Welcome to the Eco-Living Page!

Careful stewardship of our planet and it’s resources are very important to us here at Uncommon Childhood. Read on for resources and inspiration on how you and your children can do your part for the planet!

5 Things Your Family Can Do To Lower Utility Costs

Written by Jennifer Miller on Feb 27th, 2012 | Filed under: Eco Living

Green Power

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If your family is like ours keeping utility costs low is not only a budgetary concern, it’s an environmental one as well. The less we consume, the lighter our footprint on the planet. It’s not enough for kids to learn to reuse, recycle and upcycle, we have to really work on that third R: Reduce. Utilities are both expensive and a fact of life. While you can skip purchasing entertainment and can go without haircuts for long periods of time in order to save money, you can’t really decide not to buy electric or water services. However, there are plenty of things you can do in order to lower your utility costs. Shutting of lights when you’re not using them is obvious, but there are other, very simple ways to significantly reduce your utility bill as well as your impact on the planet.

Turn Off Unused Lights and Appliances

Many families waste electricity by leaving lights on that are not being used. For example, if you go into the kitchen to have a late night snack and don’t turn off the light before heading back to bed, you’re wasting a lot of electricity, as nobody in your home benefits from this light. Get in the habit of turning off lights before leaving a room and teach your children to do the same in order to save electricity costs.

Similarly, you should turn of televisions, radios and other appliances that are not being used. This strategy may endear you to your neighbors as well as help you save on your utility bills, as a blaring television or radio can disturb others.

Control Temperature Through Clothing

Instead of using heat or air conditioning to control your home’s temperature, adjust the clothing you wear. You can save electricity by keeping your home slightly warmer in the summer and slightly cooler in the winter. Keep your thermostat set to 68 degrees during winter time and 78 degrees in the summer. This allows the air conditioning unit to run more effectively. If you are too hot or cold at these temperatures, change your clothes. Wearing sweaters in the winter or tank tops in the summer can help you stay comfortable without using an excessive amount of electricity.

Unplug Chargers and Cords When Not In Use

If you keep your phone charger plugged in when your phone is not being charged, it draws a tiny bit of electricity. Over the course of a month, this can really add up. Instead, unplug your phone charger when you are not charging your phone. Similarly, unplug small appliances like toaster ovens and coffee makers when not in use to save electricity.

Don’t Start Your Shower Prematurely

People sometimes turn on the shower before getting everything they need for a pleasant shower experience. Wait until you are sure you are ready to get in before you turn on your shower so that you don’t waste water. To save additional money on your utilities, consider showering in the dark so that you don’t use electricity while you are showering either. Make sure that your bathroom floor is free of obstacles before trying this electricity-saving tip so that you don’t fall over anything in the dark.

Dry Dishes and Clothes Manually

You can save electricity by not running the dry cycle on your dishwasher and by avoiding using a clothes dryer to dry your clothes. To save money on washing your dishes, don’t run the dishwasher until it is completely full. Then, watch it and turn it off as soon as the rinse cycle is finished. Open the dishwasher and let the dishes air dry.

Similarly, you can hang both towels and clothes on a clothesline outside to dry them on sunny days. Even if you prefer to use your clothes dryer for clothes, you should consider air-drying heavy items such as towels and bath mats to save energy. One family we know reduced their utility bill by $30 a month by switching to line drying their clothing alone!

If you follow these energy-saving tips, you should soon see a dramatic reduction in your utility bills. There are plenty of other things you can do to save energy as well; just get in the habit of saving energy whenever you can and new, creative ways of conserving electricity and water will occur to you. Better yet, make it a family challenge! Give the kids the job of coming up with bigger, better, faster ways of lowering the utility bills and reward them with part of the proceeds!

What does your family do to save money and the planet at the same time?


Author Bio:

Tom writes for Heating Oil Shopper, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to home heating oil pricing .

Food, Politics, a Revolution and You

Written by Laura Combs on Jul 25th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living, Health

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My previous post to Uncommon Childhood, Independence Day – For Your Health! sets the stage for today’s article. The topic of Food and Politics can be approached from almost innumerable angles, but I am going to address one of the greatest threats to our food system and the human race. Raising your voice in opposition is where you can make the most difference for you, your family and, quite honestly, the entire planet.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs, also known as genetically engineered or GE), have caused food to become the Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my! (not to mention the flying monkeys) of the Wizard of Oz! In the 1800s, things used to be simple. Vegetables and fruit were grown with composted fertilizer, cows ate grass, chickens ate bugs and seeds, and pigs ate whatever they eat. And humans, who ate them all, lived long, vibrant, healthy lives provided they avoided death at childbirth, smallpox or deadly accidents. Fast forward to today, when obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and more run rampant, injuring and killing people in numbers that could not have been even remotely guessed in the 1800s, or early 1900s.

