favorite applications are tissues and face wipes. Bonus: No hemming, as jersey (the material t-shirts are made from, doesn't fray. It does, however, roll, so be sure to take that into account when you cut the fabric.

Cloth Napkins

I included this on the list because I do use them, but honestly, not that often. Cloth napkins are broken out every time I have company over for a meal. Most days, I will use cut up t-shirts for meal time clean up if I am not trying to impress anyone.

Cleaning Up

Cleaning is a breeze! I used to keep a bucket under my sink full of water and a bit of vinegar, but really that was way too much, and caused me to have to do laundry almost every day to keep it from getting mildew-y. So now I keep a bucket (no water or vinegar) under my kitchen sink for most napkins, and a mesh laundry bag in the bathroom for whatever cloth is in there.

On laundry day, I take the mesh bag and dump my bucket into it. I close it up and wash it in the bag with towels on the other side of the drum to balance everything out (no need to worry about this in a front loader). This makes everything SO much easier when you transfer it to the dryer, because trust me, you don’t want to go digging for a million little pieces of cloth in the bottom of the dryer. And don’t wait until the mesh bag is full, or nothing will be able to be moved around to get clean.

In The End

You might dive fully into the cloth world. You may even be like me and not even stop at paper towels, but move on to family cloth and mama cloth (but that’s another post...) Or you may not. You might only use cloth napkins at dinner, or just reach for a towel instead of a paper towel for a small spill. But remember, the point of this blog is not “Go big or go home”, but rather “Every bit helps”. Every conscious decision you make to make the world a little bit better of a place to live in matters.

Until next time, as always, peace and love!

What about you? What are some ways that you have reduced on your disposable paper products? Would you ever consider cloth paper towels? Why or why not?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chicken Broth In A Crock Pot

Winter is the perfect time of year to really build up on your soup and stew recipes. This homemade chicken broth is the PERFECT base to take an already good soup to a whole new level of awesome.

Why you should make your own slow cooker chicken broth

Three simple reasons:
  1. It’s nourishing. Chicken broth is full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and other minerals, all of which can be easily absorbed in the body. It supports the immune system, heals the digestive system, and some say can even help with arthritis and joint pain.
  2. It’s way cheaper than buying organic chicken broth.
  3. It’s so easy to make. Especially with the recipe I have posted below!
Homemade chicken broth or stock is often very different from what you buy at the store. Many food industries cut corners and produce an inferior stock, often from animals that are both ill and treated poorly.

Nourishing Crock-Pot Chicken Broth

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken or Frame of 1 roasted chicken (free-range)
  • 3 stalks of organic celery 2 bay leaves
  • 1 organic onion, cut in half
  • 2 Tbsp. raw organic apple cider vinegar
  • Filtered water
*Don’t add salt at this point because it can interfere with mineral absorption. Vegetables that are past their prime, but not rotted yet, are usable in this recipe.

Directions:

  1. Place chicken and vegetables into a large crock pot. Fill the pot with filtered water, leaving about one inch at the top. Add the apple cider vinegar last. Let this sit at room temperature for one hour. This helps the ACV pull minerals from the bones.
  2. Cook the stock on low heat for 12 hours. Check your stock to make sure the water level is still good. Add more water if needed. Cook the stock for another 12 hours (total: 24 hours).
  3. Allow your stock to cool and carefully strain it. Either use right away or store for a later day.

Storage and Serving

Freezing stock is my personal favorite method of storage. It will last longer and stay super nutritious and delicious this way. There are a few things you need to remember though, should you choose to freeze your new stock.

Stock will expand when it is frozen. Therefore, be sure to leave enough space in your container for expansion. Otherwise, bad things will happen… (Trust me on this one!)

Also, if you are storing in glass, make sure to allow your stock to cool THOROUGHLY before putting it into the freezer. This will keep the glass from breaking and keep you from losing a jar and losing a finger.
A fun tip: Freeze your stock in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out of the trays and into the container of your choice. The stock will thaw quicker because of its smaller size. You will also be able to portion out the amount of stock you need for your recipe and reduce waste (especially if you measure how much your ice cube tray holds beforehand).
When serving, don’t forget that your stock is not salted, so season accordingly and enjoy!
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