Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Category: Green Your Life

Green Your Home With These Green Cleaners

Sensitive skin runs in my family. Any kind of harsh cleaners (read: Clorox) make my skin turn red and peel. I used to have to wear gloves to wash dishes or clean the kitchen or bathroom, until I found out that homemade cleaners cleanse just as well without all of the skin-stripping chemicals. Not only are they so much better for my hands, lungs, and eyes, but they are better for the environment, because chemicals aren’t being washed down the drain. As an added bonus, they are inexpensive to make.

Before you start:

*Don’t use old cleaner bottles to store or mix your green cleaners. You don’t want any nasty chemical reactions.

*Use containers with tight-fitting lids, and label and date.

*I absolutely love liquid castile soap. You can use it to hand wash clothes, dishes, or your skin. It is a gentle, truly all-purpose cleaner. I carry a small bottle with me on trips to wash my To Go-Ware¬ģ and delicates, and to use as a body wash. I often mix baking soda with castile soap for a gentle scrub for dishes, sinks, and my face. ūüôā Find out more at Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (fair trade!).

Other recipes:

All Purpose Cleaner:

Makes 10 oz. (296 mL)

1 tsp borax

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp lemon juice

8 oz. (237 mL) hot water

Note: I don’t always have borax on hand. Often times I’ll mix up a bit of baking soda with lemon juice or vinegar to scrub the sink or stove, and it works fine.

Glass Cleaner:

Makes 24 oz. (709 mL)

8 oz. (237 mL) rubbing alcohol

8 oz. (237 mL) white vinegar

8 oz. (237 mL) water

Note: For some reason, wiping the glass with newspaper instead of paper towel or cloth leaves windows and mirrors streak-free.

Furniture Polish:

Makes 12 oz.

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Fabric Softener:

Add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle

Microwave Cleaner:

2 tbsp lemon juice or baking soda

1 cup water

Mix in microwave-safe bowl, place in microwave, and heat 5 minutes or until liquid boils and condensation forms on interior of microwave. Wipe clean.

Chrome, Silver, and Jewelry Cleaner:


Linoleum Cleaner:

Club soda

Recipes courtesy Tupperware¬ģ.

Photo Credits: Mantas Ruzvelta


Recipe: Blue Corn Honey Face Scrub

Save money and packaging, and avoid chemical additives, by making your own face scrub!

Blue Corn Honey Face Scrub


Equal parts honey and yogurt (about 1 tbsp each will do for one or two scrubs)

Ground Blue Corn


Mix the yogurt and honey, then add in the blue cornmeal a bit at a time until you have a soft paste. Smooth onto your face in a circular motion, and then let sit five minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then splash with cool water.

Photo Credits: Me! I took this photo walking home from the market in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

Green Your Life With These Green Companies

1. To-Go Ware¬ģ

I first discovered¬†To-Go Ware¬ģ at a Whole Foods Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The light-weight set of bamboo utensils in their cute, snap pouch was not on my list, but immediately solved a long-standing and nagging problem: for my many road-trips, flights, and lunch trips to the local market (La Monta√Īita Co-Op’s pad thai – yum!), I needed utensils that were stronger than plastic but lighter than silverware. ¬†Something I could reuse several times – preferably forever. I hadn’t realized anything existed that fit these exact requirements, and so I’d been making do with a set of baby utensils (reusable, portable yet strong, but obviously small). ¬†So without hesitation, I snagged two sets of To-Go Ware¬ģ bamboo utensils (in¬†fuchsia and hunter green pouches) – one for my purse and one for my lunch bag. ¬†Each set was on sale for $9.99 and included a standard-sized spoon, fork, knife, and two chopsticks.

I already knew about the wonders of bamboo firsthand from an enthusiastic tour guide at a¬†chocolate/vanilla/tropical fruit/bamboo farm in Hawaii. Bamboo¬†is a beautiful, strong wood (technically a grass) that doesn’t absorb or retain food odors. It is a fast-growing renewable resource, and its harvesting process doesn’t harm the earth. ¬†Consider that when bamboo is harvested, the roots are left in the earth and the bamboo continues to grow. This prevents soil erosion and deforestation. Plus, the harvesting cycle for bamboo is only two to seven years (depending on the species) compared to twenty to fifty for other woods (or fifty to one hundred for hardwoods). It also requires little, if any, pesticides or fertilizer. Lastly, this stuff is durable. I’ve used and washed my bamboo utensils every day (every single day) for the last six months, and they are still like new.