Food is the foundation for a healthy society. Lack of healthy food and the ingestion of deadly food lead to the collapse of our families, our children and our future.

Dr. David Kessler, Former Food and Drug Administration Secretary in the George W. Bush administration, powerfully presents the food drugging and destruction of the American society in his book The End to Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Making Americans sick on food is a gazillion dollar multi-industry effort. Not only does the food industry benefit, but so do the medical and pharmaceutical industries. It is insidious. Dr. Kessler doesn’t thoroughly address all of the problems, though. In addition to the problems he details, the GMO industry is literally taking over the planet while Americans sit back and consume their “food” products, dulling their bodies and minds as never before. Europe and Africa are fighting the GMO industrial power, but their resolve is beginning to wane because the GMO pressure is so unbelievably intense. Monsanto, the leader in the legally-supported and almost required GMO monopoly that is sickening and killing people, owns most of America’s politicians, including President Obama.

The Obama administration happily and easily approved numerous GMO foods, including alfalfa, sugar beets, and corn during a three week period in 2011. So much for Michelle’s example of an organic White House garden!

Why should you care about all of these food conspiracies?

Because you and your children (and on and on) will lead sickly and shortened lives if you do not do your best to ensure that your family avoids industrial food.

Read this post for an overview of Genetically Modified Foods and Your Health. To learn more, keep reading at the Institute for Responsible Technology, which is a must read website.

So what can you do about all of this? A couple of things.

First, research the food you are purchasing. In order to be assured that the food you are eating is healthy, you have to make it or seriously research the product to ensure it is GMO-free and does not contain the ingredients outlined by Dr. Kessler. While many people think they don’t have the time to make their food from scratch, not only will they avoid the problems discussed in Dr. Kessler’s book, they will avoid the horrors of GMO. It is a mind and priority shift that will save your family, and it is how you will most directly weaken the companies producing what is literally trash.

Second, speak out. There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest way to make a difference is to take action when the Institute for Responsible Technology asks you to. They are right on the mark with their work and their Director, Jeffrey Smith, is impeccable (I met with him last fall and was hugely impressed). In fact, you can watch him on a recent Dr. Oz show.

Third, even more powerfully and effectively, meet with your elected officials. Your voice means more than you know to them. Call them, email them, or send a letter. Or, better yet, actually go and meet with them for 15 or 20 minutes. So few people realize that they actually can meet with their county commissioner, state representative or senator, or U.S. congressperson (or their aide, which is almost as good). The impact individuals can have if they take the time get to know their elected officials can be amazing. Tell them whatever you need to tell them.

You could tell them that you want:

  • GMO foods banned or at least labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice,
  • Healthier lunches served at schools and junk food taken out of schools
  • Government subsidies for GMO food eliminated
  • Greater government subsidies for organically, ethically raised food
  • Greater government support for local farmers markets that don’t sell GMOs
  • Or whatever else you want – it doesn’t have to be completely about food

What I am trying to get across is that if each adult took 15 minutes to meet with their local, state and federal elected officials, America would be a vastly freer and healthier country. If you met with an elected official at each level of government, that is 45 minutes total to stop:

  • Monsanto from poisoning you

  • The manufactured food industry feeding you like a drug addict

  • The pharmaceutical industry from coming up with new and unhealthy concoctions to treat the illnesses that are caused by your food addictions

I make this look simple, and believe me, it is simple. I have been doing it for 20 years both professionally and personally. There is no right way, just your way. You will be doing your best and your best will make a difference.

Take along a friend on this journey if that gives you confidence, and your effort will be doubled.

All you have to do is pick up the phone, make the appointment, and share your story about why you are concerned enough to come and speak with your official. If you do this, you will be doing just what the Founders of America wanted: speaking out and demanding that you be represented and protected.

America is supposed to be a government of the people, not the corporations, and you can help bring us back to the America that our Founders created.

When was the last time you contacted your local officials?