Beyond all of this, (and I don’t mean to gush like an 8th grader or sound like a door-to-door salesman, but I do get excited when I find innovative companies that are committed to sustainability and social justice…) To-Go Ware¬ģ is the epitome of a green company. They are smart green in that they support the¬†Principles of Environmental Justice and the¬†Bali Principles of Climate Justice. They are actively green in everything they do – ¬†from using bio-degradable cleaning products in the workplace to refusing to partner with companies that lobby against environmental conservation. They are committed to human rights, and partner with¬†WEAVE and¬†CONSERVE. (If you don’t know about these empowering organizations yet, click, click, click! You will feel inspired and connected – they will make your day!) We can green our own life¬†and promote sustainable practices in businesses by purchasing from ethical companies like this one.¬†Read more about the To-Go Ware¬ģ mission and sustainability practices¬†here.

2. ResnackIt‚ĄĘ

According to World Watch Institute, Americans throw away 100 billion¬†polyethylene plastic bags every year. I used to contribute to that number¬†until yet another trip to a Whole Foods Market. ¬†These nylon-lined cotton sandwich bags (again, not on my list) caught my eye immediately, and I’ve been using one for the past four months. It is ultra-convenient. I’ve packed burritos, sandwiches, bagels, almonds, chips, and carrots in it. Not only am I saving money and the environment by not buying plastic bags, but the nylon lining of the bags is¬†lead free, phthalate free, BPA free and PVC (vinyl) free (read: safe to touch your food). ¬†It can be thrown in the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer, but I’ve never needed to – the interior wipes out easily. I take it out to recess duty (my afternoon snack is usually almonds or pistachios), and all of my students ask where they can get one. ¬†When I’m not using it, it takes up almost no space, which is why it is great for travel. Check out ResnackIts‚ĄĘ at mom-powered Live and Dream Green LLC!

3. Tupperware¬ģ

Buy it once, use it your whole life, then send it back for recycling.¬†Yes. You heard me. Tupperware¬ģ recycles the products sent back to them. Did you know that? Besides Tupperware’s environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and their worldwide environmental initiatives, Tupperware¬ģ products themselves help us green our lives. First off, they are BPA-free (read: safe). Secondly, they help us greenies in our sustainable lifestyle. There are products which are designed to keep fresh produce fresh – which is invaluable to those of use who forage for produce in local farmers’ markets. This means less pre-packaged waste, and less spoiled food being chucked into the compost bin. There are storage products which are designed with air-tight seals for those of us who buy flour, rice, and legumes in bulk. Buying in bulk saves money and reduces packaging waste. I also find a greater variety of flours, sugars, and rice are offered in the bulk section than in the isles of pre-packaged goods in supermarkets. There are products which help us replace disposable items, such as water bottles and coffee mugs. (Did you know that plastic bottles take 1,000 years to break down?) Lastly, Tupperware¬ģ products are a traveling vegetarian’s dream. Pack soup for lunch at work, bring your own spill-proof ‘doggie bag’ container along to the restaurant, pack pilaf or tabouli for a picnic or road trip, or bring a few empty containers on a road trip for hummus or olives bought along the way. With Tupperware¬ģ¬†I can save money, reduce waste, buy locally and in bulk, and when I’m on a road trip (read:¬†not close to vegetarian-friendly stores and restaurants) I can pack my own healthful, cruelty-free snacks and meals. Find more tips for sustainable living from Tupperware¬ģ here.

There you are, three of my currents favorites that help us become agents of change. It’s easy to adopt a disposable lifestyle because of the convenience, but with a little help from green companies like these, we can make sustainable living just as convenient, and more affordable as well.

Photo Credits: Recycle Bag by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at