Green Cooking: 4 Fantastic & Simple Ways To Save Energy

Written by Christopher on Jul 21st, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living

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Saving energy in your home is fairly easy. How much energy you save, however, will depend on how much you know about green living practices. For example, there are dozens of ways to save energy, time and money with green cooking in your kitchen.

Green cooking is a fairly easy habit. It just means cooking in such a way that you are protecting the planet. There are multiple ways to do that in every kitchen, but you should start with buying the right foods and buying them in the right ways. Click to read more…

3 Great Body Care Products You Can Make At Home

Written by Abigail Green on Jul 18th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living, Health, Lifestyle

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We try to live naturally and frugally. Sometimes those two values conflict in ways I wish they wouldn’t. And, sometimes they complement one another and remind me that although it may take a little more time to prepare, we are saving money.

Recently while taking a shower I was thinking about all the different products I use on my body. Face wash, face lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, tooth paste, and the list goes on. Each of these products cost money. And, even more money if I want to buy an organic option.

I talked about this with a friend and we did a little research and found all sorts of recipes to make your own health care items with just a handful of basic ingredients, most of which we already owned.

Why Make Your Own?

  1. With our skin being our largest organ, and so porous, the chemicals we use to “clean” our hair and skin can easily enter the bloodstream. By making your own, you are using natural ingredients and can tweak the ingredients to best work with your skin/hair type.
  2. In making your own products, you are using items that you already have on hand and can put them in containers that you already own, thus cutting down on the amount of waste.
  3. You are cutting out the influence of advertising in your home.
  4. It is quite satisfying knowing, “I made that!”


3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
4 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 Cup Shea Butter or Coco Butter
10-15 drops of essential oil (I really like using geranium)

Melt the Shea/Coco Butter and Coconut oil and mix the ingredients all together. Store in a shallow container.  Apply like you would lotion, under your arms.

I am a very sweaty and can be very smelly, but this deodorant works great for me!


2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
2-3 Tablespoons of Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon of stevia powder (this is to sweeten it and take away from the strong baking soda taste)
2 drops of peppermint essential oil

Melt the coconut oil and mix all ingredients together until it resembles the consistency of toothpaste.  Keep in mind that it will thicken as the coconut oil re-hardens.  Apply a small amount on toothbrush.

My husband has yet to come around to the baking soda taste, but I don’t mind it.  And, I definitely love that it is cheaper than the $5 tube of natural toothpaste that I had been buying.

Face “Wash”

This was the most interesting experiment for me in this world of making my own health care products. I read that the sebum our skin secretes is actually good for us, and when we strip it away by using “oil free” face cleaners, our body compensates by producing more oil (causing oily skin).  Or, it doesn’t compensate and replenish the natural oils that have been stripped away (resulting in very dry skin that is also acne prone).

Here is a quote from that gives the recipe I’m about to share with you a lot of credibility.

““Oil dissolves oil. One of the most basic principals of chemistry is that “like dissolves like.” The best way to desolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin. When done properly and consistently, the oil cleansing method can clear the skin from issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, blackheads, whiteheads and other problems caused by mild to moderate acne–while leaving your skin healthy, balanced and properly moisturized.”

I live in Arizona where we have about 5-10% humidity most of the year.  So on top of having dry skin because of stripping away my natural oils over the years, I have really dry skin because there is so little moisture in the air.

The most common face wash recipe that follows the Oil Cleansing Method, is to use equal parts castor oil and extra virgin olive oil.

I have found for me though that I need 5 parts olive oil to 1 part castor oil since I have such dry skin.

I would suggest starting off with equal parts, and then adjust as needed.

Tea tree essential oil is a natural antiseptic.  Add a few drops to your Oil Cleansing mixture to clear up any acne.

Now, for how to use it:

  • Do not wet your face.
  • Place a quarter-sized amount on your fingertips and rub hands together.
  • Gently rub onto your dry face.
  • Steam your face by placing a hot washcloth over it, and allow it to stay there until it starts to cool.
  • And finally, use the wash cloth to gently wipe off any extra oil.

I have found that with using this method, I no longer need to use face lotion.  And, I only need to wash my face once a day.

Do you have any recipes for homemade body care products to share with us? Please do!!

*You can also check out MadeOn Hard Lotion for an excellent selection of homemade, whole ingredient body care products & kits to make your own!

State of the Ocean Report – Time to Act!

Written by Laura Combs on Jul 11th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living

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The Report: It’s Not Good

Monday, June 20, 2011, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean released this report: International Earth System Expert Workshop on Ocean Stresses and Impacts. It is a must read and only takes a few minutes.

Conclusions are:

The participants concluded that not only are we already experiencing severe declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (eg mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation.Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean. It is notable that the occurrence of multiple high intensity stressors has been a pre–‐requisite for all the five global extinction events of the past 600 million years (Barnosky et al., 2009).

What can we do? According to the report:

Technical means to achieve the solutions to many of these problems already exist, but that current societal values prevent humankind from addressing them effectively.

My Personal Dilemma

What one little thing can you do to reduce your impact?

My family will raise our thermostat, better plan our car trips, and take at least one less car trip a week.

Who am I and why do I want to do this? I was an award-winning environmental planner and lobbyist in Florida. My focus was manatee and ecosystem protection, a contentious effort that taught me the realities of our political process and the impact we can have on it. I spent 20 years working in government, for an environmental non-profit and as a private consultant. I have helped bring
lawsuits against government and defend government from frivolous lawsuits. I have drafted legislation and lobbied at the local and state levels, and this year I had two health care related legislative victories in North Carolina.

And I will have to decide which battle I am going to fight – health care freedom or environmental protection. Environmental protection clearly is more fundamental and critical, but it is a battle I fought for 20 years. I did my time and I am not sure I want to jump back in.

This year I waged a couple of health freedom battles in the North Carolina legislature (and won I might add). The return on investment as far as my human body energy output is concerned is much greater in these battles, and I enjoyed them. Environmental battles, in contrast, became a grind. Maybe taking the last five years off was the break I needed?

“What to do, what to do?” As my wonderful calculus professor used to say in his cool Polish accent.

I had human race survival concerns when I was little – the commercial of the Native American walking through the trash on the shoreline always upset me.

My earliest belief has always been “We need clean air and clean water or we will not survive.”

It is why I became an environmental planner and fought hard for 20 years. It is why I stood up to those who lied and threatened and stomped on the planet and then threatened my family, resulting in police protection for my home and family.

I have had a quiet five years in North Carolina and loved it. Now I have a decision to make. I am no longer into being an environmental martyr, and I have relatively buried my head in the sand. I love being a homeschooling mom! But what good will that ultimately do my son?

Who knew that a little girl in the 70s would be reading this Oceans report? Hopefully my little boy from the 2000s will not see it come true.

What Can You Do?

If you are wondering what you can do, just do something. People do not understand how easy it is to influence society and the political process.

You could:

  • Stop buying crap and stop supporting the stores that sell it
  • Take one less car trip a week
  • Call your federal and state senators and representatives and actually write them letters. Calls and letters have more impact that emails and petitions
  • Have your children send letters and pictures to these same elected officials
  • Start your own local small group of people to take action. Don’t do it under an umbrella organization such as Sierra or Audubon. Just do it as yourselves with no group name. That was a new technique for me this year when dealing with the North Carolina legislature, and it was far more powerful than working for an organization.

I am sure you get the idea. Be creative and make your voices heard.

Revolution 2011 Club

Now move forward one day to June 21, 2011, when I created Revolution 2011 Club for kids.

There is nothing like a little time to reflect and develop a way for me to combine all of my loves: homeschooling, environmental activism, and teaching others how to affect government and shape their communities (see State of the Ocean Report – Time to Act).

I started the Revolution 2011 Club for my homeschooling group. Hopefully we will take it national and make it available to other homeschooling groups or other kids groups in general. So far 21 kids are interested. We will be up and running soon, with a website, wiki and whatever other cool stuff they develop. I will keep you posted.

Here are the basics, which may be useful for some of you who might be interested in doing something similar with kids (regardless of whether or not they are homeschooled):

  1. I want to teach kids how to become involved with and influence our government and their communities to make changes they think are important. I am planning this Fall to lead a group of kids (14 years+) to work on a city or county issue that requires the city or county commission to take action. We would start from identifying the issue, researching it, preparing our arguments in support and preparing to defend against opponents, and ultimately lobbying the local government to take action. This knowledge is such a fundamental part of ourcountry’s history and it is being lost much to our detriment.
  2. I want to start a group or two (or three) groups of homeschoolers to take action regarding the 2011 Oceans report. I blogged about it which may  help you understand where I am coming from.
  3. I want to have it open to ages 7 and up, but may divide it into two or three groups, depending on the age of our participants. If it breaks into multiple groups I will need some help facilitating them all.
  4. If you are interested in participating in one or both of these groups, please drop me an email and let me know the ages of your interested children.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider these calls to action, I hope to hear from you soon!


Ten Ways To Cut Your Household Garbage In Half

Written by Amy Sztupovszky on Jun 23rd, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living

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For the past year, our family has been on a mission to reduce our household garbage and recycling.

We have examined our shopping habits, made many changes, and are proud to say that our family now throws out the equivalent of one medium size bag of garbage per month and we have cut down our recycling from four large bags to two large bags per month.

How’d we do it? Read on and I’ll show you, it’s easy! Click to read more…

The Ultimate Spa Experience: The Humble Clothesline

Written by Lois on May 26th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living, Lifestyle

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I love my clothesline.  It hasn’t always been so, but a couple years ago I had a conversation with a friend that made me re-think the blessing of a clothesline. You see, her grandmother is 90 years old, still lives with her 90 year-old husband in their own home in the country. This delightful 90 year-old lady has never owned a clothes dryer…let me repeat that, she has NEVER owned a clothes dryer! We live in NH where it is impossible to hang clothes outside for at least 6 months out of every year.

How does she do it? She has a clothesline in her basement as well as outside, so when it’s raining, freezing or snowing out, she just hangs them on the line in her basement.

This really got me to thinking, if her 90 year-old grandmother can hang all her clothes, rain or shine, what’s my excuse?! Maybe there’s a reason that a 90-year old grandma & her husband are still healthy and living in their own home instead of a nursing home.

So last summer I made a real commitment to my clothesline. We vent our dryer indoors in the winter for supplemental heat and humidity, and I decided to not switch the vent. That way I HAD to hang the clothes out!

I discovered a number of surprise benefits along the way, so now that’s why I call my clothesline my “spa treatment!” Click to read more…

Love Affair with the Farmers Market

Written by Laura Combs on Apr 25th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living, Health

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I love going to the farmers market. It makes me feel more in tune with the earth and the seasons. Each season brings an incredible abundance of nourishing food. I so enjoy talking with the farmers and hearing about how their planting and harvests are coming and getting to know them personally.

They share useful tips regarding preparing the food they grow, they give me the occasional gift of a food that I haven’t tried, and our beekeeper/honey provider always gives honey sticks to Colson and his friends (we meet lots of friends at the market).

I am fortunate to be in North Carolina, because we have four growing seasons. After a longer than usual winter, when we still enjoyed delicious greens, Brussels sprouts and locally and sustainably raised meats and eggs from the farmers market, Spring is here! I love all of the seasons, but Spring may be my favorite because of the explosion of food that it brings: the lettuces are amazing, tomatoes are back, along with broccoli, herbs, and STRAWBERRIES! Finally, strawberries. As spring progresses, more foods will become available, and then on to summer with its amazing squashes, peppers, watermelons, corn and more. The earth just keeps on giving. Click to read more…

10 Easy Steps to a Greener Home

Written by Abigail Green on Feb 17th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living, Lifestyle

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Energy is a hot topic these days. There is much talk about how to conserve it, or produce it with less environmental impact. So often these topics are weighty and we walk away feeling overwhelmed because the global problems seem insurmountable.

However, at the end of the day, it’s the individual that holds the keys: to the problem, or the solution. If each person, each family made the choice to use differently and use less, it really could change the world.

We could all do better. Here are ten easy ways to change our habits and reduce our carbon footprints! Click to read more…

3 Great Books on Eco-Living for Families

Written by Jennifer Miller on Jan 24th, 2011 | Filed under: Eco Living

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I read a lot of books. It’s an addiction, really. I should probably be participating in some sort of twelve step program. I know my husband considers it a personal victory that he’s moved me away from lugging pounds of paper books around in my backpack and has succeeded in converting me to light weight e-books.

One genre that has long occupied a hefty section of shelf space at our house has been “Green Living, or Eco-Living.” Most of these books were very old ones I stole from my Dad over the years; you know, the ones that were “Green and Eco” before there were buzz words.

There has been an explosion of good books (and a lot of nonsense ones too) in the past  ten years on every possible facet of Eco-Living. I’d like to take a minute to recommend three that are worth the time to read, especially if you’re interested in leading an Uncommon life in some way. Click to read more…

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